Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Downfall With Chocolate

Love the blue sky. We have some here, too, when it isn't raining, snowing or sleeting. Definitely a lot of wind throwing the clouds around - wish the lilacs were blooming, so the whole house would smell of them.

I am trying to use up all my little bits of tea, since I have packed away a number of my larger amounts. I am in that stage of "oh just stick it in a box and let's be done" as far as moving is concerned.

I found a lone teabag of Numi's Chocolate Puerh, so I decided to have that. There wasn't a lot of scent, but what there was I could only describe as a faint sharp sweetness. I brewed it for 3 minutes with boiling water and while it was brewing I almost threw it out untasted. There was a nice chocolate smell, but underneath it smelled like something rotting. I don't suppose my reading a book on forensic anthropology helped in that regard. However, I decided that I would just ignore the smell and carry on with the tasting. All I can say is the taste was better than the smell, but not enough for me to have more than a few sips. Just not a good blend. I have had others, which did somewhat the same blend but were much much better.

Happy Almost Last Day of April. The day after tomorrow, May Day used to be celebrated with baskets of flowers hung on your friends' doors and dancing around a May Pole, twining ribbons on it. Then the Communists made it their day and celebrated with tank and weapons' demonstrations. I think I like flowers and ribbons and a tea party better. We all need some "pretty" in our lives and need to slow down and appreciate the good things. So tomorrow, hunt out those baskets and flowers and ribbons and get them ready for the 1st.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Honey of a Tea

One of my favorite photos. It is of Karl's Kirche in Vienna, around sunset.

Today, my friends, I seem to have more of a brain; at least enough to make tea and drink it with some appreciation.

The tea in question is Honey N' Cream from the Assam Tea Company.It is from the Satrupa Tea Estate and is billed as "bolder broken leaf black tea". I can't see it, it looks like standard CTC to me. CTC usually looks like grains of coffee and pretty much stays that way - no unfurling leaves, no un-twisting, what you see is what you get. After I had brewed it for 3 minutes with boiling water, the little tea bits looked a small tad looser, but that's it.

This is really a nice Assam. Very smooth and mellow, it has a bit of maltiness, a bit of sweetness, a lot of freshness. Adding cream surprisingly seems to bring out more briskness, but very nicely. True to it's name thee was a honey taste but not that cloying sweetness you get with the actual stuff. This goes very nicely with food such as grilled cheese or peanut butter cookies. it compliments them without being overwhelmed. Good stuff.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Asleep at the cup

More Viennese Royal housing.

I had the best of intentions to discuss more of the Assam samples from the Assam Tea Company. I brewed one up and company arrived and then I had to take the Ernster [Ernie] to the vet. I drank the tea, thinking, hmm, this is nice and smooth, not even thinking about it being a sample and that was that. Talk about brain dead - that's me! I'll try again tomorrow.

One of my fellow tea bloggers passed on that it has been about 117 degrees in Delhi, India - something that has not happened in over 60 years at this time of year. Delhi, for those whose Indian geography is weak, is in the far North Central part of the nation. At about the same latitude as Darjeeling, although it is not at as great an elevation. It seems the weather and the earth itself are very unsettled this year, with it being too cold, too hot, too wet or dry, earthquakes all over the globe. Not an easy time for farmers of any sort or other folk living in the hardest hit areas.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sacred Herb

The main altar in the oldest church in Vienna. I believe it is St. Peter's.

Yesterday we were very early at the church where my husband was the substitute preacher. A friend had told me that the store right across the street carried a lot of teas, so of course I knew where to spend some time. It is the Masonville General Store, on the northeast corner of the intersection there. It's the only street light in town so you can't miss it. Masonville, NY is a little west of the bulk of the Catskill Mountain resorts, on Rte 206, and if you are there or live nearby, this store is worth a visit. It is a very large natural living store with everything your heart desires from camping equipment to facial scrubs, with sashays into home baked goods, teas, herbs, shopping baskets and magazines. The first tea I saw was some Tulsi teabags, which I had been wanting to try, so that is what I bought, even though I was tempted by many others. They have teas from Frontier Herbs, The Good Earth, Organic India and many others.

My Tulsi Tea was from Organic India and I bought the plain, although that company had several flavors such as mint and orange. Tulsi is also known as Holy Basil and can be found on every doorstep in India. It is revered as being sacred and is considered an overall good tonic , especially for stress relief. This particular version came as individually wrapped teabags and it smelled divine, minty and lemony and fresh with some hints of cinnamon and clove. I was looking for more of what I recognize as a basil smell, but I didn't catch that. I brewed it up with a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes and it continued to smell wonderful. It is kind of a yellow orange liquid and is very pleasant tasting. I think it is primarily lemon and mint with a touch of a medicinal taste, just like it smells. I let some get cold and I didn't find it pleasant or even with much taste. I don't know if it will reform my life, but I would certainly have it again.

Today some of our new friends from Owego helped us move some packed boxes and two of them are tea drinkers! Life just keeps getting better. They said our house was messy! How could this be? The cats think it is marvelous - all those boxes to play in and on. I think it's icky. But it will soon be over.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Especially for Me

Part of the Sonnenberg. There are 2 palaces facing each other
across this garden. Guests stayed in one and the royal family in the other. In the far distance is Stephansdom, St. Stephen's cathedral.

Oh boy, did I need a tea break this morning. I woke up just fine, but by 11 I was practically asleep. I still had a Simpson and Vail black tea sample, so I got it right out. This one is their Special Blend, a signature blend of theirs. It is made from Ceylon and Indian teas and is primarily twisted black leaves with some gold and some stems. I brewed it with about 1 teaspoon for 3.5 minutes with boiling water.

I brewed t a bit too long as it was beginning to get tannic, but it was still very nice. As it brewed it gave off an oaky, nutty scent, very fresh. It was much milder in the cup than I expected, even given the extra brewing time. It had kind of a creamy texture and a tiny bit of floral. It really reminded me of a very nice Breakfast tea and I could see making this one of my wake-up blends.
This is not a great tea, but it is a very good one of its class. I wouldn't have to think about its nuances or anything like that, just enjoy drinking it. I liked it best with some half and half. I have to have black tea in the am. Green or Oolong doesn't make it for me. In the afternoon, especially if I am only having tea, I like the others. Or even if I have a cookie or scone.

I made the tea very strong, so I decided to do a second wash of the leaves for 3 minutes. My husband said it was weak, but quite good. Normally black tea doesn't do second infusions, but I guess I was so exuberant with the first lot, there was enough left for another.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Not much tea here

I like the horse!

Yesterday we took more stuff to our new house and went out to lunch in Owego. The first cafe we tried was too crowded so we went to the next one. Happy surprise. It is a very small dining room, in the rear of a cooking shop, but on the river. The food was good, and... they had loose leaf tea! I had something called Black Forest. It is from Metropolitan Tea, a wholesale company. Huge leaves, in a T-sac or something similar. Very interesting stuff. It had a slightly smokey taste and smell and went beautifully with my baklava dessert! I wasn't in full tea appreciation mode, so that's all I can say right now, but I will go again and do a fuller review. That makes 3!!! tea places in my new town. Woo Weee!

If you are a Japanese green tea fan, you might want to check out Not only do they sell a wide variety of tea, but they have a good bit of information on green teas. Almost made me want to order some, but then I remembered that I don't like much Japanese green tea. But if you do, check them out.

Today we spent buying a small desk, lunching with our new neighbors and unpacking more stuff. We did stop for a cup of Yunnan Noir from Adagio, but again, it wasn't as good as when I have it here – I think the water filter makes a big difference.

I have been reading some articles on Brazilian Mate and Argentinian Mate and will soon fill you in on what they have to say. I won't be trying a lot of new teas in the next month or so as we are in high gear with the moving, which is likely to happen the end of May. So much to do, so little time!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Red Bush Branches Out

The "small" courtyard at the Sonnenberg, the Viennese Summer

A few weeks ago, the Suffuse Tea Company was looking for bloggers willing to review their rooibos teas. I stepped right up. They kindly sent me a large package of both green and red rooibos, suffused with several other herbal additives. The packaging was very attractive and each teabag was wrapped and labeled in the appropriate color, red or green.

Today I am trying the red rooibos suffused with Buchu. Buchu Agathosma Betulina, to give it the full Latin name, is another herb native to South Africa that is used by the folks there medicinally as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, anti inflammatory, among other good things. Rooibos, as some of us know, is an antioxidant. So this stuff may be good for you! There are many hundreds, if not thousands, of plants that have been used for centuries that are as good or better than modern chemical medicinals. In fact, there is a lot of good research going on around the globe concerning the use of “native” medicines.

I brewed it up for about 5 min with boiling water and it is a pretty bright red. It smells quite pungent, with an odor that did not appeal to me. It might to you, so that can be discounted. It's the taste of the brew that really matters, aside from the health giving properties. The taste is pleasant enough. It is slightly medicinal, but not bad at all. Perhaps the slightest hint of iodine or some sharp odored plant. It is teasing away at the back of my mind and driving me nuts because I can't identify it. Aha, it's sassafras! If that doesn't mean anything to you, how about the white paste in a jar we had in kindergarten? Root beer? I tried it with milk and that was no plus. It seemed to wipe all the flavor out of it. You're on your own with sweeteners. I think I could really get to like this and maybe even identify what that scent and flavor are. I will let it cool and see how it is then, as some teas are better cold or at least as good.

The website is You can order on line or see where to purchase their herbal teas. I will be trying the others over the next few weeks. If you are also a blogger, you could ask if they are still doing the free samples.

I just read in the “World Tea News” that a great deal of China's tea producing areas have suffered greatly from weather. Some have too much cold, too much snow or too much drought. Yields are expected to be down more than 50% in some areas. What is worse is the plight of the farmers, some of whom are barely surviving on the equivalent of one head of cabbage a week. If any of you hear of a relief organization that is helping them, let me know so I can post it here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Oolong Aura

One of the interesting people in Berne on market day. As the woman turns a crank, all sorts of things move and make noise, some of which is music.

The nice folks at Aura Teas sent me some samples a while ago and I had the last one today. It is Formosan Bai Hao, aka Oriental Beauty. It is one of the more deeply roasted Oolongs and has a good bit of caffeine when compared to others. This is another pretty tea with longish twisted dark leaves with some tips. It smelled somewhat floral, but that was elusive. What really surprised me was the definite whiff of cinnamon I caught in the dry leaves. I brewed the whole sample, about 3 teaspoons, in a small ceramic pot I generally keep for Oolongs. The water was about 190 degrees and it brewed for about 2.5 minutes. This is all very “aboutish” as I was brewing black tea for my husband at the same time. The liquor was a pretty, soft yellow.

I was again surprised by the Bai Hao as it was not nearly as floral tasting as I expected. There was more of a “straight tea” taste to it, with hints of floral. It seemed to be thick in my mouth and the taste lingered in the back of my throat. It was soft and fresh and very, very pleasant. I am putting it on my “after I move” list for purchase. However, I noticed on their web site they have a large selection of Bai Haos and I may have to try them all. What a hardship. I have always had good tea from Aura, some of it really exquisite.

This tea supposedly received the English name of Oriental Beauty when Queen Elizabeth II called it that upon tasting it. Don't know it it's true, but it's a nice story.

Brief Update on Yeasterday's Tea

I found that as the tea cooled, it became sweeter and rounder, but I also decided, for me, I would like a heaping teaspoon. Altogether a nice smooth tea. But I don't think it is brisk enough for an ice tea, somehow.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

That Creamy Assam

Angels all around us.

You can tell it is definatively Spring - the "road work ahead " signs are popping up all over. Miles of one lane roads, with nary a worker to be seen. Sigh. A happier indication is our peach trees are in bloom. Yumm.

I got a bunch of tea samples today that I had ordered before my ban on tea until after we move. They are from the Assam Tea I don't remember where I heard about them. Of course, I had to try one right away. Assam has not really come into it's own in the tea world. Most people consider it pretty ordinary. I have to say it is not real high on my list of favorites, but it is almost always a good reliable standby, and less expensive than many.

I am trying their Satrupa Tea Estate Cream of Assam. One of the things I already like is they tell you which estate, which style of leaf [FTGFOP CL] - smallest black leaf, and give you the time of year and the batch number of the picking/processing. The Assam Tea Company says they are in the “shadow of the eastern Himalayas", but I doubt their elevation is too high, as Assamica tea plants are not very hardy.

This tea is a lovely black with lots of golden tips and smells like very good tobacco. I followed the instructions of 1 teaspoon, boiling water, no more than 3 minutes. They caution you not to exceed the 3 minutes, which I appreciate. The brewing tea smells toasty and nutty, maybe a little fruity. It brews up to a beautiful orange amber and it tastes very thick and smooth, almost as though it were made with cream or milk, with nuts and fruit and a little bite in the back of your mouth. It takes a bit of milk or cream very well, but I'm not sure you'd want to, as it is quite nice on it's own. You'll have to judge for yourself about sugar, as I hate it in my tea. I think it is much smoother than many Assams, well worth trying.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Unwinding Tea

Market Day in Berne, Switzerland, the only place you can get really good Swiss cheese. The stuff in the stores is kind of on a par with American cheese slices.

I had tea in our new house today, while we were waiting for a furniture delivery. I had some Twining's Irish Breakfast, which I expected to be strong. It wasn't and it didn't taste really good either. However, I had nothing to measure with, no filter for the water and no timer, so I don't think it is a fair trial. It was only by chance I had a cup. It is rather fine CTC style, (little chopped up bits) so I tried to do something around 2 minutes. I am not really going to review it, as it wouldn't be fair. When I have the “right” stuff I'll try it again. I am so excited – I have a bunch of drawers deep enough to hold my tea so it won't be all over the place. They even have some doodad on them so they automatically shut.

As I was unpacking the Twining's tea order, I saw that they had put in some teabag samples, so I will review one of those. It is called Herbal Unwind, which I have to say I feel the need of. It includes cinnamon, citrus, hibiscus, rosehips and rosepetals. Of course, it has a long list of other herbs, so we'll see how it tastes. Y'all know I'm not really a fruity herby tea person, but I do need to relax and unwind or one of those other “un-” words. So I had it.

Dry, the cinnamon made me sneeze, but it smelled very nice. I brewed it for about 5 minutes and it was a very dark red – hibiscus strikes again! It was pleasant and the cinnamon was comforting, but to tell you the truth it just seemed like a really smooth Red Zinger with a lot of cinnamon. If you like RZ, you'll like this as well. I can imagine a lot of people would like it but it's not my brew. I really like my tea to be simple, which is odd as two of my favorite cuisines are Mexican and Indian and both can have a looooong list of spices in their sauces. People are peculiar.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gold on a Gray Day

This is St. Barbara, for whom many of my ancestresses were named. I have to applaud the museum for painting the walls red. Color is appreciated today as it is very gray and grim, with snow, rain, and lots of wind.

Since it is so nasty today I really wanted a black tea and fortunately, I remembered I hadn't tried the Golden Bi Luo from the new Chicago Tea Garden that I bought a few weeks ago. This is an unusual, to me at least, tea in that it is a black tea made in the style of a green or Oolong tea, namely Bi Luo Chun, which I think translates as Green Snail Spring. It is from Yunnan Province, China and is hand-formed into loose golden spirals in a heated wok.

The dry leaves smell lovely, something like ripe corn or fresh tomatoes that are just starting to cook. They had released a fine yellow dust on the inside of the can. Tony Gebley's wonderful instructions, which come with each of his teas, say to infuse it for only a minute and then you can get up to 8 one-minute brews. I did not have the patience for that today, so I did a two minute infusion and then 2 more while I was drinking the first. The tea almost instantly released a lovely yellow into the water and was a dark, deep gold by the end of two minutes. The color was pretty much the same in the other two infusions.

What a very nice tea this is, The brewing tea gives off that wonderful fresh wash scent I love and the liquor is thick and hearty, but very creamy seeming. The taste has a bit of the usual Yunnan, but with maybe some vanilla and maybe some old mellow wood, with a touch of some sort of piquancy at the end. The second and third cups seemed to be about the same in taste, but they felt much thinner somehow. On a day when I feel I have more time and patience, I will do the 8 steepings and report back on how they were. I put the leftovers of the 3 brews into one pot and that was quite good, also.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Yay, New Tea Shops

Ballenberg - this magnificent altar is in the tiniest church imaginable. I don't think you could fit 20 people in it. It is splendid. The church makes you want to put it in your pocket and take it home.

I've hardly had time to do anything fun or drink any new tea the past few days. We've speeded up packing and taking stuff to our new house, plus all the rigamarole to accept an offer, get the house inspected, all the work things related to moving.

We were in our new town today and decided to check out the coffee and tea shop and it is pretty darn good. They offer Harney's sachets and blends from a local tea store across the street. The blends change weekly and this week's did not appeal, so I had Harney's Earl Grey. It was a pleasant surprise. Very smooth, very well blended, with an obviously good base tea. I really enjoyed it. They also had homemade raspberry scones – my favorites and that was also delicious. Coffee man found a dark brew he liked, so we were all pleased. Next time I am going to check out the tea shop and see what they have to offer. I would've today but when we finished our drinks, it was raining and the umbrellas were, of course, elsewhere.

I just got a new Harney's catalog, so I may have to break my rule and get some of their Earl Grey. But I really want some of Upton's, too and maybe I had better just wait until we move, like I swore I would. The other awful temptation is that yard sales have started up already and there may be teapots there, calling my name, not to mention other tea paraphernalia.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Springing into Oolong

Ballenberg - A corner stove used for cooking and heating. The wood
would be shoved in from the woodshed to the left of the stove, being very efficient, as well as tidy, two Swiss national characteristics. These stoves were excellent warmers and would heat the whole house - a small one, of course.

It's another beautiful Spring day in the neighborhood. My fiddleheads are up, so I guess I know what tonight's veggie is going to be. Fiddleheads are the unfurled leaves of some ferns and they look just like the head of a ddle or violin. Ours are ostrich ferns – quite large. You need to pick them before they unfurl, when they are about 4 inches tall. You either boil or steam them and serve with butter and lemon juice. They taste a bit like asparagus and so much like Spring!

It is so springy today I am having Dream About Tea's Tie Guan Yin Oolong. I really like black teas when it's cold, they seem heartier, but as it warms I get more interested in the lighter teas. This traditional Tie Guan Yin is from AnXi County, Fujian Province, China. It is considered a medium roast, medium oxidation tea. The dry tea smells faintly of green and very faintly floral. It is composed of tightly-wound green leaf balls. I brewed up about 1 teaspoon at 205 degrees for 2.5 minutes, after I first rinsed the leaves. While brewing it smelled strongly vegetal with only a hint of floral, but when it was cool enough to drink there was a decidedly more floral note, with perhaps a hint of seaweed. In spite of my dislike of that, it suited this tea very well and I liked it very much. This is a fairly sturdy tea, almost brothy, and definitely smooth, with a very pleasant after taste.

The second cup was my favorite, as more of the floral came out and the third was almost as good. I often find that the second cup of a good Oolong is tastier than the third. Dream about tea says you can get up to 5 infusions, but three was enough for today. I found that when the leaves had completely unfurled, my cup was completely full. Some of the leaves were about 3 inches long, others appeared to be chopped. The edges of the leaves were slightly bruised. Very interesting to look through them. At $7.50 for 2 ounces, this is not an expensive tea, but it is more than worth the price.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tea for Reading

Ballenberg - This tiny cottage would be for the use of the cowherds in the summer, when they had taken the cattle up to the high pastures. There is a festival in each village on the day the cows go up and each cow has a ceremonial bell to wear, with the lead cow having the biggest and fanciest. One of my prized possessions is just such a bell. It is quite small, as cow bells go, since it was my grandfather's first and last bell before he came here. Some farmers may have 20 or 30 bells in graduated sizes, hung under the eaves, to commemorate the yearly trek and reused each year. The sound of the bells on all the pasture animals is really delightful, from the tiny tinkles of the baby kids up to the solid bongs of the big bells on the bulls.

As I mentioned last week, I just got a copy of Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss's new book, The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook. I had a chance over the weekend to go through a lot of it and it's a good one. There's brief overview of tea, a guide to purchasing different types and a guide to the 6 different classes of tea – white, green, yellow, Oolong, black and pu-erh. There is a very handy glossary and a short list of good tea merchants. The latter has several for Chinese and Japanese, but only 1 for Assam and nothing for Darjeeling or Nilgiri, which I find somewhat odd, as Darjeeling is considered the “champagne” of teas and I have certainly had some really good tea from Nilgiri.

That's about my only quibble, as this is a really well done book. There are a number of teas mentioned in each class, with directions on how to get the most from them in the brewing. There are tips on what to look for in a tea merchant and how to best store your purchases. There are brief descriptions of how each tea is processed and particular gardens or areas that the best variety comes from. All in all, this is a fairly small book that is packed to the rafters with excellent accessible information for a very decent price -$11.55 at Amazon. I can see that I will get a lot of use from it and intend to put it in the kitchen, next to my tea-making paraphernalia, so it will be handy when I am trying new teas.

I got the March and April copies of the Tea and Coffee Trade Journal within days of each other – one too late and the other on time. While tea often takes a back seat in this magazine, there usually is enough to justify the name. This time, there was nothing in the March issue and one 3 paragraph mention of tea in the April issue. I don't think I'll be renewing it.

I was at the grocery store yesterday and grabbed their free "magazine”. Lo and behold there was a 2 page spread about giving a tea party. It is, of course, a way to showcase their brands, but they did a good job, even going so far as to list about 5 teas and what foods they would go with. They made a tea party sound pretty easy for someone not used to giving them, which I hope encourages people to have one of these delightful meals.

I'm not tasting tea today, it is just too crazy a day, with meetings, appointments, a birthday party and maybe some more packing. I do expect to do some tomorrow, though.

Monday, April 12, 2010

S&V does the Earl

Ballenberg Museum, Mountain Cottage.

What a gorgeous day. The hills are almost as colorful now as they are in the fall. There is the yellow green of the birches, the pink of the maples and redbuds, the white of the shadblows, the deeper green of evergreens. Then there is the understory with the acid green of skunk cabbage – really quite beautiful, the yellow dandelions and the blue of gill-over-the-ground, plus the blues and whites of other tiny flowers I don't know and the deeper blue of the first violets. Lovely fresh scents of daffodils and hyacinth and the first grass cuttings. We won't mention pollen or allergies, will we?

I still have Simpson and Vail samples to taste – I didn't realize I had bought so many. I love Earl Gray tea and I am always looking for a new one. Today's is Earl Gray Extra and when I opened the package I wondered what I had done to myself with this one, it is so strong. It almost smells like pine tree cleanser and I wondered if I really wanted to drink it. However, as it brewed, the scent moderated a good bit, although it remained very strong and sharp. I brewed it for 3.5 minutes with boiling water. It is a beautiful bright red-orange color. The taste was a pleasant surprise. While it was a bit on the sharp side, over all it is quite mellow and pleasant, especially with my usual splash of milk in it. The tea was nothing extraordinary. Not bad by any means, but if you are looking for a top-notch tea, this is a middle of the road selection. I'm not sure if one really looks for superb tea in an Earl Gray, anyway. This was good, but Upton's still has my heart in the Earl Gray department.

We accepted the offer on our house and our new one is now officially ready to move into, so packing will now be speeded up and all sorts of list-making will have to begin! We still need to get rid of stuff – ick – decisions. It is a good thing that lots of tea is quite small in the over-all scheme of things.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Going for the Gold

Ballenberg - the balcksmith's forge and inn

I let the Indigo Dreams from Madam Potts cool and it was delicious! More of the Jasmine came out - a winner every which way!

I discovered that I have two types of Yunnan tea from Adagio. One is Golden Yunnan, the other, Yunnan Gold. I think the former is now Golden Monkey. I didn't buy them that long ago, maybe in the late summer/early fall. Since I had the two I thought I would compare them.

Both of these teas are beautiful. Golden as their names imply. The GY is more gold and has less dust and bits of leaves. However, there is a very fine very golden dust on the underside of the top. Both have big somewhat fat leaves and buds. They smelled similar - like Yunnan, of course. The Y G was winey and smelled like an old house. Not unpleasant or moldy, just one that had been lived in a lot. To me, it was quite pleasant, reminding me of my grandmother's or great-aunt's houses. I guess where there had been a lot of good cooking. The G Y was also winey, lighter and more like a winery, in the room where the wooden casks of wine are stored. I brewed them both for 3.5 minutes with boiling water, using about 1.5 teaspoons per cup because the leaves are so big.

The YG brewed up darker and more intense with somewhat more depth of flavor. There was more of the slightly peppery flavor of Yunnan. However, the G Y seemed more complex, setting off more parts of my mouth with flavor. There was more nuttiness, more leather and wine barrel in it. Both were quite smooth and I would be hard-pressed to choose between them. I generally go for the most gold, as I usually like those Yunnans best. Here, there really isn't enough difference. As a side note, they both went very ,very well with a ham salad sandwich.

I am sure that those with a better palate would be able to discern many more differences and layers of flavor than I. I like to think I represent the average drinker of good loose teas. I really admire those with super palates and wish I had one, but there I am, along with most of us, I would guess.

Today's mail brought me a new book from Amazon – Mary Lou and Robert Heiss's newest – The Tea Enthusiasts Handbook: A Guide to the World's Best Teas. It was $11.55 plus shipping. I haven't had a chance to look at it, but I am eager to, as their last book was excellent. This is quite different, more along the lines of Harney's book.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The end of (my) Ten Ren

This lovely old barn is from the Ballenberg Outdoor Museum in Switzerland. The Swiss have gathered up over a hundred old structures and preserved them in a huge park which would take days to see. They have costumed folk who interpret and are busy doing old crafts, making foods, caring for historical breed animals. It is a lot like Williamsburg in that respect. There will be number of pictures from there to follow.

I guess our flirtation with summer is over. We went out last night at 81 degrees and came home to 47! It is cold, damp and gray today. It is supposed to freeze tonight, so I cut some of the half-open magnolias to bring in so I can enjoy them. If it does freeze, they will be brown slime in the morning. It absolutely poured, so I brought in bunches of squashed daffodils as well and they perked right up.

Naturally, when one is chilled, one's thoughts turn to tea. I had 2 more Ten Ren tea bags from my swap friend, so I thought I might as well finish them. The first is called Ten Wu. Again, it is a paper bag, but there is no gusset. I brewed it as usual at about 190 degrees for 3 minutes. I loved the smell, vegetal with a floral and cream overlay and what I can only call an Asian base note – that scent that reminds me of Asian markets. This seemed like a heavy Oolong, with acidic or bitter notes along with the creamy ones. I liked that about the tea. Sometimes oolongs are just too light-weight and today was cold enough a sturdier tea seemed better.

The last of these Ten Rens for the moment is a Ti Kuan Yin. There is a definite smell of orchids from the brewing tea, which I love. The liquor is a medium amber – much darker than I expected. It is also a much more heavily roasted Oolong than I care for. It tasted heavily vegetal, with some sort of nutty tanned leather accents. Not for me, although I know many others prefer these more roasted Oolongs. I guess a medium roast is as far as I want to go.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dreamin' Tea for Paradise

Just another pretty day in paradise. Which it is here, as well. All the daffodils are blooming, as well as one very pathetic hyacinth - but it smells nice.

Speaking of which, I am having a delightfully smelling, tasting and
looking tea. This lovely creation is Indigo Dreams, handcrafted by Madam Potts, who kindly sent me a sample. It is composed of Jasmine spiral buds, lavender, jasmine flowers and violets, so there are several shades of blues, creamy white and very soft gray green in the mix. I love both jasmine and lavender, so I was really excited to see how they would go together. Very well!There is the sharp scent of the lavender overlain by the soft sweetness of jasmine. I brewed it up at about 180 for 2 minutes. At times it smelled like one flower and then the other. Interesting. The light amber brew was just plain delicious. Definitely lavender, but just as definitely softened and sweetened with the jasmine. I think the latter wins out in the scent department. After we move, I am planning to get some of this. You can too, by going to Madam Potts' blog sitesite and clicking on Personaliteas and then Signature Blends. Make sure you read her blog while you're at it. More quickly you can go to the tea site PS I let this cool completely and it was so good. The jasmine came through more. So, this would also be a great tea for the summer. Wonder what a small sprig of mint would do? Hmmm

I have made a vow not to buy more tea until we are in our new house. Speaking of which, the first people came to see this house last night and are making us an offer tonight, oh my. I hope it is a good one, it is really, really wearing on me to be kind of hopping on one foot and then the other in some sort of anxious dance. We are so clean and absolutely tidy I can hardly imagine it. The cats have just gone outdoors in disgust, hoping no one decides to vacuum the yard or dust their ears off again!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Love and Lemons

That, my friends, is called barrel vaulting. It is in a Swiss church and it is part of the perfect acoustics the building possesses.

Yesterday I was reading the Tea Musings Blog. Cha Sen was remembering her grandmother's special tea pot. It made me remember the two teapots I have that are special, one from my grandmother Feuz and one from my mother-in-law, Josie. Both of them are small cheap things. My grandmother's is a little brown pot, with some flowers on the side and a lid in pieces, which I very carefully put together, just so. Josie's is a thatched cottage. I also have Josie's spaghetti/bread raising pot. For her, cooking and eating was the great circle of love. When I see or use these things, I am reminded of love given and received. These battered items and others I have “for remembrance” as my husband's aunt, Zizi would say, are very precious. They are roots and ground, they are real in the way the battered Velveteen Rabbit became real – when he was loved enough. Please tell me some of yours!

I came across something a while ago that I thought I would try. When I saw it, the True Lemon Store was giving away samples. Mine just arrived. They are packets of dried, crystallized orange, lemon and lime juices. I tried both the orange and lemon in cups of tea and they are super! Very fresh and tasty and one packet is plenty for a mug of tea. You can also use them in other things. They say you can find them in supermarkets, next to the sweeteners. I haven't looked yet, but if you can't, their web site is and it tells you the stores that do carry them, or you can buy them on line.

There is no tea tasting today as we are getting ready for the first showing of our house. We are scrubbed and tidied to a fair thee well. I wish it would last, but with 2 slobs and 4 cats, it isn't a good bet. Tomorrow will be easier.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Let's Hear it for the Red, White and Blue

The Aar river in Switzerland. If you kinda squint, there is a cow in the
left middle. I think the snow-covered mountain is the Monch, aka the Monk. The Aar, by the way is a favorite of crossword puzzlemakers, for filling in those awkward spaces.

Another day, another Simpson and Vail tea. They can be found at This one is called Patriot's blend and it is a mix of their American Breakfast Blend (Indian and Formosan) with the addition of raspberry and coconut pieces and some blue cornflowers thrown in to make a red, white and blue statement. The dry tea is, of course, quite attractive, with small leaves. It doesn't have much scent, other than fresh tea. I brewed it up for 3.5 minutes with boiling water and that had little scent, as well, although I thought I smelled a bit of cinnamon. It is a medium amber brew and it tastes like... tea, with a slight fruitiness. For me, it was kind of bland, because I used too little. That was yesterday and today I used more and it was much better. It is not a nuanced tea, but it is a pleasant everyday tea. It is milder than I really like for black tea and I am sure it would be ideal for those who like those.

Hot again today. Phoo, I want real spring.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Two Princes

Some ancient stonework.

Aha! I thought that my Twinings Prince of Wales tea was different, so today I tried a can I bought earlier along side the one I just bought – same mugs, same amount of tea, same water, same length of time to brew – 3.5 minutes. In fact, the dates on the cans are only 2 days apart. I don't know if that is a use by date or a manufacturing date. I think it is the latter. As they were brewing, the older one had a slight floral, fruit aroma, almost like really good bubblegum. The new one had a smoky scent, with a hint of leather. The older had a bit of a fruit taste, too – a hint of black currant with maybe a bit of spice. The new one had a harsher edge to it and reminded me of a mild Russian Caravan with that mild smokiness. So there is, they are different. Next I am going to try them mixed together. I did, they are nothing special. I guess I am going to have to find another Prince of Wales supplier. I hate having old standbys shift so much. I am going to complain to Twinings.

If you'd like another “hit of Brit”, the Tea Guy Speaks from April 1 has a good P G Tips commercial and access to some cute games on line, suitable for playing while waiting for your tea water to boil.

The past 3 days have been very warm and sunny and the daffodils on the south side of the house are beginning to bloom. Last year they were all gone in three days, as they started to bloom just before we had a week of 90 degree weather the end of April. I much prefer the slow moving springs, so we can enjoy the flowers and not have them bolt. The pussy willows are already gone – only 1 day to enjoy them! Coltsfoot is also blooming and I am looking forward to a huge patch of trilliums I spotted last year – all white with just 2 red ones. I hope we get some cool weather back, as I love my lilacs and want to enjoy their scent blowing through the house.
I hope some of you get to go to the World Tea Expo in June. The theme is "Wake Up and Smell the Leaves" I think it is a great title.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Journey to Java, a Time for Silence and Celebration

Along the Rhine River in Germany, with a castle, of course.

The pussy willows have come out with those furry little catkins and there are a few forsythia beginning to bloom ! Hooray. My daffodils are about 6 inches tall and I can see the flower buds. Maybe 2 weeks and we'll have flowers. The iris I planted last fall have finally decided to poke through and the lavender has started to grow. So good to see growing things and smell the earth.

I have mostly been in a black tea mood of late and only great acts of will have enabled me to try other teas. Today I will continue with the dark side, as I found a bunch of Simpson and Vail black teas tucked away. Today's is from Java, which is part of the Indonesian island chain, from the Kertasarie Estate. The dry leaves are pretty small, black, with a few browns to liven it a bit. The dry smells like tea, with a scent of aged wood, kind of oaky, maybe. As it brews there is also a floral aroma, with a nutty and malty edge. It brews up to about a medium amber, which surprised me, as I expected it to be much darker. I really like the taste, but I can't quite pin it down. There is some nice astringency, the slightest hint of lemon and kind of an oaky wine finish to it, without being grapey in the least. It is like some Ceylons, but I think it is lighter and brighter, somehow, if that makes any sense to you. Any way, it is a very pleasant tea and one I would recommend.

On a less happy note, I just bought a bunch of Twinings Prince of Wales tea, the standard by which I measure all other Princes. I had a cup this morning and it tasted nothing like I expected! Oh woe. It may just be me, so I will have more, but I was sadly disconcerted. Especially since I bought 3 tins worth. You don't suppose my palate may have grown past it? That would be nice, but I'd hate to lose my Prince, even for sentiment's sake. I'll keep you posted.

I will not be writing again until the Monday after Easter, as I take time for silence, to remember the suffering of my Lord and to celebrate His day of Reurrection! Let the earth be glad and the heavens ring with praise and thanksgiving!