Monday, August 30, 2010

A new Keemun

I do love the Gothic period - all those tall thin arches and tracery. This is
of course, Vienna.

If you would be interested in getting some glimpses of the Assam tea growing area, tea gardens, factories and such, go to and check it out. It is quite interesting. Not as good as going in person, but a lot cheaper.

For today, however, I am going to China, specifically to the area that pro- duces Keemun [Qimen] tea. I said I had bought a number of Keemun samples from the new lots at Upton's and this is the first one I am trying. It is so exciting to have the new samples! Actually, to be really aware of and be waiting impatiently for new teas is exciting. Guess I am moving down the road with my tea sampling.

This particular one is organic Dao Ming Keemun. The leaves are quite small but the dry scent -oh my goodness, what a treat. Earthy, but so fresh, like the cask of a really dark red wine - Burgundy, perhaps a bit oaky, with a hint of acid and a whiff of smoke. I followed directions and brewed it for 5 minutes, but I think that was a little too long. The brewing tea smelled so fresh , the smoke had gone, but the winey earthiness remained. It carried right on through to the actual taste of this lovely reddish gold tea. At times it seemed more winey, at others, more of an oaken nature came through. My second cup I had with a bit of cream, which smoothed away the rough edges from brewing it just a bit too long. Next time I am going to do 4.5 minutes. The taste lingers in your mouth and teases out other nuances, but sadly, I can't think how to describe them.

This is an excellent tea for a very low price - about $6.40 for 3.5 ounces. Upton's usually gives you enough in a sample for about 7-8 cups, which I think is very generous. Some of their very rare teas are only enough for 1 cup, but that is quite unusual. Their web address is I have done business with them for over 25 years and have always been satisfied with their service and teas. Not that I have liked them all, but they have always been of good quality and fair prices. This year, I did notice, both with them and many others, tea prices have gone up a lot. The weather really affected the tea estates world wide.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Afternoon Deeeelight

Friday, August 27, 2010

This is a view of the very elegant room where the Lippizaner horses of Vienna, Austria perform. I'm not sure the Viennese do very much that isn't elegant.

Oh dear, I shouldn't have done it. I compared an oldish sample of Enjoying Tea's Imperial Golden Yunnan Black [Dianhong] with a new sample of Upton's China Yunnan Golden Tips Imperial. Two Imperials, right? Well, sort of. Both had lots of golden tips and long leaves, both were abundantly coated with gold dust. Upton's were longer and the smell! Oh, the scent of of it - like old dried wood in the sun, coupled with that of a woodland spring of fresh water.

Both were brewed for 5 minutes at boiling, ET's only required a teaspoon, but the latter needed 1 and a half, due to the very large leaves. Both had that characteristic fresh wash smell of Yunnan, although Upton's was stronger. ET's was kind of a medium amber, Upton's such a dark amber it was really a dark brown. Which brings us to the test - the taste. Here, alas, ET must bow out. If I had had this alone, I would've thought it was an adequate Yunnan. Pleasant, smooth, full of flavor. Definitely not top rank, but plenty good for everyday. However, I compared them. It probably is an unfair comparison as Enjoying Tea is from last year, which was not a good Yunnan year. So, actually that says something good for ET's quality.

Upton's said Yunnan quality was back and this is proof. Smooth, spicy, peppery, deep woodsy, winy, malty, all those good words about Yunnan, they're all there. The flavor lasts in your mouth to fade gently away, like old potpourri, with the spiciness being the last to linger. But your taste buds remember the sensations. I liked it so much I decided to do a second wash, for 5 and a half minutes, using half the water. The color is almost as dark, the scent almost as rich and the taste is still there. Okay, it's a little muted, but getting a cup and half or more out of enough tea for one cup is pretty good economics. And it allows you to keep drinking the good stuff.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Time for a Real Tea Party

Saturday, Aug 28, 2010

Is that a great tree or what? This is in Sorrento, Italy, in front of a
very posh residence.

This is National Cream Tea Week in Great Britain. Seems to me that is a perfect excuse for a tea party. So, let's break out the cups and saucers, cream and sugar and party!

I always want to like tea scented with Osmanthus, but it seems I never do. However, Life in Teacup has changed that. I ordered some of Gingko's Golden Osmanthus Oolong [Huang Jin Gui] and was very happily surprised. The dry tea comes in factory sealed small metallic packets - about enough for 3 mugs. It is very loosely rolled greenish balls. I used enough to cover the bottom of a small mug, rinsed them with boiling water and then let them brew for about 2 minutes. I know, I know, I should've done them for less time and multiple infusions, but I just didn't want to today One should be allowed to drink tea whatever way suits them.

The tea was a pretty pale gold, with a lovely flowery scent. The taste just followed right along, being soft, flowery, delicate, just skimming over your tongue and leaving you refreshed. There don't seem to be a lot of nuances to this tea, but I don't think it needs them. It would be just perfect for when something delicate is just what you want. And I am happy to find an osmanthus I like.

I never seem to know about how much Oolong to use, but on line someone said that enough to cover the bottom of your brewing vessel was about right. I have been doing that and it seems to work very well. However, I have had some quite large balls of Oolong and others and for them I find that 7-9 balls for a mug works. It can be really amazing how much tea will expand in hot water.
This is the heading over the oldest organ in Stephansdom, the Cathedral in
Vienna. The Cathedral is so large that it holds 7 thousand people for the
Christmas Eve mass!

I am getting to the end of my stash of Boston Tea Company Tea. Only a few more to go. One of them is a nice little package of Bentley's Oriental Treasure Green Tea and 6 clover honey "spoons". They look like spoons, but are more like honey lollipops. The tea was bagged and there were only six. I brewed them up at 180 degrees for 2.5 minutes. There wasn't a whole lot of smell and sadly, there wasn't a lot of taste. Using the honey spoon brought out a floral taste, but I'm not sure how much of that was the honey and not the tea.

A different sort of tea bag tea from Boston was their Earl Grey, which contained a blend of Chinese and Indian tea, along with the Bergamot that makes the Earl, the Earl. Right out of the packet, it smelled really nice - a delightful floral bergamot. I brewed it for about 3 minutes and was very pleased. I think it was an excellent balance of decent tea and flavoring.

I read a small book I bought a while ago and would like to recommend it. It is Tea Time Journeys by Gail Greco, part of the Little B&B Cookbook Series. It is a small book but it is filled with fairly easy to make treats from a number of Bed and Breakfast houses. From Rose Petal Scones to Sundried Tomato Pate the food looked like lovely stuff to try for your next tea party. A longer while ago a number of people I worked with went to B&B sites for recipes and I have to say that the food was really good, creative and quick. If people will only be with you for one meal, you definitely want to wow them. I found that number of these recipes in the book had a good wow factor. Happy cooking. By the way, if you are looking for the books or cook books, a good source is Lots of them are pretty cheap, too.

A Teacup Full

Monday, August 31, 2010

These cute little Italian trucks only have 3 wheels and are only
about 4'8" tall. Perfect for city driving in very narrow streets.

Autumn is surely coming. The champagne grapes - those tiny, tiny ones are in the stores, the Italian blue plums are in the farmers markets and the trees on the hills are shading from the deep pure green of summer into the yellow tinged colors of fall. However, summer is having one last hurrah this week with temperatures in the upper 80's and high 90's. A good time for indoor chores and iced tea. I have some waiting in the fridge - The Tea Table's It's Afternoon Somewhere, which I have reviewed before. First, the last of the hot tea for a bit.

I am a big fan of Oriental Beauty Tea. My problem is I haven't found any as good as the first one I tried and that company no longer caries it. I bought some from Life in Teacup - Oriental Beauty Superior Grade. The dry tea scent is nutty and floral, but sharp, too. The green and white leaves are large, with lots of buds. I brewed it just under boiling for about 1 minute for the first infusion and about 1.5 minutes for the second.

The first infusion was such a pretty color - a soft pale gold, like the dandelion jelly I just got at the farmers market. The tea seemed to be nutty and greenish tasting, thick feeling and somehow filling, if that makes any sense. There were hints of floral, but not enough to my taste. The second cup smelled like freshly ironed clothes and was more green tasting and somewhat astringent. Even though the slight floral note had disappeared, I liked it even better. This is a very nice tea. However, I am still searching for that early perfection.

This Lapsang Hits a Sour Note

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Part of a monastery courtyard. It's hard to tell, but that is a 5 ft
tall rosemary bush. I about died of jealousy.

The next several posts will all have the same dates, as I can't copy things to here from my document store. Sometimes computers are very annoying.

I love good Lapsang Souchong tea. However, the sample I tried from Golden Moon doesn't fall into that category. As soon as I opened the packet I thought, uh-oh. The tea absolutely reeked of heavy smoke. I followed the directions to brew it for 5-6 minutes with boiling water and as it brewed the kitchen filled with that heavy scent. But, sometimes, aroma can be deceiving. Well, folks, this time it wasn't. The tea was awful! awful! awful! Probably the second worst one I ever had. Upton's won top honors for that, but they no longer carry the ghastly stuff, so you're safe if you order theirs - try the samples first.

Golden Moon teas are generally quite good, but everyone has flops or things not to our taste. I am glad I got that basket of sample that Golden Moon offers - it is a great way to see what I like or don't like. More and more companies are offering samples and I would much rather pay a dollar to try something I don't like than spend $20 and hate it. That would be very expensive compost!
I got a new shipment of Yunnans from Upton's! Oh yum, yum, yum. I bought 4 different ones. I also got some Keemuns and some other samples.

A Necessary Virtue

The carved central doors of a confessional.

Another grayish day, but I don't mind, as it is not hot. I would love
summer if it never got above 75. Please, don't stone me for that.

Today I am having a really fun green Tea. It is from the Tea Spot and I think I ordered this sample a while ago. It is Genmaicha, a Japanese green tea with roasted rice in it. The story behind this tea is that tea in Japan was once very very expensive and primarily saved for the upper classes. The poorer folk had to make do with twigs and leftovers and not too many of them, either. So, they started adding roasted rice, of which there was a great deal, to eke out the tea. Today, young Japanese have made a
virtue of this necessity and Genmaicha is very popular.

I can certainly see why. As soon as you open the packet, there is this pretty bright green tea set off by small brown rice kernels, with a few that have popped white to add interest. It smells nice - the fresh green scent of the tea and the roasty toasty smell of the rice. I followed directions and brewed it up with a heaping teaspoon at about 170degrees for a squeak over 2 mins. It smells wonderful - again, the green and the roasty scents. And the taste follows right along. A somewhat astringent green with the toasty rice overlaying it. It is really good, but I think there is a bit too much rice in it and not enough of the green can make it through. I could, of course, take out some of the kernels, which I think I will do next time.

I don't know if you read e-zines, magazines on the web, but there is a very good one that just published issue #7 - The Leaf. If you are interested in Chinese and Japanese tea and culture, you should check it out. You can access all the issues if you want to follow it in order. It is well written, accessible and interesting. You can find it at

I Found It!

I found yesterday's super tea from Aura Teas! It is Formosa Pinglin Wenshan Baochong[medium roasted]. I am so glad I could tell you the name.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Champagne for Elevenses

This, my friends, is a cactus, growing 2 stories high in the Town of Forio,
Ischia Island, Italy. I was impressed. My grand-father-in-law was a
goatherd in the country near here.

Today has been a special day. We went to our Bible study, with some of
the best people in the world and decided to celebrate the sale of our house with some champagne and blueberry buckle. Communion comes in many forms and we all had much to thank God for - house closings, new homes, recovery from strokes, outstanding music, laughter, shared joys and pains, a place where you can share doubts and fears and be loved not just for your good points, but your bad ones as well and find healing and company for the journey. We all need these places of love and shelter and I hope each of you has one.

We then went to the farmers market and found some beautiful fruits and veggies. Then I made tea - the last of the samples I have from Aura Teas. I would love to tell you the exact name, but I set the small packet down and now I can't find it. It is a Formosa Oolong and it is medium roasted. The leaves are quite large and dark. Dry, they don't smell like a lot, but once the water hit them - heaven in a cup, what a sweet, sweet scent, underscored by a roasted note. I used just enough to cover the bottom of a smallish mug and used water at about 195 degrees for about 45 seconds. The taste is wonderful; to me, that is, as I especially like the floral end of the Oolongs. It just fills my mouth up and lingers on my tongue. The second wash was greener looking than the pale gold of the first. It still smelled wonderful and was still sweet, but it was beginning to go towards a more green taste that was still superb.

Believe me, as soon as I find the packet, I'll tell you the name - it is too good to miss. Be careful if you look for this company on the web - there is another new company with nearly the same name. The correct address is Make sure you get that "s" in at the end of tea.

I decided to share the good day with the fur people and gave each of them their own pile of catnip. Oh purrrrrblissssss!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tea Surprises on a Rainy Day

An Austrian farmstead.

Wow, when we finally get rain, it is in abundance. I am so glad to
get it, but I hope we don't get the whole summer's worth in one shot. A perfect day for a pot of tea.

I am so pleased with my new teapot - no drips and it holds 7-8 cups. I filled it with Upton's Cecilliayan Estate Ceylon FBOPFEXSPL, to give it its full designation. The dry leaves are tiny, with an abundance of gold buds. It smells very fresh, with a typical Ceylon nose. I brewed it for 4 minutes, as instructed, but next time, I am going to cut it back a bit, as it was a touch tannic. The liquor was a dark red amber.

This was very interesting tea, as plain, I thought it was just so-so, a candidate for ice tea or dull mornings. However! When I added some cream to it the tea took a giant leap forward into very very good land. There was some nuttiness, some malt, a hint of fruit with an understory of oak leaves and floral notes on top. Wow! what an incredible difference, making it worthy of the ExSpl designation.

I have finally been able to do some teabook reading. One I have especially enjoyed is Time for Tea by Michele Rivers, published in 1995. It is stories of tea and conversation with 13 English women and girls, ranging in age from 6 to 80, from farmers' wives to the Marchioness of Bath, children, teens, shopkeepers, B&B owners, etc. Each one included a recipe, all sweets, all saying "Make me." One of the women talked about giving birth and having the nurse encourage her with the thought of the best cup of tea in the world awaiting. She said "It was! It was terrific."
It is a quick or thoughtful read, one to savor if you wish or just skim, and a wonderful glimpse of the lives of our sisters in tea.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Holding Back the Fall

On the plains of southern Austria, suddenly, there's a wall of rock!

Fall is beginning to let us know that it is coming. A few maples are
starting to have bits of red and gold and early morning can be quite chilly. I've detected a certain smell in the air you only get when autumn is in sight. I will be happy to have cooler weather, but not dark at 4 o'clock or all the cloudiness and gray.

I can hold on to the good parts of summer a while longer by having some Fruity Apricot tea from the Assam Tea Company. I must say, of the seven or eight samples I ordered, only one has not been all that good. The apricot is not one of them. What a treat to open the packet and be greeted with the deepest apricot scent, with hints of bubble gum. Almost as if the fruit were roasted. As it brewed - for just three minutes according to directions - the scent was mostly that of fresh tea with a nice blend of apricot. Sadly, no more bubblegum, though.

The brew tasted primarily of very fresh Assam tea, with a gentle accompaniment of apricot. Your taste buds won't get smacked around with this one, which is how I prefer any flavorings. I tried some iced and it was very nice that way, as the fruit lightened the tea somewhat. It struck me as a good drink to while away the afternoon, sitting on the porch, in the shade. My husband, of course, used sweetener and I have to say, this brought out the apricot very nicely. This would probably be really good with a dollop of apricot nectar, but I don't have any. I think I'll get some and try it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

That Darn Cat!

A trio of columns in the covered courtyard of an old, but still functioning, monastery. I like the idea of the quiet orderly passing of days that has existed for centuries. Perhaps because I am not either of those things.

That cat! Ernie, the skinny orange one with surely, porcine ancestors. Today I was cutting corn off the cob to make a black bean and corn salad and I had to fight him off! It seems that in addition to his love of all meats, Mexican and Italian food, salad and salad dressing, he loves corn! Since this is truly exquisite corn, he's not getting much.

I may give him some tea, though, as he likes that, too. I was at a friend's house recently who still has hundreds of rose blossoms, from his thousand or so roses. This inspired me to try Golden Moon's Rose Tea. It is a very pretty tea, black with rose petals and a gentle, exquisite scent. As it brews for 3.5 minutes, it gives off a wonderful, deep scent of rose - almost like the best Victorian potpourri. I can hardly wait to try it! Well phoo, it tastes like perfume! Not at all like tea. What a great disappointment! I tried some cream in it and that made it worse. Not even the Ernster liked it. Oh well, tomorrow has another tea waiting for me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rubber Ducky You're the One

Leaving Ravena by train, we noticed these poppies. They are all
along the train lines in all the waste spaces. This picture doesn't
adequately capture them, but they provide a lovely note in ugly spaces.

I have found a really delicious tea - Ceylon Symphony, from the Boston Tea Company, who kindly sent me samples to review. Ceyon tea often doesn't get many rave reviews, as it can be bland and is certainly a lot softer and mellower than, say, an Assam. It is often used in flavored teas, as it blends well with them. However, from first to last, this is a wonderful tea! When I first opened the packet I was struck by the scent - a fresh, deep winey aroma came off the deepish reddish black leaves. There was some sweetness there, too. I was going to brew it for 5 minutes - a great leap for me, but I got distracted and I know it went for at least 6, if not more. I really was afraid of what it would taste like, but it was a very pleasant surprise. There was none of that awfull tannic taste you get with overbrewed tea, but instead, a deep roasted herbal taste and scent. The tea was delicate and gentle but with that roasted depth to it. Truly superb.

Some bits of tea news - got to and click on tea championship, you'll see this year's winners in the tea competitions in several categories.

Hop on over to and click on tea books for a fairly long list of neat titles.

Over on there is an article about an Indian company that has purchased the remaining remnant of the old East India Company, returning indian property to Indian hands. A great day for them.

Last, but certainly not least, for all you rubber ducky fans, there is now such a critter for brewing a cuppa uppa - go to and click on new to get you own "bird in the pond"

Monday, August 16, 2010

From Market to Garden

I am sorry for the lack of paragraphing. Blogger won't coop-

Wow! This looks like a giant's stack of blocks. I love the play of
shapes against each other.
Can you tell I loved this church?
At the Ithaca Farmer's Market, I told you I got a new teapot. I also picked up a flyer about the potter's wife's business. She is a Japanese tea ceremony master and offers this ceremony to the public. The cost is $12 per person. The web site is I am going to get some of my friends together and do it. It is near the beautiful Buttermilk Falls. Ithaca is at the southern end of Cayuga Lake, one of the many Finger Lakes. Lots to see and do from shopping to great music to camping and hiking.
It is VERY cold in winter, but lovely the rest of the year.
Moving on to another continent, today I am having Sweet Orange Mate from the Local Tea and Coffee Shop in Sarasoata, FL. I received this in a tea swap. Mate is really an herb, but is often thrown in with the real stuff. It is grown primarily in Brazil and Argentina and some in other Sout American countries, where it is known as Yerba Mate. It does contain caffeine, but that seems to be of a gentler variety than what is in either coffee or tea. This offering contains both green and roasted Mate, along with licorice root, orange peels and orange blossoms. It has a very nice roasted sweet smell. I brewed it for about 6 minutes with water just off the boil, using about 1.5 teaspoons for a cup.
The orange was a very delicate accompaniment to the toasty, roasty, nutty flavor of the herb. It felt like something comforting and warming to my spirit, if not my body. I found it goes very nicely with milk and a touch of some sweetener brings out more of the orange flavor. An all around nice cup for a cool summer day. I am sure it would be even more welcome on a cold winter day.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

To Market, To Market

Another solid door to the Ravenna Church.

Today we went to the very interesting Farmer's Market in Ithaca, NY. Not only is there every sort of fruit and veggie, but there were cheeses - including the best blue I've ever had - a sheep's milk one. There are potters and artists, vintners, bakers, flower sellers and a lot of food kiosks - mostly Asian, but Cuban, Macro, crepe, ice cream and juice bars. A lot of fun. My husband bought me a beautiful new teapot, very Oriental in feel. However, the only tea I had today was some iced Jasmine. This was at the Sri Lankan food kiosk, Curry in a Hurry. It was made from a black tea and had some ingredient in it that really reminded me of all the health food stores I had been in many years ago. Nevertheless, it was very refreshing and I liked the fact that it had a different twist.
I took a different twist with some Teavana Tea I won a while ago. It is Vidyaranya Darjeeling FTGFOP1. This is billed as a black tea, but was not good unless I treated it as a green tea and even then, I wasn't much taken with it. However, as an ice tea, it shines. It is a lovely pale gold which has a full mouth feel and tastes somewhat nutty and malty, unusual in a Darjeeling. Adding sugar or honey really brings out the flavor. As usual, I did this by the cold brew method, about 5 hours in the fridge. I love to do tea this way - nothing to think about other than measuring in the tea.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ginger by the Light of the Moon

More Buttresses. I really liked the recurring pattern, different, yet the

As we feared, no rain yet. Yesterday we visited frieds who have a bumper crop of elderberries. These were a great favorite of my family when I was growing up, so I have an equally great sentimental attachment to them. I am going to make a pie aand some eldererry sauce.

Another Golden Moon Tea for today. This one is White Ginger, with Yin Zhen buds and leaves and pieces of dried ginger. The tea smells nice and fresh, with just hints of ginger. The leaves are large and downy, with a good amount of buds and what seems like a lot of twigs. I brewed it for about 2 minutes with not quite boiling water. It came out a pretty tan. This is a delicate tea, as are all white teas. It is gently sweet, with what I would think of as the right amount of ginger - enough to compliment, but not over whelm the tea. High marks!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Oolong Oops!

Yet another view of the Ravenna Church. Notice the barred windows.
I wonder if this was used as a sanctuary in times of invasion?

The weather bureau has promised lots of rain this week. The road to Hades is paved with those promises. Today is smotheringly hot and humid.

I thought I would try a nice light Oolong. I still have a lot of samples from the Golden Moon Tea Sampler I bought a while ago and Orchid Temple Oolong from the Wuyi Mountains looked good. It is quite pretty tightly rolled balls, striped green and white. The directions said to brew it for 2-3 minutes at 212 degrees. So I did it for 2.5. I first rinsed it, which seems to be the thing to do with Oolongs. As it brewed it smelled very green and seaweedy, but with a nice overlay of orchid scent. The liquid was a pretty pale good.

I am afraid that is where praise ends, as it was just too seaweedy for me, with too little floral to redeem it. It was nasty and somewhat bitter, so I pitched it out. The second cup which I brewed less time was just as bad. Sad, as Golden Moon sells good teas.

Now I'll tell you what I think went wrong. My cup was too small for the amount of tea in the sample. The water could have been about 180-195 and the brewing time was too long. Partially the problem is theirs for giving probably incorrect instructions, part of the difficulty is mine for following them. By now I should be able to use more sense. But if I were new to tea and brewed it their way I would have a nasty cup of tea. The samples in this package are generally only enough for one mug, so I didn't think about it - I will be more careful with Oolong samples in the future.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tea on a Summer Day

I guess you can tell I was quite taken with the stonework of this
church. As I was sitting in our new church this morning, looking at
the magnificent organ, I thought that people coming here from other countries would probably be just as impressed. We are as exotic to visitors as they are when we visit a foreign country.

It's another beautiful summer day, not too hot, not too humid, but I am aware that my neighbors' corn and hay fields are drying up and lawns aren't looking too green. Where there was enough clover seed in our new lawn, the grass is doing well, clover is a good nurse. It also smells wonderful. The sweetpepper bushes - Clethera - also are pouring out their sweet perfume.

Today's tea offering is another one from the Boston Tea Company - English Breakfast, "a blend of superior Indian and Chinese Black teas." It certainly started out weell. As soon as I opened the packet, I was greeted with a wonderful fresh smell akin to very good pipe tobacco, with some wine like scent, touched with a tiny bit of smoke and an even smaller whiff of black cherry.

The dry leaf was small, composed mostly of black ones with dark and light brown ones to accent it. The directions said to use boiling water for 4-6 minutes. Gulp, I am always afraid to push it too far, as I don't want it to be bitter, but I plunged ahead and did it for almost 5. I was rewarded with a really nice cup of tea. Pleasantly strong with a deep complex winey, malty flavor, with just that wee bit of smoke, probably from Keemun tea, which is usually the Chinese component. Probably an Assam added the malt. It is a substantial tea, but not at all heavy. As it is "English", it stood up very nicely to milk and sugar. My husband even noticed it was very good. It was perhaps, even better plain, as more nuances could be noticed.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Perfect Tea for a Perfect Day

Yet another view of the Ravenna Church. There are dozens of churches in Ravenna worth seeing. We only had time for this one
because we missed a train connection and we were on our way to meet a friend. Ravenna was once a busy seaport, which may be why the church is so fortress-like. It could also just be the age in
which it was built.

Today is a perfect summer day. Sun and clouds chase each other across the sky, the birds are singing, [although it really sounds more like a hawk nestling that needs to fly on his own and doesn't wantto]. There is a wonderful breeze and we have enough trees so that it sounds great. It is all so soothing that napping seems like the ideal occupation. But first, some tea.

The Boston Tea Company sent me a great packet of teas to review and this is one of theirs, Bentley's Earl Grey Green Tea. It is in bags and I asked for it as I had never had a green Earl Grey. The leaves are, of course, all chopped very small, but there is a very pleasant scent of bergamot, that ugly little orange that smells so sweet. I don't know what kind of tea it is as it doesn't say. I did NOT follow the directions, which said to use boiling water, which would have guaranteed a bad cup. Green teas just like water to be about 140 for Gyrokuro to about 180 for the sturdier greens. I used 180 for 2 minutes. It's been my experience that that seems to work for greens unless someone tells me different.

The liquor brewed up to a pleasant pale orange and maintained a soft scent of bergamot. Surprisingly, the tea did also, with a nice sweet undertone of the tea. There was also almost a sweet lavender in there as well. This a really nice tea, especially for tea bags. Just remember to brew it for less time, at a lower temperature. I am really happy to find this as there are times when going the pot route or even the loose tea quicky route is just too much, and a bag is just right.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cold Refreshing Dreams

The Tomb of someone important.

This is National Afternoon Tea Week in England, so let's all raise a cup [or glass, if it's too hot] to our friends across the pond. In light of that, I have been perusing a book entitled "British English A to Zed". We are indeed, 2 countries separated by a common language. It is certainly less so than it was, but I am all for maintaining cultural and linguistic differences. It is what makes us unique and interesting. By the way, it does define afternoon tea as tea, that which one consumes about 4 o'clock, and High Tea as the equivalent of our supper.

Yesterday I made up a pitcher of Madam Potts's Indigo Dreams. I reviewed this a while ago as a hot tea and now I am having it as an ice tea. It is described by Madam P as a sensuous blend of "Jasmine Spiral Buds, Lavender, Jasmine Flowers and Violets." The hot tea tasted mostly of Jasmine, with lavender overtones. The ice tea is the reverse, Lavender with Jasmine highlights. The dry tea is quite pretty, with all the different variations of purple and the cold tea is as well, being a soft yellow. It is naturally a bit sweet and very clean tasting and refreshing. I do have a serious problem with it, however - it's all gone, oh woe.

I just got the summer catalogue from Upton's and in my mind I have spent hundreds of dollars. A lot of this year's teas have arrived and I want to try them all. To begin with, they say they have some Yunnans that are of the quality of a few years ago, so they are a definite, as that is my all time favorite. Then there are some said to be of good quality from Kenya and Nilgiri and, and, and. You see the dilemma.

I was reading another tea-bloggers article a while ago, about listing your ten favorite teas. I barely made it out of the blacks before I had more than 10, so I gave up. Each one I listed made me think of another one. It might be easier to list the ones I don't like. How about you? Can you limit yourself to just ten? If so, I admire your decisiveness.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

No Earl in Assam

We associate the High Renaissance with flying buttresses -
the external supports that enabled people to build tall walls .
These buttresses are much more ancient and serve the same
purpose. If you compare a picture of Notre Dame in Paris to
this, you will see the similarities.

I thought I would be flying with today's choice of tea, an Earl Grey from the Assam Tea Company: Classic Bergamot, made from tippy black tea and organic oil of bergamot. It smelled so wonderful when I opened the packet. It was a very rich citrussy, perfumed bergamot with a great understory of very fresh tea. The leaves were quite dark, with an abundance of tips, on the small side. I brewed for 3 minutes, using boiling water and while it was brewing the bergamot scent faded quite a bit, as often happens.

The liquor was a lovely deep reddish amber and still smelled very fresh. The first several sips, I couldn't discern the bergamot, but gradually I could, in the back of my mouth, very faintly, sad to say. The tea is a good Assam, malty and rich, but I could not say this is really an Earl Grey. I added some cream and this did bring out the bergamot, but not enough to suit my taste. I still prefer several of Upton's.