Monday, February 28, 2011

A Fine Formosan

A peek at the Mediterranean.

Alex Zorach kindly told me that Tea Forte does sell loose leaf tea, so I trotted right on over and got some black current. Thanks Alex. Much better than all that extra packaging. It is amazing how much less garbage you have if you recycle and compost. One puny bag. A lot better than 3 or 4. And it's really a no-brainer. It's like contributing to the food bank. If you buy one or two extras every week, it is painless to give to those less fortunate. Having worked in several, I can say that the vast majority of folk who come truly need. There are always scammers, but you get to know them.

I have been having such a good run with tea, so many of the ones I am trying are just plain good. Today's is another one from Aura Teas - make sure you get that "s" in there. It is Formosa Alishan Oolong, obviously a cousin of the one I had a few days ago from them. It smells like good green earth in the packet and is very dark for an Oolong, looking as though it were heavily compressed. At 170 degrees for about 2 minutes, it brewed up into a light amber, with a distinct green taste, softened by what seemed to me to be pineapple. Very tasty. The second wash, again for 2 minutes, shifted away from such heavy green to an orchid scent and flavor. Just as good as the first cup, but different. It's always so interesting to see these changes from one lot of tea.

I have been seeing more and more ads in mainline magazines for tea and articles about how good for you it is. I hope it encourages more people to drink tea, just for the taste and experience of it. I also hope it encourages people to try loose leaf tea and not just tea bags.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Currants and Tea

Flowers in Italy. Wish we had some now. Although the grocery
store just got in hyacinths and I had a good sniff fest yesterday.

Hot diggity dog! Or something like that. I found a black currant tea I can drink! It doesn't smell like cat spray! Woo Hoo! I am a happy camper, as I did like this stuff long ago and any I have had since has just been awful, awful, awful. The only problem is it is Tea Forte. Now Tea Forte makes some very tasty teas. The packaging is visually appealing, it would make lovely gifts. BUT (there's always one, isn't there?) that packaging is decidedly not earth friendly. There is so much of it and some is just not going to waste away in compost. Also, they are very expensive. But I may have to bite the bullet. Oh dear.

However, I am going to review it, because I am so pleased to taste it. I got mine as a gift, by the way. First of all, it smells wonderful, a gentle fruity aroma that smells like fresh black currants.
Then, after 3.5 minutes of brewing in it's cute little pyramid bag, it tastes wonderful, like the aforementioned black currants. Imagine that. Plus, there is a gentle hint of mint on the side. It really reminds me of being out in the garden, picking berries and gathering herbs. I wonder if they have any loose leaf. I'll find out and get back to you.

PS It snowed again last night - gorgeous morning when the sun came up and sparkled everything. It is so nice to have the sun up early and still be able to see at 6 pm. I love winter, but hate the gray, although this year has had a lot more sun.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Don't Call Me a Pinhead

Overlooking the Mediterranean, on the Amalfi Way.

It is incredibly beautiful here, as the snow has stuck to the trees, in spite of the wind last night. I think there is an ice coating holding at least some of it on. And it is snowing again.

Today's tea is from The puriTea, and it is Pinhead Gunpowder. I expected the little balls to be quite tiny, but they weren't. When I compared it to some regular gunpowder, these were larger. The dry scent was floral and vegetal, with something like sesame teasing around the edges. I steeped it the first time for about a minute and it gave off a lovely floral aroma. It was a lovely pale green. The taste was pleasant, but not exciting.

The second steeping was a bit over 1.5 minutes and again, there was the floral aroma, with a sharp edge to it. Again, the flavor was pleasant, but not exciting, a mix of floral and vegetal, but without that awful fishy or seaweedy flavor. Both infusions were done at about 170 degrees.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Tribute Tea

The old organ in the Vienna Cathedral, one of the truly beautiful churches of the world.

My Faith is restored! Well, sort of. In weathermen, that is. For today. They said we'd get 8" of snow. Well, we've rounded that turn and are headed for 10. Let's see, that's 15" of new snow this week. After a teaser of Spring. Good thing I am not a tea farmer.

Speaking of which, I know many people are buying tea plants or seeds. This is a fun thing to do and perhaps to harvest enough for at least a cup or maybe even a pot. You need to know what varietal it is though, because the ones that are Camellia sinensis assamica were developed for the hot humid areas of Assam. Those tender darlings need to come when the temperature goes below 50 degrees! Not for me, I would never remember and I would have to make tea popsicles. If you're a northerner, try to get Camellia sinensis sinensis.

I had some really nice tea today. I got it from Life in Teacup and it is called JiangXi Tribute Tea. This comes from the Jian Xi area of Wuyan province. It is different from any green tea I've seen in that it is the softest grey green, gently twisted. It has been lightly stir-fried to kill enzymes as part of the drying process. This is called Chao Qing. The dry tea has very little aroma, as does the brewing tea. What there is is fresh, green, maybe the barest hint of sweet.

The taste is equally as delicate, especially in the initial brewing, with 170 degrees water for just a minute. The second, still at a minute, was stronger but still delicate. The third was about 1.5 minutes and was yet stronger. All tasted to me of perhaps what new Spring greenery would taste like - fresh, young, full of promise. I can easily see why this would be a tribute tea. If I were giving it to a friend, I would feel I had certainly given my best.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Maples and Frogs and Orchids, Oh My

An Italian port, Sorrento

I should have saved yesterday's picture for today, the grays in the picture would match today's sky color. But I don't really care as nature has begun the wild swings of temperature and weather that say very very early Spring is here. Bertie is already trying to find frogs in the ditch. I wish him well, as I am sure they are well buried in the mud under the 18 inches of snow.

Very soon the maple syrup folks will be festooning the trees with buckets and lines and the boiling down of sap to make that wonderous sweet confection. We are fortunate that we live where it is produced. In fact, friends of ours make it and have won countless awards for the excellence of their product. You can find them at It is never cheap, as it takes boiling down, day and night, 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. After the sappers are done, then they turn to making maple sugar, maple candy, maple-covered nuts and other yummy sweets.
Today we are turning to Aura Teas for our daily cup. It is Formosa Alishan Jinxuan Oolong. Some of the best Oolongs in the world come from Formosa. Dry these leaves have a sweet, orchid like smell. They look as though someone sort of pleated them and then twisted them into a ball shaped pellet. I brewed up my whole sample in a large gaiwan, with water cooled a bit from boiling. I then quickly rinsed the leaves to awaken them. The first infusion, of a minute was a delicate pale yellow, smelling and tasting of orchids and hay. The second was darker in color and more of the orchid came out. The third was definitely an orchid flavor, with the hay back again. It was smoother and rounder tasting than the other two. I am sure if I had continued I could have gotten about 3 more infusions fom the leaves, which did not fully unfurl until the third. They are fairly large - a bud and 1 or 2 leaves, with the leaves having little delicate bug bits along the sides. The tea plant gives off an enzyme in reaction to this, which results in the lovely orchid aroma and taste. In this case, we can say Hooray for bugs!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ooh La La! Mes Amis!

I had good intentions on Monday, but here it is, already Wednesday.

As I gaze out at 6 new inches of snow, which is beautiful, but still - more snow!, I am reminded that one of the farmers at the farmers market is right now grafting tomatoes so that by May 30 we can buy really tasty, fresh, ripe tomatoes. Also, in a few short weeks, the tea harvest will begin in China and we can look forward to a lot of wonderful new teas. The weather in both India and China has been good this year, so the farmers are looking forward to a good harvest.

Some of the trees in the meadow look like thin ladies dressed in very full ball gowns and there are a multitude of animal tracks, although some tracks are just big blob marks where the cats can only leap instead of walk.

If you like interesting tea breads and would like to make a really cute Panda Tea Bread, please go on over to for pictures and a link to the recipe.

You lucky folks in the Chicago areas of Naperville and Skokie are in for a treat. On any Tuesday you can go to the local Adagio tea shop and pick out one of their teas for a free cup of tea. The Skokie shop is in the Old Orchard Mall. Definitely a nice way to advertise and help us broaden our tea horizons at the same time. Our local teashop, Briar Patch, does the same thing.

Today's tea is from Culinary Teas, from Gay Paree - otherwise known as French Blend. And it certainly is a blend! Ceylon, Nilgiri, Assam and Kenya Black teas, "Cream of Vanilla Earl Grey", Jasmine, Rose and Lavender flowers. That's a lot going on in one small cup.

Dry, this is an attractive tea, with all the flower petals and the different leaves. To me it had a strong citrus scent with floral and perhaps lavender overtones. I brewed it for the usual 1 teaspoon, 3.5 minutes with boiling water. As it brewed, I could catch the aroma of the Earl Grey and the rose/jasmine combination, one I especially like. This is a lot more delicate than I would have expected, and I did not catch much of a Cream flavor. Nor was I able to discern any lavender, but the rose and jasmine were very good partners with the Earl. After trying it both plain and with cream, I decided the latter is better. Probably a bit of sweetener would be good, but I am always leery of anything sweet in my tea.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Black From the Blues

More of my favorite topography, mountains.

First of all, the wind has stopped blowing! This may not seem like much to you but after 21/2 days of howling, screaming wind that blew up huge clouds of snow, we are happy to have a day off before the next "mixed winter weather" arrives tomorrow. That it comes with lovely sun is a big, big plus. Those two days of spring-like teasers have some people discouraged that we will notget Spring. But it comes every year and some of the joy of it is anticipation and feeling rewarded for facing down another winter. Take that! Smack, smack!

A follow-up to the tea tasting. My husband was afraid we wouldn't get our moneys worth from the tea leaves, so he put them all together and brewed a big pot of tea. Surprisingly, it was very good. Smooth, sweet, floral. Who'da thunk it?

Today, however, we are hopscotching to the very southwest of India, to the Blue Hills of Nilgiri, right to the Iyerpadi Estate to try some of Upton Teas' Nilgiri Orange Pekoe, which is organic. Orange "Peck-hoe" refers to the leaf style, not the taste. The dry leaves are a very attractive mix of many shades of brown and appear to be chopped. They smell wonderful, fresh, sweet, woodsy, floral. I brewed it up for 4 minutes and while it was brewing, it filled the room with a really pleasant aroma of newly dried leaves on the forest floor. The tea itself is very smooth, with a nice full body, a little sweet, a little astringent, a little woodsy-dry-leaf. Truly pleasant stuff. It holds up to cream and sugar, but it is just fine on its own.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A White and Yellow Line Up

Power lines, ugly but necessary. Look at the blue sky, maybe we'll
have some soon.

If weather were a person, I would say it was a tease. After 2 days of temperatures in the 50s!!!!!, it is now winter again, with high winds, snow and a temperature of 20. Fora while there, we were without jackets, turning our faces to the sun, reveling in the warmth. But in another month, this teaser may be realized - winter is half over, hurrah!

Yesterday I had some friends over for a tea tasting. A little better than the blind leading the blind, but not too much, as we were sampling whites and one yellow. As you know, this is a whole new area for me, as my palate has barely expanded enough to be able to discern at least some of their nuances. Until very recently, white and yellow teas were only made in China and were rare and expensive.

We started with Bai HaoYin Zhen, Silver needles from The puriTea. The buds were beautifully silvery from the little white hairs on them, long and fat. Silver needles is only made from the buds. This is a early Spring tea, mostly air dried on bamboo trays and only warmed over charcoal fires at the end to make sure it is dry enough. It comes from the districts of Fuding and Zhenda in Fujian Province, China. This is a delicate, silvery green brew, very pale. It smelled sweet, with a slightly earthy overtone of chestnut. That carried through to the taste, which had a sweet floral note, again with some chestnut and maybe some honey.

The second was more familiar to me - White Peony or Bai Mu Dan, also from The puriTea and hailing originally from Yunnan Province. One source I read said this was a very expensive tea, more difficult to make and rarer. In this country I have only seen it as a cheap, everyday tea. It is air dried, then fired at 21 degrees, cooled and then fired again at about 160 degrees. It is made from 2 leaves and the end bud. This particular tea seemed to have a lot of stem in it. It was much darker than the previous and had a more pronounced flavor. It was floral and woodsy, but there was much more fruit taste and smell to it. I thought it had an almost peachy or apricot taste.

The third was from Life in Teacup and was Jing Mai Moonlight white, which I reviewed a few days ago, another offering from Yunnan Province and one plucked in the Fall.

The last offering was Chinese Yellow Buds Huo Shan, from Upton Teas. To date, yellow teas are only made in China and generally come from Hunnan or Anhui Province. They had their origin in people desiring to do away with the grassiness of some green teas. Yellow teas are somewhat fermented after they have dried a bit, just until they begin to acquire a yellow color. Then they are dried slowly, wrapped in paper, unwrapped, pan-fired, rewrapped and the process repeated until they are dry enough. It can take several weeks for the tea to be fully processed.

Personally, I do not think this was one of the best yellows. The leaves were not very yellow and I have seen many pictures where they are almost straw colored. They smelled very grassy dry and this scent intensified as the tea brewed. The first infusion was quite gentle, with a slightly grassy taste. The second was definitely in the grassy, seaweed area of taste and none of us were really taken with it. It was a fairly expensive sample and I won't be getting more.

We had a lot of fun doing this and we all learned a lot. My little glass pot got quite a work out. In a few weeks we are going to do another tasting. I really enjoyed sharing with my friends what I've learned and enabling all of us to widen our horizons. We ended the afternoon with smelling some of the more potent black teas - a chocolate chili black with pu-erh and some Lapsang Souchong, just for contrast's sake.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cherries Wild!

St. Francis Monastary in Sorrento, Italy.

I am doing a tea tasting this afternoon with some friends. We are going to do three white teas and a yellow. Having nver had yellow tea, I really don't know what to expect. I'll tell you about it tomorrow.

This morning I had some tea which was quite different from yesterday's. I had bought it locally, in the Briar Patch in Owego, NY. The owner got this from a wholesaler, it's not one she made up. It is called Wild Cherry and it smells exactly like Smith Brother' or Luden's Wild Cherry Cough Drops. It's pretty strong, with an earthy not at the end. But I brewed it up as usual for black tea - 1 teaspoon, 212 degrees for 3.5 minutes. It still smells just as it did dry.

However, the proof is in the taste. Oh boy, tastes just like cough syrup. I tried it with milk. Oops, swampy cough syrup. No sugar with this one, it is very sweet. The best I can say is I hated it. Some of you may really like it, but it is not this lady's "cuppa"

A paraphrase of something my husband read to me - You don't see a cardinal in snow-covered winter, your gaze concentrates and distills and concentrates and distills to the one essence of the red bird.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wowee Kazowee, What a Jasmine

See how your eyes are drawn to the altar!

Well, my friends, today it is going to be in the 50's - in New York, in February! Who could imagine? Our Old Lady Cat, Sarah Sweetface, is celebrating by having a series of cat fits where she runs around the house, out the door, around the house and back in. I guess we have all gotten a bit sick of winter. However, lest we enjoy ourselves too much, Old Man Winter is arriving again on Saturday, so we shall frolic today and tomorrow. Maybe our 5' by 15' foot pile of snow will even melt a bit.

As taken as I am with Life in Teacup's Snowflakes on Green Lake Jasmine, I may have found a real competitor in The puriTea's Jasmine Pearl. These beautiful pea-sized green and white pearls release a jasmine aroma that will knock your socks and shoes right off. It is incredibly rich and sweet, the very essence-of-jasmine. It is such fun to watch the little pearls unroll, twisting and turning as they do, until they become quite large leaves. I brewed them for 2 minutes with 200 degree water. Oh my, the taste does live up to the promise! It is so smooth, so sweet (but not sugary) so jasmine! This is a full-bodied tea as well, which leaves a wonderful aftertaste of a jasmine wilderness in your mouth. There is almost a taste of rose in it, like the oft-mentioned Mock Orange bush. I don't know what that tastes like, I am really extrapolating from the scent. Another plus is that the bottom of the cup is as good as its beginning, without getting bitter.

Actually this is not a competitor, but an worthy companion with LIT's Jasmine. They are very very different. This is sweeter and heavier, whereas Gingko's is light and delicate. Two superb teas for different moods, perhaps.
Luck, lucky me to have some of each!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I've Got a Blog, You've Got a Blog...

A very beautiful German altar

Shall we rain or snow or shine the sun or sulk? It's been one of those days when you really have a choice. The snow is melting a bit, refreezing. Very undecided. The not-so-dear deer are now raiding the birdseed and peanuts in the daytime, not just the evenings, so I guess I will have to get after them.

Before I get to my tea I want to tell you about some websites that you may enjoy. The first is , which is an online tea magazine. It is primarily concerned with Chinese and Japanese Tea culture and is very informative and interesting.

There are 2 tea review blogs that I can highly recommend, very different in character. The first, Rate Tea at is the brainchild of Alex Zorach. Anyone can sign up to rate teas they have tasted and then go on and read his very interesting and thoughtful blog. The second is in which teas are rated by staff. You can sign up for a weekly review of the best teas of that week and you may even win a gift certificate for some free tea.

There are some blogs which participate in Teacup Tuesday and Teacup Thursday. These are days when folks show off their pretty china and some is lovely, indeed. You can get to the former by going to which is a very nice blog all on its own, as is the one for Thur days, . Make sure you put in the three "s".

On to the tea! Today I am going with an old favorite company, Upton Teas. I am having their #TK40, Milima Estate Kenya FBOP1, a black tea. If you recall, the FBOP1 stands for Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe, probably Best - the 1. The leaves are broken and there are golden buds amongst the small black leaves. Dry, there isn't much scent. I brewed it for 3.5 minutes with boiling water. There is a definite, almost earthy aroma that I finally can identify as chestnut before it is roasted. The tea is strong with a solid nutty taste and something that reminds me of wet tree bark. I made it somewhat over-strong as I wanted to use up my sample, but it is a gentle giant, and not overwhelming. It is a smooth, appealing tea that compels me to keep drinking. It takes cream well and Frank thinks it is fine with sweetener. It is wonderful to see that Kenya is finally getting her good teas back.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Keemun in the Sun

Look what pretty stuff you can do with plaster.

Oh my, I have gotten behind in my tea tasting. I haven't been home a lot to do much. Today is another gorgeous day - bright blue sky, sunshine, cool but not awful. What more could we want? We'll get it for sure. one day last week was 48!!!!!! and then zipped down to 24. Sunday when we left early so my husband could preach at a church an hour away, it was snowing, the roads were miserable, and I, being the driver, was NOT happy. We got there okay, but my fingers needed to be pried from the steering wheel. When it was time to come home, it was a different world. This week is supposed to be above freezing - the January thaw in February.

I got a small order from Aura Teas and today I am going to try their Organic Keemun, which hails from Wuyan in Jianxi Province, China. The dry leaves are good and black, with almost a sheen on them. They smell wonderfully outdoorsy, like hay drying in the sun, with a bit of earth scent, as well. I didn't follow directions, as I am not at all patient today and can't bear the thought of multiple infusions. So, I just did my usual 1 teaspoon, 3.5 minutes, boiling water bit.

While it was brewing, it gave off a wonderful aroma of fresh wash on the line, dark chocolate and damp earth. The chocolate and earth come through in the cup and linger in your mouth in a very tasty, satisfying and calming way. It is just fine plain, a bit of cream seems to bring out a bit more of the chocolate. Altogether a fine cup of Keemun.
We have a small herd of about 6-11 deer who parade through our yards. The other day I counted 25! Too many for this small area. They were hopping about, running, jumping for no reason except what looked like sheer joy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Moonlight in My Cup

What a gorgeous day it is. Tuesday was, too until about the middle of my walk, when the wind came up and it was COLD. The temperature dropped 10 degrees in an hour.

I am having white tea today - specifically Jing Mai Moonlight White, from Yunnan, China, via Life in Teacup. It is so pretty dry, with some little round dark leaves and lots of silvery buds and bigger leaves. Some of it looks like it was dried in a flower press, the leaves are so precise. It has a fresh green, almost sharp smell. I follow Gingko's instructions and brew it with boiling water for a minute for 3 infusions, in my new little glass pot. The leaves don't unfurl a lot, they are as they are. She says it can go for 7 infusions, but I can't.

I am totally surprised by the color of the brewed tea. It is so much darker than I expected. The first infusion is nutty/vegetal tasting. The second, which is almost the same color is also nutty, with perhaps a very slight metallic edge. There seems to be an aroma of raspberries, elusive, but present. The third is still going strong on the color and is beginning to taste a bit like raspberries. Very faintly, but as the tea cools, this flavor seems to come teasingly to the fore, along with a sort of hazelnut hint.

This is a quiet, unassertive tea which could be sipped all day. I am finding I really enjoy teas that have so many different nuances to them, especially if they can be spread over a day, so each of them can be savored more.

Oh, I had another of those green tea chocolates, which by the way, are called Green Kiss. They do grow on you. I think personally, I would like a little more chocolate in them.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tea and Gardens in the Snow

It is astonishingly beautiful here this morning. We had about 5" inches of snow last night and almost all of it has stuck to the branches of every plant. It is so thick I can't really see very far into any of our woods and spinneys. The sky is that really brilliant dark blue we rarely get in the winter, the sun is out and it is gorgeous! Definitely a day for an appreciative walk.

First, let's have tea. I have read much about (Big) Red Robe Oolong tea and finally decided I had better try some, as it sounded so tasty. I got some in my sampler I bought from the puriTea. The leaves are a reddish black, a mix of spirals and chunks. My first impression is it smelled like the good brown bits from homemade mac and cheese, with a bit of smoke. It brewed up to a medium amber with a kind of raisiny, floral, charred wood scent, which followed right along into the taste, which was sweet, floral and the tiniest bit smokey.

The second infusion was a bit lighter, more floral, not a bit smokey, but had more of a raisin character to it. Not sweet in the usual sense of the word, but carrying that impression. It is quite complex and as it cools it becomes somewhat peachy tasting. I found it to be every bit as interesting cold as it was hot.

This tea is also known as Da Hung Pao, "the Emperor of Tea" and comes from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian Provnce, China. The trees are over 400 years old. One of the charming myths about these trees is that a Ming Dynasty emperor's mother was ill and a tea made from them cured her. To honor and protect the trees, the emperor sent his imperial red robes to put over them.

For those of you who are Kusmi Tea fans, they have opened a NYC store. It is located at 1037 Third Ave., near 61st Street. I now have a huge list of NYC tea shops and vendors I want to visit next time I can go there.

I am going to hop over to India to review a tea I don't want to forget. It is from Teas Etc and simply named Nilgiri. If you remember, Nilgiri is named for its origin in the "Blue Mountains " of very southern India. The leaves are small and a mix of black and brown. They give off a very pleasant prune smell, which sits well with me, as I love prunes. As it brewed the scent shifted to a baked fruit and fresh outdoor aroma. The tea was definitely no disappointment. It was light and toasty and fruity and sweet. Yum.

This made me think ahead to gardens. When we first began to garden in earnest we were faced with brick-building red clay. What to do? We had read about no-weed, deep mulched gardens put forth by Ruth Stout [sister of mystery writer, Rex, author of the Nero Wolf series] and tried it, never looking back. By the third year we had deep, wonderful soil. The trick is to mulch the soil about 1 foot thick with hay and just add to it every year. We did our potatoes by laying them on the ground and covering them with hay. We'd shove the hay aside to make rows. Yes, there were a few problems. The main one was slugs, which we dealt with by going out in the evening and salting them. Considering the damage they did, we were absolutely heartless. And we had wonderful crops that we did not have to weed nor water. One garden we did have to rake clear for the ground to warm up, but that was minor.

When we were making new flower beds, we were a bit more discreet. In the fall we would lay down a thick layer of wet newspaper and cover it with a "prettier" mulch. By Spring we would've killed the grass and started the process of soil improvement. You see, not only am I a lazy tea lady, I am a lazy gardener.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rag Balls for Tea

Our first glimpse of Amalfi

My car began to smell funny while I was out today and when I looked under the hood, there was a small amount of smoke. My mechanic thinks it smelt like baked chicken and maybe a mouse had gotten inside. Yum, baked mouse.

I am waiting for my amaryllis to throw up a flower stalk and bloom. It has been 2 months and I am eager for some color. The hibiscus are about to bloom again, so that will have to do for now.

I have had so much good tea lately. The latest is from The PuriTea and is called Red Dragon Pearl Black. These pearls are amazing. They are red, with some tan leaves and are about the size of a chickpea. They resemble those balls of rag strips people used to braid rugs. They smell mostly of chocolate. The directions say to use 2-3 balls percup. I did and brewed it for about 3.5 minutes with boiling water.

As the tea brewed there was an aroma of dried leaves along with the chocolate. The liquor was about a medium brown. It was sweet and chocolately, a bit malty, a bit acidic. It really went well with a bit of cream. You could have it either way, as the cream did not seem to make much of a difference, other than to deepen the flavors a bit. It is very smooth. This may move right up into my top ten favorite black teas. It is amazing the flavor that tea can have all on its own, with out any additions. The website is . One of the nice things these folks do on their website is give suggestions about what foods their teas go best with.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Khaki Chocolate

Sunday, February 6.

Is that or is that not the quintessential Italian tree?

Along with lots of teas to try, Gingko from Life in Teacup sent me some green tea chocolates. They are Keiko, a Japanese company, although they are labeled as a product of Germany. From what I can gather, they were probably made in Germany for a Japanese company, using Japanese green tea. I cannot make up my mind about them. First of all, there is the color - khaki, when I was expecting chocolate brown. They taste more of green tea than chocolate. They have bits of tea stem when I was expecting smoothness. They are sweeter than I expected, too, but that is typical of European chocolate. They leave a pleasant green tea after taste in my mouth, with a bit of sweet. I like them, but I am not overwhelmed by them. However, this is the first green tea chocolate I have ever had, so I have nothing to compare them with. I think they would go nicely as an after dinner sweet, with an Asian meal. I guess I need another one to decide.

Speaking of green teas, I have one from my Golden Moon Tea samples for today, Sencha. Sencha is one of the most common and least expensive of the Japanese teas. I have to say I am already prejudiced against it, as my experience of these teas has not been stellar. However, I persevere. The leaves are long and thin, with an aroma of seaweed. Hoping for the best, I brewed it up at about 175 degrees, for about 2 minutes. It is a very pretty spring green color. It is surprisingly delicate, smooth, vegetal and grassy, but very pleasantly so. Huh, I may have to change my mind about Japanese teas.

Tomorrow is only a week away from Valentine's day - have you got all your goodies ready? Picked out the teas to serve to your Sweetie? There are some very nice ones available, like Mariage Freres Wedding Imperial, Harney's Valentine Blend, the many blooming teas available from a number of sources, any of the chocolate teas, too many to name, and if you're really pressed, check out the supermarket tea aisle. You can always float those little candy hearts in the tea or serve the heart shaped Dove chocolates. Make sandwiches and cut out hearts from them. I will probably make a heart-shaped cake, as I still have my mothers heart pans; maraschino nut, my sweetie's favorite. I even found some heart shaped plates at TJ Maxx.

Silver Needles

An Italian farmstead.

The BBC has a website and on that site is a list of good tea houses to visit if you are in China. Their site is The tea house article is at the bottom, past the fat belly.

Not only was there sun yesterday, but I got a bunch of samples from Life in Teacup, a generous gift to bloggers from Gingko Seto. I just had to try one. I am edging my way into white teas, so I am trying Silver Needle, Bai Hao Yin Zhen. And silver needles it is. The buds and leaves are about 1 - 1.5 inches long, covered with beautiful silver down. In the packet there is a faint aroma of white wine. I brewed the whole packet in my new little glass pot for 1.5 minutes and was rewarded with a delightful mild coconut taste. Really delicious. The liquor was a soft pale old gold color and smelled faintly of grass, with a hint of the coconut taste to come.

The second cup I brewed for 2 minutes and it was a tiny bit paler. By now, the leaves were fully expanded, a nice pale green. There was a clear, mild fresh springy green scent. The tea tasted of fresh green life with a hint of bubblegum or cotton candy - I couldn't make up my mind.

The third cup I brewed for 2.5 minutes and found it to be a darker gold than the others, which was a surprise. There was still a nice fresh green scent to it. It tasted of fresh baked greens, not at all a heavy taste, but very light.

By the fourth infusion, I was getting pretty full of tea. This was the darkest one yet - the color of straw. And that is what it tasted like - the very freshest of straw, clean and new. As a farm kid, I was always chewing on the end of a piece of straw or timothy, so I know whereof I speak.

All in all, this was a delightful trial and I am happy to add it to my list of three white teas I have liked. I told you I was new to this branch of tea.

Those darn deer have done it again - I put out peanuts for the squirrels, so the little buggers will leave the bird seed alone and the deer ate them - every one!

For those of you who like to play in the dirt and raise herbs for your tea the following article will give another reason for doing it. . So dig away and let your kids be dirty.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Coffee and Tea Festival

The Coffee and Tea Festival of New York City is being held Saturday and Sunday February 19 and 20 from 11 am to 5pm at 7 West 34th Street. This is between 6th and 5th Avenue. The website is . If you are in the area, I would urge you to go. There are many special tea tastings and other events schedualed around these times, so check it out!
You will find more information and some bargain tickets to a super event over on

Here Come the Keemuns

Aaah, mountains!

Sunshine again! If this keeps up, we from the Great Northeast won't be able to complain nearly as much. Ah, but we are saved - snow tonight and tomorrow. I may complain, but I love the swing of the seasons. I love the rain, the snow, the colors of spring and fall, even the gray and white or sepia of winter. I just like it enlivened with sun.

In keeping with the Lunar New Year, I have 2 Chinese teas to compare today. They are both from Life in Teacup. The first is Superior Grade Keemun. The leaves are small, almost broken and pretty much brown. They smell very fresh, without much in the way of nuance. The brewing tea releases more of a winey scent. In the cup there is a very pleasant earthy wineyness, but it is somewhat subdued.

The second tea is Keemun Mao Feng and its superiority was evident as soon as the packet was opened. The leaves were mostly black, long and twisted. There was a deep scent of red wine barrel and a rich oaky undertone. The tea brewed up to a surprisingly light color, but not the taste, which was rich and full, deep and earthy, with the wine right along in there. Wonderful.

I have to say if I had only had the Superior, I would have thought I had a very nice cup of Keemun. However, tasting the second made me realize what I was missing. I do love Keemun. And to think I used to think it was awful stuff. But then, there were many teas I didn't like and have since grown to at least appreciate, if not downright love, while others have fallen by the way.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

More on Today's Tea

I decided to try the Organic Golden Monkey Black Tea with some cream and it's a whole new world. Even rounder than it was, with a subtle dark cherry flavor to it. It is somehow sweeter and more spice comes through. What a great trip!


HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! to all who are celebrating the Asian Lunar New Year. May you have joy, peace, prosperity and every other good thing!
May the doors you open lead to wonderful things for you.

We are celebrating here because the sun is shining and the sky is blue. The pines are brilliant etched against the azure sky and it's not even too cold.

Any day is a good day when you get new teas to try from a new-to-you company. I had heard so may good things about The PuriTea Company I had to order. They were having a sale on make your own tea samplers, so I did. My order came very quickly and they even sent 3 free samples. Wow.

I was going to discuss a couple of different Keemuns I have been drinking, but decided to go with another Chinese tea to celebrate the New Year. This one is from Aura Teas and is Organic Golden Monkey Black Tea. It is one of Wuyi Yen tea, [grown in spaces between mountain rocks], from the Wuyi area of Fujian Province, and is considered one of China's finest. It is a mix of black and brown leaves, heavily curled. It is processed by hand in the spring. It will yield up to 3 infusions. In the container the aroma is a fine mix of floral, sweet and a deep deep spice and wine bottom note. I did the first infusion for 2 .5 minutes and the second for 3.

The tea in the cup has a smooth, sweet, deep woodsy, spicey scent and the liquor is very, very dark. I can hardly wait to drink this! Usually I like cream in my black tea, but this is so fine, I can't do it. The tea almost feels creamy, it has such a rich body. There are so many taste sensations it is hard to sort them. It is sweet, with an almost honey flavor, then a bit earthy, then there's an elusive woodsiness, a little touch of acid to make your mouth feel juicy, along with oak. It is a wonderful tea. It is such a kick when there is so much going on in a tea.

Aura teas can be seen at They have always been very nice to deal with.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Rabbit is Coming

In spite of the ground hog's prediction, I don't think this is for us
just yet. That's Punxsatawny Phil, who supposedly predicted an
early Spring.

Once again the weather mavens have gotten it wrong. No big deal, maybe 3 " with some ice on top - just enough to support the ravening squirrels, but not enough to support me. The cats are quite funny on it, as they have gotten used to having to hop over or plow through the snow and they look so confused walking on top. It was up to 48 about 2 hours ago and now it is 32 with a lot of wind and snow/ice/rain. The trees in the spinney are blowing every which way and look like they are doing some sort of mad dance.

Chinese, really Asian, New Year begins tomorrow. This is the year of the rabbit. I shall make some Shanghai soup and have spring rolls and perhaps a stir fry or maybe pot stickers to celebrate. And, Chinese tea, of course. Keemun, because that is my favorite. However, to get in the mood, I am having another green tea today.

Harney and Sons has always had quality tea and their Chinese Flower is no exception. I have one of their tag-a-long tins someone gave me, with 5 pyramidal sachets in it. Each is enough for a 12 ounce mug. The dry tea is a mix of Chinese green teas, accompanied by three flowers and some citrus. Citrus what is not clear. The dry scent is quite lemony. I brewed it for about 3.5 minutes and found it to be very tasty, almost exclusively citrus. This would be a good tea for those wanting to gently edge their way into green tea. Having said that, I have to wonder how it would help, as there is no taste of the tea, so you wouldn't really be experiencing it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow


I was reflecting a bit on yesterday's movie and I realized how lonely it must be to be king or queen - who could you trust as a friend? There would be so much you couldn't say and there would always be the worry that someone would want to use you for power, personal glory, etc. However, in the movie, the king and his speech therapist did become friends. The power of love and caring!

Carrying on with my green teas I am having Golden Moon's Organic Green. When I opened the packet, my first thought was "spicey sausage". Okay, one of us is a tad strange here. The leaves were kind of mixed, whether intentionally or from transit, I don't know. They brewed up into a pale brownish green, more attractive than it sounds, with a clean fresh vegetal scent, still with a bit of spice, but no sausage. This was an extremely mild tea, with a fresh grass flavor and the barest hint of spice. For me, it doesn't have enough flavor or interest to buy again, but it's certainly in the okay category.

As has been expected, we have gotten about 4 inches of snow, perhaps more. You can't see out of two sides of the porch, as the screens are clogged with it. It stops and starts and we all are watching the weather radar to see when the next lot , along with freezing rain, will arrive. Friends have wondered what we would do in bad weather, since we live out of town. Me, if the driving is bad, I stay home, unless it is a genuine emergency. We just make sure we have water and we're set. If you have grown up in the country, you are always prepared in terms of food and water. Sometimes I think we are a bit over-prepared in the food department, but we won't examine that too closely.

A lot of tea companies are having sales. You might want to cruise the web and see who has a good deal on something you like. Valentine's Day is coming and I am sure there are all sorts of romantic things available. We are having a really nice dinner at home, with some wonderful tea from Mariage Freres - Wedding Imperial, which I reviewed a while ago.