Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More Russians

A church in Sorrento, Italy, the Mary altar.

All of you Darjeeling fans may be in for some price rises. There has been a drought in some parts of Darjeeling and now some of the gardens' workers are striking for things like a living wage, better working conditions, education for their children abd health care. Apparently some of the attempted discussions to bring settlement have gotten very heated and there has been harassment of workers. Although I do like first flush Darjeeling, which is now ready to be picked, I am with the workers, who make only about $1 a day and live too far from schools and medical care. If you buy Fair Trade teas, these issues are addressed and some organic companies also are dealing with them.

Have I mention Alex Zorach's fine website http://www.ratetea.net/ ? It is a very worthwhile site, carrying some fine reviews of a wide range of teas and you can add your own if you would like. Another in somewhat the same vein is http://www.steepster.com/. There are many many blogs and review sites about tea and most of them are fun as well as informative.

Today I am in a black tea mood and I am trying Russian Style Black from the Bamboo Tea House in California. http://www.bambooteas.com/ I found their service to be very quick and they even went out of their way to make the shipping cheaper. My only quibble is there isn't much information on their site about the dirrerent teas.

The dry tea isa mix of brown and really black leaves. It smells dark, earthy winey, with some tobacco lurking in the background. I brewed it for almost 4 minutes with water just off theboil. The brewed tea is very dark, rich and fresh tasting, with maybethe very tiniest hint of smoke. The tea is very smooth and rich with a woody wine like flavor, backed up with a touch of astringency at the end. Somehow it conveys a smokey back room filled with intellectuals. (Touch of fantasy there.) I see why it is called Russian. It is not at all delicate, but just as smooth as can be. it takes milk and sweetener well.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Not A Forte of the Earl

I love this style of steeple.

I happened to be in Walmart and saw they have a selection of largish teacup and teapot planters. I have not yet sorted out all my garden ware from when we moved, so I was not tempted. I also didn't like them, which is the real reason I wasn't tempted. I am more into a mix of classic and my own version of tacky, as anyone can see who visits my house.

We just got rid of a love seat and got a new chair, so we have been spending the morning hauling furniture around. We're not done yet, but I am desperate for a cup of tea.

I decided to try more of the Tea Forte I was given, since I have had such good luck with it. I am having Earl Grey, which I love and I am always ready to try a new one. It is still that box of teabags and the bag is quite full. there isn't a lot of scent dry, but that is not surprising. However, there's not much scent wet, either. And, not too much taste, to boot. In fact, it seems like a cross between black currant and Lipton's, with the barest hint of citrus. It won't make me run right out and buy some loose.

Another note about Japanese Teas - any tea that is currently in a store or your pantry is perfectly safe, as it was here long before the radiation problem. Quite probably that will go for this year's crop as well. If you are worried, go to the New York Times website and look for their map of radiation. Most Japanese tea is grown west and south west and a bit north of Tokyo, on the big island. The reactor is on the large northern island. The same is true of Japanese restaurants. Almost all of their ingredients are purchased here, especially the ingredients in sushi or they have been here from before the reactor problem, so it is perfectly safe to eat in them.

However, we need to mention that Teavana had a voluntary recall of its peppermint tea, as there was a slight possibility that it was contaminated with salmonella. They are to be commended for doing this and if you have any you bought recently, please take it back or throw it out. It should be emphasized that no one has fallen ill from the tea.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

By the Mighty Brahmaputra

A church gargoyle. I'm not sure why it is inside - perhaps to frighten
people into good behavior?

I guess the winds of March are upon us, winds designed to begin drying the earth from all the melted snow. We have a little problem, since we still have snow. But we have sunshine and that makes up for most of it.

I saw an ad in last week's Time magazine about technology and tea. I am always pleased to see tea ads in national magazines, I think it indicates that tea-drinking is on the rise. Always good to know.

Today I am having an Assam tea. If you remember your geography, Assam is in the far Northeast of India, near Yunnan in China. The Indians and Chinese argue over whether it is Yunnan or Assam that was the birthplace of tea. However, their teas are quite different - different types of bushes and Yunnan is mountain tea, whereas Assam is a hot humid valley - that of the mighty and sacred Brahmaputra River. I hope I spelled that right. It is more of the lot I bought from the American Tea Room and is a single estate tea - Hajua Sessa STGFOPS which means Super Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe Souchong. The last 3 words refer to leaf size.

Now that we have all that under our belts, let's get to the tea. The dry leaves are a mix of colors, ranging from beige to black. They smell of dry wood in the sun. I brewed it at about 195 degrees for 3 minutes. You can't brew Assam too long or it can be very tannic and unpleasant. The liqueur is quite dark and has a somewhat malty, nutty aroma. That is also the taste. It is very smooth with just the barest touch of astringency at the end. A very easy drinking tea.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Those Wild Orange Russians

This is a towered gate in the town of Bacharach, Germany. It was used both for fortification and the storage of wine before shipment on the Rhine River.

A sunny good morning to you all! The snow is melting, the trees have shaken off their white covering and we had a really fun tea tasting yesterday. The lilac and jasmine teas were well received, but I don't think the Pu-erh and Lapsang Souchong were a great hit, other than from interest's sake. I am not surprised. The latter two generally evoke strong feelings of like or dislike, with little middle ground. For myself, I am still edging myself into liking Pu-erh, certainly not enough to be able to tell one from another or the quality of each. I like the little tuochas I got from Life In Teacup, but I don't know that that means much.

All of the teas we had I have reported on previously, but one was a surprise. This was the Jasmine Golden Yunnan. It somehow wasn't quite as mind-bogglingly superb yesterday as it was when I tried it before. I don't know if that was because it was made in a larger pot or if it was somehow diluted as part of a group. It was still very good, but I am going to have to have some more and see what's what. Such a great hardship!

Yesterday I got some tea from the American Tea Room, about which I've heard good things. Plus, they also sent me a large free sample of their new Nirvana Tea and 10% of my purchase money will go to help Japan. I am going to try their Romanov Tea, a Russian blend, as you can imagine from the name, with a trace of smoke and blood orange. They call it "a true Russian delight". It certainly smells wonderful - very rich orange. I did not pick up any smoke aroma. The leaves are quite small and a mix of brown and black. We'll see once it is brewed. It is also organic and the base tea is a Chinese black, but they don't say which one. I am following instructions and brewing it at about 195 degrees for 4 minutes. It is a very deep amber and now that it has brewed more smoke and less orange is coming out in the scent.

As always, the proof is in the tasting. I do indeed like this tea. This just the barest trace of smoke, which I don't think most people would catch and there is a pronounced orange flavor. It is woven so well into the total blend, that it seems as though you could not seperate the tea from the orange and have two good independent tastes. That tiny bit of smoke, or earthiness really grounds the whole thing. It takes cream well, which is all I ever use.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

First 2011 Oolongs Are Here

The first of the new teas has arrived! Hou De Asian Art and Fine Teas has gotten the first 2001 Early Spring Oolongs from Nantou, Taiwan and if you go to their website www.houdeasianart.com you will find it on their home page. This is indeed early. They are an excellent source of very good teas and work very hard to please their customers. They also carry an extensive line of Pu-erh teas and some beautiful artworks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No More Snow, No More Snow, No More......

A side altar in the great cathedral of Vienna, Stephansdom.

Really, this is getting to be a bit much! We have 8! - 8! inches of snow and more coming. Guys, this is NOT flurries, this is just about a snowstorm! Our hope and consolation is the warming earth and air will melt it quickly. Meanwhile, I am going to the island nation of Sri Lanka and have some Ceylon tea, dreaming of sun and sand and blue oceans. (If it weren't so late in the year I'd say the white stuff was really beautiful, the way it has coated the trees.)

Specifically I am going to the Kenilworth Estate, for their Orange Pekoe (whole leaf) Ceylon, thanks to Upton Teas. The dry leaves are a pleasant mix of brown and black, kind of crinkles and twisted. I brewed it for 3.5 minutes with boiling water. As it brewed it smelled malty, with touches of grape and earth, may be a hint of pine,, maybe a little mustard,and fresh sun-dried wash. Really, the longer I sniff it, the more different scents seem to come out. The liquor is a medium amber and bubbles nicely around the edges of my cup. This is a good sturdy cup of tea, quite malty and nutty, hazelnut, perhaps. There is a touch of astringency, but that is ok, it offsets the other, to produce a more interesting flavor. There is a touch of grape, but no mustard. Probably just as well.

Tomorrow I am doing another tea tasting for friends, so I probably won't be blogging. We are doing a few flavored or scented teas - Lilac Bouquet, Snowflake on Green Lake, Jasmine Golden Yunnan, Mini Shu Puerh Tuocha and Hu-Kwa Lapsang Souchong. Quite a spread of tastes, eh?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Yes, Taiwan Does Make Black Tea

Nice rocks! And sunshine! Oh my!

Another cold, grim day, and tomorrow we're supposed to have 3-5 " of ... you guessed it - snow! Early Spring is often the triumph of hope over experience. But I saw more lambs today and each day seems to bring more birds. The mourning doves are courting. Rather, the male mourning doves are courting, but the ladies would rather eat.

I have my tea to keep me warm. Today I am trying a somewhat unusual one. It is from Life in Teacup. Taiwan is most known for its exquisite Oolongs, but this is Sun Moon Lake Black Tea from Nantou County. It is MOA certified organic. The dry tea is very large, twisted dead black leaves with a super scent - the aroma of good timothy hay in the hay mow, along with a strong overlay of honey. As it brews there is the smell of corn silage and roasted winter squash. This may not sound good to you, but it is music to my nose. I expected a very dark liquor and was totally surprised to find it very light. I brewed it for 3.5 minutes with boiling water and used the 2 pot method. This is where you brew the tea totally loose in one pot and decant it into another of the same size that you have warmed.

I don't think I used either enough tea or brewed it long enough as it was very light tasting as well. However, it does taste of roast winter squash and honey with some earthy notes. It is a very unusual and tasty tea and I am going to fool with it until I get it strong enough.

The World Tea Expo is coming to Las Vegas June 24-26 at the convention Center. If you register before April 22, you can get a 20% discount off educational seminars. There are over 200 new products showcased and many educational seminars, tea tastings and the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the "tea greats" Check it out at http://www.worldteaexpo.com/ . I sure do wish I could go.

Monday, March 21, 2011

An Austrian church and village. I like how their roof colors are all

More Spring signs! Farmers are getting out their planting machinery and a whole flock of robins arrived yesterday - kind of offsets the snow we has last night. But only kind of, as today is bone-chilling raw.

Howsomever - isn't that a great word?! Today I am having some Japanese Cherry Sencha Green Tea from the Bamboo Tea House http://www.bambooteahouse.com/ in California. My tea-swap friend, Rene kindly sent it to me. Right away I could tell this is a different flavored tea. It smelled like real cherries and not cherry candy. A tart sweetness is how I would describe it. I brewed it in my nice little green-tea-only Yixing pot for about 2 minutes at about 180 degrees.

The liquor is a very pretty pale golden green and gives off a muted scent of cherry and green tea. Oh, I like the flavor of this. The tea comes through as a nice springy greenness and the cherry does away with what I think of as the fishiness that some senchas have. The tea has a full mouth feel and the cherry lingers on your tongue. A very pleasant experience. I think this would probably make a lovely ice tea, with just a touch of lemon to cut the sweetness for me.

I know some of you are really into Royal memorabilia and if so, you can go to http://bit.ly/eF9sLq to see an article about an English woman who has a huge collection. In keeping with that, the official Will and Kate wedding site is http://www.officialroyalwedding2011.org/ Neither is really my thing, but we all have different interests. In spite of that I probably will watch at least some of it. A wedding is a wedding, right?

On a different note, The American Tea Room is donating 10% of its on-line sales until March 23 to Japanese relief. Also, if you order $25 worth of tea, they will send you a 2 ounce sampler of their Nirvana Tea, which looked pretty tasty. Their address is www.americantearoom.com

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Official Beginning of Spring-

Tomorrow is the official first day of Spring. Can't come soon enough as far as I am concerned. Here, however, it is really mud season. With our heavy clay soil that means you try very hard to keep to pavement or gravel if you can find any, lest you be up to you hips in mud. Our fur persons are coming in with very dirty paws and tummies, except for Sarah, La Principessa, who wouldn't dream of sullying those pristine white appendages.

Sunday, First Day of Spring! And very welcome it is, too. I am greeting it with an herbal tisane from Tea Forte - Raspberry Nectar. It definitely smells like fresh raspberries and as it brews, it is that beautiful red of crushed berries. It tastes like fresh berries, but also has that somewhat ubiquitous taste of hibiscus. There are also rosehips, apple, blackberry leaves, orange peel and flavors in addition to the raspberries. It is both sweet and tart and very tasty. However, I would have liked it better if it had had less hibiscus and some of the other stuff. As it is, it skirts on the edge of being like every other herbal in the berry/hibiscus/rosehip lineup. A bit of sweetener does wonders for it.

I am in the process of, once again, cleaning out the tea cupboard and trying to get rid of the ones I don't especially care for before I have to store them under my bed or something. Some are just old and will make nice mulch, some I will give away. The ones I like, I will keep. So you all may be offered some teas a bit down the road.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tea Community Offers Aid to Japan

I feel so sad for the people of Japan, living through that earthquake and now having the chance of life-killing radiation hanging over them. So many countries around the Pacific rim have had awful earthquakes and tsunamis in the past few years, ever since the big tsunami, caused by a severe underground quake, back in December about 5 years ago. Such devastation.

I feel kind of small saying it, but it doesn't affect the Japanese tea fields, which are a long way south, unless the radiation cloud blows that way. That is very unlikely and indeed, a very small thing compared to the horror those folk are living through each day. If you would like to find out about relief efforts from the tea community, please go to www.operationsakura.org or www.obututea.com/donate . Sakura refers to the cherries, which are to bloom in about 2 weeks.

The Leaf at www.the-leaf.org is an online magazine - an ezine, if you're fussy. It has just published the 8th issue, with some interesting things about Chinese tea and tea life.

I just learned that a local B&B in Candor, NY has won awards for its afternoon tea.That is only about 30 minutes from here,so I had best take a little trek and see how it is!

I have no tea tastings to offer today, I've only had old favorites I've reviewed before. However, there are more signs of Spring! Almost all the snow is gone from our front yard and the Alps by the garage are reduced to mere foothills. The dawn chorus of bird song has returned - first time today! Flies and bugs are out. Also the mice, as Ernie was so generous to share with us by eating it in the middle of the living room. Some signs aren't so great.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Bit O' Green for the Irish

An Austrian farm chalet with hay stooks in the front yard - those
very neat orderly lumps I bit you thought were shrubs.

Sure and begorrah 'tis a grand day for the wearin' o' t' green. With a wee bit of trottin' mouse tea for me Irish Breafast from me grand friend, Ruthie Toothie and a bit of green tea for the afternoon with a wee slice o' soda bread. Actually my ancestors are all North Irish, but Irish is Irish, especially today, when for one day even a Tibetan can be Irish.

The cup of green comes from The Puritea and is their Gunpowder Green. The little pellets are so tightly rolled that after 10 minutes in hot water they are barely unfurled. They smell very "full" and rich, but I can't identify the scent. It is, however, very pleasing. What I am drinking has only been brewed for about 2 minutes and it is a bit of an odd color, a somewhat murky pale old gold of a green, if that makes sense. As I sip it it reminds me of strawberries, wood violets, earthy woods, green lawns, all at once, with maybe a bit of toast thrown in to make it even less clear. It feels very full-bodied and rich in my mouth. It is wonderful stuff! The brew from the leaves that are still brewing [fifteen minutes and still not all unfurled] taste really good also, unheard of with green teas! There is a definite sweetness and floral addition to this part of the brew. I have never had a green tea like this and I will surely buy more, it is so interesting and I just love it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Of Lambs and Calves and Tea

Oh yeah, Spring is "a cummin' in". Our neighbor farms have new calves and another has two new lambs. They are just so, so...new! Tiny hooves, big eyes, soft little noses. But they know what's what as they bump their mother's udders for milk. When I was on the farm it was my job to wean the calves and teach them to drink from a pail. It usually took about two days. It was the beginning of the gentling process so they would be easy to handle as they grew up.

That doesn't have much to do with tea, but Upton's does and I am drinking some of their Kairbetta Estate Nilgiri BOP CL/CH, which means, broken leaves, Chinese clonal. And they are - quite small bits, but definitely not CTC. I am only brewing them for 3 minutes, with boiling water. The dry leaves have a kind of sweet earthiness, while the brewing tea has a good bit of malt along with the earth. Even at 3 minutes, the brewing is almost over the limit. The tea is definitely malty, nutty, roasted tasting. Actually, this is one of those teas that I think is best with some milk. A good breakfast tea or one with sturdy foods with strong flavors. A good St. Patrick's Day tea. Which is tomorrow, you know. Celebrate, all you Irish. I am surely a European mutt, but I only have a bit of Irish, and Northern at that. But I celebrate with some nice soda bread and Irish stew. Irish Breakfast Tea for the first meal of the day and maybe Irish Cream from a local shop to end it.

Uh Oh, Ernie is on top of the fridge, contemplating a jump into the cupboards, so I'd best go do rescue detail - of MY stuff, he's fine.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Flowers for Early Spring.

It is always wonderful to me to see the early early signs of Spring. Yesterday I noticed the moss in the woods is greening up and some is beginning to sprout the seed stalks. When I was a kid, my cousins and I would gather moss and tiny plants for terrariums. They never lasted long, as we would water them too much or not enough.

When the deer came through the yard last night I saw that their coats were getting shaggy, in preparation for shedding their winter coats and returning to their pretty red ones for the summer. They are also pretty thin, so it is a good thing there are big patches of grass showing. In the brook, some of the weeds on the bottom were beginning to get green. Best of all I heard a red-wing blackbird singing and finally saw him, high up in a tree. At the moment I am watching a squirrel's contortions to get the last few seeds out of the bird feeder. I am torn between annoyance that they can eat so much and amusement with their antics.

Tuesday March 15, 2011
Didn't get too far yesterday, did I? Today the crow state is having some sort of meeting in my backyard. I wish they would come to an agreement and move on - they are noisy buggers.

Well, I will move on then, to the tea! Today I am returning to the blacks and my choice is The PuriTea's Jasmine Golden Yunnan. I am really eager to try this as I have not seen jasmine paired with Yunnan tea before. Upon opening the packet, there was a rush of a very sweet, almost candy, almost cherry, scent. It quickly was clear it was really jasmine, backed by some of the woodsy spicy aroma of a Yunnan. I can hardly wait until it is cool enough to drink. Being the coward that I am, I am brewing it for 5 of the 5-7 minutes they recommend.

It worked, the tea is pretty good. There is a very mild base of earth, wood and a tiny bit of spice, with the flights of jasmine above it. I really would not have believed that it would, the two seem so disparate. The Yunnan could have come through a bit more, but then it may not have worked at all. As it cools, there seems to be a bit of cherry or plum in it. I think this has been done quite well, as I think it would be difficult to pair the two.

Did you know that the green teas that are used in jasmine tea must be stored for a few months until the jasmine blooms? Also, it can take up to seven times of layering jasmine blossoms with the tea to produce the right flavor and scent. Makes me appreciate it even more.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Bit of Wine, a Bit of Oolong

Speaking of vineyards, here are some German ones, much like the ones I once picked in to earn money for college - steep! Was it only Sunday we had a blizzard? Here it is Sunday again and we have had torrential rain and flooding. Of course, our front yard - where I want to plant!!!! still looks like Siberia, but I am encouraged by nesting sparrows, in spite of the fact that the ground in back is so soggy that the bird feeder fell over. My friend Lee is going to make me a bird feeder holder that is embedded in concrete encased in a tire and adjustable so I can get the seed above the deer's reach. And when the bears raid it in the early spring, it will just tip over instead of getting all bent. Bertie Baby, our orange Fluffernutter cat with the magnificent tail, is out in the ditch - which is running- bottoms up, tail waving in the breeze, mouth open, just in case there really is a frog there and I have been lying to him about when they'll appear. Oh well, keeps him out of trouble. Last weekend we all went for a short hop on the Cayuga Wine Trail, and tasted some truly lovely wines at the King Ferry Winery, two of which were some super Chardonnays. Today I thought I would compare The Briar Patch's Chardonnay Oolong and see if it smells and tastes anything like the wines I bought. I first rinsed the leaves with almost boiling water and then infused them for about 3 minutes. What do you know, it smells like Chardonnay and tastes like it, too. A lovely, fruity, grapey experience, but underneath is a very pleasant floral/fruity Oolong. A very nice blend. The Briar Patch is one of our local tea spots in Owego, NY, and can be reached online at http://www.owegobriarpatch.com/ Her prices are quite reasonable and you can buy in small quantities.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Autumn in the Early Spring

A church in Sorrento, Italy.

I can hear a lot of new birds in the woods and the red-bellied woodpecker finally has at least a girlfriend, if not a mate. It is supposed to rain all day and all night and where all that water will go is a mystery, as there are no ditches and the streams and rivers are full and the ground is frozen. We are only in "those d******n potholes" season and not yet into mud.

I made a discovery - if your cup is very full, you can't really smell the fragrance of your tea - it dissipates too quickly in the air. I really like the relatively tall and thin Chinese scent cups - they kind of look like a small juice glass. They do capture the aroma.

I had another interesting tea. This is Arya Clonal Exclusive Autumnal Flush '09 from Darjeeling, India via Thunderbolt Tea. Generally one thinks of Autumnal Flush teas as having a fairly high dose of muscatel grape aroma and taste. Not this one. First of all, it smelled like peanuts, yes, peanuts. I never had a tea smell like that. The brewed tea, as you might expect had a full, rounded nutty, toasty taste. Definitely different, but delightful.

I decided to clean out my teas, giving away or composting the ones I either don't like or are too old. That should take a while. I found some Bolivian Long Leaf from Simpson and Vail, which I reviewed last on Nov. 29, 2009. Then I said it was floral, astringent, vegetal. This time around, with a different year's tea, I found it to be mostly malty and tasting definitely of walnuts. It is earthy, but has a sweet edge that is very tasty and smooths out any roughness you might get from the walnuts and earth. It is always interesting to me to see how tea changes from year to year, even though I want my Prince of Wales to forever be unchanged. I guess I expect blends to be the same but tea from particular place I want to reflect that harvest's conditions.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Tea for International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day. Celebrate, bearing in mind that we, as well as our sisters around the world are seeing our rights eroding or about to erode. Stand up and be counted! Noone is really free until we all are free.

I was trying to figure out how many seasons of the year we really have. Summer is pretty straightforward unless it is like the one when it was 42 the end of July. Then there's Fall, but Indian summer may or may not come in there. We're okay as we slide into winter until January (February this year) when there is the January thaw. Sometime the end of February, beginning of March we have "False Spring" which segues into "pot-hole road rage" season when you hope to make it to real spring with all your tires and both axles. There can be several of these. Finally it is Spring! But then there is Mud Season and every shoe and boot we own is caked with the stuff. It finally dries out and we think we can relax but wait, there is False summer - those 90 degree days in April that ensure you only have daffodils and other pretty flowers for one swiftly done day. Finally, after all that, is Summer. You count them, I'm tired.

To celebrate Women's Day and rising temperatures, I have having some Formosa Hsinchu Baihao Oolong, aka Oriental Beauty. This comes from Aura Teas. The dry leaves don't have a lot of scent, but as the first minute long infusion brews, a distinct lemon or lime rises from the pale old gold colored cup. This very refreshing tea tastes of a fresh green salad with citrus juice poured over it. Yum!

By the second infusion, the leaves were still only partially unfurled. They are huge and a pretty brown. The tea this time tasted more of fresh salad, but with only a little citrus. I could hardly wait for the third and I was very nicely rewarded. By now the liquor was a medium and very floral smelling, to me, it was like pansies, whose scent I love. The tea had a wonderful sweet, delicate floral taste and sadly, I had to stop, but it was wonderful while it lasted.

I am officially now a happy tea camper - my order for Black Currant Loose Leaf Tea has arrived from Tea Forte and very nice it is and they were good about packaging, even

Monday, March 7, 2011

Going Wild with Oolong

Blogger thingy won't do paragraphs again

"I knew a crooked man, who lived in a crooked little house on a crooked little street" in Bacharach, Germany. The house, still in use, was built in 1368.

Our friends left early yesterday in hopes of beating the bad wether. I was going to write and tell you how early Spring was well and truly here, with rain and a lot of open ground and water in the low places. Suddenly it started to snow! It snowed. it snowed all day and it snowed all night. This morning it was not snowing, but we could not open our front door. I think there is about 18" of new snow. However, the alder twigs are turning tan and the willow twigs are turning yellow, so Spring is definitely marching forward. The pileated wood pecker (of Woody Woodpecker fame) is drumming in the woods and the mourning doves are courting, so what is a little snow?

The reports from both the Darjeeling tea fields and the Chinese is that the weather is just right for this year's crop, so barring unforseen bad wether, they are excited that this year's tea will be plentiful and good - something to truly look forward to.
There is an excellent article/interview with Nigel Mellican about sustainability over at http://.chadao.blogspot.com/ . Nigel is one one of the "tea greats" with wide, wide experience in all phases of tea, fromplant to pot. it is well worth reading.
For something shorter and "funner", go over to www.techtea.tv/tea-facts-infographic for a poster-type graphic of lots and lots of tea facts. It's a really neat idea and again, worth checking out.
For you contest mavens, Bigelow tea is having a contest until March 15th. Top prize is a $200 gift certificate for their products and there are several $75 certificates as well. just go to http://www.bigelowtea.com/ and follow directions. May we all win!

At last, the Royal Couple of the Year (Will and Kate) are now available for your persoal afternoon tea! See them at http://www.stephcupoftea.blogspot.com/ Invite them to your next tea party.

Now, let's see, which tea goes with a blizzard? Ah, yes, Wild Oolong from Life in Teacup, for the wild weather. I first washed the leaves for a few seconds with water off the boil and then brewed my first cup for about 1 minute. The leaves are a fairly bright green and the brew smells of orchids with a hint of mint. This is a new one for me with Oolongs. The liquor is a pale green-gold. The taste is a very soft floral with a great accent of Spring!!!! green.

The second infusion was about 1.5 minutes and the scent had shifted around to more predominately green with floral overtones. The taste was still floral and green. The third infusion once again had more a floral aspect with a more blended accent of the green tones. On the whole, the tea just said "refreshing, refreshing!" It made my mouth feel as though it needed more and made me feel awake and alert. All this from what is really a pretty delicate cup.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hello Friends

I won't be writing anything again until Monday - We have company coming andthere won't be time.

See you all then,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Invite a Baroness to Tea

More flowers - the hope of things to come!

Yesterday was a nice "lamby" day, but today is one of the "lion" days of March. So do we say March came in like a lamb or a lion? Or just confused, as all the weather this season has been? Soon we can start some seeds inside. Mostly what we know as "Peter's tomatoes", from the boss of a friend years ago. I guess we have saved them for 20 years. I think they are a Polish Paste type, very large, long and sort of slender, with heavy flesh and not many seeds. Very sweet and tomatoey, though and that is how we have saved the seeds - from the sweetest. Now we have to work on up the yield per plant.
I have gone back to the blacks because of the wind and today I am having Culinery Teas Baroness Grey. This is a pretty tea, with seems like a mix of green, brown and black leaves, which then has a blend of rose petals, blue and yellow flowers and dried orange and maybe lemon peel. It smells very much like those Russian-style teas, with the bergamot as a top note and the heaviness of the citron as the bottom.

I brewed it up the standard 3.33 miutes with water just off the boil and the heavy scent filled the room. The liquor is a lightish amber and smells heavily of dried citrus peel. The bergamot seems lost as the citrus takes over and there is some bitterness from too much pith on the peel - the white stuff right under the colored peel. This is interesting if you like Russian type teas. I found that there was alas, not enough bergamot to stand up to the citrus and it was more bitter than I find tasty. It is difficult to get flavors blended well, especially when you are dealing with heavy hitters, like dried fruit peel. I would not put milk in this.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Whoopie, WuYi

A first glimpse of Amalfi, my husband's ancestral town. Amalfitano basically means "from Amalfi"

Oh, my friends, Spring is coming! The creeks have started to run, my neighbors snowdrops are about to bloom, and I heard some birds calling this morning I haven't heard all winter! The average daily temperature is rising, the days are longer and I am a happy camper because of it.

We do have to keep a weather eye, however, as some of our very, very worst storms have been in the middle of March. One I remember, it was illegal to be on the roads for several days. Couldn't get there anyway, so it didn't matter to me.

I am a genealogist and was reading the latest issue of Family Tree Magazine, which this month is concentrating on the Civil War era. Before the war, tea was 75 cents to $2 a pound. Right after the war, when the economy was out of control, it was $20-$40 a pound. This was when people were making tops, about $2,000 a year. You can get very good teas for that price today and there aren't any of us making such little money.

This week I have gotten two of my tea magazines, both announcing the World Tea Expo. This is again in Las Vegas, June 24-26. You can find out all about it at http://www.worldteaexpo.com/ . Sadly, the 40% off on educational seminars ended Feb. 11. A bit of a disjunction in timing. I wish there was something comparable in the East.

If you like Laura Childs' books, she has a new one that has just come out, Scones and Bones. For those of you not familiar, these are cosy mysteries whose heroine owns a tea shop in Charleston, SC. The tea info is pretty good, as are the recipes in the back of the book.

On to today's brew! Again, I am fortunate in having a very good tea to sample. Hand Processed Wuyi Shui Xian from Life in Teacup hails from the Wuyi Mountains in China. It is a Heavy Roast, Grade 1, which means it is of good quality. The dry leaves have a roasty/toast smell, I brewed them for about 11/2 minutes with boiling water. The aroma came out even more. I need to say up front that generally I am not a great fan of heavy roasted Oolongs. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by this one. The roasted scent moved right on into the tea, along with some pine. There was also, some smokiness and a bit of tarriness. None of it was unpleasant or at all strong, in fact, I quite liked it. The second infusion, for about 2 minutes did away with some of the smoke and replaced it with a slight fruity aroma and taste. By the third infusion, there was more fruit and perhaps still the barest hint of pine. I wish I had had time for more, as it was so interesting to taste the development of flavors