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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Always Amazing

Happy little teapot

I had for the longest time thought that there were just some types of tea I was not that fond of, and I would never be able to like.  One by one they are not only being deemed drinkable, but they are suddenly being catapulted onto the list of types of tea to always try and have on hand.  The most recent of which is Taiwanese Gaoshan, I am half way through an order from Stephane at Tea Masters  and I am hooked.  I had a few Taiwanese Oolongs previously but for the most part I think I just brewed them poorly.

It has me reflecting on tea in general, it might just be that I have an incredible fondness for the C. Sinensis.  Moreover when  processing  it honestly doesn't matter if you are fully oxidizing it, pan frying it, steaming it, or roasting it, when it is done with care the end result will always be delicious.  Some people know I have bashed puerh quite a few times in the past, and while that is possibly the tea I am least likely to order more than samples of ever again in the future, there are still some puerh's that are phenomenal even for me.

So as I sit here this morning pondering what tea to have to celebrate my brothers engagement, I am mostly having such a hard time deciding because they are all good.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Get him on a Theanine Drip Pronto

Thursday night into Friday I did a bonehead move, I ordered Chinese food at 11pm, then felt so uncomfortable the rest of the night I didn't even consider going to bed until after 3 am.  So Friday was not a fun day at all, and in general I felt sluggish, and overly tired.  Friday night I went to bed around my usual time and slept in on Saturday morning, but things still were not right.  Thats when I decided to implement the Theanine drip.

Sansai With Matcha

In my mind no healthy session of Theanine is complete unless it involves matcha, usually as a starter just to make sure you are awake, and ready to go through the rest of the marathon tea drinking session.  But I needed theanine bad, so for my second tea, I turned to Gyokuro.  Matcha and gyokuro is such a wonderful combination to have back to back, and wow you feel calm, cool, and collected after drinking those, but ready to do anything you set your mind to.

Big revelation I had today, is that over time through lack of practice with matcha I had moved to brewing it with too high of a temperature.  Although matcha is a bit tricky, it is made with leaves shaded like gyokuro, so you think go cool, but the froth from whisking does not come out properly if it gets too cool.  Its a tougher act to carry off than brewing gyokuro, as matcha infuses completely near instantly, matcha can not be reconciled for too cool of a water temp by simply letting the bowl sit longer after whisking. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Current thoughts on Tea Freshness

There are some large name Tea vendors in the united states, which I would encourage people new to tea to check out for pretty standard teas (red/ black teas, and perhaps some oolongs, and if I can't convince them otherwise flavored teas).  I will not name those vendors here, because this is not exactly a favorable post for those vendors.  The biggest window into the tea world in my eyes comes when you start to realize its not just your (UK nationality) Breakfast, or Earl grey, at the same time you get into loose leaf teas.

Based on what some of these ultra large tea companies carry, I am slightly surprised that so many people stick with their transition to the wide world of tea.  With all the health promotions out there, most peoples step away from black/ red tea would be a green tea, which is a lot more "time sensitive" than most black/red teas. Green teas are one of those teas that when slightly out of date can absolutely ruin the whole tea experience, making it exceedingly bitter, and often causes it to lack the sweetness green tea can have (gyokuro, and certain other green teas when carefully aged excepted).

I thought it would be interesting to post my thoughts on how time sensitive certain teas are when being kept.

In decreasing time sensitive order ( lower means stays fresh longer under most conditions).

Japanese Greens*
Chinese Greens
Korean Greens
Green Oolongs
Med Roast/ oxidized oolongs
Heavier roast/ oxidized oolongs
Black/red Teas

Not listed: White Tea, or Yellow tea as I do not have enough experience with them.

(*) Japanese greens are an oddball, based on how most of them are packaged they can stay fresh for far longer than Chinese greens, or Korean greens if they remain sealed and stored away from extreme temperatures.  But once opened they tend to loose freshness the quickest.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cold days and hot kettles

Happy little teapot

My favorite part of winter, and least favorite part of summer, are the exact same thing.  The heat that is generated while brewing tea.  So as the weather really turns ugly outside, I am once again incredibly fond of turning on the kettle to do long marathon brewing sessions.  In terms of tea selection, I naturally seem to gravitate more towards the teas that require boiling water to prepare and drink, except for the really odd ball out multiple times a week cravings I get for gyokuro.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hope for 2012

Dreaming of a White Christmas

A bit late for a resolutions post, but some of these are already in action, so I am rigging the game slightly.  In 2012 I hope to continue on with the Green Tea Challenge, most notably trying to hit a lot of the Chinese greens when they are fresh.  I also hope to explore Taiwanese teas in a lot more depth and detail, to fill one of the large gaps in my tea knowledge and tea experience.

These are all well and fine, but its going to be a bit tougher to balance this with my rejuvenated interest in roasted oolongs, and my love of Japanese and Korean teas.  Though in terms of Yancha and Korean teas, it may be too early to completely know what is in store for them, as weather effects on the harvest quality and quantity can really mess things up.  Most notably with Korean teas whose year last year caused a few of the vendors that regularly carry Korean teas and sell it to the west, to carrry less teas, or not carry them at all.  If they did carry the teas the prices were substantially higher.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Celebrate 2012 like...


I'm celebrating 2012 like it's in the 1960's, with a tea from the Mandarin's Tea Room (their 1960's Shui Xian ) to be exact.  I love tasting these tea's, even though I can not do it often it is always a surprise. Most surprising about this tea, it seemed to have been getting better each subsequent day (finished day 3 earlier today).  During the first day I suffered a problem that occurs to me with certain strong teas, and aged/ semi aged puerh.  That problem is taste bud fatigue, when everything seems to taste the same or have next to no taste at all.  But through days two and three they lightened up and started becoming incredibly delicious.  I have already enjoyed 14 infusions, and hope to get at least 25-30 before I call it quits.


What else amazed me about this old tea, is its dry aroma reminded me more of an aged puerh than any sort of Wuyi yancha.  In fact there was next to no roast aroma, not incredibly surprising as the tea has had more than enough time to mellow out.

Now I am not sure I would repurchase this tea, while it is certainly a wonderful tea, its just one of those things that I am not sure I can justify the price for my enjoyment of it.  While I enjoy great tea, a good deal of my enjoyment in tea, is just taking the time to make tea, as a bit of a time out from the hustle and bustle of life.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tea and Sickness

Every time I get sick, I somehow always have one person mention to me "I am surprised you get sick at all, you certainly drink enough tea."  I try not to let it get to me, but for some reason it does, everyone gets sick, its a fact of life.  I am sure even those with the healthiest diets imaginable get sick occasionally.  I am certainly not one of those people that are super healthy, in fact the healthiest thing I do regularly is walk to and from campus, and drink tea.

I will say one thing, without tea, I honestly feel I would have a hard time recovering as quickly as I do, and I would also have an incredibly hard time staying as alert and on top of it as I do when I am sick. I go as far as to recommend tea for anyone who is sick, because I truly believe it is a great way to go about recovering.  Tea in my mind does some huge things which help people recover from illnesses, especially colds.

  • Tea is mostly water, while there have been misguided claims that tea contributes to dehydration, most teas, especially those brewed at a lower leaf to water ratio, will help keep you hydrated.
  • It is well known for helping promote awareness, and has caffeine to help keep you awake.  So should you be sick and still need to get stuff done, tea may not make you 100% but it will help you be a little closer to 100%.
  • Its warm, and steamy, the warmth and steam can help clear up any clogs you might happen to have in your sinus passages.

Again I am not claiming tea is some sort of miracle drug, and I am a firm believer that tea can not stop you from ever getting sick, but when you are sick, I most certainly believe that tea will help you recover quickly, or if not, at least make you feel better on your way to recovery.

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