Tea Questions


What is the most wonderful thing for people like myself who follow the Way of Tea? The “oneness” of host and guest created through meeting heart to heart and sharing a bowl of tea.

Soshitsu Sen, Japanese of Tea

What is the most wonderful thing for a tea enthisiast like myself? Gathering a group of like-minded people who share the same enthusiasm and passion for continued learning of all subjects relating to TEA!

Our first Tea Class of 2012 showcased 6 teas from Local Coffee + Tea, in the serene setting of Selby Gardens.  The group explored each tea using all our senses; sight, scent, touch and taste, examining both the dry leaves as well as the tea leaves after steeping.

Dry leaves - Pear Mu Tan white tea

Dry leaves - Pear Mu Tan white tea

Each tea came from a different growing region of the world, and after a discussion about the origin and processing, we covered the correct way to brew a proper cuppa.  We end with a review of the many health benefits for each tea.

Here are the teas that we ‘sniffed’ and ‘sipped’ from Local Coffee + TeaPear Mu Tan, Festivi-Tea, Strawbango Black, Cochin Masala Chai, Chocolate Honeybush and Selby Select Rooibos.

You may be familiar with many of these teas from earlier posts…

Tea Class at Selby Gardens

Tea Class at Selby Gardens

If you missed this class, then do not despair! The next two classes are set for March 16th and April 10th.  Register online and learn more here.

Class starts at 10am and is a wonderful activity for a friend or spouse.  Be ready for  a hands-on experience, and bring your questions.

Hope you will be my guest next time and join me to ‘sip a bowl of tea’ and have a ‘heart to heart’ about this amazing beverage we all love so much- TEA.

Cheers,

The TeaLady

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‘I’m a tidy sort of bloke. I don’t like chaos. I kept records in the record rack, tea in the tea caddy and pot in the pot box’

-George Harrison 1943-2001

I found this quote from my favorite Beatle very amusing. I also share the sentiment, excluding the part about the pot of course!

The tea caddy was a favorite kitchen item from my chilhood and I have memories of opening our caddy and inhaling the rich smell of loose tea when Mum gave me me instruction to “put the kettle on and make a pot of tea”.

A TEA CADDY is a box, jar, canister, or other receptacle used to store tea.  The word is believed to have derived from ‘catty’, the Chinese pound.  The earliest examples that came to Europe were of Chinese porcelain in the shape of a ginger jar.  They had lids or stoppers and were most frequently blue and white.

Tea Caddy from Ming Dynasty

Later designs used a variety of materials with wood becoming  very popular. Tea was very expensive so the caddies were locked and the keys only available to the lady of the house. In the late eighteenth and through the nineteenth century the caddies became even more elaborate often mounted in brass and delicately inlaid, with knobs of ivory, ebony or silver.
As the price of tea decreased toward the end of the nineteenth century the use of lockable caddies declined.  Those precious tea leaves which had held pride of place in ornate boxes on mantles and sideboards in refined drawing rooms were relegated to cheaply produced tins and boxes that were stored in the kitchen.  That was the style of caddy you would find in our kitchen!
We have a few tea tins at Local Coffee + Tea as well as a few decorative cardboard tea caddies.  I still use several caddies in my kitchen today, one which is fashioned from a tin which used to contain a favorite British candy called Licquorice Allsorts. It makes an excellent tea caddy.
Do you have a favorite tea storage container?  Your comments are always welcome.
Cheers,

November 5th is the perfect time to talk about our Pinhead Gunpowder.  For me, this tea conjures up images of Guy Fawkes, a very celebrated and notorious fellow in Great Britain.  Born in Yorkshire, I am sure you have seen the mask below on Halloween or in the “V for Vendetta” movies or comic books, but do you know what Guy Fawkes was notorious for besides drinking Yorkshire tea?

Guy Fawkes

“Remember, remember the Fifth of November, Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”

In 1605 a group of conspirators including Guy Fawkes attempted to destroy the House of Parliament by filling the cellar with explosives.  Known as the “Gunpowder Plot”, the conspirators wanted a Catholic King rather than the protestant King James I.  The plan did not work and Guy Fawkes was captured, hung, drawn and quartered for his part in the plot, but his name lives on.  Guy Fawkes Night is a festival in Britain remembering the Gunpowder Plot and the King’s survival.

Every year on 5 November Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated with open air fires or bonfires in towns across England.  Dummies, or “guys” are burnt atop the fires.  A great tradition we children anticipated with excitement was making the “guy” dummies a few days before the 5th. We carried the dummies around the village shouting “penny for the guy.”  The quality of our ‘guy’ was determined by the number of pennies we collected.

Today, the Guy Fawkes mask is worn by protesters to demonstrate their commitment to a shared cause against the establishment as was the intent of Mr. Fawkes.

Pinhead Gunpowder

And so to our pinhead gunpowder, a classic green tea from Zhejiang province in China, made from leaves rolled into small pellets which look like actual gunpowder.  It never ceases to amaze me how many people visiting the Carriagehouse Tea Room at Selby Gardens comment on this fascinating tea.  The tiny pellets transform, unfurling into graceful, dancing leaves.  If you have a glass teapot, enjoy the performance.

Gunpowder green tea is harvested in the month of April, as this is the absolute best time of year for quality leaves.  The leaves are withered to reduce moisture content making them more pliable, then steamed, rolled and dried.  Although the individual leaves were formerly rolled by hand, today most gunpowder tea is rolled by machines, though the highest grades are still rolled by hand.   This rolling process also renders the leaves less susceptible to any breakage and allows them to retain more of their flavor and aroma. You can determine the freshness of gunpowder green tea by the sheen of the pellets.  And the smaller the better, as size is associated with quality, hence the name pinhead.

Our Pinhead Gunpowder green tea brews darker than most green teas with a rich flavor and a slight smokey finish.  I have enjoyed Pinhead staright up, infusing multiple times but it can be brewed very succesfully with both ginger or mint and used as an iced tea.

I hope you enjoyed the gunpowder plot and please do enjoy many infusions of this classic tea.

Cheers,

the TeaLady

Grahame and I have just come back from England and drinking lots of TEA was certainly on the agenda, in part due to the inclement weather we had for the whole 2 weeks! So it was ‘Oh well let’s go have another cuppa’.

Our first tea outing was planned ahead and it was actually a sunny afternoon when we arrived in the city of ELY.(SE England)  Laura had reserved a table at Peacocks Tea Room and it was just delightful.  The afternoon tea was excellent, consisting of 3 different sandwiches, scones with your choice of jam, followed by a cake of your choice.  I managed to eat the sandwiches and scone but had to take my cake home, there was simply too much to finish.  This was all washed down with copious amounts of tea (we all chose different ones!) served in individual teapots.

During afternoon tea (an earlier post explains the difference between high tea) we had a debate about the best way to eat scones.  If you were following correct etiquette then you would place your clotted cream and jam on the side of your plate, select your scone, slice in half and break into a bite sized piece.  One would then apply cream and jam (or lemon curd from a blog post from the Spring) as each piece was eaten, taking sips of tea in between.

However, I am not talking correct etiquette here.  In Yorkshire (a post bit about my hometown Harrogate) we don’t mess about with bite sized pieces!  Our debate was ‘Do you put jam on first before cream or cream on first before jam’.

I have always put jam on first and never really thought about changing the habit of a lifetime of scone eating, but it totally changed the taste experience and I loved it.  Grahame really enjoyed too!  Let us know which way you like your scone.  Please post on our Facebook page.

Thanks to Laura for finding this gem of a tearoom and thanks to Peacocks for the delicious afternoon tea.

How do you like your scones? Jam or cream 1st?

This holiday was our second of the summer, we visited northern Michigan in the Spring and here is a link to my earlier post.

Cheers,

the TeaLady

Most tea lovers are familiar with Earl Grey.  One whiff of this tea reveals the distinctive aroma on the nose and in the cup.  This is a very traditional black tea with the addition of oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, a very fragrant citrus fruit.

What about the man behind the tea?

Earl Grey

Charles Grey (1764-1845) descended from a long established Northumbrian family seated at Howick Hall and was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge.  He became the 2nd Earl Grey, was a politician in the Whig party (Democrats) and he became Prime Minister at the ripe old age of 22!  His first parliamentary address as PM was in 1787 and concerned a recent free trade agreement made with France, to which he was very opposed.  He was involved in four years of political reform, the author of the Reform Bill of 1832 (which saw the reform of the House of Commons) and had an enormous impact on the development of democracy in Britain, abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833.

The Whig historian T.B. Macauly wrote in 1841,

‘At an age when most of those who distinguish themselves in life are still contending for prizes and fellowships at college, he had won for himself a conspicuous place in Parliament. No advantage of fortune or connection was wanting that could set off to the height his splendid talents and his unblemished honour.’

Outside of his political achievements Earl Grey enjoyed the life!  He was said to be tall, slim and strikingly handsome, had 10 sons and 6 daughters with his wife and fathered at least one illegitimate child!  Earl Grey enjoyed gallivanting around the country, breeding dogs, playing cribbage and also found time to have an affair with the Duchess of Devonshire.

There are several tales as to how the tea was named after such a noble and colorful figure!  According to the most popular legend a grateful Chinese mandarin whose son was rescued from drowning by one of the Earl’s men, first presented the blend to the Earl in 1803.  This legend seems to have little basis as the Earl apparently did not set foot in China and the use of bergamot to scent tea was then unknown in China.  Jackson’s of Piccadilly claim they were the originators of the recipe, which was given to them by the Earl himself.

While the truth is not known, like the very popular Earl himself, this tea is one of the most well known flavored teas in the world.  Many people who I chat with in the Carriage House Tea Room at Selby Gardens do not care for the very distinct flavor of Earl Grey. I have found by offering samples of Earl Grey, that most people have never experienced a good quality, loose leaf tea and the quality of both the tea and the bergamot is paramount! Any deviation can result in an unpleasant tea with a residual taste on your palate.

Loose Leaf Earl Grey

Contrary to my British tea drinking habits, I have become a fan of Iced Earl (Me thinks the Earl would not approve!)  Delicious, so be sure to try for yourself.  When brewing Earl Grey hot, I actually infuse for only 2 minutes and then enjoy multiple infusions from the same leaves.  It is the perfect accompaniment to tea sandwiches and cakes (Mmmm!) but just drinking alone is fine too.  ‘Gallivant’ with your Earl, and find your favorite way to enjoy.

Try our premium blend of Earl Grey from Local Coffee + Tea.  You may be surprised to find you like the Earl, now that you know a bit about the man behind the tea.

Cheers,

the TeaLady

White Tea is surrounded by folklore and mystique heralded from ancient China. I am talking really ancient here, as in Tang dynasty 618-907 AD. This delicate tea was proclaimed by the Emperor as “the culmination of all that is elegant” and reserved for members of the Imperial Court. The leaves were picked in early spring when young tea shoots abound and legend has it that the picking was done by virgins wearing white gloves. Well, it is a pure story at any rate!

Tang Dynasty China

White tea is thankfully no longer solely the property of Emperors and Kings! Although originally grown only in the Fujian Province in China, due to its increasing popularity it is now grown in other regions such as Sri Lanka, Taiwan and India. What has remained the same is the process of making this tea!

White teas are the least processed of all the teas. Leaves are delivered to the factory by hand where they are naturally withered and sun dried, no oxidation takes place.

The new buds are picked before they open when they have a white, silvery appearance (hence the name!). This white appearance is the ‘hao” or hair on the bud or baby leaf.

White Mischief

White teas are subtle, delicate and flavorful and are considered by some to have the most health benefits. The appearance of white teas can vary in color depending on style of tea but all have a very natural fresh look which is also very pure and natural in the cup, devoid of any astringency or grassiness.

With more antioxidants than black tea or green tea, research shows white tea has anticancer properties, is strengthening for the immune and cardiovascular systems, reduces high blood pressure and is calming and detoxifying on the skin(anti-sagging!).

So, what about our White Mischief from Local Coffee + Tea? I thought this a very appropriate name on first tasting this tea with a mischievous play on the taste buds. Take a moment to smell this tea when it will also play mischief with your senses!

White Mischief is a type of tea known as Pai Mu Tan which means “white peony” and is produced in Fujian Province from a variety of tea bush called Narcissus or chaicha where only the “two leaves and bud” are used.  The tea is mostly green with silver tips and is quite light and fluffy.  The mischievousness is created by blending with a healthy dose of tart pomegranate and juicy guava!

When brewing White Mischief use one heaped teaspoon per cup with water heated to 180-190 degrees (or just under boiling).  I find this produces a mellow flavor without scalding the leaves which may cause astringency.  The tea can be infused for 2 minutes with plenty of flavor.  A second infusion of 4 minutes and a third of 6 minutes will yield great cooling and refreshing character. See our earlier post on multi-steeping tea. 

I have infused this tea as many as 6 times, but leave you to experiment with this very exciting and actually quite mischievous tea. Sorry couldn’t resist it one more time!

Cheers,
The TeaLady

 Thank you to those following my Kombucha side trip on my Tea Journey, as well as those enduring me when I get carried away with Kombucha enthusiasm! Since my earlier Kombucha posts, #1 and #2, I have been busy brewing and continue to learn about the variations, the good, bad and the ugly about this fascinating beverage.

Kombucha Tea

I am not very disciplined about drinking my kombucha when at home but during my working days at the Carriage House at Selby Gardens sip during lunch and the afternoon hours. During the ‘dog days of summer’ kombucha gives me a boost of energy.

Michael and Tray continue to make excuses why they no longer brew kombucha, though Tray drinks as much of my supply as available. I must be doing something right. So, what’s new?

I have found that black tea seems to work best, especially our Harrogate Yorkshire tea. (Not really surprising, this tea has such strength and character like the people of Yorkshire!!) Brewing the tea for 14 days was too astringent for my taste, so I reduced to 7 days. Less fermentation time results in a slightly sweeter taste and more fizz which I prefer. I also started adding new tea on top of the same SCOBY instead of washing out container each time and splitting the mother and baby. The SCOBY has grown really fat, improving my end results.

kombucha SCOBY

After reading that more fizz will be achieved if you leave bottles out for 4 days before refrigeration I tried this. The bottles started to grow ‘mini’ SCOBYs (ew!) so I now refrigerate immediately.

I am very much enjoying where this journey is taking me and find new converts or fellow ‘Kombuchans’ in all sorts of spots. You may have heard of retailers removing the commercially bottled Kombucha from their shelves, so there has been growing interest in home brewing. I have been giving away SCOBYs to anyone who wants to try making their own and hope to have more success stories to share.  Stop by Local Coffee + Tea to talk tea. 

Cheers,

The TeaLady

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