TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

January 29, 2015

Ramblings: Intuitive about tea

tea-teaspoonWay back when I first started getting serious about high-end teas, I bought every tool, gizmo, and gadget in order to “properly” prepare the tea. My collection included several kinds of measuring spoons, a gram scale for metric weights, a small postal scale for avoirdupois weights, and an instant-read water thermometer. I’d obsess over exact measurements of water and tea leaf and precise water temperatures, and set both digital and analogue timers to ensure that the tea steeped for just the perfect amount of time.

That, as they say, was then, and this is now. All of those tools are somewhere in my tea room, mostly gathering dust.

Water kettleNowadays when I want a pot of tea, I “measure” the leaf in my hand. Water temperature? My clear electric kettle lets me see when it’s at a rolling boil (for most black teas), forming a string of pearl bubbles (for most oolongs and pouchongs), making crab-eye or fish-eye bubbles (for most green teas), and completely flat (for most white teas). These visual cues encompass various familiar ranges of temperatures.

And I say “most” because sometimes the prescribed water temperature doesn’t seem quite right for a particular tea. So I might pour string-of-pearls temperature water into a pot of Nepal or Darjeeling black tea. Certain teas seem to ask for less, or more, heat. After a while you get to know which ones.

Similarly, not all teas conform to the measuring spoon or weighing method, and these days I simply eyeball it. When it looks and feels more or less like a good amount it goes into the teapot. If it’s not right, I’ll add or subtract a little when making the next potful. Eventually you get the feel for each tea.

Trust your tea intuitionAnd forget about timers; I rarely even look at the clock. Instead, I let the tea steep while getting various little jobs done. I’ll practice my 24-form tai chi while a pot of black tea infuses. Emptying the dryer, folding the laundry, and putting it away gives white teas enough time to do their thing. By the time I’ve peeled a hard-boiled egg and sliced a piece of cheese for our dog’s breakfast my green tea is ready. Are these activities exactly five minutes, twelve minutes, and two-and-a-half minutes long? Don’t know; I’ve never checked them against the clock. And the tea usually comes out right.

The only times I hover over my teas are when they’re being prepared gong-fu style. Even then I can get the dishwasher mostly loaded or unloaded during the several consecutive steeps.

Sure, it’s important to get that initial understanding of how tea works. I imagine, tho’, that after a while most serious tea drinkers dispense with the fuss and bother and just relax about their tea-making. Some may call it sacrilege; I see it as perceptive intuition. Give it a try – you might be surprised at how in tune you are with your tea.

We’re pleased to announce that our posts are now included in the Tea Blog Posts at World of Tea!

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January 22, 2015

Ramblings: My own private tea room

Filed under: books,exotic tea,food,tea,tea rooms,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 3:05 pm
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All ready to serve the morning’s tea.

All ready to serve the morning’s tea.

Almost ten years ago, in mid-2005, we relocated from the NYC area to South Carolina, and started shopping for a house. We saw a style we loved, and found a contractor to custom-build it on our land.

DH and I each made a list of the must-have features we wanted in our new house. On his list were a balcony and lots of land. On my list were separate bathrooms, and a room dedicated to tea: my own private tea room.

The model we chose had an option for a “bonus room” – what used to be called a study or den: an extra room off the living room with a door but no closet. For about as long as I can remember I had also wanted a library, a whole room filled with books. Rather than having them in separate rooms, we combined the two into a library/tea room. It seemed natural to put tea and books together.

Shelves overflowing with tea and tea ware.

Shelves overflowing with tea and tea ware.

We visited the site frequently during construction. One day I walked into the partially-built house – essentially just the foundation and the frame – and realized that for the first time I was standing in my very own tea room.

A few weeks after we moved in we built cherry wood bookshelves around half the room. These hold books as well as tea and tea “things.” A local shop carries beautiful sea grass baskets in a wide assortment of sizes and shapes; about a dozen of these are now filled with teas, tablecloths, and various other items. And a large floor basket is stuffed with tea cozies.

Windows on three sides look out on our front, side, and back yards – well, actually our woods. Ottomans at two of the windows serve as window seats. Thermal draperies in a sage and burgundy cabbage rose pattern, along with the bookcases lining the walls, keep the room cool in summer and toasty warm in winter.

The kitties like to sit atop these boxes and keep us company. Today we’re hosting Tiffy.

The kitties like to sit atop these boxes and keep us company. Today we’re hosting Tiffy.

A sofa, a few serving tables, a teapot “tuffet,” stacking wooden storage boxes embellished with hand-painted cabbage roses – the smallest of which holds oolongs, white teas, and the occasional kitty — and a chair that converts to a library step complete the furnishings.

Over the years that we’ve been here, my collection of tea “things” has expanded beyond the tea room to fill a couple of floor cabinets and a wall cabinet in the adjacent living room. One of these days I’ll give away a few books to make room for more tea ware. Maybe.

My tea room is a refuge for solitary teatimes, for sharing “girlfriend” tea, and for weekend mornings to enjoy tea with my dear husband. Where we can look out at birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer, our fruit trees and our flower gardens. Or curl up with a good book. On pleasant spring or autumn days we might go outside on the balcony with our afternoon cups, but mornings are reserved at our own private tea room. (We got all our other “must-haves” too!)

We’re pleased to announce that our posts will now be included in the Tea Blog Posts at World of Tea!

Follow TeaGuide on Twitter @TeaGuide1

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Contact us by email about reviewing your tea or tea-related product, or to be interviewed.

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All content Copyright 2014/2015 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

January 16, 2015

Tea Review: Mei Li Shan, Bingley’s Teas

Filed under: food,green tea,oolong tea,tea,tea review,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 3:27 pm
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Bingley's Teas
Following a miserable allergy season and a bout with a URI, my ability to smell and taste has finally returned! And, so, happily I resume writing tea reviews, starting with this unusual tea courtesy of Bingley’s Tea Limited.

 

Noting my fondness for Taiwan pouchongs, the proprietor of Bingley’s asked if I’d care to sample a tea from her new Temptress Teas line of premium teas, a green tea developed from the Jin Xuan cultivar. I’ve been sipping a good amount of Jin Xuan pouchong from various sources and it has become quite a favourite, as I noted in a previous review, so I was anxious to try it. And I wasn’t disappointed.

 

For those of you who think you don’t like green tea, do try this one. It has none of the grassiness or bitterness that so many complain about in green teas. In fact it is quite smooth and gentle, with the sweet floral taste and aroma that make Jin Xuan pouchong such a pleasant, elegant cup. And if you steep it as a green tea with water at fish-eye temperature (about 180 degrees F) it’s difficult to over-steep, making it easier to fix: I forgot about one steeping and it went almost six (6) minutes before I decanted it. Most green teas turn into a bitter mess if steeped for more than two or three minutes.bingleys-dry-leaf

 

If you’re already a happy green tea drinker, Mei Li Shan is one you may want to add to your repertoire, for the qualities outlined here, plus a lovely nut-like finish.

 

Leaves are long, dark, and wiry. If you measure your tea by volume you’ll need to at least double the quantity you generally use as it is very “airy.” I infused the tea using the Simon’s crumbs method, first in a six-cup English style teapot, then in modified gongfu style (multiple successive infusions blended together into one pitcher), next in a lovely kyusu that my DH brought home for me several years ago from Japan, and finally in a two-cup Chatsford teapot. These last two methods I judged the most successful, perhaps because as the final experiments I got a better feel for the tea.

 

IMNSHO it needs somewhat more leaf than many green teas (beyond the accommodation for the tea’s “airiness”) and a slightly longer steep time. bingleys-wet-leafMostly I kept the water temperature at about fish-eye temperature (bringing the water to a boil, then cooling it for a few moments), and steeped it — except when I forgot about it — for about four minutes. The second steep in the two-cup Chatsford was at a slightly higher string-of-pearls water temperature, as suggested on the Bingley’s site. This intensified the taste qualities, tho’ required a shorter steep time; at just under four minutes it was on the brink of bitterness.

 

As with almost all green teas, the Mei Li Shan is good for multiple steeps: perhaps two if you’re steeping it English style, and about four or five if you’re going gongfu.

 

I was unable to find any information on this tea except that which is provided on the Bingley’s website. If you have any more information, I’d be grateful if you’d share it with me. Whether or not I can learn any more about it, I’m certainly going to continue to enjoy it.

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All content Copyright 2014/2015 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

greentea-in-glasscup

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