TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

March 24, 2015

Cooking with tea: Hot and sour sesame noodles

This is one of my favourite tea recipes, and it’s especially nice as a warm-weather lunch or light dinner, or as part of dinner. The recipe was inspired by a dish served at a bistro in a small New Jersey town. I convinced the chef/owner to give me his list of ingredients, and from there I tweaked it around. One key component that I added was tea.

As I tried various teas to see which one worked best, I was surprised to find three very different teas that each complemented the dish in its own way.Hot and Sour Sesame Noodles My first test was with a slightly smoky Georgia tea, because I like a cup of smoky tea with spicy foods. Yummy! When I fixed the dish with rice noodles I tried genmaicha, a user-friendly green tea mixed with toasted rice kernels. Another hit! Then came the day when I really wanted this dish but didn’t feel like steeping up another pot of tea, so in my laziness I used leftover oolong tea. Bingo once again!

My favourite tea for this is oolong, but choose whichever you prefer. For best results use strong tea made with twice as much leaf as usual and steeped for the regular time. If you’re using oolong, make sure it’s not a floral variety (believe me, it’s yucky). A peachy/nutty generic “Formosa oolong” works best.

Now about the other ingredients … You can use almost any kind of noodles or pasta you like; I’ve used wheat, whole wheat, rice, buckwheat – even ramen noodles. Adjust the amount of garlic and cayenne to your own taste. Rice vinegar is available at most supermarkets. The only really exotic ingredient is gomasio, a mixture of salt and sesame seeds sold in natural food stores. If you can’t find it, substitute plain sesame seeds.

The recipe is easily doubled, tripled, or more to serve a crowd, and it’s tea-rrific for picnics or buffets.

Hot and sour sesame noodles
About 4 servings

3/4 pound (12 ounces) noodles, linguine, or pasta
1 teaspoon light oil (peanut, sunflower …)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup strong tea, cooled
2 Tablespoons maple syrup, agave, honey, or other syrupy sweetener
1 Tablespoon tamari or Kikkoman® soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed cayenne pepper flakes
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Gomasio or sesame seeds
Suggested toppings: cubed tofu, shredded lettuce, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, sliced cucumber, sliced celery, slivered canned water chestnuts, sliced snow peas, slivered scallions, cooked and cooled broccoli florets

Prepare the noodles to al dente tenderness. Rinse with cold water, drain well, and place in a large bowl. Toss the cooked pasta with the light oil; set aside. Mix the tomato paste and vinegar together in a small bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, blending well. Divide pasta into four dishes, top as desired, then spoon on the dressing. Sprinkle each dish lightly with gomasio. Enjoy!

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March 5, 2015

Review: Little flower oolong, Bingley’s Teas

Filed under: exotic tea,food,oolong tea,pouchong,tea,tea review — by teaguide @ 3:09 pm
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In a couple of oolong/pouchong reviews from just about two years ago (here and here), I gave my definition of “floral” versus “flowery” as

“… floral teas envelop the drinker in the sweet scent of flower perfume from the first whiff to the last lingering finish on the palate. Flowery oolongs, on the other hand, are more like the flowers themselves rather than the perfume and aroma. Well yes, they do exhibit both perfume and aroma, but they go somewhat beyond that.
“Have you ever eaten a flower? Edible flowers have a distinct taste of sweet spices that generally intensifies in the finish. So flowery means that the aroma and perfume of flowers are there, along with the sweet spiciness of the flowers themselves. Like eating a flower.”
Bingleys Little Flower oolong

Little flower oolong. Photo courtesy of Bingley’s Teas Limited.

Recently I received samples of two lovely teas from Bingley’s Teas, and reviewed the first of these in January. This is the second of the two teas — a flowery pouchong with the lovely and very appropriate name of Little Flower Oolong.

Steeped up gongfu style with water at string-of-pearls temperature, this tea gives forth the aroma of a spring garden: honeysuckle, daffodil, and a brief whiff of lilac. Carried into the cup, it is quite like sipping a spring bouquet, with a blend of sweet flowers and spices, along with a hint of warm almond cookies — you know, the kind you get at a Chinese restaurant. Complex, yet at the same time palate-friendly.

I preferred the results when, in later steepings, I slightly reduced the amount of the beautifully rolled leaf from the quantity I used in the first steeping. This is probably a matter of individual taste; it’s a gentle tea and I enjoyed it more when I treated it gently. Less leaf seemed to elicit more of the almond cookie quality in relation to the flowery qualities. Leaves can be re-infused at least four or five times, with subsequent infusions eliciting less “cookie” and more flowers.

Spring will be here (finally!) in a few weeks. Little Flower Oolong, IMNSHO, would be an ideal tea for ushering in the new season. Or any season.

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January 16, 2015

Tea Review: Mei Li Shan, Bingley’s Teas

Filed under: food,green tea,oolong tea,tea,tea review,Tea sites — by teaguide @ 3:27 pm
Tags: ,
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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