TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

November 7, 2013

Ramblings: Shopping at home … for tea!

Filed under: food,men drinking tea,shopping,tea,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 2:22 pm
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This is not an article about online shopping … that’s coming up in a week or two with TeaGuide‘s suggestions for Christmas and Chanukah tea-gift-giving.

No, this is about shopping completely inside your home. Most of us have done this at some point. For example, you’re cleaning out a drawer and discover a shirt or scarf you completely forgot you owned. Maybe you got it as a gift, or you might have bought it yourself — and then tucked it away because you didn’t have anything to wear it with at the time. Fortunately you do now, and you’ve got a “new” shirt or scarf by “shopping” at home!

Unless you are far more organized than most people, you’ve occasionally come across a forgotten box of pasta in the pantry, a piece of jewelry inexplicably stuffed into your “stuff” drawer, a nifty pair of boots hidden at the back of the closet, or perhaps a pretty teacup obscured by several other pieces of china in your breakfront.

Shopping-in-your-own-houseJust to be clear: I’m not talking about things you know you lost and have been looking for, like your keys or the coupon for 20% off at your favourite shop. This is about things you’ve forgotten about that become “new” again when you find them!

A couple of years ago I came across several sealed, never-opened packages of tea that a long-defunct tea company called Junglesque had sent to me years before. They were all China teas and as I no longer consume anything sourced from China I’m going to leave them where I found them for now, tho’ will probably give them away eventually.

Recently, and more serendipitously, I did some more “tea shopping” at home.

As I’ve mentioned, when we moved from the New York City area to the Southlands, we bought some land and had a house built on part of it. The layout of the house included a room that we designated as our library and tea room. We built bookshelves around the walls; decorations included a set of wooden storage boxes. Several shelves, and one of the boxes, are dedicated to storing tea, tea ware, and tea books. Whenever I buy tea, it is stored in a seagrass bin on one of the shelves, or in the wooden box.

Before we built the house we were living in apartments, and teas were stored in the drawers of a rolling kitchen cart. The cart now holds our bread-making machine. I thought I had removed all of the tea packages from the drawers, but apparently not. When I opened one of them the other day, I found several packages of tea that I had forgotten about.

tea in cup top viewWe used this cart for storing tea until we moved into our house in March of 2006, which means that the teas in it pre-date that date. I really wasn’t expecting any of the teas to still be drinkable given their age, and some of them weren’t. I tossed the “Russian Georgian” tea that I used to adore, along with a couple of others, all of which had been packaged in non-airtight sacks. A few other teas, however, were still sealed in their original airtight sacks, unopened.

Several of these teas were full-size or sample-size from Capital Tea in Toronto. Knowing that Capital’s teas are very fresh and of a consistently high quality, and that their packaging is strong and airtight, I opened a couple of them up. Sure enough, they were still good to drink! I was particularly impressed with the Pothotuwa Estate Ceylon tea that I had marked as being purchased in 2004. I cut the sack open and was rewarded with a very clear aroma of dried fruit — mostly plum with a hint of apricot. Amazing! So I fixed a pot of the tea; the aroma continued through the steeping, and produced an extremely flavourful cup of plummy-nectary delight. The husband and I have enjoyed several potsful — this tea is particularly nice with something rich and chocolate-y. And we have enough left for several more potsful until we need to re-order.

Yes indeed, it’s very nice to shop without leaving home — and you never know what goodies you will find!

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All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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September 27, 2013

Reviews: Three seasons of Four Seasons from Taiwan Tea Crafts

I recently had the fortuitous opportunity to sample and compare Taiwan teas produced from the Si Ji Chun cultivar and Baguashan terroir through three different types of processing … which I perceived as a passage from spring to summer to early autumn.

The first tea was a green style, generally my preferred style of Taiwan oolong.  For a number of years I’ve happily started my day with a potful — or two or three or more — of very lightly oxidized pouchong. Four Seasons is one of the best of the pouchongs, and this particular sample did not disappoint. Plucked this past May, it is everything a spring pouchong should be: fresh, light, and extraordinarily floral in both aroma — like spring itself — and in the cup. Preparing it in the kitchen I happily found myself enveloped in a delightful springtime garden. And of course that freshness that I’ve come to rely on from Taiwan Tea Crafts.

TTC-oolongs2

Taiwan black tea (left) and baked pouchong (right). Accompanied by toast and homemade jam.

Next was a gently baked version of the same pouchong. As I said, I generally prefer the light green style, but this tea simply blew me away as it segued from spring to summer. Baking brings out a sweetness, like spring flowers that mature in the sultry summer sunshine. It is a heady, and heavenly, experience. I may have to change my mind about preferring green oolongs!

And at last the black tea. Although the leaves were plucked a few weeks before the pouchong, the sensation was definitely autumnal. If you’ve never sampled Taiwan black tea, let me tell you that there is no other tea quite like it. And you just might want to start your tasting journey with this one. It combines the sweet summer-flower qualities of the baked pouchong with an element of fruitiness. Orange? Tangerine? Yes, but also a touch of late-summer peach. The taste and aroma work their way through the palate and the nose, and the sensation lingers … and lingers some more. Whatever you call beyond extraordinary, this is it. While I’ve sampled any number of teas that finish long, this was something else again. Superb!

Do click through the links to Taiwan Tea Crafts for more detailed information about each of their teas, terroirs, cultivars, and processes, and their very poetic descriptions of the teas themselves.

This would be a good time to remind tea drinkers that Taiwan teas are reknowned for their exquisite aromas. Take a whiff of the dry leaves when you first open the package. Breathe in the scent when the hot water first hits the leaves. Sniff your cup for a moment just before you sip. If you have an aroma cup, be sure to use it. Or try this method for appreciating the aromas: When your teapot is empty and still warm — especially after the last drops of tea have dried — lift the lid, inhale, and savour the intoxicating aromas.

Taiwan Tea Crafts is currently offering a Moon Festival sale — you have until 11.59pm Sunday, September 29 to receive a minimum 20% discount on top-quality teas, with discounts up to 32% depending on the quantity you purchase. Their beautiful tea wares are also on sale. If you spend $50 on tea (or $75 on tea ware) and use coupon code FREESHIP50 shipping around the globe is free. See their website for details. Don’t miss out.

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April 18, 2013

In my cups: I love (these) coffee cups

Filed under: food,shopping,tea,tea accessories,Tea sites,teacups — by JanisB @ 10:27 am
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I don’t drink coffee. While I absolutely adore the aroma, it seems to me that the aroma promises more than the taste delivers. Far more. In fact, I really don’t like drinking coffee at all.

I drink tea.

And I don’t like drinking tea out of the clunky mugs or heavy cups designed for coffee. No, I much prefer delicate teacups — with handles, without handles, and preferably made of glass. Because a large part of the enjoyment of tea is the visuals — the unfurling of the leaves, the play of light on tea liquor, and the multitude of colours that made tea encompasses.

blog-glass-coffee-cups-largeWhenever I go into a tea shop, an antiques shop, a tableware shop, or any shop that has cups on offer, I’m immediately drawn to the one/s made of glass. Which is how, a good fifteen or so years ago, I came upon my first teacup that was really a coffee cup. I’ve since learned that its proper designation is cappuccino cup, with cappuccino being some sort of coffee affair topped with whipped cream. Inasmuch as I wouldn’t know a cappuccino from a concertino, I bought the tea cup and added it to my collection.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that teacups are generally tapered, with a smaller bottom opening to a wider rim. This is true of both Asian and Western style teacups. Unlike coffee cups, which normally have straight sides so the bottom of the cup is about the same as the top. I’ve been told that teacups have wider tops so the tea cools more quickly at the top; I’ve also been told that it’s so you can enjoy the aroma while you’re sipping.  The cappuccino teacup is similarly small at the bottom and wider at the top, which is pretty much why I presumed it was a teacup.

It was immediately put into service to showcase the many shades of black teas, from ebony to chestnut to auburn to burnt sienna to topaz to gold. While I could have used it for any kind of tea, I tend to drink my black teas from a larger cup than other types of teas — greens, oolongs, white teas.

blog-glass-coffee-cups-smallA few years ago I was shopping at a beautiful homewares shop in Bucuresti, Romania that specialized in Spanish and Italian imports. And there was a cup of the same funnel-like shape as my cappuccino teacup but about one-fourth the size. Yes! Now I had the perfect cup for my green, oolong, and white teas. Even if I have since learned that its proper designation is espresso cup — espresso, again, being some sort of coffee preparation.

The two cups are now amongst the most often used of my good-sized collection of glass teacups. I like everything about them: the size(s), the shape, the handle that lets me hold it when a glass handle, or a handle-less cup, would be too hot.

In my not-so-humble opinion, these cups were mis-named to start with, and I have in fact elevated their status by using them for tea rather than for coffee!

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