TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

July 8, 2012

Kit-tea Collectibles

Filed under: Cats,food,friends,tea,tea accessories — by JanisB @ 1:42 pm
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Cat lovers are suckers. Really. Not only do we put up with all kinds of kitty nonsense, like the recent demolition of my cherry-red teapot – knocked off the counter by Panther chasing Skyler – but we happily fill up every nook and cranny of our homes with collections of pretty much anything and everything that has a cat motif.

Read the entire article at English Tea Store blog.

February 25, 2010

Ramblings: A cozy cuppa

Filed under: exotic tea,food,tea cosies,tea cozies,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 2:37 pm
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A cozily-covered teapot, serving as a “fairness pitcher” for multiple steeps of Teamania’s Four Seasons Oolong.

I love tea cozies. They are by far the prettiest way to keep the tea in your teapot from cooling off too quickly. A good tea cozy will keep your tea at a drinkable temperature for at least an hour. I like them so much that one of my first blog posts was about tea cozies. (Re-read it here.)

One of the unquestioned true-isms of tea, however, is that it should never be steeped in a teapot covered by a tea cozy. What you do is infuse the tea first, sans cozy. After the tea is ready to drink and all leafery has been removed, only then should you cover the teapot with an appropriately-sized tea cozy (or cosy, if you prefer) to retain the heat.

Steeping tea in a teapot covered by a cozy, we are warned, will “stew” the tea, resulting in a misbegotten, bitter mess of a cup.

I have never questioned this accepted wisdom, and have never steeped tea in a pot covered by a cozy.

Until today. Here’s why:

For the second time in recent memory, when I passed along this cautionary steeping note, I was asked how I can be so sure if I’ve never tried it for myself. To put all doubt to rest — to either prove or disprove the axiom — I did my own test this morning.

I used two two-cup Chatsford teapots. Each pot was “hotted” by pouring in and swirling hot water. While the kettle was heating filtered water, I placed approximately two teaspoonsful of tea into each teapot’s filter basket. When the water boiled, I very quickly filled each teapot before the bubbles dissipated. One teapot was then covered with a popover cozy, the other fitted into a wraparound (“bachelor”) cozy.

The tea I chose for the experiment was Harney & Sons’ Brigitte’s Blend, an elegant blend of black India teas. This is one of my “go-to” teas, a tea that I’ll choose when I cannot decide which tea I want — and it always seems to suit the moment. No “control” infusion was required, as I am quite familiar with the taste and aroma of this tea.

After about 4-1/2 minutes — my usual timing for this blend — I quickly removed the cozies, withdrew each filter holding the tea, and then replaced the cozies. The whole removal operation could not have taken more than about twenty seconds.

The proof of the tea, as they say, is in the drinking. I poured about a tablespoonful of tea from one of the pots into a small glass tasting cup, swirled it around a few times to cool it, then took a sip. Then repeated the process with tea from the other teapot.

Let me save you the trouble of ever duplicating this test for yourself. The resulting “tea” from both pots was thick and revoltingly bitter, and could most charitably be described as swill. Instead of its usual bright, clear liquid, the tea was dull and murky in the cup. The spent leaves also exhibited an odd lifelessness.

In other words, the tea was stewed. I’ve had to consume several cupsful of properly steeped tea to rid my mouth of that horrible taste and texture. I may require professional assistance to get past the memories.

There is one positive result, however: I can now warn tea drinkers unequivocally and with great authority: Do not cover your teapot with a cozy while the tea is steeping because it will stew the tea. Yes, I am absolutely sure of this!

All that remains now is for the swill — I mean tea — to cool enough to be dumped onto our eagerly awaiting begonias, who don’t seem to be too picky about the form of tea they receive. I think this stuff will make them very happy.

And no, for my next trick I will not test whether or not my tongue sticks to a frozen pole, so please don’t ask!

Older, wiser, and slightly sick to my stomach … and determined that I will henceforth use my tea cozies only as they were intended: after the tea is steeped!
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October 22, 2009

Reviews: Loose leaf versus cube

Filed under: exotic tea,food,oolong tea,tea — by JanisB @ 12:22 pm
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TeaSource Ti Kuan Yin oolongs

Retail and wholesale

Stock photos

Oolong teaI don’t think I could live without oolong tea. Almost every morning there’s oolong in my cup. Occasionally, for variety, I might have a white tea, but the next day I’m back to my oolongs.

A lot of people seem to like strong, “trot a mouse” tea to jump start their morning, but I prefer to ease into the day with a rich yet gentle oolong.

And not just any oolong. You’ll rarely find me sipping a dark-roasted or a “peachy” oolong. No, what I like are the greener “floral” oolongs or pouchongs. Extra credit if it’s not just floral but orchid-y.

A few years ago we visited Pennsylvania’s beautiful Longwood Gardens. As we stepped into one room of their exquisite greenhouse, I closed my eyes, inhaled the aroma, and spoke just one word: oolong! When I opened my eyes I saw that I was in their orchid room. Orchids of all kinds, enveloping the visitor in an ethereal blanket of orchid-oolong aroma. It was heavenly.

I also like unusual teas — amongst my favourites are Georgia and Nepal teas, which a lot of people have never even heard of, much less sampled. When I read on Teamail that TeaSource was offering a Ti Kuan Yin in a compressed cube shape, I wanted to give it a try.

OolongThe tea arrives four to a package, with the leaves pressed into a “cube” of about 1-1/2 by 1/2 inch. Leaves are quite large and in a variety of shades of green, ranging from a dark forest green to a light, almost silvery green.

The folks at TeaSource kindly tucked in a sample of their Ti Kuan Yin Special oolong, this one in loose leaf form. This morning I did a cup-to-cup comparison of the two.

In the package, both teas exhibited a gentle floral aroma. (I always sniff dry teas in their sacks or tins; I find that the aroma is more concentrated.) Each was prepared in a small clay pot dedicated to oolongs, and served in “modified gong-fu” style; i.e., two or more steepings of the same leaves are transferred to a serving vessel. Today these were two-cup Chatsford teapots, each snuggled into a wraparound tea cozy.

OolongBrita-filtered water was heated to a full boil in the electric kettle, then cooled to “fish-eye” temperature for rinsing off the leaves before the first infusion. Leftover water in the kettle after the first tea was prepared was discarded, and the kettle refilled with fresh water.

Having prepared the cubed tea previously, I was familiar with the needed proportion, and broke off half of a cube and placed it into the clay pot. Following the rinse, the first infusion was about twenty seconds, and the second infusion about forty seconds long.

I placed what looked to me to be a similar amount of loose leaves into the pot — my eye was apparently pretty good because the spent leaves filled the clay pot almost exactly to the extent that the cubed leaves did.

The teas were served and sipped alternatingly in a glass handleless cup.

The cubed tea is light and floral, a highly enjoyable cup, although a more generic floral. The loose leaves, on the other hand, evolved from a light floral to a very much orchid floral, with this same “catch in your throat” quality continuing through the finish. Two very good oolongs, but in the quest for orchid, the loose leaf Special oolong wins out over the novel-tea of the cube.

OolongOne last tasting note: It was obvious that both teas were capable of producing at least two more infusions beyond my experiment. Two infusions from each tea were decanted to a larger four-cup Chatsford pot. The blend of these two teas is, happily, dominated by the orchid factor in the Special. It is a wonderfully smooth blend, so good that I may have to order more of each to recreate it.

The cubes are interesting for anyone who likes to try something new and different in their teacup, and it really is a very good floral oolong. For those who prefer the full orchid quality in their oolong, the Special is the one you’ll want.

TeaSource recently updated their packaging. The new sacks are black with a beautiful image of a variety of tea leaves, and there’s a clear strip on the back so you can see what’s inside without introducing a lot of light into the tea. I think you’ll like these new packages as much as I do!

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