Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Round Up: February 7th - February 13th

Podcast 028: The Tea Crane
+Ricardo Caicedo's podcast is always thoughtfully curated. I love that the world of Japanese tea is so complex! This is his second interview with Tyas from +The Tea Crane.

Bir and Tea
Until I'm able to venture out into the world I live vicariously through the tea travels of other people. Sharad over at om•qi•zen shared a bit about his visit to Kangra.

Tea Drunk Vs. Actual Drunk
+Geoffrey Norman did an awesome collaboration with his cousin Jason Norman. They put together a little comic strip comparing tea drunks like us to regular ol' run of the mill drunks. Hilarity ensued.

DAVIDsTEA Honey Black
New to me blogger Michelle of One More Steep reviewed a tea that I've been addicted to lately. This stuff has been discontinued so make sure that you scoop some up while you still can. It's so good!

Kilns for Firing a Yixing Teapot
Jason of Cult of Quality shared some very in depth information about the different methods for firing yixing clay teapots. The diagram of a snake kiln was fascinating.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dachi Tea Co. Oriental Beauty Oolong

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: varied green and brown with silver tips
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 40 seconds
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: amber

Oriental Beauty, aka Bai Hao oolong, is one of my favorite types of Taiwanese teas. It's one of the few teas that is organic by necessity (at least in the summer) because it requires that the leaves be bitten by leaf hopper insects. I know that might sound a bit gross but bugs chewing on your tea is a very good thing! It starts a slow oxidation process before the leaves are even picked, creating unique flavors and aromas. The leaves of this particular bug bitten offering from +Dachi Tea Co. were big and beautiful. I couldn't resist a quickie photo shoot in between infusions. Immediately after taking my first sip I couldn't help but exclaim out loud, "Holy crap, that's good!. The body was delicate yet very complex. Notes of raw sugar and cinnamon danced around a juicy grape-like quality. It wasn't quite a Darjeeling level of muscatel but it was very close to it. The mouthfeel was relatively thick and viscous, especially on the first two rounds. The finish had a pleasant sweetness balanced by just the slightest hint of astringency. One of the things that I like most about Dachi Tea Co. is the depth of information that they provide about their teas. Everything from basics like elevation and level of oxidation to profiles of the tea producers. I think that is something every tea company should strive for.

Oriental Beauty Oolong sample provided by Dachi Tea Co.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Monday, February 8, 2016

Global Tea Hut: November 2015 - Mountain Rain

I'm so behind on sharing my +Global Tea Hut experiences with you guys! Better late than never I suppose. I was excited about this one as soon as I saw envelopes popping up on my Instagram feed. Dian Hong is one of my absolutely favorite types of tea and every one that I have tried from Global Tea Hut has been awesome. 2014's Golden Vajra and Daughter of the Forest are still the penultimate in my book but Mountain Rain was still a very nice tea. The dry leaves were beautifully curled with lots of golden tips. There was plenty of leaf for experimentation so I brewed this tea in a gaiwan, kyusu and in a bowl. Although I usually prefer bowl brewing I found that I most enjoyed the kyusu brewed version. Go figure. The taste was earthy and malty. Slight astringency was balanced by a sweet lingering aftertaste. A lighter than usual degree of oxidation made it bit lighter bodied than what I am used to. It was a very warming tea, perfect for enjoying after a long and chilly commute.

The gift that was included in this month's envelope was a very handy little bamboo coaster. It worked perfectly for my side handled teapot. These little doodads that they send are great for setting up cha xi, basically a stage for your tea. The environment that we drink our tea in can add a lot to the enjoyment of it. Tea & Tao magazine's theme this time around focused on tea and the feminine. It's an interesting topic in part because I find a lot of people here in the U.S. consider tea to be a feminine past time. Reading about Tien Wu's experiences of serving tea to women's circles really hit home for me. Although there's plenty of fellas that I nerd out and enjoy tea with, I definitely have many more ladies with whom I have deeply connected with because of tea. Being a fan of Petr Novak's work, I was really intrigued by his article. Rather than being about his own work, he tells the story of his partner Mirka.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Round Up: February 7th - February 13th

Interview with TJ Williamson of The World Tea podcast
Connor of T Ching did a great interview with +TJ W of World Tea Podcast. Who knew that skiing could lead to a passion for tea?

Bug-bitten teas: why are leafhoppers only sometimes a good thing?
+Eric Scott (who contributed an awesome article to the latest issue of Tea for Me Please Quarterly) wrote a thorough and informative post about bug bitten teas on +Tea Geek.

3 Leaf Tea: Wild Pu'erh Buds (Ya Bao): A Tea Review
I always enjoy +Amanda Wilson's tea reviews. This one reminded me that I haven't had any Ya Bao in far too long.

It's a New Day!
After blogging about tea for so many years, it can be easy to lose sight of why we became passionate about tea in the first place. +Darlene Meyers-Perry's declaration about changing the way she blogs was inspiring. She took the words right out of my mouth!

New York City Moments
+Jen Piccotti shared a bit about her visit to NYC. I was supposed to have joined in the adventure but was under the weather that day so I had to stay home. I'm so glad that she had a good time.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How to Make Tea by Brian Keating and Kim Long

I'm always excited when I hear about new tea books so I couldn't resist snapping this one up when I had an Amazon credit to use up. These days I mostly read on my Kindle but I sprung for the hardcover since it was only a bit more. The size is adorably portable and I love the sturdy and well made construction. I commute a lot by train and it's nice to be able to stick a book in my bag without having to worry about it falling apart. Even the paper was nicer than what I've seen lately!

At just 160 pages it was a fairly quick and easy read. What it lacked in photographs it made up for with darling line art drawings. The ones on the botany of the tea plant were particularly eye catching. They reminded me that I still need to get that botanical print tea tattoo that I've been procrastinating about. The biochemical breakdown of tea and the decaffeination process also got my tea nerd juices flowing. I also loved that they discussed the inaccuracy of teaspoon as a unit of measurement. The inclusion of gongfu brewing methods was also an exciting thing to see. I'm a firm believer that everyone should learn about gaiwans right from the start! The world of tea is infinitely massive. While it's impossible for one book to cover every possible topic, this one does a pretty good job of covering its bases.

Of course, no book is perfect. There's a few things that needled at me as I leafed through what would be otherwise be a very enjoyable read. The tea processing step chart completely leaves out both yellow tea and puerh. Puerh is then relegated to a single page and it repeats the myth that it is rare and "aged in darkness for decades". There is a chart on the shelf life of tea that stops at around five years which even contradicts that. There is a very similarly designed book called How to Make Coffee from the same publisher but by a different author. I don't know the authors but I couldn't help but feel that this was a tea book put together by coffee people. I could be wrong about that but it's the impression that I got.

You can find out more about this book here.

Monday, February 1, 2016

What Makes Tea Bitter?

All tea (Camellia Sinensis that is) naturally contains substances that can produce bitterness in the brewed cup. When people say that a tea is bitter, they are most likely referring to astringency. This is usually described as a dry, mouth puckering feeling. Astringency has different levels and for many types of tea, particularly black teas for the western market, it is a desired trait.

Caffeine in its pure state is extremely bitter. There is probably more research on this when it comes to coffee but that's not really my forte. The amount that ends up in your cup can vary widely between teas. Contrary to popular belief the type of tea really doesn't determine how much caffeine there is in the final product. There are a lot of factors including how much rainfall the tea plants received, when the leaves were harvested and the quality of the soil in which it was grown. Catechins and other polyphenols (including trace amounts of tannins) are also major contributors to bitterness in tea. That's right, antioxidants! Flavanols, also known tannins, are converted to thearubigins during enzymatic oxidation in black tea. They are present in other tea types but in lower numbers. Higher amounts of tannins can cause a tea to be perceived as bitter. Tannins have no relation to tannic acid so don't worry, tea will not turn your insides into leather. However, there is some evidence that they can interfere with the absorption of nutrients so drinking tea with food isn't always recommended.

Now you might ask yourself, how do I prevent my tea from tasting bitter? There's a few factors that are most likely the culprit.

1. Reduce the amount of leaf that you are using.
The general rule when it comes to loose leaf tea is 1 teaspoon for every 8oz of water. That being said, teaspoons are a rather inexact unit of measure. Every tea is a bit different because they come in a variety of shapes. When it comes to gongfu brewing methods, I will use about 5-8g of leaf in an average sized gaiwan,

2. Lower your water temperature.
It often surprises people when I tell them that certain types of tea require different water temperatures. This is especially important when it comes to green tea. The lower your water temperature, the less bitterness there will be. Hot water extracts other important components so don't go too far but experiment with bringing it down a notch. Cold brewing will reduce the astringency even further.

3. Reduce your steep time.
Brewing your tea for too long will also cause bitterness. I can't tell you how many people I talk to at work who have no idea that they need to actually remove the leaves from the water. The longer your tea brews, the more bitter it will be. Start with the time recommended by the company where you purchased your tea and then adjust to personal taste from there.

4. Keep your tea whole.
Tea bags work because the small particles have an increased surface area that comes into contact with the water. This extracts color and flavor very quickly. The same can be said of whole tea leaves that get crushed or broken. If finishing up the remnants at the bottom of a tin, I recommend reducing your steep time accordingly.

5. Buy better tea!
Last but not least, it's very possible that the tea you are trying to salvage just isn't very good. There is nothing that will fix old, cheap or low quality tea leaves. I promised that I'm not saying that to be a tea snob. Drink what you like. But if you don't like what you are drinking, it's a great motivation to upgrade your selections

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Round Up: January 24th - January 30th

Five Years in Tea: A Retrospective
World of Tea has been posting some excellent blog posts but this one really drew me in. I almost feel like Jordan is a brother in arms after reading this post, I can definitely relate to a lot his retail experiences.

There Is No Money in Tea
I love a good rant and this one from +Geoffrey Norman was awesome. There's been some major drama going on in the online tea world and I appreciated his unusually diplomatic approach.

New Year's Matcha
+Alexis Siemons waxed poetic about Ippodo's special new year matcha. I can't say that I blame her. Their seasonal offerings are always amazing.

Gifts for Tea Lovers (That Aren't Tea) Part 1
The funny thing about tea enthusiasts is that we don't just drink our tea, we buy it in every shape and form that we can find. Marzipan over at TeaLover.Net put together a great collection of everything from soaps to lip balm and spoons.

Yunnan Noir – Embracing the Dark Side
I love love love finding tea blogs to read. I recently came across a brand new one called Tea and That. They're just getting started but Rory is off to a great start!