Tuesday, October 17, 2017

An NYC Afternoon of Tea and Friendship

I live in a quiet little corner of New Jersey. It's not always perfect but it does have the advantage of easy travel to NYC. I am also lucky enough to have a small tribe of wonderful women there who all love the leaf as much as I do. From time to time an email will go out like the Bat-Signal, gathering us all together for tea.

We started our day off at La Colombe Coffee Roasters' Chelsea location. Alexis from Teaspoons & Petals is their tea consultant and we were all excited to see the debut of their newest tea offering, Silverton pour over Matcha Gyokyro! The Silverton pour over brewers they had in the cafe are seriously drool-worthy. I don't need one...but I definitely want one after seeing them in action. My cup was expertly brewed, a perfect blend of everything that I love about both matcha and gyokuro. This is definitely one to check out if you are ever in one of their cafes that offer it. Once we had all gotten our fix at La Colombe, it was time to hop in an Uber to the International Culinary Center.

Pour Over Matcha Gyokuro at La Colombe

The International Culinary Center was kind enough to allow us to hold a small tea party in their library. Surrounded by beautiful books and wonderful friends, my senses were quite overwhelmed. Keiko from Rishi Tea put together an incredible exploration of Japanese green teas. I was particularly excited to have the chance to compare different teas. Yabukita is by far the most prevalent cultivar so my not-so-inner tea nerd was ready to really dig into teas made with Okumidori, Saemidori, and Machiko.

So many delicious teas to taste!

One thing that our group has in common other than tea is that we all have a bit of a sweet tooth. Not only did she lay out a beautiful table but Keiko also tempted us with delicious mochi and macarons. Darlene also surprised us all with raspberry flavored Kit Kats, a perfect accompaniment for all of the matcha that we were drinking. The black lilies made for a really striking visual and I'm still admiring one in a vase on my kitchen table as I'm writing this post.

The Shincha Machiko was a definite standout for me. I tried it at a previous tasting and enjoyed it just as much the second time around. Machiko is a cultivar known for its unique cherry blossom aroma. Although the entire tasting consisted only of Japanese green teas, they were each distinctive and unique. Vertical and horizontal comparisons help to increase our understanding of tea. I highly recommend putting together a similar menu of your own if the opportunity ever presents itself.

Needless to say, I was more than a bit tea drunk by the time we were finished. That didn't stop me from wandering over to T Shop afterward with Jo. After sharing many sips of Yu Shan oolong (anything but green tea!), I was ready for the train ride(s) home.

I'll be sure to link to other blog posts about our gathering here:

Do you have a favorite kind of Japanese green tea? Let me know about it in the comments!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Roundup: October 8th - October 14th

Tea Recipe: Chocolate Masala Chai with Turmeric

Sara from Tea Happiness posted a recipe this week that really grabbed my attention. I rarely drink flavored teas anymore but there's definitely still a soft spot in my heart for a well-done masala chai. She really upped the ante by adding chocolate and turmeric.

How to Season and Clean Clay Kettle Boilers

I've been wanting a clay kettle for some time now. Cwyn's Death by Tea must have read my mind. She posted a comprehensive guide to caring for and cleaning them. Who knew that a potato would come in handy?

Just a quick note: Last week's roundup and regular posting schedule didn't happen due to my little sister's wedding festivities. Now that my maid of honor duties are completed I'm hoping to get things back on track. Thanks for bearing with me folks!

Tea Review: Yunomi Teas from Yumomi Farm Direct, Tsukigase Kenkō Chaen, and Kurahira Tea

Connie at Tea in Spoons reviewed three different teas from Yunomi, one of my favorite Japanese specialist vendors. I know I've said it in past roundups but I really love her photography style! The tencha, in particular, is something that I'd like to try since I have had relatively little experience with it.

Earl Grey Milk with Cotton Candy

Jee from Oh, How Civilized always comes up with the most decadent recipes. Tea-infused milk topped with a cloud of cotton candy just might take the cake though. I have got to give this one a try!

Tea Infused Deserts: Panna Cotta & Pots de Crème

Speaking of decadent sweets, Lu Ann at The Cup of Life shared two amazing sounding recipes with the help of blogger and cookbook author Tracey Ceurvels. I love her suggestion to experiment with different types of tea.

A quick note: Last week's roundup and posting schedule couldn't happen due to my little sister's wedding festivities. Now that my maid of honor duties are completed I'm hoping to get things back on track here. Thanks for hanging in there folks!
Jason and I at the reception. We clean up well :)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sonwu Tea Rou Gui, Spring 2016, Tea Master Zhou, Wuyi Mountain Inner Circle

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, slightly curled
Steep time: 3 seconds, increasing with each infusion
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep reddish brown

Things have changed quite a bit since I first started reviewing tea. For a long time, email was the primary method of communication between tea companies and bloggers like myself. Nowadays I am more likely to receive a direct message on Instagram. Being a pseudo-millennial, I am OK with this. When I received such an inquiry from new-to-me Sonwu Tea my interest was definitely piqued. A glance at their website showed a focus on single-origin Chinese teas.

I'm a sucker for handwritten labels and although just a single serving, this package was beautifully done. Rou Gui roughly translates as cinnamon. The name might lead you to think the taste would be spicy. There are hints of that but I would say the defining characteristic is a fruitiness reminiscent of dark red fruits. Although it is an individual cultivar, Rou Gui is often used for blending with famous Shui Xian varieties like Da Hong Pao and Tie Luo Han. It is one of my favorite Wuyi oolong varieties and I have been lucky enough to try many excellent examples over the years.

The brewing directions for this tea were a bit lighter than my personal style but I always try a vendor's recommendation first before experimenting. A quick initial flash brew of 3 seconds produced a surprisingly robust cup. The taste was fruity with hints of chocolate covered espresso beans. Yum! Later brews revealed a slightly drying minerality along with a sweet woody tobacco-like character. By gradually increasing my infusion time, I was able to make at least 10 to 15 infusions before the leaves had given their all.

This tea is definitely not a daily drinker. It might just rank among the priciest that I've reviewed here on the blog. That being said, sometimes you do get what you pay for. It was everything that a Rou Gui should be. Note the "Inner Circle" part of the name. It indicates that it was grown in the protected core part of the Wuyi Shan region making it a Zheng Yan, or true cliff, tea. I also have a Huang Guan Yin from Sonwu Tea in my to-be-reviewed pile. After enjoying this one so much I can't wait to dive into it.

Rou Gui, Spring 2016, Tea Master Zhou, Wuyi Mountain Inner Circle sample provided for review by Sonwu Tea.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival with Pearl River Mart and Silver Needle Tea Co.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. It usually falls somewhere in late September or early October. For 2017, today is the big day! Many activities are enjoyed including sharing a family meal, gazing at the full moon, lighting lanterns, and eating a special type of pastry called mooncakes. The roots of this festival actually go back over 3,000 years. In the past, emperors worshipped the moon in order to ensure a good harvest. Although most people no longer depend on the agricultural harvest for their livelihoods, the tradition continues to this day.

When Pearl River Mart reached out to me about reviewing the Mid-Autumn Festival edition of their Friendship Box, I jumped at the chance. I was even more excited when I saw that they collaborated with my friends at Silver Needle Tea Co.  Pearl River Mart was a fixture in SoHo for many years and I was heartbroken when they closed their shop. They had a fantastic selection of teas, teaware, and other goodies. The good news is that they'll be reopening at Chelsea Market next year.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday Roundup: September 24th - September 30th

Chai Tea Pumpkin Macarons

Fall has arrived (even though it's still quite warm here in New Jersey) and that means pumpkin flavored everything! Sara at Beginning at Bergamot wrote a great recipe and tutorial for making your own tea-infused sweets.

Podcast 034: Oscar Brekell

Ricardo of My Japanese Green Tea posted the latest episode of his extremely focused podcast. His guest, Oscar Brekell, is a Japanese tea expert who has just released his first book. It was fascinating to hear how he got his start and what made him so famous in Japan.

Material Matcha Uji MMU03 Blend & Kickstarter

Char over at Oolong Owl has probably tasted more matcha than any human outside of Japan. For that reason, I always pay attention when she reviews one. I have some of this tea in my "to review" pile so I was very happy to read that she enjoyed it so much.

Anatomy of the Ideal Loose Leaf Tea Storage

Wondering if you store your tea properly? Check out this week's post from Anna at The Tea Squirrel! I can definitely sympathize with the organization struggles that she describes. I haven't found the perfect solution for my own collection yet either.

Jasmine tea's many secrets

I rarely write about anything but pure teas here on the blog but I do occasionally indulge in a traditionally scented tea like jasmine. Stéphane at Tea Master's Blog wrote a very interesting post this week detailing the history of jasmine tea in Taiwan and how it is made. I've never seen pictures of the scenting processing before.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Yatra Tea Company Goomtee Estate Darjeeling - 1st Flush 2017

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: mostly dark with scattered greens, buds throughout
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: stainless steel infuser basket
Liquor: amber

My mind has been on Darjeeling a lot over the last few months. After a tumultuous summer where the tea industry came to a grinding halt, things are slowly beginning to move forward again. Thankfully we do still have some 1st flush to carry us through until 2018. Vikram Mathur of Somerville, Massachusetts based Yatra Tea company must have read my mind when he reached out to see if I was up for reviewing some of their teas.