Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Tea Set Exceptional Exotic Oolong

I picked this tea up at the New York Coffee and Tea Festival because I fell in love with the smell. It was very pleasantly sweet without seeming artificial or overdone. The owner of the company was kind enough to mail a tin to me since they had run out by the time I got to their booth. The leaves were a mix of twisted leaves and twigs, very dark in color. The bits of coconut fruit were only discernable if I looked very closely but they floated right to the top once water was added. There were no directions from the manufacturer so played it safe by steeping this tea in boiling water for four minutes. The liquor was a deep amber color with just a slight hint of coconut in the aroma.

The taste of this tea fell short of what I was expecting. The oolong base was sweet and nutty, not great but OK. The coconut however was not really there. Don't get me wrong, this is a decent tasting tea. It just wasn't very coconutty. The second steeping turned out to be pretty much the same. I've had some excellent coconut oolongs before so I know that they can be done. I think the problem may be in the kind of oolong used. Most other coconut blends use a pouchong, which is a very lightly oxidized form of oolong that really lets the other ingredients shine. I probably would not recommend this tea.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

New York Coffee and Tea Festival 2010

Ever since attending last years event, I have been looking forward to the New York Coffee and Tea Festival. I missed Saturday due to a work related catastrophe but made sure that I got there for Sunday. I have say that this year’s show was even better. The new venue was larger and better laid out than last year. I guess this event has also become quite popular because the crowd was noticeably larger. The first stop for me was the Korean tea ceremony demonstration by Yoon Hee Kim. It was truly breathtaking as always. Where else would you be lucky enough to see such a beautiful ceremony performed by a true master?

I also enjoyed her second seminar of the day, which was about deconstructing the tea ceremony for application to every day life. It was enlightening and informative while also inspiring me to apply what little bits of ceremony I can to my daily tea drinking. I loved that she used the example of paper cups, tea bags and a water cooler since that is often by situation at work.

Next I hopped from booth to booth. I love how coffee smells but I cannot stand the taste so that made it a bit easier to weed through the many exhibitors. I’m not a very pushy person so I avoided booths that were overly busy or crowded and came back to them after making my rounds. The Tea Set was very popular. So much so that by the time I got around to making a purchase, they were out of the tea I wanted! He kindly offered to ship one to me instead. I was excited to see Fang Gourmet Tea there. I have yet to make the trek to their Flushing store but the teaware that they had for sale certainly made me want to. I picked up a flyer for their pottery making class, which looks like great fun. When I do make the trip I plan to pick up a travel tea set.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t spend money, which of course didn’t happen but I didn’t spend too much. At Tavalon, I picked up a jar of Jasmine Dream along with a jar of their famously delicious gummy bears. At The Tea Set, I bought a tin of their coconut flavored oolong. My last and I think best purchase was from Shapna Tea. It started as a student project but I have a feeling it will grow into much more than that. Shapna donates 40% of its profits back to the farmers in Bangladesh that grown their tea. This helps villagers buy their own land, become self-sufficient, and eradicate poverty. A truely worth cause and the tea is great to boot! Not only that but I got a 12oz tin for $19.99 and it came with a free strainer.

The last seminar  of the day was the ever popular Tea Cocktails demo with Chris Cason of Tavalon. I always enjoy his presentations because they are both informative and funny. I couldn’t believe how simple it is to create a tea infused cocktail. I don’t drink often but the next time I do, I will be sure to give it a try. I do think they should have planned the sampling at the conclusion a bit better. I made sure to duck out of the room before the mad rush for free booze began.

All in all I had a great time and I am already looking forward to next years festival. If you’ve never been to this event and are local to NYC then it is definitely worth the trip.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rishi Tea Chai Concentrate

I’m a big chai person, especially on a chilly winter day, but sometimes I don’t have the time or energy it takes to make it properly. That is why I am glad that I discovered Rishi Tea’s Masala Chai Concentrate. All you have to do is add an equal portion of milk and heat it up. You can even pour it over iced to make iced chai. Rishi uses organic, fair trade, single origin, wild grown black tea to make this delicious treat. That’s a mouthful but it means you can rest easy knowing that this tea is good for you and the place it came from. Best of all, a portion of the proceeds benefits Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program.

 The tea was very dark with a strong aroma of cinnamon. I was amazed at just how good this was, especially since it is concentrated. Although already sweetened it isn’t overdone so I still found it enjoyable. Rishi has managed to mix the right amount of spices to achieve a balanced cup. I’ve never had iced chai but I have found that I really enjoy it that way. I’d love to experiment with making smoothies or slushies with this as well.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rishi Tea Tsuki Teapot

When Rishi offered a sample of this adorable pot I jumped at the chance. I have to say that it has become one of my go-to teapots. I adore the tiny size and freckled, opalescent appearance. The ash glazed that was used gives each pot a slightly different appearance. The shape of it feels wonderful in your hands and the spout pours beautifully without any drips. The mesh screen is one of the best working ones that I have ever seen. Not even the tiniest leaf particles could get through. I was able to fill up a yunomi so it makes a decent sized tea service for one. It is also perfect for gong fu brewing and just about anything else that you might want to do with it. It doesn’t hold heat which is good because it won’t turn delicate greens and whites bitter. This really is a lovely little pot and a great buy at only $20.00.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rishi Tea Vanilla Mint Organic Pu-erh

Rishi lists the ingredients of this tea as including organic pu-erh tea, organic vanilla, organic peppermint, organic cinnamon and organic licorice root. I was a bit nervous about the licorice as I had yet to try a tea with it that I liked. The dry leaves were a colorful mix of black, green, brown and yellow. The aroma was truly enticing, sweet and minty at the same time. I steeped it in Rishi’s new Tsuki Tea Pot using boiling water for five minutes. The liquor was a deep brown color.

All I can say about this tea is yum. The flavors of the different ingredients are blended perfectly. It was not too sweet and not too spicy. It gets even better once it has had a chance too cool a bit. The mint give it such a nice, clean aftertaste. Vanilla and mint are two of my favorite flavors and I never realized how well they complimented each other until this tea. This is one tea that will be a regular in my cupboard. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Norbu Tea Black Gold Spring Harvest 09

I have been impressed by every selection I have tried from Norbu thus far and this one is no different. The long and twisted dry leaves were a mix of blacks, browns and golden hues. They had the malty aroma typical of Yunnan teas. For my first try, I brewed it in a ceramic pot with an infuser basket using boiling water and steeped it for five minutes. The resulting liquor was a clear reddish color. Once steeped, the leaves took on a uniform chocolate brown color.

This selection was a straight forward black tea. Nothing fancy or extraordinary but sometimes that is a good thing. I’m of the opinion that not every tea needs to be a mind-blowing kind of good. It was mild and sweet with a hint of spiciness. It also had just the right amount of astringency, perfect to use as a daily drinker. It stood up fairly well to a second steeping but I think that a third would be pushing it. I also tried this tea in a gaiwan which brought out the flavors a bit more as is to be expected.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tea Places: Cha-An

On Valentine’s Day, the boyfriend and I took in a Ranger’s game and then went for a wander around NYC. After dinner at Lucky’s Famous Burgers, I needed a cup of tea to help warm up for the winter cold. We decided to try to get into Cha-An. It’s been on my must do list for a while. We actually had to wait for about 45 minutes. It was very crowded and the tables were a little bit closer together than I like but it is always a good sign when a restaurant is that popular.

The inside was smaller than I had imagined but they certainly make the most out of the space they have. They’ve managed to fit an actual Japanese tea house inside of their tea house! I ordered a pot of sencha and Mike had a pot of oolong. I was pleased to see that my sencha was served in a kyusu. We each had the chocolate souffle with raspberry sauce and they were exquisite. Just two words of warning, they only take cash and the toilet in the women’s room is the most complicated piece of machinery I have ever had to operate in a restaurant :). I definitely intend to make a return trip to have a tea ceremony.