Monday, August 31, 2015

Happy Earth Tea Concubine Oolong Spring 2013

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: dark, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: brassy gold

Sometimes I do a happy dance when I reach into my "to do" pile and pull out something really awesome. That's exactly what happened when I grabbed this offering from +Happy Earth Tea. Who wouldn't get excited about a highly oxidized concubine oolong from Dong Ding? The very same leaf hoppers that bring us Oriental Beauty have bitten the leaves which are then processed like a typical rolled oolong. The result is an intensely sweet and aromatic treat for the senses. I rarely rinse oolongs so I got right to drinking with this one. Nutty and sweet toasted notes were followed by hints of apricot and orchid. The aftertaste reminded me of brown sugar or the carmelized topping of a crème brûlée. In short, this tea was absolutely delicious. Once unfurled, the leaves looked quite dark and almost leathery. Part of me gets a little thrill when I find bug bites on my tea. Believe it or not, that means it's the good stuff! I drank through at least six infusions and lost count after that. While I wouldn't call this selection a daily drinker, you definitely do get a lot of bang for your buck.

Concubine Oolong Spring 2013 sample provided by Happy Earth Tea.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Round Up: August 23rd - August 29th

Matcha Shots
+Alexis Siemons has been contributing a great series of articles to +Fresh Cup Magazine. In her latest piece she gives us all inspiration to combine matcha with fresh fruit juice. How refreshing does watermelon or honeydew sound?

Tea Review - Wymm Tea Sheng Pu-erh - 2014 Mangnuo Tengtiao
+Georgia SS of Notes on Tea reviewed one of my favorite puerh teas. I was glad to read that she enjoyed it just as much as I did.

2014 Autumn Zhang Ping Shui Xian
+Cwyn N is usually pontificating about puerh addiction but this week brings us an unusual find of compressed oolong. I've been contemplating ordering from this vendor and these will definitely find their way into my shopping cart when I finally bite the bullet.

Revisiting the 2007 Puerh Market Crash
Varat over at The Guide to Puerh Tea gives us some insight into the infamous puerh market crash. It's definitely a complex issue with many sides to it. I appreciate their inside perspective.

Steep Thoughts: Happiness of Tea
+sara shacket brings us a truly insightful post this week. I really think she hit the nail on the head when she said "However you come to tea, whatever you like about it, it's right.".

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tea DIY: Matcha Yogurt Dipped Strawberries

It's been a pretty hot and humid summer. The other day I was craving something cool and refreshing but also sweet. Dipping strawberries in yogurt popped into my head and I started thinking about how I could involve tea. Matcha is always a go to since it's easy to incorporate the powder into just about anything.

-1 cup of vanilla greek yogurt
-1 teaspoon of matcha
-Approximately 15 strawberries

1. Add the matcha to the yogurt and stir until thoroughly incorportated
2. Dip strawberries in matcha yogurt, coating evenly. It helps to grasp the leaves as you do this.
3. Evenly space coated strawberries onto a baking sheet covered with wax paper or parchment paper
4. Place cookie sheet into freezer until yogurt freezes solid. Mine took approximately an hour.
5. Enjoy!

I used Encha matcha for this recipe.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sense Asia Green Tea from Tan Cuong

Country of Origin: Vietnam
Leaf Appearance: dark green, mostly whole
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: deep gold

I've been meaning to get to some of the samples +Sense Asia Tea Company sent me in their beautiful gift box but there was just so many of them. How do I choose? My answer was to stick my hand into my "to do" drawer with my eyes closed and drink the first little cube that I pulled out. The wrapper for each cube includes detailed brewing directions as well as some information about the tea. As the name suggests, this tea is from Tan Cuong village in Northeastern Vietnam. The dry leaves were dark green and mostly whole. I thought it was interesting that their brewing directions indicated a one minute rinse before brewing for one to two minutes. The taste was vegetal and earthy with a somewhat floral lean. I was reminded of a typical gunpowder style green tea. There was still quite a bit of astringency but not so much so as to be unpleasant. I'm sure that the lengthy rinse helped out a lot in that department. For those who drink mass quantities of tea, especially when iced, Vietnam offers some very cost effective options. This tea is $40 for just under 20lbs of tea. You aren't likely to find something so drinkable for a price like that from other tea producing countries.

Green Tea from Tan Cuong sample provided by Sense Asia.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Tale of Two Nannuo

I have a veritable treasure trove of puerh in my possession thanks to +JalamTeas. When I realized that had two Nanuo sheng cakes I couldn't resist doing a side by side comparison. The teas in question are Nan Nuo (Pa Sa) Unfermented Puerh and Nan Nuo Mountain (Zhu Ling Village) Sheng Puerh. While they are from the same mountain and the same year (2014), there are a few key differences. Tea A is from the Pa Sa area and was harvested in the spring. Tea B is from Zhu Ling village and was harvested in the summer. They were both produced by people of the Hani minority and they are both sheng (aka raw) puerh. I used 5g of each tea in 150ml porcelain gaiwans. I used a standard steep time of 30 seconds for each tea, rinsing them once.

And the verdict? The two teas were very similar. So much so that if I was a totally newbie, I'd probably think that they were one in the same. You can just barely tell the difference it the color of the liquor in my picture below but it was much more obvious to the naked eye. The taste was again similar but subtly different. Tea A had a brighter character with a thinner, more refreshing body. Tea B was slightly more astringent with a bolder taste and thicker mouth-feel. Both teas were vegetal and earthy with a lot of natural sweetness. In the later infusions I even started picking up a hint of peach.

I always love the detailed notes that are included on the postcards that accompany these teas. Interestingly, Tea B is suggested as better to drink now whereas Tea A is ready to drink now but will age very well. I'm reminded of my days working at a wine store. Customers would always want to know whether their wine could be aged and for how long. Just as with tea there are no hard nosed answers. Every tea and every tea drinker are different. The climate in my apartment in New Jersey is not the same as a house in Arizona or a duplex in Washington. General guidelines can be a good place to start though especially if you are just beginning your journey.

Experiments like this remind me of why I love puerh so much. It's complex and hard to put your finger on in a really good way. Needless to say, at the end of it all I was full to the gills and considerably tea drunk. Have you done any interesting tastings lately? Let me know about it in the comments!

Tea A
Tea B
Tea A Cake
Tea B Cake
Tea A on the left and Tea B on the right
Tea A Wet Leaf
Tea B Wet Leaf

Monday, August 24, 2015

with tea - summer. journal I by Alexis Siemons

One of the best parts about being as involved in the tea world as I am is having friends who do really, really cool things. with tea is definitely one of those things. +Alexis Siemons has long been one of my favorite writers. I was so exited when I heard that she would be producing a quarterly printed journal. Each edition is filled with seasonal tea-infused recipes and stories. Not only does she have an incredible way with words but she also has a knack for putting together wonderful flavor combinations. Her stories really make the recipes come alive.

The summer edition contains 11 recipes accompanied by beautiful photography. All together it is 48 pages, making it a fun and quick read. I really appreciate the high quality feel of the paper used. From in-a-jiffy tea butter to earl grey & roasted garlic lemon aioli, each page that I turn makes me hungrier! Each journal comes beautifully wrapped in a vintage handkerchief. It's a old fashioned touch of class that you don't often see. The entire package is beautifully done and I can hardly wait for the fall edition to come out. Congrats to Alexis on a job well done!

Purchase your copy of with tea here.

As part of the journal launch Alexis had a pop up at Chalait, one of my favorite NYC matcha spots. It was a great chance to catch up with Alexis as well as +lisa kunizaki+Jo J and +Jee Choe. I may have overindulged in tea a bit. Their new matcha cucumber mint fizz was incredible!

Photo credit: Chambre De Sucre                

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Round Up: August 16th - August 22nd

What's a Gaiwa and why do I love them?
New to me blog The Buddha-Mom Tea Blog wrote a bit about the hows and whys of the gaiwan. I couldn't agree more. I <3 gaiwans :)

Is tea pairing pretentious?
Stephane at Tea Masters Blog raised some very interesting points about tea pairing. My own thoughts mostly echo his, particularly "Pretentious: attempting to impress by affecting greater importance than it actually possesses.".

An Avengers Tea...Adagio Fandom Tea Collection
+Nichole Miller over at CuppaGeek put together two of her favorite things, POP figures and fandom blends from +Adagio Teas. I'm not really a part of any "fandom" but the ideas behind these blends fascinate me. It's a pretty cool way for people to discover tea!

Tea & Camping
+sara shacket shared her experiences having tea in the great outdoors. I love the enamelware that she used, especially the red marble cup. I may just have to pick some up for my next camping trip.

99 Years of Federal Tea Tasting
Leafrot brings us another fascinating post this week. I had only heard bits and pieces about the Board of Tea Experts. I'm looking forward to more about this as Abraham continues his investigation.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sunday Sundae at T Shop

I started of this week with a bang by attending Sunday Sundae. The event was a collaboration of some really talented tea folks. Max Falkowitz of Serious Eats (I know you've all seen me share his articles) served up tea infused ice cream. Theresa from +T Shop shared some of her wonderful teas and Lisa of +Tiny Pinecone Teahouse and Bakeshop provided the sweets. You might ask yourself, how do these things fit together? It's a tea twist on a coffee dessert called an affogato. Ice cream is topped with a shot of espresso, or tea in this case.

It was an incredibly hot and humid day so I was immediately drawn to the giant container of cold brewed Four Seasons Oolong. I don't know if I've ever drank anything that was quite so refreshing. Part of that was the weather but I know that the tea used was exceptional to begin with. Right at that moment I was happy to spot +Natasha N in the crowd. We did some much needed catching up (although there is still more to do).

The event was fairly crowded throughout so hopefully that will give a lot of exposure to both T Shop and Tiny Pinecone. Choosing among the flavors offered was an arduous task but every combo was amazing. I couldn't resist going with the roasted oolong ice cream for my first choice. I topped it with Theresa's red water oolong and a bit of Lisa's famous lemon chiffon cake. Delicious! Putting tea on ice cream was a new experience for me but it's definitely one that I'll be repeating again soon.

+Natasha N and I were soon joined by +Verna L. Hamilton. She has an incredible palate so I made sure to keep an eye on the flavor combinations that she put together. In the meantime, I hopped back onto the ice cream line to try some of the super refreshing sencha flavor. It was a bit different than what you'd get from matcha ice cream but it definitely still had a green tea taste.

Next up was chai ice cream. I topped it with high mountain black tea and some delicious ginger peach crisp. Holy cow was it good! The ginger and the chai spices echoed each other perfectly. 

Towards the end of the event I met up with +Adam Sherlip for a bit. It was great to talk shop and compare notes. +Darlene Meyers-Perry and +Jo J couldn't make it but they were greatly missed. Somehow I completely missed +Georgia SS even though it turns out we were there at the same time.

I really wish I hadn't forgotten my camera because these cell phone shots don't quite do justice to these amazing sweets. All in all it was a great event and I left with lots of inspiration for future experiments. Thank you to Max, +T Shop and +Tiny Pinecone Teahouse and Bakeshop for putting together such an awesome event! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Yunomi Higuchi #3: Black Oolong

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: dark, somewhat twiggy
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 190 degrees
Preparation Method: infuser basket and ceramic teacup
Liquor: reddish brown

Japanese oolong! I couldn't resist picking up some of this tea when I ordered some sakura blossoms from earlier this year. There weren't any steeping directions so I played it a bit on the conservative side. It brewed up fairly dark. If I didn't know better, I would almost think that it was a black tea or Wuyi oolong. The leaves showed that they were indeed an oolong after steeping as there were green bits and visible oxidation. It started out with the woody and earthy notes that transitioned to a raisin-like sweetness. An interesting floral quality in the finish that lingered long after each sip. My second cup was just as tasty without losing any body. There was some astringency but it never came across as unpleasant. I do believe that this is the first tea that I have tried from Asamiyacha. As always, I appreciate the in depth information provided by Yunomi about the region and the vendor who produced the tea.

Yunomi Higuchi #3: Black Oolong sample purchased from Yunomi.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Crimson Lotus Tea 2008 Bulang Imperial Grade Shou / Ripe Puerh

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, tightly compressed
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 10 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: very dark, almost opaque

I'm usually a sheng drinker but recently I've stumbled upon quite a few shou that really grabbed my attention. This inky dark number from +Crimson Lotus Tea was definitely one of them. After a quick rinse I started out with the recommended flash infusions of about ten seconds. I couldn't believe how dark the liquor became so quickly. The taste was deeply earthly and sweet with surprising hints of spice. What I enjoyed most about this tea was the texture. For the first five or six infusions it had a deliciously syrup like thickness. Further in it became lighter with fruity notes that lingered long after each sip. The exact fruit was hard to put my finger on but blueberries would probably come the closest to what I experienced. By gradually increasingly your steep time its possible to make 5 or 7g of this tea last for hours. This would be a great shou for puerh newbies because it's easy to brew and seriously tasty. Do yourself a favor and pick up a brick for $30 instead of the scary fishy junk that you'll find in Chinatown or on eBay.

2008 Bulang Imperial Grade Shou / Ripe Puerh sample received with order purchased from Crimson Lotus Tea.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Where to Get Your Matcha Fix in NYC

The craze that is matcha has definitely taken NYC by storm. I'm loving it! You can now find the green stuff at Starbucks and a ton of other places but I'm always a proponent of getting tea from a specialist. Luckily, we've got several places to choose from these days.

Ippodo Tea Co.
Ippodo is one of the oldest tea companies in Kyoto and they've opened a shop right in the heart of midtown Manhattan. The shop is small but they have a wide selection of matcha as well as other Japanese teas and teaware. There's no seating area but they do serve both iced and hot cups of matcha to go.

Matcha Cafe Wabi
The East Village is home to a quaint little shop where you can enjoy a traditionally whisked bowl of matcha in addition. They also offer lattes, pour over coffee and sweets. There's no seating but I love popping in when I'm near by and in need a pick me up.

Hop over to the West Village and you'll find a trendy spot serving up everything from matcha shots americanos to lattes. They also serve coffee as well as loose leaf tea from In Pursuit of Tea. I was a big fan of their matcha croissant. It's filled with matcha cream and fresh raspberries.

Last but not least, there's a fun place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that is spinning tradition on its head. They offer shots of matcha and so many drink combinations that their menu can be a bit dizzying. The matcha chai latte was quite interesting and they offer an array of matcha baked goods.

Do you have a favorite matcha spot? Is there a place I missed? Let me know about it in the comments!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Round Up: August 9th - August 15th

2015 If You Are Reading This It's 2 Late Sheng Pu'er Review from White2Tea
Sometimes +Charissa Gascho's best reviews are when she gets deliriously tea drunk. This new offering from +White2Tea kept her up and wired until 3am!

Why Letting Women Take Tea Breaks Was Once Considered Dangerous
NPR has been doing a great series of tea articles every Tuesday. The latest addition made me very glad that I live in an age where no one thought that sipping a cuppa would make me a radical feminist.

It's Tea Festival Season
Tea Biz is one of my go to places for the latest industry info. In this week's post they detail three tea festivals that I had not heard of before. I only wish that I lived closer to them!

Meijiawu Lung Ching (Harney & Sons)
I was over the moon to see a tea review this week from my friend +Chris Giddings. His thoroughness is something that I definitely admire since my own reviews tend to be on the short and sweet side.

A Castleton Comparison
What would the Friday Round Up be without an appearance by +Geoffrey Norman? He's celebrating the sipping anniversary of his favorite tea. It's definitely one of my favorites as well.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Udyan Tea Gopaldhara Spring Special Black Tea 2015

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, somewhat broken
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: Teavana Perfect Tea Maker
Liquor: gold

I'm generally a 2nd flush kind of gal but sometimes the odd mood does strike for a 1st flush. This one was crisp with floral notes over a mellow vegetal background. There was some natural sweetness but it was a bit too astringent for my liking. Some tea drinkers prefer their tea this way so please don't take my perspective as a harsh judgement. The wonderful thing about tea is that there is something out there for everyone. My sample did have a lot more broken leaves than I was expecting so that may explain the unpleasantness. Damage in shipping is most likely the culprit since this tea traveled all the way from India. The other teas that I have tried from +Udyan Tea have all been excellent. If you find yourself in a similar situation, cooler water will usually help to cut down on astringency. I used the rest of the sample to cold brew a pitcher of iced tea and found that result to be much more enjoyable. I am quite surprised to find that this is actually the first tea that I've reviewed from Gopaldhara Estate. One day I hope to be able to taste something from every garden in Darjeeling.

Gopaldhara Spring Special Black Tea 2015 sample provided by Udyan Tea.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Teavivre Guang Dong Phoenix Oolong Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, long and twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 15 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: amber

Phoenix oolongs are some of my favorites but I don't get to drink them nearly as often as I would like. After giving the leaves a quick rinse I started out with relatively short infusions of 15 seconds. The first few infusions were very light, giving just a hint of things to come. Around the fourth infusion it started to really open up. Long and sweet floral notes mixed with aromas of peach and honey. There was also a sweet vegetal quality that reminded me of sweet potato. It stayed in the background, providing a solid base for the other flavors to shine. +TeaVivre states on their website that this tea can be infused over twelve times and I can confirm that is definitely true. I lost count after around fifteen rounds. There was very little astringency but I think it could become quite bitter if the infusions are too long or if too much leaf is used. My gaiwan is about 150ml and I used about 7g of leaf. This type of tea can be very temperamental but this particular offering was fairly forgiving. It would be a great place for beginners to start.

Guang Dong Phoenix Oolong Tea sample provided by Teavivre.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Hankook Tea Gamnong Green Tea

Country of Origin: South Korea
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 160 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale gold

There's a few categories of tea that I've been meaning to explore further and South Korean green teas are one of them. +HANKOOK TEA actually directly manages the operation of their own tea estate. That level of control is always appreciated by tea drinkers. I may also be in love with their adorable chubby bird mascot. He should definitely make more appearances!

This tea was delicate and sweet with a somewhat creamy mouth-feel. Vegetal notes ended in a slightly floral finish. There was some salinity but no where near what you would find in a Japanese green tea. It makes me wonder if this tea was steamed at all in its processing. The brewing directions gave a wide range, 150-170 degrees and 2-3 minutes. After some playing around it was obvious that cooler, shorter brews yielded a sweeter brew. If you prefer more astringency then feel free to go towards the higher end of the spectrum. On some days, I think I would prefer their Teuksun because it wasn't as sensitive and it has a bit more body to grab on to but on a hot summer day, this more subtle offering was a real treat.

Gamnong Green Tea sample provided by Hankook Tea.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Dorchester Launches Secret Scottish Tea Garden

A few months ago I shared my experience of having Scottish Afternoon Tea at the Lowell with Wee Tea Company. I had been keeping tabs on Dalreoch Estate even before that because I find what they do fascinating. Their successes give me hope of my own tea plants doing well here in New Jersey. I recently received word that they have partnered with London's iconic The Dorchester for an exciting new project. They are now the only hotel in England to offer Scottish grown tea as part of their traditional afternoon tea service.

The Dorchester's Promenade will be offering three Scottish teas on their menu; Garrocher Grey, Dalreoch White Tea and Dalreoch Smoked Tea. In addition, they've been secretly working to cultivate a tea garden on the roof of the hotel. How cool is that? Their timing couldn't be better because this week is UK National Afternoon Tea Week.

Tea growing on the roof of The Dorchester - Photo credit
Wee Tea Plantation owner Tam O’Braan commented “The garden is in part our homage to the known edict of Sir Winston Churchill’s during World War Two to grow tea and other dietary staples in the UK as part of the Dig For Victory campaign. While those wartime tea growing efforts are known to have finished prematurely (as the war ended), this tea garden will remain in situ and be viewable from many of the hotel’s rooms”. I'd love to wake up to a view of a tea garden, especially in a busy city like London. 

I think London is a travel destination on every tea lover's wishlist. If I ever do make a trip across the pond, The Dorchester will be near the top of my to do list. Garrocher Tea Garden Owner Angela Hurrell added: “Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester is such an iconic institution. I am delighted to see Scottish single estate teas have been added to the menu, including of course Garrocher Grey Tea. It shows tea growing in Scotland is sustainable and of the highest quality”.

Angela & Tam at The Dorchester - Photo credit
Seeds Growing on The Dorchester Tea Garden - Photo credit

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Round Up: August 2nd - August 8th

The Circle is Overcomplete
Hobbes isn't quite as prolific as he was when I first got into tea but I still enjoy all of his posts, even if the tea doesn't receive positive remarks.

Leaving Behind the Tech World
Did you know that Google has a resident tea specialist? Neither did I until I read this post from newcomer Leafrot. Familiar faces in their first post tell that this is one that I will be reading avidly.

Why Your Matcha Doesn't Foam
+Ricardo Caicedo offers some excellent pointers on getting that perfect bowl of matcha. Sifting is the most important step in my opinion and it's one that many people skip.

Direct Trade Works, I Promise
This week brought us some wise words from +Tealet. Direct trade is essential to the health of the industry and I think it's important that tea drinkers do what they can to support the companies that are working towards change.

Better than iced coffee
I discovered yet another "new to me" blog this week called Teaspoon Social. In this post they write about an unusual blend of black tea, roasted mate and coffee. I must admit to having an affinity for coffee flavored teas even if I don't enjoy bean juice itself.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea by Annelies Zijderveld

It's been a while since I had a tea read to share with you all. I was in love before I even opened it because the outside of the book was so pretty. Who doesn't love a shiny pink foil book cover? Cooking with tea is one of my favorite things to do besides drinking the stuff so I was  really looking forward to diving in. The introduction was short but packed with info, especially for those who aren't as well versed in tea. I also really liked that she gave a list of all of the teas used along with a brief explanation of each. Readers can treat it as a short of tea kitchen shopping list.

The recipes are primarily divided by the time of day in which they would be eaten (Morning Tea, Midday Tea, Afternoon Tea, High Tea). The last section, Sweet Tea, focuses on desserts. The pages are peppered with beautiful pictures as well as tea quotes. Each recipe is written in an easy to read paragraph style. I love the personal notes from the author at the tops, relating many of them to close friends or travel experiences. Substitutions are listed for some of the harder to get ingredients which makes it much easier to whip something up on a whim.

Tea is used in so many unexpected ways that this book has left me inspired. I have so much tea around the house that I really should find more uses for it. My one and only qualm would be that I wish there were more pictures. I'm a perfectionist when it comes to cooking so I want to make sure that my dishes look exactly like they should. I had the pleasure of meeting +Annelies Z at World Tea Expo earlier this year. I only wish that I had my copy with me at the time so that I could have had her sign it. Make sure that you check out the recipe below, an excerpt from the book! I'll definitely be giving it a try myself soon.

You can find out more about this book here.

Book was provided for review by Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Photo credit: Stephanie Shih


For tea lovers, the smoky notes of lapsang souchong offer an alternative to New Orleans’ distinctive chicory coffee. Over ice with a splash of half-and-half and vanilla simple syrup, this is my drink when I’m dreaming of the Big Easy.

½ cup water
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups lapsang souchong tea, brewed and cooled (¾ cup loose, coarsely ground)
1 cup ice, plus more for serving
4 to 6 tablespoons half-and-half

Pour the water and sugar in a 2-quart saucepan and set over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. Cool.

Pour the tea and simple syrup into a pitcher. Stir in 1 cup of ice until dissolved.
For each serving, pour 1 cup sweetened iced tea over 1⁄2 cup of ice in a tall glass. Stir in half-and-half to taste. Serve immediately.

From Steeped by Annelies Zijderveld/ Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

An Introduction to the Kyusu

It’s a little known fact that kyusu is simply the Japanese word for teapot. We usually think of them as side handled tea pots but they can also have handles on the rear or even on the top. Porcelain and clay are the most common mediums but kyusu can be made from a number of materials. The handles are usually hollow in order to prevent them from becoming too hot to hold. Kyusu have wider bodies that allow heat to dissipate, making them perfect for sensitive teas like sencha.

Kyusu are different from other teapots because they are designed specifically for making green tea and they usually feature some sort of built in filter. Sasame filters feature a series of holes made directly in the ceramic. Wrap around or belt filters are made out of very fine stainless steel mesh. Swing filters cover the bottom of the pot as well as the spout. This keeps the leaves from continuing to stew in residual water.

Side handled kyusu are called yokode. This style evolved because the host sits directly across from the guest in a traditional tatami mat tea room. There are even special kyusu made just for left handed tea drinkers for this reason. Kyusu without handles are called houhin, meaning treasure vessel. They are mostly used for making gyokuro as the lower water temperature makes it easier to pour without burning yourself.

It’s important to completely empty your kyusu once the tea is done brewing. Depending on the tea, this could be anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Follow your tea vendor’s recommendations and then adjust to taste from there. Green teas can become very bitter if the leaves are allowed to say in the water. Many tea drinkers find that the beginning of the pour will taste very different from the end. An easy solution is to use multiple cups, pouring back and forth in order to evenly distribute the flavor between them all.

Proper care of your kyusu will ensure years of enjoyable drinking. Take care not to bump the spout or handle because they can easily break off if handled too roughly. Dried leaves are nearly impossible to remove from the fine mesh screens so it best to rinse them out as soon as possible. If your kyusu is unglazed, avoid washing it with dish soap as this will negatively affect the taste of the tea.