Teas I’ve been drinking recently

I’ve been drinking two teas recently, both from Essencha back in Cincinnati.  The first is White Peony, also known as Pai Mu Tan or Bai Mu Dan.  Its a classic Chinese white tea, and its one I’ve had many times before.  The White Peony from Essencha is noticably better than the same kind of tea thats available at Southern Season, which is here in Chapel Hill.  It has a very mild flavor, and thats what I like about it.  It can be steeped up to four or five times.

The other tea that I’ve been drinking is Moroccan Mint.  It is a combination of green tea and mint leaves, similar to the kind of mint tea that they serve in Morocco.  It, obviously, has a minty punch and is a good way to wake up in the morning, or whenever you’re feeling sleepy.

Brewing Tea

There are plenty of ways to brew tea out there: you can use tea bags, tea balls, loose leaf tea in a strainer, loose leaf tea directly in the pot, a french press, gaiwan, etc., etc., etc.  And I admit, the way that I judge a place that has tea is by how they serve it.  If you give me more tea than can be drunk in one cup and do not give me a way to remove the leaves from the water, that is a failing grade.  I’m looking at you french presses.  Two places that I’ve been to in the area, Caffe Driade and Open Eye Cafe, serve tea in french presses and it just doesn’t work.  Unless you just put in enough water to serve one cup of tea, the rest of the tea that doesn’t get poured out oversteeps and becomes bitter.  So that leads me to understeeping the first cup, trying to drink it too fast, and both not enjoying and burning my mouth on it; then, trying to quickly pour a second cup that is brewed fairly well; the rest of the tea in there is basically undrinkable.  I had a similar experience at Mill Mountain Coffee; however, since the leaves were just floating free in the pot, I was able to fish them out with a fork.

Tea bags and tea balls are far better than trying to brew tea in a container from which you cannot remove the leaves.  Some people refuse to use tea bags because they swear that they can taste the paper and the lower quality tea that is used.  I can’t taste the paper; I just don’t use them because the kind of teas I like aren’t often found in bags.

I have found one tea, so far, that I can taste the difference between brewing in a tea ball and brewing in a pot.  The difference comes from the fact that the leaves have more room to expand in a pot rather than the tea ball.  More room to expand means more surface area for the leaves to come in contact with, and therefore a fuller flavor is released.  The first tea in which I’ve definitely noticed this difference is the Houjicha Gold that I have; its a roasted green tea from Japan.  In a tea ball, it has barely any flavor, but when you brew it in a pot you can taste its roasted smoothness.  It really is a good tea, but I never would have known it without my teapot.

Colonille black tea

Today I’m trying a new kind of tea, Colonille black tea which is made by serendipiTea.  I usually don’t really like black teas, and recently I think I figured out why.  Its the same reason I don’t like coffee: I think that its the fact that both of these drinks are roasted before you brew them, and I think the roasting puts in flavors that I don’t like.

But back to Colonille.  On the website it is described as being

Sumptuous, graceful & inviting. A tea that kindles elegant evenings, sweet thoughts & long walks. Beautiful bouquet with a distinct chocolatey taste coupling the vanilla, finished with a full red color, rich palate & distinct memory.

It was given to me by my friend Elizabeth, so I figured I should at least give it a chance.  I brewed it for about 2 and a half minutes, which is what Liz recommended.  When I first smelled it after brewing it, it kind of  smelled like it was a semi-weak hot chocolate; I think that’s the vanilla flavoring.

Taking the first sip, it seems to have a pretty mild flavor; not very much roastedness, which is good, but also not a lot of sweetness, which is kind of what I expected through the smell.  I think I’m going to have to try it with milk, sugar, and milk and sugar.

Adding sugar makes it taste even more like hot chocolate, and adding milk to the sugar makes it taste even MORE like hot chocolate.  Its really quite strange.  The flavoring helps cut the roasted taste of regular black tea and makes it quite drinkable.  I can’t decide how I best like it, straight up or with milk and sugar. I think I’ll have to try more of both to determine. This is definitely a very pleasant tea.

Globalization

Sometimes, globalization fractures my tiny mind.  When drinking my daily cup(s) of tea today, as well as other days, it really comes home to me.  Looking into my tin of tea, I realize that a couple of months ago a person in India or China (depending on which tea I’m drinking), who probably makes like a dollar a day, picked this tea by hand.  Then the owner of the farm sold it to a broker, who got it imported over here, and then sold to the place where I bought it.  I’m touching something thats been touched by some of the poorest people in the world and then served up to me.  I know that this also happens with my clothes, gadgets, and many of the things that I own.  But for some reason, the organic nature of tea and the fact that tea is the most drunk beverage in the world plays into this as well.  The person who picked the tea leaves probably drinks tea as well.  A similar experience, shared by people across the world.’,’Sometimes, globalization fractures my tiny mind.  When drinking my daily cup(s) of tea today, as well as other days, it really comes home to me.  Looking into my tin of tea, I realize that a couple of months ago a person in India or China (depending on which tea I’m drinking), who probably makes like a dollar a day, picked this tea by hand.  Then the owner of the farm sold it to a broker, who got it imported over here, and then sold to the place where I bought it.  I’m touching something thats been touched by some of the poorest people in the world and then served up to me.

Mill Mountain Coffee

Christi and I went to Mill Mountain Coffee yesterday, which is a local chain of coffee shops in the Roanoke/New River Valley area.  The tea experience that I had at the one in Blacksburg was interesting.  They had a wide selection of tea, including white tea.  However, when I asked what kind of white tea they had, the lady behind the counter said “oh, its just the regular kind.”…  There isn’t a “regular” kind of white tea; they’re all named based on the province and the quality of the tea.  The term “white tea” just a term that describes how a tea was processed. Then when I got my tea, it was served with the leaves floating loose in the pot itself.  This is a great way to brew tea leaves, but they didn’t give me a way to stop the tea leaves from steeping once their time was up. (They also didn’t tell me how long to steep them for, but since I ordered white tea maybe they figured I would know.)  So I had to go get a fork and pluck out as many of the leaves as I could.  The second time I steeped my leaves, I got another tea pot so I could just pour the steeped tea into the empty teapot, leaving the leaves in the first one.  Thats what you’re supposed to do, but I only thought of it the second time around.  All and all it was a fairly good experience, but still a little offputting the way they dealt with the tea.