Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Out with the old and in with the new!

Yesterday and this morning I have been drinking some tea that I actually don’t really like: Honey Green Almond from T2. I only have a little bit left so I’ve been trying to finish it up – all gone now, thank goodness. It’s a green (unoxidised?) honeybush blend which smelt really good when I first bought it (some months ago now) but I didn’t enjoy drinking it as much as I could have – I just tried to find a description of it on the T2 website but it doesn’t appear to be available any more (probably cos, like me, most people didn’t like it much).

I can’t even really say what I don’t like about it. I think it’s the ‘chocolate’ flavour (it’s meant to have chocolate in it, but I can’t see any, so I think it’s just a flavour). I have nothing against chocolate but it just doesn’t work in this blend. I might try just some plain, regular honeybush though when I have a chance to go back to T2 (hopefully soon).

In other, more exciting news, my new teas that I ordered from Oriental Tea House finally arrived yesterday!! I was so thrilled I was inspired to do a little happy dance (much to my husband’s amusement).

I spent the evening drinking the Relaxing tea… so good! It has peppermint, wolfberries, ginseng, licorice and Chinese dates (you can eat the dates and the wolfberries, also known as goji berries, after you’ve finished making tea with them – they’re yum). The licorice is not too prominent, fortunately – I don’t mind it but too much can be a bit sickly because it is very sweet. Instead, it’s lovely and subtle. Most of the kick from the peppermint is in the first infusion (you can do up to three, these Chinese herbal blends tend to be pretty robust) and after that the more delicate woody and sweet flavours of the other herbs and fruits come through.

Today, I have brought the Chai to work, so if I have a chance I may be able to post a review about that (didn’t have time on the weekend to do the Hari Har Chai review – too busy!)…

Friday, 20 June 2008

Chai tea review

I have been drinking a lot of chai this week, mainly at work because I took in some T2 chai tea bags, so I thought it might be fun to do a series of chai tea reviews, as I currently have 2 different kinds of chai and will soon (hopefully, when my order arrives, finally) have another one as well.

So, what can I say about the T2 chai? This is their regular, common or garden blend of chai, available loose or in those little silky bags (which are apparently so bad for the environment, unfortunately). On opening the box or tin the scent is very fragrant, a bit sweet (cinnamon?) and with a strong small of cloves. There are whole cardamom pods in there as well, but I doubt they’ll be adding noticeably much to the flavour unless you bother to crush them and then make a decoction, which is not an option for me here at work in any event. There are also little bits of ginger and cinnamon stick, star anise as well I think, and the tea used is a moderate sized twisty leaf, type not specified (maybe Assam, that’s meant to be the proper kind to use for making chai, or so I’ve heard anyway).

A little further info on how I brewed it: at work options are limited, so this is how I’ve been going about it. I put 2 teabags in my little teapot (holds approx.. 2 cups) and fill the pot 2/3 with boiling water. Then I warm some milk in the microwave for a few seconds and add it to the teapot. Let it steep for five minutes or so, and drink (preferably with the addition of chai sprinkles, naturally).

So how does it taste? It’s actually a teeny bit disappointing. The main thing in this one is really the cloves and star anise (if I’m identifying that correctly). The cloves tend to overpower almost all of the other favours and to leave your tongue a little numb, into the bargain. It produces a fairly pale brew, or at least it does when made this way, anyhow. It feels a bit ‘thin’ in the mouth as well, although that may also have something to do with the fact that I’ve been using low-fat milk to make it.

Overall I have to say that this is not one which I would buy again, although I will of course use it all up.

Stand by for the next exciting instalment of Chai Tea Reviews: Hari Har Chai ‘Chocolate Chai’

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Saturday afternoon

A while back my best friend mentioned to me that she had been quite enjoying my tea blog, and that she hadn't realised that I was such a tea nazi (her phrase) but that it was rather endearing. Now if that's not a ringing endorsement I don't know what is (although please feel free to come up with your own and post it in the comments section).

Today it's all about the herbal - specifically one of my own invented blends which is lemongrass, calendula and dried apple pieces (although I don't think I put enough dried apple in - I'll increase the quantity when I finish this batch and make a new one). I'm onto my second big pot of it (my 6-cup Farmhouse Filter teapot made by the London Pottery Co, which is just about as quintessentially teapot-looking as anything I've ever seen). You can have a look at some examples of these teapots here. Mine is a lovely creamy colour; my parents recently acquired a 4-cup version in red. Both were purchased from the Tea Leaves shop in Sassafras, Victoria. Great place - I hope to go back there on my next trip to Melbourne in early August.

Teapot reminiscence: for my 18th birthday my parents bought me a 'Jolly/Sad' teapot (scroll down the linked page a little to see the picture - I think the lid of mine was blue, not red) with a smiley face on one side and a sad face on the other. It was a really good little teapot which unfortunately broke after a number of years of use and I don't have it any more. My mum ended up using it as a kind of barometer of my presence - i.e. when I was home, she would turn it around on the shelf so that the smiley face was showing, and when I was away from home she would have the sad face showing. 

I suppose it's something to be grateful for that it wasn't the other way round.

On another note, in my tea travels online the other day, I came across an absolutely hilarious 'How-To' guide for making bad tea (thanks to this Twinings Tea Blog article for directing me to the link). Check it out here. I shared this article with a friend of mine at work with the observation that the people in charge of the tea and coffee supplies there must have read, and furthermore adhered strictly to, the principles propounded in this article. She agreed. 

I particularly like the items listed in Mr Weber's guide to bad tea under #6 "Aesthetic Nihilism", especially the bit about reheating tea in the microwave as 'the ultimate expression of disregard for quality'. Heh.

In other news, the anticipation continues as I have still not received my order from the Oriental Tea House, but I hope it will arrive soon. Oh, how I hope it will arrive soon...

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Tea purchase mishap

I used to work with a most lovely girl who would every now and then come to work and say, 'Oh Verity, I accidentally bought some saucepans' (or whatever), like it just somehow happened and she had no involvement in the matter. Well, it appears I have just accidentally purchased some tea online (oops). Seriously, it's not my fault. I was just so excited to discover that the Oriental Tea House in Melbourne now has a proper online store (instead of a crappy little eBay outlet) that I just don't know what came over me... 

I haven't bought any tea from this particular place for ages - it used to be on a part of Collins St which I frequented regularly (and used to be called AY Tea Shop, for that matter), but then it disappeared for a while, and it turned out that it eventually moved somewhere further up Collins St, but I never got around to going there. My thoughtful sister (best sister ever, in fact) did one year for Christmas give me a sampler of a range of their teas, most of which are very nice, but the ones I liked best are the Dragonwell, the Chai and the Relaxing teas. I have just ordered some of the Chai and the Relaxing ones... I didn't mean to...

Since the shop itself changed names the teas have all received slightly cutesy titles which end in -TEA (e.g. chamomile = 'relieves anxie-tea'), which irritates me a bit but I can live with it. 

I will report back more fully on these teas when I have received them and had a chance to try them - I hope they arrive soon! As I recall this particular chai is a really lovely blend but it's one which I found I liked better without milk... wonder if that's still the case... 

Gyokuro II and a Tea Recipe

Good morning all

Apologies for being so absent over the last week or so - what with moving house and having a very busy week at work I just have not had time for tea blogging, and barely time for tea, indeed (though I've still managed to fit in quite a bit). Right now it's a chilly early Sunday morning in (relatively) sunny Canberra. I thought I would get up early and make some more gyokuro tea, but using the method I described somewhere below - i.e. a much higher proportion of leaf to water.

Well, I did, and I'm not entirely sure if I did something wrong (e.g. the water was too hot, I steeped it for a bit too long), but the method produced only a tiny amount of tea (most of the water got sucked up by the tea leaves, which now closely resemble lawn clippings) which was so astringent and strong I couldn't drink it - a very sad thing. 

I added more, slightly cooler water, in a larger quantity, and poured myself another cup after only about 30-45 seconds, and this is better but still largely (to me, anyway) undrinkable. The aftertaste is very pleasant - green and relatively sweet - but the tea itself is just so grassy and astringent that I can barely get it down. It's like drinking your lawn. Anyway, I'm rather disappointed - I was really looking forward to it this morning, but I just can't drink gyokuro like this. So even if it is inauthentic, I will go back to doing it the old regular 'two teaspoons to a pot' method... I feel like such a philistine...

I won't throw out the remaining liquor though, I'll save it to use on my face - I feel like making a mask or something this morning, so I'll use the tea instead of just plain water... Meant to be very good for your skin, green tea, being anti-inflammatory and so on...

On to more happy news: last Sunday I made a Marmalade Tea Loaf, the recipe for which can be found here at taste.com.au. This reminds me very much of the cup-of-tea cake that my mum always used to make when I was little (although I don't think hers had marmalade in it) and as a result brought on quite a fit of homesickness and nostalgia... It's a particularly good cake, very moist and fruity, and really easy to make - you do need to soak the fruit in the tea the night before (and you don't need to wait until the tea's completely cold, either, if like me you are putting it on just before you go to bed and are too sleepy to hang about), but apart from that it's just a very quick mix. You can't taste the tea in it terribly strongly, of course, so you don't need to worry too much about using your finest tea - although I am quite interested to try making it again with some Earl Grey instead of plain black tea... And it is, of course, an extremely fine accompaniment to - guess what? A nice cup of tea...


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