Friday, 29 January 2010

Cooking with Tea

A while back I borrowed Eat Tea from the library, and managed to make a couple of the recipes before I needed to return it... although I really need to borrow it again so I can copy some of them down.

I convinced my husband to put his ice cream maker to use to make the Vanilla Tea Sherbet, which is a combination of strong-brewed vanilla black tea, sugar and buttermilk (we used my Vanilla Basic Black, which you could win some of - along with a couple of my other teas - here!)... delicious and refreshing, not too sweet, not too creamy... although my sister thought it tasted like cough medicine. All I can say is, I wish that I'd ever had cough medicine tasted like that.

Here's the process in pictures -

The ingredients:

The mixture:

The end result (well, what was left of it):

I also made the green tea and ginger tea bread (no photos, sorry, it all got eaten before I remembered to take any, though I suppose that's a good sign), a sweet eggy tea-loaf with sencha, candied ginger and lemon zest in it - the lemon and the ginger could have been a little stronger in flavour, but it was very tasty nonetheless, and looked pretty cool too - the little flecks of ground-up sencha were very attractive.

And then today, feeling at something of a loose end with nothing specific on my schedule I decided to make these little Earl Grey Tea Cakes... super-easy recipe, and it worked perfectly with only one egg instead of two (I only had one and couldn't be bothered to go to the milk bar to get any more). Naturally I used proper loose-leaf Earl Grey... almost the last of my supply, soon I will have an excuse to go and buy some from Lupicia. The tea leaves made pretty flecks in these small cakes as well.

Here they are before being iced...

... and after:

I had one of these with a pot of Earl Grey... but I think they would also go very nicely with some second-flush Darjeeling or rooibos too.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Valentine's Day Giveaway!

Australian tea lovers (and their lovers) take note - I'm having a Valentine's Day tea giveaway!

The prize is a sampler pack featuring generous helpings of three of my most romantic blends -

10 cups of heady fragrant Blush...

10 cups of sweet, refreshing Rosie...

and 10 cups of smooth sexy Vanilla Basic Black!

To enter, leave a comment on this post. You can get an additional entry for tweeting and/or blogging about this giveaway, and facebook shares are good too! - leave me another comment with a link so I can check it out! Oh, and don't forget to let me know how to contact you should you be the lucky winner.

Entries accepted until midnight on February 7th, Eastern Daylight Saving Time! Winner will be drawn randomly on Monday 8 February and notified the same day - that should be enough time for the tea to arrive in time for Valentine's Day.

Only Australian entries accepted, thanks! Good luck!!

Friday, 22 January 2010

A Farewell Tea

My sister left on her round-the-world travelling/volunteering jaunt on Monday. She'll be gone for up to 12 months, which is depressing for those left behind, but on the plus side I have made her promise to send me tea from exotic South-East Asian and other locales, so every cloud has a silver lining.*

The Sunday before she left I threw her a little afternoon tea party.

We drank Spice Road mixed with Vanilla Rooibos, alongside carrot cupcakes...

... and two kinds of finger sandwiches (cucumber with mint & basil butter, tomato with avocado and a touch of chilli), although Pippin preferred actual fingers (his own) to finger sandwiches:

Miss you little sis. Hope you're travelling safely.

*ok, it's not that much of a silver lining Billy, would rather have your company!!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Tea at the Library

I love the Journal cafe at the City Library in Flinders Lane. It's so funky. It's one of the few places I can get chai made with real tea, as opposed to some bizarre kind of powder or syrup with no actual tea content. I'm not 100% sure but I think the chai blend that they use at Journal is T2's - yum.

I stopped in at Journal with Pinky Dots (and Pippin of course) when I was in the city to have lunch with a friend. Pippin was snoozing, but Pinky Dots and I read a bit of Liquid Jade...

...and had some chai.

A bit of a tall order for a small stuffed cat, but your Tea Correspondent was equal to the task, I'm pleased to report.

Now we just need to decide on our next outing venue... Hopetoun Tea Rooms? Miss Marple's? Ten Ren? Stay tuned!

Monday, 11 January 2010

A Little Chemistry with your Cup?

I'm not a particularly scientifically-minded person, but I was fascinated to read this simple introduction to some of the chemistry that affects the way tea tastes. I came across it thanks to a re-tweet by Nigel Melican (@teacraftecm on Twitter), who is a fount of knowledge of all things tea-related and definitely one of the go-to people for tea-myth-busting and accurate information.

Tea is a complex thing. In fact, given all the variables associated with the manufacture of different kinds of tea, it is actually many, many complex things. One thing I've learned to appreciate, especially where complex things are involved, is that it really DOES make a difference if you know WHY - even the most simplified version of why - a particular action has a given effect. For example: cold-brewing green tea over a longer period is more likely to produce a sweeter cup. Why? Because caffeine is extracted at higher temperatures, and caffeine is a bitter-tasting component of tea. Ah. Now I understand.

But reader beware: a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. According to the 'Gourmet Tea' article, spring-picked (ie. early season) leaf is lower in catechins, the potent antioxidants in tea, than summer leaves. So does this mean that white teas, made from leaves picked in the early spring, are actually not the richest tea source of antioxidants (despite being heavily marketed as such)?? Hmm. Now I'm confused...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

King Hsuan Oolong by JustMake Taiwan Tea

I bought a sample of this tea (and a couple of others) from the Serenity Teahouse in Box Hill a few weeks ago. I heard about the place from fellow-Melbournite Eric of Tea Finely Brewed; aside from the teas which they carry, Serenity Teahouse has a great range of gaiwans, Yixing and gong-fu tea wares, all of which are difficult to come by in Melbourne, so I'm very glad to have found somewhere that stocks them, and at what appear to be reasonable prices as well.

I found time this morning (between feeding Pippin, doing laundry and eating breakfast) to try the King Hsuan sample. On the packet the tea is described thus:

King Hsuan, also named Formosa Tea No. Twelve, is one of the revolutionary new varieties of tea plants formulated in 1981. It has become famous for its uniquely smooth, sweet, fragrant flavor married with a traditional refreshing aroma. Semi-fermented and unscented, King Hsuan draws an extraordinarily refreshing flavor. It is a masterful integration of modern cultivation and nature.

The aroma of the tightly-rolled, light green leaves was sweet and fruity. I decided to use the whole sample (ten grams) in my small Beehouse teapot, about 300ml of water. There were no particular brewing guidelines that I could access on the site itself, so this was basically a guess. Following a brief rinse of the leaves, I steeped them in water just off the boil for approximately a minute (possibly a little more; I missed the timer).

This was possibly a mistake. The brewed tea was a lovely bright straw colour, with a wonderful spicy aroma, a touch of cinnamon to it - but the tea was really quite bitter, and tasted nothing like it smelt. It wasn't undrinkable, and after a little while a nice sweetness came through on the aftertaste, but it certainly was not what I was expecting.

Water too hot? Steeping too long? Could have been either or both these things, I guess - or perhaps this is actually what the tea is meant to taste like? To keep things relatively simple I decided to do the second and third infusions at the same temperature - just off boiling - but for shorter amounts of time.

A second infusion of 30 seconds yielded a tea with a fruitier, less spicy aroma, and some fruity flavour with minimal bitterness or astringency, but not a particularly strong tasting brew overall. Third infusion at 45 seconds retained the fruity aroma but the taste was also overall quite bland.

Being out of time by this point, I did a fourth infusion with cold water, sticking the pot in the fridge for about 6 hours while I was out and about, and came home to find that this was the best of the lot; a sweeter, more complex tea with fruit and spice.

Hmm. So I reckon I pretty royally stuffed this one up, a humbling experience. I'll have to go back and get another sample of the King Hsuan at some point and try again. I am such a novice with oolongs; many of them smell and taste extremely alike to me (I've been working my way through a number of samples from Tea From Taiwan as well) and I was actually quite excited to find that I could detect spicy notes, rather than just flowery/fruity ones, in the King Hsuan. Lots more to learn and look forward to!

Friday, 1 January 2010

A New Year with Tea and Friends

Well, Christmas has come and gone...

...and very merry it was too, with perfect weather and much fun (despite the sleep deprivation associated with having a young baby) with family and friends. I felt particularly lucky that little Pippin was discharged from hospital with a clean bill of health well in time for Christmas Day.

Today is New Year's Day and I chose my first pot of tea for the day (and year and decade!) to celebrate something very important to me, which I've come to appreciate more and more over the last few months in particular: my Tea Friends.

This tea is a high mountain oolong sent to me by my friend Peichi, whom I met through Etsy when I adopted Lucky Pinky Dots (who will be making more appearances this year, I promise). Peichi sent the tea to me from California; she received it from her parents who sent it to her from Taiwan. Today I used up the last of it, feeling so lucky to have made such a kind friend on the other side of the world.

I recently finished reading 'Tea: Addiction, Exploitation and Empire' by Roy Moxham which left me with a feeling of great sadness at the bloody history of tea, its cultivation and consumption. It also left me with a sense of amazement at the power of these leaves to affect peoples' lives in so many diverse ways: commercially, spiritually, health-wise. It has affected mine in only positive ones, I'm pleased to say, and none is more important than the way it has inspired me to seek out others who share a love of tea.

I have connected with these wonderful people via their blogs, their tweets and their shops (and I thank my lucky stars for the interwebs every day too, of course - none of this would be possible without that!) and my life is so much richer for these connections. Thank you all for sharing tea with me throughout the past year. I'm looking forward very much to continuing to learn about, and even more importantly enjoy, tea with you all in the coming months.

Here's to tea and friendship in 2010!


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