Saturday, 31 July 2010

Yunnan Green from SanTion

I had another Tea Stuff Roundup planned for today, but unfortunately haven't had time to put it together properly. So instead, here are some notes on Yunnan Green from Santion. Roundup next week!

This is definitely a go-to green tea of mine now: I enjoy its fruity, vegetal flavour a lot. Here are a few tasting notes from the other morning, when I had time to sit quietly before Pippin woke up:

Four infusions in gaiwan, filled about 1/3 with dry leaf. Started out with a 40 second steep and lengthened each infusion so the fourth was probably about 1.5 minutes. Fruity notes to the fore while drinking, specifically apricot and peach, a hint of grapefruit (?) in the third or fourth infusions. Savoury vegetable flavours in the aftertaste, which is reasonably long; silverbeet or chard maybe. This is quite a chewy tea. (This is the first time I've used this term and that's because I think I now know what it means: a tea that is substantial enough to make you want to chew it!) It leaves a cool dry feeling in the mouth.

I think I actually like gaiwan brewing for this tea more than teapot brewing, although I don't always have the leisure to use my gaiwan (which is tiny, only 150ml). It's still pleasant enough in a teapot, brewed for say 2-2.5 minutes at a time (I would normally do two or three infusions) but I think that more leaf and shorter steeps suits my palate better. I will keep trying and see.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Tea and Food: What to drink with Italian

I find that Italian food is one of the hardest with which to pair tea. There's just something about it that gives me a mental block for some reason. However, being stubborn, and preferring to drink tea to any other beverage no matter what the circumstances, I am trying to come up with some options.

This post focuses on the simpler, lighter-flavored Italian type foods, the ones that you might choose to  accompany with a white wine. So, think of things like a risotto with veggies, pasta with sauteed greens, dishes that actually include some white wine in the cooking - even pizza if it's a fresher sort that's light on cheese and meats. Jamie's Italy and not the local pizzeria kind of thing (unless your local pizzeria happens to be DOC or Ladro, in which case you are lucky).

In my opinion these dishes actually pair well with fruity Chinese greens and greener oolongs, I think because the fruity notes and dryness can be quite similar to those you find in white wine. So you could brew up a pot of bi luo chun or milk oolong and it would be right at home... sort of... at any rate it would taste good! This week I drank some milk oolong alongside a pasta dish of penne with rainbow chard and it was a very good combination.

 Milk oolong steaming from its initial rinse

Likewise you would also do well with a greenish first flush Darjeeling; I accompanied my pasta leftovers the next day with some Singbulli first flush - also a very acceptable partner. Basically, I think in your tea selection you are looking for something with a bit of fruit and a bit of astringency - not mouth puckering, just enough to let you know it's there.

Herbal tea-wise... I would try chamomile, spearmint, maybe even fresh basil, bay leaf or lemon myrtle, depending on what flavorings you were using in the dish. Aniseed tisane would be very refreshing for afterwards (and that way you wouldn't need any Sambuca!)*

I'm still trying to get my head around the kinds of tea you would serve with more robust Italian dishes such as bolognaise... Does anyone have any suggestions? Or is this just not going to work?

* Just kidding. You can have the Sambuca too.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Tuesday's Tea of the Week: Vanilla Rooibos

If you like vanilla, and tea, but you fear caffeine and weep because you can't drink Vanilla Basic Black, you really should give Vanilla Rooibos a go. It is absolutely just as nice. Pure organic rooibos and finely chopped vanilla beans... nothing more, nothing less.

Rooibos is a great complement to vanilla (or perhaps the other way round?) because it has a kind of vanilla-y taste all to itself (at least I think so). This combination is a beautiful tea-party tea - fragrant, sweet, takes milk and sugar well if you are so inclined. I often am...

I also like this one after dinner, with or instead of dessert. Yum!

Next week: Lemon Myrtle Basic Black.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Tea Stuff Roundup

I have read a few interesting tea blog articles over the last few days and thought some of them worth sharing.

This article 'Whose Tea Is That?' by Michael J Coffey of 'Tea Geek' has been getting quite a bit of kudos in my Twitter stream - deservedly so. Michael points out that most of the time we just don't know where our tea is coming from - and what's more, can you really say that one company's tea is better than another if they originally came from the same source? What is there to like about one, but not the other, in this case?

The issue is not just confined to single-origin unblended teas, either; in fact perhaps it's even more problematic in the case of flavoured teas. Take this quote from Charles Cain, who writes a fascinating blog about the process of opening a bricks and mortar tea store for a large US tea company, Adagio:
The supply chain for most teas sold in the US is ridiculously incestuous. Half of wholesalers buy from other wholesalers. It's not uncommon to find the same flavored tea, blended by the same large wholesaler, sold at dramatically different price points under the names of quite a few smaller wholesalers. Many independent retailers pride themselves on choosing only the finest teas for their collection. As proof of this, they buy from many different tea wholesalers. I've heard shop owners boast of having more than 30 tea vendors. The incredible irony is that I've also heard tea wholesalers boast of selling to the same shop owner under the name of a half dozen different companies. 
Read the rest of Charles' article here. Kind of depressing, isn't it. I suspect that things are not that different in Australia, although perhaps on a smaller scale; I know that in most retail tea shops I see a whole bunch of very similar blends, sometimes under slightly different names (think Monk Pear-type blends, French Earl Grey variants, Blue Mountain blends etc etc) that almost have to be imported from a bulk tea supplier somewhere in the world. They're just too similar to be individually made by each of the shops concerned. I'm not saying that these shops have NO originality because most of them probably do in some areas. I've just always found it a bit disappointing I suppose when I find that something I thought was unique actually isn't.

On the plus side it does mean you can shop around til you find the tea you like at the best price! Cloud, silver lining, etc.

Enough with the grumping, I didn't mean for this to be a depressing entry. Let's cheer ourselves up with a post from the awesome Stephane at Tea Masters (if you can't read the French, he does post a lot in English, and his photos are always worth a look). In this one he brews up a low-mountain oolong from Zu Shan and explains how important it is when starting out with tea to really get a feel for it. It can be so tempting to get a lot of small amounts of different teas and not really learn how all the variables (water, temperature, amount of leaf, even time of day) affect a single tea and your enjoyment of it. This is really sound advice and something I am going to pay more attention to.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Tea and Food: what to drink with chocolate

Last week I made some rather fabulous dark chocolate brownies, which I ended up eating accompanied by several different kinds of tea over the course of the week. Some pairings were more successful than others, and this set me to thinking that a series of posts about tea and food might not be a bad idea. If you have a particular kind of food you'd like me to focus on, just place a request in the comments and I'll do my best to accommodate it (barring seafood, of which I am not a fan).

So here's this week's instalment: teas to pair with CHOCOLATE - cake, brownies, or just all on it's lonesome own. Aw.

 Just crying out for some tea to keep it company!

My first recommendation: jasmine tea. I find that jasmine goes beautifully with moderately dark chocolatey things; the sweet floral taste offsets the slightly bitter chocolate very well. Even though I often prefer to drink my really good teas on their own, without any disruption to their flavour caused by combining them with food, I think it is actually worthwhile cracking out the good jasmine tea to have with your chocolate, simply because the jasmine flavour will be stronger. Keep the lower-rent jasmine for having with your Chinese takeaway and have a really top-notch one (I have still got some of the 2009 Moli Jin Zhen Wang from Amazing Green Tea which is just divine).

Second recommendation: a strong Japanese green - sencha or matcha, or why not both (like the Macchairi Kabuse Ryokucha I blogged about here). The bitter-sweetness of the tea and chocolate play off each other and the greenness of the tea cuts through the richness of the chocolate as well. I thought jasmine and chocolate was my favourite until I tried this. It's really an incredible combination.

If you are looking for a black tea I would go for something robust and a bit astringent like an Assam, or fruity like a second or Autumn flush Darjeeling; the taste of a first flush Darjeeling gets overwhelmed by the chocolate. I also felt that my beloved Yunnan Golden Tips didn't shine as I would have liked when I drank it alongside the brownie (which you can see in the corner of the picture in that post!). Earl Grey is a good option though and one I often choose when I am out somewhere like Koko Black; the floral/citrus taste of the bergamot is refreshing and also cuts through the richness.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Tuesday's Tea of the Week: Mint Delight

Another minty treat for you this week, Mint Delight is inspired by Moroccan mint tea. The combination of spearmint, peppermint and green tea (all organic) is extremely refreshing, if not 100% traditional.

Nonetheless, Mint Delight is a delicious and convenient pick me up to have at your desk if tall silver teapots, rock sugar and bunches of fresh mint are not readily available (they weren't in my office. Of course, perhaps some things could, and should, be changed).

Mint Delight is another one of my blends that is equally good hot or iced, with or without added sweetening. So versatile! I'm sure you need some... I certainly do!

Next week: Vanilla Rooibos

Monday, 19 July 2010

Joie de Tea in the News!

I had a major attack of excitement last Friday, when in the course of a totally unrelated conversation with Angharad from Bees and Me, she mentioned that she had seen me in the latest issue of Notebook: magazine.

'WHAT??' I said. I had no idea!

Following some rather hysterical running around and a fruitless trip to our local milk bar where they didn't have the August edition in stock, I was able to grab a copy at the supermarket and sure enough, on page 153 (heh) there it was:

I like Notebook: magazine a lot, I must say - I have subscribed in the past although for financial reasons I don't at the moment - so it was the greatest compliment to have my blog mentioned there. Especially as they clearly found it and decided to include it all on their own without any input from me.

Thanks very much to Angharad for pointing it out and to the team at Notebook: !

If you remember, the other week I was also interviewed on the Two Cheeky Monkeys blog by the lovely Deb. She submitted her interview to Craftgawker (click that link if you dare, you may never escape when you see all the shiny, fun stuff) and it was accepted... so Joie de Tea is on there too! 

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Yunnan Golden Tips

I have been reading over at Jenny's Blog about her quest for the perfect selection of teas for her cabinet... ten teas that she loves enough to always have on hand. It's an ongoing search (but what a fun one, huh?). I hadn't ever thought about selecting teas in this way; but if I were going to start a Top-10 teas to always have in my cupboard, Yunnan Golden Tips from SanTion would definitely be on my list.

 Apologies for the blurriness of this photo; I took it without realising that the camera was on 
manual focus not auto focus, and drank all the tea before I could take another. Whoops.

The leaves are incredible, so long and tippy, it is absolutely full of golden buds (as the name would suggest). My favourite part is actually opening the canister - there is such a rich smell of sweet raisins that greets me. Immensely cheering on a cold grey day. The wet leaves have a creamy, slightly spicy smell. The liquor is very smooth, no bitterness or astringency - just a rich round flavour with a touch of spice and also flowers, I think. A little malty as well.

I am going through this tea at a rapid rate and will shortly have to order more. It is just such easy drinking.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Tuesday's Tea of the Week: Ruby-Red Mint

This is another really simple combination of two ingredients - spearmint and hibiscus - but it works so well. Both of the herbs are organic and it's caffeine free.

The colour of an infusion of Ruby-Red Mint is just amazing - such a vibrant shade of red.

I love hibiscus for adding that depth of colour to a blend. The dried leaves look pretty cool too:

The flavour is really burst-y: the deep tang of the hibiscus and then lighter minty notes from the spearmint makes this truly refreshing. It is a little on the sour side so you could sweeten it if you wanted, but it's not really necessary. A great soother for a sore throat, as well.

I acknowledge that it's a bit perverse to be writing about iced tea in the depths of Melbourne winter (although the weather has really been quite mild the last few days; I'm sure that will change soon enough) but Ruby-Red Mint truly shines as an iced tea. Make it strong and then dilute with cold water and ice... who needs soft drink?

Next week: Mint Delight.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Lovely Features - Thank You!

I have been lucky enough to have my shop featured on several blogs this week:

Joie de Tea was in the Lime Light thanks to Kellie at 74 Lime Lane...

Michelle from Wing By Sea included Vanilla Basic Black in her stylish black wishlist... (you can read more about Vanilla Basic Black here!)

And I am the featured artist over at Deb's blog Two Cheeky Monkeys today!

Wow - what a great week. Thanks so much to Kellie, Michelle and Deb for making it so! I really appreciate it.

In other news, I am in the process of applying for a stall at the August Modish Market... and working on some decorated tea cups to add to my Etsy shop. You can see some prototypes here!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Singbulli First Flush 2010

My tastebuds are not fully operational after the rotten cold I have had (another one!) but here are a few little notes on the Singbulli First Flush tea (Clonal Classic Super Fine) that I received from Thunderbolt Tea a few weeks ago.

The dry leaves smell faintly of hay or sweet cut grass. They are lovely to look at (check them out in this post here). The wet leaves vary in colour between shades of copper and medium green:

They have a vegetal smell that I can't quite name... maybe nettles? Or asparagus?

The liquor is a very pale golden colour, honey-like in aroma. It has a light, bright flavour, not a lot of body; it is mainly vegetal in taste - but not brothy/seaweedy like a Japanese green - think more along the lines of silverbeet or chard rather than spinach. A faint hint of roses and possibly honey as well?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Tuesday's Tea of the Week: Vanilla Basic Black

Another member of my tea-plus-one-other-ingredient 'Basic Black' range, the Vanilla Basic Black is deservedly (if I do say so myself) one of my most popular teas. Black tea and finely chopped vanilla beans... that's it. This means that the fragrance and flavour is true vanilla... not some kind of artificial  flavour that so often disappoints in vanilla teas.

The other great thing about this tea is its versatility. It's obviously delicious on its own, or you can add a splash of milk and even sugar and it still holds up extremely well. I love it alongside my breakfast - perfect for when I want something just a bit more special than regular plain black tea - but if you go the more decadent route of adding the aforesaid milk and sugar it makes a beautiful dessert all by itself.

Next week: Ruby-Red Mint

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Friday, 2 July 2010

Useful things to do while you wait for the kettle to boil

#4: Find your prettiest cup and saucer... The special set you hardly ever use cos it's too good. It's not! Fetch it now!


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