Tea Writings

A blog about tea from the desk of Cecilia Tan

Archive for June, 2009

Tea-Drinking Weather

June 29, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Musings

The main consequence of the fact that it has been rainy and cold for the entire month of June is that I have continued to drink hot tea far into the season when I would have normally switched to iced.

This is good! It means not only no summer hiatus for Tea Writings (not that I was sure there would be one…), I have kept up my routine of taking breaks from writing and work to brew new pots multiple times per day.

I have never been good at just sitting and meditating. What? Just sit and try to think about nothing? I have always been better at reaching a meditative state through motion or music or something else where you distract the brain from thinking and only later when you “come to” do you realize you’d gone into a meditative state. Practicing martial arts, for example. At some point your mind has to get out of your way for you to really excel at it. Consciousness expands to include everyone in the room, maybe everyone in the building. This happens not through sitting still, but through doing focused motions.

Making a pot of tea can be like that, if I let myself be mindful. If I am not focused, I get the order of the steps wrong. The water boils before I have picked out a tea. I rinse out the pot with hot water but I forget to rinse the loose leaves. I measure the leaves but haven’t put the basket in the pot yet. And so on. It’s often like that first thing in the morning when my brain is still trying to shake off the effects of the allergy medicine I took the night before.

But once I’m actually awake, it’s a nice break to go every hour or two, out of my office and down to the kitchen, which overlooks the cool green summer shade of my back garden, and brew a pot.

I’m not always mindful while making tea, of course. Sometimes I’m checking my Twitter feed on my iPhone with one hand while I empty the dishwasher with the other, while waiting for the boil or the steep. But at least I have the chance to step away from the computer a few times a day.

Today I am finishing up the very last of the Stash brand “Light Fragrant Ti Kuan Yin” that I got for Christmas two and a half year ago. Honestly, over the two years it has lost some of its flavor, but I never should have taken so long to drink it. The container got buried under some others, and then it was superseded by newer, fancier Iron Goddess purchases from Aroma Tea Shop in San Fran and elsewhere, like the packet I brought back from China itself, which I used up immediately.

Which raises the question of what to do with the teas that have lost their luster in the back of the cabinet? I’m far too frugal to contemplate throwing them away. But there are a few that just don’t have much to recommend them, now. Perhaps some of them should end up in the smoker the next time we barbecue? Your suggestions are welcome at ctan.writer at Gmail dot com, or comment below!

Today’s Tea: Honey Lemon Sunburst

June 20, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

I am still working my way through all the samples I got from Holy Mountain, and this one I have had to brew five or six times before I was ready to write about it. They call it “Honey Lemon Sunburst Green Tea” and describe it as: “A traditional favorite combination of flavors brightened with a burst of sunflower petals.”

This skimpy description does not really prepare you for the unique sweetness of this tea. “Bee pollen?” is what a friend of mine quizzically asked when I served it to her.

“Maybe?” I replied. What gives it the honey flavor when there doesn’t appear to be any actual honey in or on the tea leaves? Where does the lemon flavor come from, for that matter?

Holy Mountain lists is among the “scented green teas” and clearly it’s more to do with the scent than an actual flavor, but it’s a mystery to me how it’s done.

Interestingly, I’ve been wanting this tea a lot on the days when my pollen allergies are the worst. Is that backwards? Something that tastes infused with bee pollen? Or maybe I’ve just been trained to think of the combination of honey and lemon as good for sore throats and congestion? But this tastes nothing like a Luden’s Honey Lemon cough drop–it doesn’t even taste like a traditional cup of Lipton with honey and lemon. It tastes spring-like and fresh, and every sip is invigorating. Who knows, maybe it actual helps my allergies somehow, though perhaps just the result of drinking something hot on my clogged sinuses and swollen eyes.

This tea is a mystery, a sweet mystery, and will apparently have to stay that way.

Roast Sweet

June 17, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Musings, Tea Reviews

Ahhh, this is Da Stuff.

I’ve been drinking a lot of enjoyable teas lately. Despite the fact that it’s mid-June and the longest day of the year is nigh, it’s been downright chilly in New England. With the temps in the low 60s every day and in the 50s (or even 40s again like it was last night) at night, it’s perfect tea-drinking weather. A warm pot sits on my desk throughout the day and evening hours while I work.

Having just ordered a slew of sample teas from various places, I’ve been brewing lots of things that are quite tasty, but I’ve been refraining from writing about them until I’ve tried them each four or five times. I used to review music back in another life, and I learned that I didn’t really know what I thought of an album until I’d heard it through five times. I figure tea might be the same.

Except today I brewed a pot of “Oolong Choice.” (more…)

Not So Dim After All

June 06, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

Went to dimsum today with friends. Again to Chau Chow City, where I so loved the jasmine they serve with the meal. Turns out they sell bags of it at the cashier’s station, so I bought some.

But today’s new tea is something else entirely. We walked over to C-Mart today, which is the big Chinese grocery under the parking garage that stands across the Surface Artery from the Chinatown gate. The store has gone through various name changes in the two decades I’ve been going there, but inside has not much changed. Even what’s in which aisle is essentially the same.

And business was booming as is usual for a Saturday afternoon in Chinatown… or used to be. The Super 88 is closed, and so are a few of the other small groceries now, as previously mentioned in this blog.

But at C-Mart it was like nothing had ever changed. So I prowled the tea aisle looking to see if I could replace the now empty can of Sow Mee White tea on my shelf with a full one. Sadly, I could not find anything that looked suitable, although there were lots and lots of interesting cans. (They didn’t have the Vanilla Tea I like in the pink can, either, but they did have the Lychee Black that is such a favorite I have a huge can of it and am not going to run out for a while.)

In addition to my perpetual search for more and new teas to try, I am always looking for decaffeinated options for nighttime drinking. I came across a large cardboard box labeled BARLEY TEA! CAFFEINE FREE! It was two dollars. So I bought it.
I’ve had barley tea in Korean restaurants quite often and always really liked it. What I didn’t realize is that it’s not tea at all, the way genmaicha is (roasted rice & popcorn tea), but it actually doesn’t have any tea in it at all.

The instructions say it can be brewed hot or cold, so I brewed it hot, but I got distracted and left it a little longer than I would normally. The directions said 1-2 minutes and I left it the full two minutes.

The resulting drink is much more roasted in flavor than what I’ve had in restaurants, but is quite delicious. In fact, I’d say this is what I often wish that coffee tasted like. It’s what the coffee scent–which never matches the flavor–ought to taste like. What is good about this is perhaps I have finally found a decaffeinated beverage that corwin will also like. He doesn’t like fruity teas at all and really didn’t like either honeybush or rooibos. But I bet he will like this.

Another plus for the distracted multi-tasker that I am, it is good after it’s gone cold, too. Now I wonder if it goes through multiple steeps?