Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rose Hip Tea

Fall brings rose hips in my neighborhood.  I love these plump orange/red fruits.  Picked when ripe but juicy (left), these can be made into a fresh herbal tea.  Picked when dried (right), or allowed to dry naturally, they can be stored for a teatime beverage in the wintertime.  (The hips are high in Vitamin C.)

This was my first experience making fresh rose hip tea, and I'm not sure I've got it right just yet.  Everything I read suggested that I needed to open the hip and remove the fuzzy seeds inside.  I did this, more or less.  What is your advice, is this necessary?
Also, I think I needed about double the amount of fruit, for a stronger brew.  My herbal tea was delicious, but lightly flavored.  With more fruit, it would brew faster and stronger. 

The liquid itself was full of small filaments.  I'm not sure if it was pulp or the fur from the few remaining seeds.  Thoughts?  A simple solution to this was to pour the liquid through a tea sock (cloth filter, but paper would work, too).
The flavor was delicately tart with a hint of sweetness and rosiness.  I enjoyed and will definitely keep experimenting with the formula.  I'd love to hear your advice!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Seattle Crumpet Shop

Have you been to The Crumpet Shop at Pike's Place Market in Seattle?  I've blogged about it before, but thought it's worthy of a revisit!  If you ever get to Seattle, it would be a highlight of your trip.  I recently returned to the shop while at the NW Tea Fest.   

The shop has a nice selection of loose tea.  I had a first flush Darjeeling. 

There are many ways to enjoy the crumpet.  I prefer mine very simply topped with butter.  Perfection!  (Hint to The Crumpet Shop:  Offer Earth Balance vegan margarine, too.)

I took home two bags; they freeze well!  Below is the tiny kitchen where these are made. 

I've also experimented making homemade crumpets. I should make another batch someday soon!  Have you made crumpets?  Got any tips to share?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Meatless Monday 14: Chai Oatmeal

I'm returning to this series after a summer break.  The rains have begun again here in the Pacific Northwest and I return to warm spices for comfort.  I experimented with adding chai spices to oatmeal, and it's a winner!  The way I made this was to simply use a cheesecloth bag of my favorite chai spices in the pot as the oatmeal cooked.  Yummy results, but I can make it even better!  Next time, I will first steep the chai spices in the milk (or non-dairy milk or water) for awhile before adding the oatmeal. The longer cooking time will coax out even more of the chai spice flavor. 

What I liked about this oatmeal is that the chai spices added so much interest and depth, I didn't even think about adding a sweetener.  In addition, it's a great way to add flavor to the oatmeal while using only water, for any of you looking to lessen your dairy.

How do you dress up your oatmeal?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Finding Tea – David Galli and PDX TEA

Soft spoken and reflective, David shares his story of finding tea as he carefully prepares an air-dried white.  Like the leaf itself, David’s story unfolds gently and slowly.  We sip and talk, getting to know one another in my favorite way, over many cups of tea. 
Tea made its first impression onto David’s life when he was a young boy. He spent time in his formative years living in Japan. Tea was a backdrop, establishing a presence that would return years later. As a young adult, David found himself navigating through Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (AADD). Somewhat counter-intuitively, stimulants are often used to help manage this condition. Through David’s research he found that tea and one of its properties, L-Theanine, showed promising signs. L-Theanine is the amino acid in tea that works synergistically with caffeine to produce feelings of alertness and well-being. L-Theanine helps modulate the effects of caffeine and the combination of these two compounds “works magic” for David. (Note: Tea is only one part of David’s treatment regimen.)

David’s positive experiences with tea as a wellness aid led to a closer study of the culture of tea. He began tasting teas with dedication. As his knowledge grew, he found teachers. Preparing and enjoying tea became a centering ritual and a guiding passion. Over time, David began to see an opportunity in the Portland area for a niche business, one focused on the community of tea lovers. He found a space with big windows, large tables and the right tea-drinking atmosphere. He sells teas “underrepresented at other Portland-area tea shops,” along with a nice selection of Gong Fu tea equipment and tea books and magazines.  I can vouch first-hand for the peacefulness of this tea space, having spent several happy hours there. 

I look forward to learning more about and even sharing a small part in David’s tea journey.  I offer sincere wishes for the success of PDX TEA and David’s endeavors. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tea and Truth: Sipping and Writing

Yesterday was a special day for me!  After a year of thinking about it, I hosted a small writing group.  It's something I've wanted to do since being in China.  I'm grateful to the participants who bravely shared their writing and gently offered feedback about where this idea could grow/go.  (To see a few Tea and Truth writing prompts, go here.)

I enjoyed playing the hostess.  I put together gift bags for the writers (above), with a few chocolates and tea, and envelopes that I've recycled from old calendars. 

We began the workshop with introductions over tea.

I chose an aged oolong tea because I wanted a tea with a lot of depth (a metaphor for these women and our writing).  I had hoped that the tea experience would be a nice way to settle into the group, and I think it worked well.  This time helped us form community and provided a comfortable starting place for me.

We enjoyed a few nibbles, including these almonds, dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in matcha.  I'm showing them just because they're pretty.  "-)

I owe much to the Women Writing for (a) Change group in Bloomington, IN.  In that writing circle, I fell in love with writing in community and learned how to take writing risks and trust in myself.  I also learned to trust my writing in the ears and hands of others.  This stone heart (found on an OR beach) represents trust and gratitude.  Yesterday we passed the stone as we shared our writing.
We wrote and shared, each following her own thread.  I am humbly reminded how quickly time passes when one is in the "flow" - that dimension of time that can't be explained.  When the clock made it round to our final 30 minutes, we celebrated with glasses of sparkling tea and a discussion of the day.
Now I'm rich with good feelings.  I'm sorting through the ideas and thinking about where I want to take this.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tea Cupping Part II: Country of Origin

A nice set of oolong teas, ready for tasting
(courtesy the group to my right during our class)

A few days ago, I wrote about the International Standard of tea tasting.  Now let's break those rules.  ;-)  In the Advanced Tea Tasting class at the NW Tea Fest, we took a look at country-of-origin methods of tasting and grading tea. 
Oolong teas, from light to dark

The International Standard is useful for doing business across country (even continental) lines.  At the same time, within the tea-growing regions, tea farmers and business people use local methods of tasting teas.  These local methods take into account the unique properties of the tea from that region. 

For the oolong tea cupping, the procedure was very simple.  We used what Suzette called "Farmer's Style."  The dry leaf, 7 grams, went into the open bowl and we filled it to the top with boiling water.  We used a porcelain spoon for tasting.  (Porcelain doesn't interfere with the taste or aroma.)  Here's a good tip I learned:  When breathing in the aroma, breathe in with both your nose and mouth.  Then turn your head away from the tea to exhale, out of politeness for the others.  We started tasting at about 5 minutes and kept tasting further along.

We also did a second cupping using the full tea cupping set (Internatioal Standard) and performed what we called "Patience Testing."  That's to test the multiple infusions and see how long the tea would continue giving. 

Now onto Japanese greens...

Japanese Sencha
For the Japanese sencha, we used 4 grams of tea in a mesh filter in the open cup and poured hot water to the top.  At about 1 minute, we lifted the screen to enjoy the aroma, then put it back.  At 1.5 minute, we removed the screen.

See the heart?

Cloudiness in the Japanese green teas is desired.  The particulate is added back during the processing.  We only did one steeping here.  The Japanese senchas are meant to be consumed promptly after drinking.  They don't sit well, and there's no expectation of multiple infusions, like with the oolongs.

Tea is so fascinating to me!  I feel like I've stumbled into the best-kept secret ever.  I've found a fascinating topic that will give me a lifetime full of pursuits!

Monday, October 15, 2012

"...awake in the present to enjoy the tea..."

Chinese Garden on an autumn day

You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.

Only in the awareness of the present,
can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.

Only in the present, can you savor the aroma,
taste the sweetness,
appreciate the delicacy.

If you are ruminating about the past,
or worrying about the future,
you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.

You will look down at the cup,
and the tea will be gone.

Life is like that.

If you are not fully present,
you will look around and it will be gone.

You will have missed the feel,
the aroma,
the delicacy and beauty of life.

It will seem to be speeding past you.

The past is finished. Learn from it and let it go.

The future is not even here yet.
Plan for it,
but do not waste your time worrying about it.

Worrying is worthless.

When you stop ruminating about what has already happened,
when you stop worrying about what might never happen,
then you will be in the present moment.

Then you will begin to experience joy in life.

~Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Eileen Fisher and Seattle Event

Over the past month, I've become an Eileen Fisher fan.

I've long admired her classic, versatile and sustainably-made clothing. Add to that what I've recently learned about the company and Eileen in the excellent book, How Great Women Lead, and I'm even more impressed. The company's business practices give me hope that alternative models that consider human needs and the environment really do work.

I had a chance to visit the Seattle store recently and enjoyed a long conversation about the company with three employees, Sue, Candy and Pam, above. Probably the best possible testament to the company, these three women spoke very highly of its culture.

I will be honest - I viewed the store like a wearable art museum. The pieces are pricey and my frugal ways give me pause. Nonetheless, I find myself tempted! Pieces are made to last. Everything blends - even from year to year. In NY, there is a pilot Green Eileen store that sells used Eileen Fisher clothing.  The non-profit supports programs for women and girls. So there's hope that I may yet own a piece or two in a recycled 'fashion'!

For my Seattle friends, there is a reception being held next Th the 18th at the store on Pine Street for Nancy Pearl. You might know of Nancy from her Book Lust reviews. If you can go, RSVP by today at 206-748-0770. And enjoy the gorgeous clothing!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tea Cupping Part I: International Standard

International Standard Tea Cupping Set

"Tea cupping" is the phrase used by professionals to taste and evaluate tea.  Common characteristics that are judged include the flavor, of course, but also the look of the dry leaf, the aroma, the color of the liquor and the look of the wet leaf.  I've had the great good fortune to sit through several tea cupping seminars, starting with Tim Grafton in London, several times on the Asia Tea Tour and then for the past two years with Suzette (Rishi Tea) at the NW Tea Fest.

The International Standard is:
  • 3 grams of tea
  • 150 ml (~5 oz) boiling water
  • 5 minute steep
  • Here's a great video for the mechanics of it!
Dry leaf, liquor, wet leaf = the ingredients to make an evaluation of the tea

Consistency is super important here. Each tea you are comparing must be treated in the same precise manner. "But 5 minutes for a green tea?!" you might justifiably exclaim! Yes, it's true, as an industry, we've finally gotten traction when it comes to educating people to brew different teas at different temperatures.  Why now break this rule?  Because professional cupping has a very different purpose than drinking for pleasure.  (Please keep brewing those greens with cooler water for your home enjoyment!)

The Differences  Professional tea tasters have well developed palates that allow them to notice subtle differences between teas.  Those differences are what the taster is after.  S/he compares many similar teas side-by-side.  Perhaps it's a blind tasting that compares different vendor's teas for selection.  Or perhaps it's at the tea farm and samples of the same tea varietal are being tested from the same harvest, the only difference being the location of where the samples were grown.  By "pushing" the tea, meaning treating it to a very long and hot soak, the subtleties shine through.  Likewise, any weaknesses in the tea become apparent.

Do Try this at Home!  Have you ever tried tea cupping?  If you get the chance to do so, it's very fun!  And just because the International Standard is as described above, it doesn't mean you have to buy the fancy equipment.  For your personal tasting, the most important factor is to be consistent.  Pick two or three teas to compare (maybe three black teas, for example), and find brewing vessels of the same size.  Use the same amount of leaf, same temperature and volume of water, and brewing time and see what you think!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Orange Oolong Crepe

Orange Oolong Crepe:  a fun, unique and delicious dessert for anyone who likes to make crepes.  I think this would be a great thing to make at a party.  I had this yesterday at the NW Tea FestIn hindsight, it was perhaps not the best choice for lunch (very sweet), but how could I not try it?  ;-)  The crepe maker was very kind to answer all my questions. 

First, he poured the very thin crepe batter onto the griddle and spread it paper-thin with a special tool. (I use a cast iron crepe pan at home.) 

He let is set and then sprinkled on sugar, which he caramelized with a torch. 

 Then he added the fresh juice of half an orange.

 He sprinkled on the dry oolong tea leaf and let the crepe cook a little longer.

Done and delicious!  It had a crunchy texture from the caramelized sugar and tea leaf, and a tangy-sweet flavor.  Some of the sugars, now warmed and combined with the citrus, melted into a delicious syrup.
I think I will try to recreate this, though I will leave off the caramelized sugar.  As much as I have a sweet tooth, it was a bit too much for me.  Instead, I will use a nut filler (maybe walnut?).  I think the rest is good.  What do you think?

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Wu-Wo Class at NW Tea Fest

Mother Nature blessed us with a warm, sunny day as we shared Wu-Wo with tea friends at the NW Tea Festival today.  Quiet joy prevailed as we shared cups of tea under the Space Needle.  (Click image to enlarge.)

Friday, October 05, 2012

Pre-Festival Fun

What a perfectly glorious day to begin the NW Tea festivities.  Weather was bright, warm undertones with a bit of cool in the air.  Aaahhh.

We started out right with a dim sum lunch in the International District.  We took our own pu-erh tea for the pot and enjoyed many rounds of greens, dumplings, eggplant, shrimp, green beans with black bean sauce, and my favorite - the egg tarts. 

Then off to New Century for a tasting with Grace.  New Century has a nice selection of Chinese-style teas, teacups, pots and serving vessels, gaiwan, tea trays and all the fun stuff that comes along with it.

New Century Tea

Shiuwen at Floating Leaves

Later in the evening, many folks headed to Floating Leaves to taste again with Shiuwen.  She carries some of the best Taiwanese oolong teas a girl could hope to find in the US.

A really great day!  Tomorrow begins the conference.  If anyone is interested, our group will be doing a Wu-Wo session at 1:30 pm on Saturday (10/6).  Please come and join us!  We have space for 10 brewers and many observers.  No charge - just come and brew.  No experience necessary.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Anticipating NW Tea Fest

I'm very excited to attend the NW Tea Festival this weekend!  I'm trying something new this year - I'll be tweeting, sharing quick snippets of what I'm seeing and tasting at the event.  I hope you'll follow along!  My Twitter name is StephWTea and you can follow my posts from this blog, in the section to the right.

Here are some photos from last year.     

Tea Cupping class with Suzette Hammond of Rishi Tea

The passionate Brett Boynton of Phoenix Tea leads a tasting session

Always enlightening to hear James Norwood Pratt

Tea Roasting class with Shiuwen Tai of Floating Leaves

The Expo

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Blooming with our Minds

I turned my work calendar today, and this was waiting for me. Just what I needed to read!

 "People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong...Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?"
~Thich Nhat Hanh