"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."
~ C.S. Lewis

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tea Review: Café Couture's Sencha Lemonade

Sencha Lemonade - Café Couture
"Café Couture believes not only in premium quality but good health, too. All their blends are carefully crafted with health benefits in mind; they include explanations with each product description. Their entire infrastructure is designed around offering premium quality. One of their missions is to develop awareness that origin and quality matter with tea, just like with wine."

Ingredients: Sencha Green Tea, Golden Lemon Peel, Lemon Granules, Lemongrass

Steep Time: 2 minutes

First Sip Thought: "A summer refresher."

Smell: Pleasant, yet soft lemon aroma. It reminds me of a day at the beach relaxing on the warm sand under the sun watching the waves from the lake all while sipping on a refreshing cool glass of lemonade. Every time the glass would be brought close enough to sip, a tart lemon scent would linger. That's the memory I get when breathing in this tea.

Taste: This sencha is nutty and vegetal with some sweetness on its own. There is also a hint of astringency, something I enjoy. Diving into the lemon aspects of this sencha, I was really impressed that there was lemon peel and lemongrass as ingredients and not just "lemon flavouring" which would probably throw off the entire tea. The lemon is quite mild and lovely. With the sweetness from the sencha and the tarty flavours from the lemon, this tea also reminded me a bit of lemon drop candies. Overall, this is a well-balanced blend. I would love to drink this tea iced with a splash of actual lemonade next time. I think that would make the perfect summer refresher!

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 tea leaves
**If you or someone you know would like a tea reviewed, contact me.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Basic Facts About Japanese Matcha

Japanese matcha is becoming increasingly popular worldwide as more and more people become aware of the tea’s unique taste, colour and potentially amazing health benefits.

Without stepping foot in the tea’s homeland, one can easily look up all sorts of information about matcha on the Internet. The problem is that the majority of this information is provided by groups trying to sell matcha teas; websites like these rarely explain the most important points for first time buyers trying to get to grips with the world of matcha.

Here, we want to lay out the basic facts about Japanese matcha for those considering buying matcha tea. 

Firstly, matcha is priced in a rather unique way in Japan. Each tea produced is given a price based on quality (colour, taste, scent and so on), but there are no scientific standards used to determine these features. Rather, it is a very human process based solely on the five senses of the tea experts at each production company. This means that two different products from two different companies might have the same price but look and taste noticeably different. 


To give a brief explanation, higher grade matcha teas will have a very bright, vivid colour, and contain no notes of bitterness or harshness. In contrast, lower grade matcha teas are much less vividly coloured (often appearing more yellow than green) and their flavour contains stronger bitter notes. However, note that this bitterness complements sweet cooking perfectly, and for that reason, lower grade matcha is used when making matcha food products.

Further, there is not a large amount of organic matcha produced in Japan. This is an important point. The reason for this is that fertiliser-free, organic matcha leaves tend to lack a variety of nutrients, which results in a bitter tasting final product. As a result, bitter organic matcha teas are sold at relatively low prices in Japan. 
It is possible to find very delicious organically produced matcha teas which are grown using special organic fertilisers, but due to the hugely increased manpower necessary to produce these, their prices are much higher than normal matcha teas.

When you drink matcha, you ingest the whole tea leaf in its powdered form. As such, it is understandable that health conscious customers would find organically produced matcha more appealing. Customers must just be aware of the dangers of buying organic matcha outside Japan, as in many cases a tea that would fetch a low price in Japan is sold at a much higher price abroad as a ‘ceremonial organic matcha’. In Japan we don’t normally use organic matcha for the tea ceremony.



So, how should you pick a good matcha tea? In Japan, we tend to trust the tea brand. There are several famous, long-standing matcha production companies in Japan which take the utmost pride in their teas. As the world of matcha is highly competitive, they cannot afford to market poor quality products, as their customers would simply switch to another brand. Even amongst the teas of these famous brands, each product has subtle differences; it is best to try out a variety of brands and find the tea which suits you best.

Unfortunately most of the matcha sold outside Japan has been rebranded by secondary sellers and so it can often be unclear which Japanese company produced the tea. In order for demand to grow for better quality matcha outside Japan, tea drinkers need to inform themselves about matcha and become able to judge the value of the products they try for themselves.

Our aim is, at the very least, for as many people as possible to find a tea they love: a tea that matches their tastes and lifestyle.

About the Author: Ritsuo Takahashi is the founder and owner of Grace & Green Matcha in Japan, a start-up company, newly founded in 2015. The company was founded to help make stepping into the world of matcha that bit easier.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tea Review: Udyan Tea's Gopaldhara Clonal Queen

Gopaldhara Clonal Queen - Udyan Tea
"Udyan Tea is a brand set up by young entrepreneurs from Siliguri, Darjeeling District, India. We operate from Darjeeling, which is the home of one of the best and exclusive teas of the world. We source only the best and fresh teas from the best tea gardens in Darjeeling & other parts of India."

Ingredients:
First Flush Black Tea

Steep Time: 3 minutes

First Sip Thought: "Sweeter than expected."

Smell: The mix of light and dark green leaves give off a more floral aroma than I expected. I also grasps some light licorice type sweetness with lingering buttery notes. After steep, the liquor was a beautiful light gold.

Taste: I've always been more of a second flush girl, but I was surprised by how much I was finding myself enjoying each sip of this first flush. I was also excited to be able to try one from this year! With mild astringency, I think the natural sweetness that came with it helped me love it even more. A delicious steeping consisting of earthy tones and light buttery hints added to the overall floral cup. Although it was mellow throughout, the crisp finish was quite a nice addition. I would most definitely consider this a perfect spring tea that paired nicely with strawberries fresh from my garden, too. Thank you Udyan Tea for this lovely 2015 first flush!


Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 tea leaves
**If you or someone you know would like a tea reviewed, contact me.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tea Review: Simple Loose Leaf's Chinese Jade

Chinese Jade - Simple Loose Leaf
In the past, I have reviewed a few teas from Simple Loose Leaf’s tea subscription service. However, since then, their subscription service has changed. From design to structure, I’m excited to review a tea from this new and improved service. In a lovely presented box, they have provided larger quantity of teas for their May box. Instead of 5 teas at 7 grams each, there is now 4 teas at 10 grams each. I enjoy this better because sometimes too many teas at once feels overwhelming and I really like to be able to give full focus to one tea at a time. In addition, if there is a tea I really love, I’m definitely happy to have more of it! Another neat addition is that Simple Loose Leaf has also included 4 packets of organic cane sugar. While I don’t typically sweeten my teas, I will be giving it a try in some black teas.

Ingredients: Chinese Jade Green Tea

Steep Time: 2 minutes

First Sip Thought: "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..."

Smell: With vibrant colours, the aroma of this tea is just as enchanting. Quite grassy with subtle hints of smokiness. The spiral rolled leaves unfurl beautifully leaving a light golden liquor.

Taste: I decided to review this tea from Simple Loose Leaf’s May Tea Box because I consider it to be my favourite out of the four provided. Out of all the green teas I have tried, I think this may be in my list of top 3 favourites. It actually reminds me more of a white tea than green. Which leads me to think this would be a great green tea for beginners. As a very crisp brew, this Chinese Jade green tea never fails to satisfy. The first few sips were quite grassy, changing to a nice smoky, nutty flavour. With those two flavours, chestnuts roasting is the perfect description I can think of. Each infusion brings out a more intense chestnut finish that blends wonderfully with the vegetal flavours. I think I'm going to use this tea for the green tea vinegar recipe in Annelies' Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea cookbook. It calls for Dragonwell but the smoky qualities of this tea tells me I just may enjoy this more!

Verdict: 4 out of 5 tea leaves
**If you or someone you know would like a tea reviewed, contact me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

National Iced Tea Day: Puerh Masala Chai Iced Latte Recipe

The month of June is known as National Iced Tea Month with a highlight on June 10, National Iced Tea Day. This day has been set aside to celebrate the beverage  we enjoy during the warmer season. Iced tea made its debut for the first time at America’s first World’s Fair in 1904. As a solution to less tea consumption during the summer, Richard Blechynden decided to serve tea on ice to give everyone a refreshing, new way to drink the beverage.

While I really love tea hot or cold during any season, I have a love for creating tea recipes, and that includes iced ones! In honour of this month, and today, I'm sharing a recipe I drank a lot in the summer of last year, and will be toasting with it today with the hopes that you'll join me! 

For this recipe, you'll notice the masala chai used is a bit different than the traditional one you may be used to. I really enjoy using a puerh masala chai, opposed to just a masala chai with a black tea base, for this recipe because it help accentuates the star flavours creating an overall bold drink and the rich earthiness is a real treat. If you have the option to use a puerh masala chai, I highly recommend that you do. The one I used is from Avantcha Tea, which you can find here. If you do not have one on hand a regular masala chai will do or get creative! Grab a puerh for a base and blend it with chai spices. This particular tea blend uses fennel, anis seeds, licorice root, cardamom seeds, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. 

*Note: If you want to increase the strength of the iced tea latte, do not increase the steep time, simply add more tea leaves.

Puerh Masala Chai Iced Latte

*This recipe is enough for 2 servings.

Ingredients

2 tbsp. Puerh Masala Chai

2 cups milk (dairy free option: almond milk)
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. honey or cane sugar
Ice

Directions

1.    Insert the infuser into a teapot with the tea leaves inside.
2.    Bring the milk to a boil and fill the teapot ¾ of the way.
3.    Place the lid on the teapot and allow the leaves to steep for 5 minutes.
4.    Remove the lid and the infuser of tea leaves.
5.    Stir in the honey or cane sugar until it dissolves along with the cinnamon.
6.    Pour into a glass that is filled with ice and stir.
7.    Sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon on the top and serve!

*If you give this recipe a try, send me a photo of your creation on my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Tale of the Overflowing Teacup

A few weeks ago I was pouring myself a cup of tea during my own mini tea ceremony. It is said you should never completely fill your tea cup as it is considered impolite. While you may typically pour tea from a pot or gaiwan to fill your teacup at about 70 percent full, I was at the last bit of liquid left in my teapot and I wanted to try something new, as you may tell from the image below.
What inspired this action was a tale I found titled “A Cup of Tea”. This piece is a great eye opener on how important it is for us to learn to relax, empty our minds and just breathe. Living in the moment is something that I find easy to do when I have my own mini tea ceremonies. It’s time for me to practice tea meditation of sort, and feel extra fulfilled in my life. With many different versions available online, I have shared one version of A Cup of Tea below, the first I came across.

A Cup of Tea

Once, a long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. Many would come and ask him to teach them, enlighten them in the way of Zen. He seldom turned any away.

One day an important man, a man used to command and obedience came to visit the master. “I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment.” The tone of the important man’s voice was one used to getting his own way.

The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man. Finally the visitor shouted, “Enough. You are spilling the tea all over. Can’t you see the cup is full?”

The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”

*To read longer version of this tea story, another version I encourage you to check out is on Osho.com

Friday, June 5, 2015

Kombucha Review: Wonder Drink's Asian Pear & Ginger

Last week I introduced Kombucha to the blog and this week, as promised, we’re highlighting a Kombucha company and my favourite flavour from their selection. Launched in 2002, Kombucha Wonder Drink became the first national kombucha brand. Steve Lee, co-founder of Stash Tea and Tazo, founded the company after discovering kombucha and all its benefits while travelling through Russia in the 1990s. Based in Portland, Oregon, today Kombucha Wonder Drink has eight flavours offered in 14 oz resealable glass bottles and five flavours in 8.4 oz cans. Their cans are a great way to enjoy the delightful beverage at an excellent value. If you’re new to kombucha, the cans may be the route you want to take to give it the first try that way you hopefully won't feel like you're wasting too much money or product if it ends up not being your cup of tea.
While I really enjoyed their Traditional Kombucha that is made from fresh-brewed organic oolong tea, it was their Asian Pear & Ginger that caught my attention the most. It was also the first variety of their Kombucha I tried so it set the bar pretty high for the rest.

Said to be their most popular flavour, Asian Pear & Ginger features a blend of organic oolong tea, organic pear essence and organic ginger. Here is the full list of ingredients:
Filtered Water, Organic Brewed Oolong Tea (filtered water, organic oolong tea leaves), Organic Kombucha (filtered water, organic cane juice, organic oolong tea leaves, yeast and bacteria cultures), Organic Cane Juice, Organic Ginger Extract, Organic Pear Flavoring with Other Natural Flavors, Carbonation.

This kombucha has an intense aroma, with the pear as the star. There is also a vinegar note that comes along with most kombucha blends. I found the vinegar aroma was more noticeable in Kombucha Wonder Drink’s Traditional blend then any others. A vinegary aroma does not bother me, however, I especially liked that it wasn’t something that was overpowering in the Asian Pear & Ginger flavour.

With the right amount of sweetness, just like the aroma, I found that the pear flavour stands out the most. The ginger is present, but not overwhelming. The pear goes really well with the typical tart taste you would get from kombucha. Even though I have never been a pop/soda fan, I actually really enjoy the natural carbonation that comes with each sip. It's invigorating and adds to the overall robust drink.

Aside from cold brewed tea, kombucha has become one of my favourite summer drinks to relax and stay refreshed. If you have not tried kombucha yet, I would recommend this flavour. If you already are a kombucha fan, this blend should definitely be on your must try list!
 
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