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Tea notes

Last month I began an exploration of loose-leaf tea. People on my friends list have been really helpful in recommending teas and outlets to purchase same, and hmms_sio really touched me by bringing me three kinds of tea from Amsterdam.

Here are some notes on teas I've tried:

Generally, I never realized before that after I steep and pour the tea, its flavor continues to change as the water cools. It tastes better to me when it is warm but not very hot.

China Mist Toasted Rice Green Tea
Technically not a loose-leaf tea, because it comes in a "sachet" (a pyramidal tea bag, which allows more room for the tea inside): China Mist Toasted Rice Green Tea. I first had this at Pasta Moon restaurant in Half Moon Bay. This is a kind of tea sometimes served at Japanese restaurants; they call it genmaicha. It has a wonderfully nutty delicate flavor.

Ten Ren Tea
innerdoggie recommended Ten Ren Tea http://www.tentea.com/
I tried them first out of all the online tea retailers that folks recommended because they ship from California and the shipping charges are based on weight. They offer .32 oz samplers of their loose leaf teas, nicely packaged in ziploc baggies inside pretty red boxes. I bought samples of:
  • Keemun black tea 1st grade, 2d grade, and 3d grade, to see if I could tell the difference among the grades (I can't)
  • Lapsong Souchong tea (way too strongly smoke-flavored for my taste)

The Keemun teas are good, but they don't seem to be quite flavorful enough. (With the black teas, I'm trying to recreate my first experience of English tea with milk, when I went to England for the first time at age 15. I took a sip and thought, "Wow, so THIS is what all the fuss is about!" Prior to that I hadn't liked tea but probably because all I'd had was Lipton tea bags, and it hadn't occurred to me to put milk in the tea. I'm aware it might be impossible to recreate this experience.)

Simon Lévelt organic Sewpur BOP Indian Assam
hmms_sio gave me some Simon Lévelt organic Sewpur BOP Indian Assam. BOP stands for Broken Orange Pekoe, which is a grade of tea leaf. This is a CTC (crush-tear-curl) tea. CTC is a method of leaf preparation that results in small pellets. Since they're crushed, the leaves yield a lot of flavor quickly. I tried using an amount equivalent to the amount of Keemun I was using and steeping it for the usual 4 minutes, and the result was much too strong. When I used half that amount and steeped for 3 minutes, the result was about right. The Assam is more flavorful than the Keemun.

Sio also gave me two other teas to try, but I haven't opened them yet.

Four Seasons Oolong
At a restaurant in Las Vegas, I had an oolong tea called Four Seasons Pouchong (http://www.houseofcha.com/details.asp?item=59). It was very yummy both plain and with a bit of honey with a smooth, delicate floral flavor. Oolong is a kind of black tea, that is, it is fermented, but it's fermented for only half as long as regular black tea. So it's kind of a cross between green tea and black tea in flavor.

Sunset Oolong Flowering Tea
Yesterday I tried the Sunset Oolong flowering tea from Numi. Flowering teas are tea leaves and other things like flowers hand sewn together into a little ball. They blossom when you put them in hot water. I liked this tea a fair bit, although not as much as the Four Seasons. I find the flowering tea concept interesting and amusing but it seems like a lot of fuss to go to, so I wouldn't use this tea except for a special occasion.

If I can't manage to re-create my perfect English tea experience, at least I know I really like Oolong and Genmaicha.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 22nd, 2008 07:59 am (UTC)
Pasta Moon rules.
Feb. 17th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
I'm not too impressed by the 'Haagse thee'. It's nice, but tastes pretty 'plain'.

I also bought myself a ginger/lemon herbal mix and that tastes great.

Feb. 22nd, 2008 08:00 am (UTC)
I tried the chai yesterday and it was prtty good!
Feb. 18th, 2008 04:19 am (UTC)
I tried a toasted rice green tea at a local tea shop, and didn't care for it. Tea isn't supposed to taste like oatmeal!

My suggestion to recreate the British tea experience is to see if you can find a loose-leaf English Breakfast from a non-US source. ISTR that both Lipton and Tetley sell to both US and British markets, but with distinctly different formulations. You might look at Canadian tea sellers, if you have one in your reference files.

Feb. 22nd, 2008 08:01 am (UTC)
Thanks for the idea! I didn't know they use different formulations for US and British markets.
Feb. 18th, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
I love genmaichi. Supposedly they added rice during poor times to make the tea go farther.

I've been enjoying single origin Ceylon tea from Dilmah (http://www.dilmahtea.com).

And as Al Swearingen says, "That black fucking Darjeeling".

Tea changes continually, due to oxidation. It also changes on multiple infusions. There are several chinese teas that are well suited to multiple pours.
Feb. 19th, 2008 12:28 am (UTC)
I have a few different kinds of tea, but I almost always drink Darjeeling. I make iced tea and hot tea from it.

(I'm on the fourth disc of the third season of Deadwood.)
Feb. 22nd, 2008 08:02 am (UTC)
Tea changes continually, due to oxidation. It also changes on multiple infusions. There are several chinese teas that are well suited to multiple pours.

Kind of hard to take a rigorously scientific approach to this... :)
Feb. 25th, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
They you haven't read _The Lady Tasting Tea_, which is a history of statistics and scientific discovery. A good read.
Feb. 18th, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)
I just want to second the recommendation for a tea blend referred to as "English Breakfast." I believe it's actually a blend of Indian and Chinese teas and meant to stand up to milk although I drink mine black with sugar. Lately I've been drinking Irish Breakfast from Twinings. It's not as nice as some teas I've had, but it's perfectly acceptable and available at my local grocery.

I can't remember if anyone recommended Upton Teas (snippy was looking for tea at one point too, and I've gotten confused), so I'll include that link: http://www.uptontea.com/shopcart/home.asp

For a black loose tea, I really like Assam teas and some Ceylon teas.
Feb. 22nd, 2008 08:04 am (UTC)
Thanks for the recommendations! I've heard that any number of different teas can be called English Breakfast, but some/most of them are blends. I currently have some Republic of Tea English Breakfast, which is OK, but I have to use two or three bags to get a strong enough flavor.

I think it's going to turn out that I like Assam better than Keemun.
Feb. 18th, 2008 10:23 pm (UTC)
seebling! genmaicha and oolong are my current favourites as well. i could send you some samples from my own local supplier (who also ships internationally, so if you end up liking something, you can order it online). i probably have mislaid your address on the computer that's currently not accessible -- send it to pleochroic@gmail.com?
Feb. 22nd, 2008 08:07 am (UTC)
Re: tea!
Thanks, that's a very kind offer. Check your inbox.
Feb. 18th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC)
You sound like you're having fun! Keep us all posted.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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