October 02, 2018

Tea Sommelier by François-Xavier Delmas and Mathias Minet - Book Review + Giveaway

I recently finished a tea sommelier course so my interest was piqued when Tea Sommelier, a new tea guide by François-Xavier Delmas and Mathias Minet was brought to my attention. Delmas and Minet are renowned in the tea industry for the Le Palais des Thes boutiques so I knew I would be reading quality content. I wasn't disappointed. A pleasant surprise was the playful graphic design which is hinted at by the cover image. The charming graphics and straightforward narrative make this book an accessible guide.

A brief introduction precedes eight chapters covering election and preparation, tasting, tea types and processing, tea plantations, tea families, tea and food pairing, cooking with tea, and sommelier training. My major quibble with the book is the order of the chapters. For example, Chapter 3 (What is Tea?) which details tea botany, tea types, and tea processing should be the lead chapter. Leaving aside my preference for the flow of the content, in my short time with the book, I've already grown attached to particular chapters. Chapter 5 (The Families of Tea) might be my favorite chapter. Twenty major tea types and tea styles are given their own factsheets on preparation, aromatic profile, dominant and secondary aromas, and pairings. Another favorite section is the spread titled "In My Pantry". Imagine the teas in your stash and then imagine what food or drink you could prepare with those tea, all in a matrix!

Tea Sommelier is a great reference book. It is not esoteric, however. Nor is it solely a book for people beginning their journey in tea. Can you explain retronasal olfaction off the cuff? Win a copy of Tea Sommelier and read pages 40-41 to refresh your memory or to learn how olfaction works. Enter the giveaway below.

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A copy of Tea Sommelier by François-Xavier Delmas and Mathias Minet was provided for review.

September 25, 2018

Tillerman Tea Spring 2018 Oolongs

The spring 2018 oolongs from Tillerman Tea are the strip style Wenshan Bao Zhong, the rolled green oolong Cuifeng, and the rolled dark oolong Muzha Tieguanyin. The procession from light to dark and the variation in style made for a tea flight experience.

I prepared these Tillerman Tea Spring 2018 oolongs in my professional cupping sets. Each tea was steeped for 3 minutes in 195F water. I used 3 grams of the Cuifeng and Tieguanyin, and 2.5 grams for the Bao Zhong. Second infusions were steeped for 3 minutes 30 seconds in 200F water.

Wenshan Bao Zhong

An interesting aspect of baozhong is that its appearance resembles Wuyi and Phoenix oolongs in form but not in color because the latter are more oxidized so have darker colored leaves, and of course, different aromas and flavors.

The dry leaves of this Tillerman Wenshan Bao Zhong Spring 2018 by farmer Wong One Dashi smelled like toast and butter. The liquor was spring green in color. The infused leaves smelled of flowers, butter, and vegetables. The liquor was lush and tasted of butter and flowers with a vegetal finish. In the second infusion, the vegetal note dominated with a light floral finish.

Cuifeng High Mountain Oolong

Teas are classified as high mountain or gaoshan in Taiwan if they are grown above 1,000 meters or 3,281 feet. This Cuifeng High Mountain Oolong Spring 2018 was grown and harvested from Lishan Mountain by farmers Chen Feng Yan and Chen Chung Chia.

The large, tightly rolled leaves smelled strongly sweet and creamy. The infused leaves smelled herbaceous. The yellow liquor was surprisingly mild. The second infusion was much more flavorful with a medium body liquor. The flavors I tasted were herbaceous and spicy bitterness of almond fruit. I wanted to experience the "rich and viscous [liquor] with a long and persistent finish" so had another session with this tea using Tillerman Tea parameters: 6 grams of tea per 100ml of water at 212F for 20 seconds then 15 seconds, etc. The 15-second infusion brought the oomph!

Muzha Tieguanyin

Although the varietal that is used for Muzha Tieguanyin was imported from Anxi, the two styles of Tie Guan Yin look and taste nothing alike. The roast on Muzha Tieguanyin can range from light to heavy. The Tillerman Tea Muzha Tieguanyin Spring 2018 is medium roasted. The leaves, both dry and infused, smelled roasted, sweet, and fruity like dried papaya. The liquor's flavors were consistent with the scent of the leaves. However, it was a light-boded tea. The roast and fruit flavors alternated on my tongue followed by a drying finish. Subsequent infusions were less astringent and quite smooth.

The Takeaway

My first oolongs I think were Muzha Tieguanyin. Drinking this oolong in particular felt like a bit of a homecoming. I really like the fruit, depth of sweetness, and smooth roast of this style of tea. The buttery and floral aspects of the Wenshan Bao Zhong were also enjoyable and I appreciate that the floral aspect was not overwhelming. The sessions with the Cuifeng provide a caution about tea preparation. If I had only evaluated this tea on my professional cupping session, I would have been disappointed. I gave the tea another try because I have always enjoyed Tillerman Tea oolongs. Using the company's parameters made this gaoshan shine. So tea drinkers, if you can, have a couple of sessions with your teas using different steeping parameters. You might be pleasantly surprised with the results!

The Spring 2018 Oolongs reviewed here were provided by Tillerman Tea.

Jane Pettigrew, World of Tea: Discovering Producing Regions and Their Teas

September 13, 2018

My Day in Tea + Song Yi Tea Shanlinshi Oolong Review

I take notes of teas I drink to review on the blog but not of my daily tea consumption. Last year Lu Ann Pannunzio of The Cup of Life shared the teas she drank in a single day. I liked the idea and have finally replicated it here. 

Tea #1 - T2 Tea Grand Yunnan

I always start my day with a cup of black tea or a breakfast blend. On Monday, August 20th, I steeped the last two teaspoons of T2 Tea Grand Yunnan. This tippy tea is very fluffy so my teaspoon measure was on the heaping side. I steeped the tea with boiling water for up to 5 minutes. I used no more than 8 ounces of water, and I served the tea in a traditional cup and saucer. Grand Yunnan is an excellent tea. It is smooth, sweet and slightly smoky with bittersweet chocolate notes.

Tea #2 - Starbucks Green Tea Latte

I did not take the image above. I downloaded it from the Starbucks website (link). I enjoy drinking Starbucks green tea lattes. There -- it's in print. The iced version is better than the hot latte. I order my matcha lattes with extra matcha. (To whomever shared this tip, thanks again). The extra matcha is free, by the way. Last Monday, I ordered an iced green tea latte with extra matcha from a Starbucks on the Upper West Side. It was my second cup of tea of the day. Not all the matcha powder was suspended and normally that's not desirable but I saved those clumps and made a matcha latte at home the following day.

Tea #3 - Song Yi Tea Shanlinshi Oolong Tea

My third and final tea of the day was the Song Yi Tea Shanlinshi Oolong. It was my first session with the Taiwanese high mountain oolong, and it was very good, especially the third infusion which was supremely floral, buttery, and luscious.

I followed the Song Yi Tea parameters which were:

  • Leaf weight = 4 grams (Song Yi recommends 1g leaf: 15 cc/ml water)
  • Water volume = 100 ml
  • Water temperature = 212F
  • Infusion times = 40s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 55s

The dry leaves were sage, forest and blue-green, and smelled creamy and floral. The rinsed leaves were sweet smelling with roasted and zucchini flower notes. The aroma of the first infusion bowled me over. The tea was incredibly heady. It was very floral on the tongue and was underlain by buttery and vegetal notes, with a fruity finish. The second infusion was much stronger. The liquor was very vegetal but also bittersweet like cherry liqueur.

While the second infusion was dominated by a vegetal note, the third cup was floral with a capital F. The tea tasted of flowers and greenness. It was medium to full bodied with a noticeably buttery texture and smell. It actually smelled like popcorn. This was an outstanding infusion. The fourth cup was still buttery and floral and the liquor had thickened to being almost savory.

The fifth and final infusion was substantially thinner on the pour and this quality was reflected in the taste. This last cup had ghost flavors and texture.

Song Yi Tea Shanlinshi is a delicious oolong. Prepare it as I've done here or drop the temperature for my infusions. I would recommend following the Song Yi parameters to experience the awesomeness of the third cup. I did not purposefully select the Shanlanshi as the final tea of the day, nevertheless it was a perfect choice.

This snapshot actually represents a typical day of tea drinking for me. On average, I drink two different teas each day. Do you keep a record of the teas you drink each day? Share a day in the comments or on your blog. Thanks again to Lu Ann for this inspired idea.

September 05, 2018

Jane Pettigrew World of Tea - Book Review + Giveaway

As luck would have it, this week I received my Tea Sommelier certificate and my children start school. In honor of all of this school news, I am delighted to share my review and a giveaway of Jane Pettigrew's new book, World of Tea.

World of Tea is Pettigrew's 18th book and her longest at 434 pages. You could read it cover to cover. It's worthwhile to do so even if you've been a longtime student of tea. Pettigrew's writing is anything but dry so don't worry that you'll be treated to a dull read about the world of tea. You could approach the book as a lively reference and use the excellent Table of Contents or Index to guide your journey.

The book is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter is an introduction to the basics of tea: origin species and cultivars, terror, harvesting, processing, storage, and preparation. You may have read these elementary aspects of tea in other books before, but Pettigrew makes them seem fresh again. I especially like the graphic representation of how different categories of tea are processed.

The remaining six chapters cover the world. A chapter is dedicated to each continent on which tea is grown: North America, South America (Central America is included here and not with North America), Africa, Europe, Asia, and Oceania. These six chapters are where Pettigrew's expertise really shines. The reader is presented with a staggering amount of detail about teas in each region in each country in each continent. Those details include number of gardens, total area of cultivation, terrain, altitude, main cultivars, types of tea, and more. The chapter on Asia is over 200 pages long. Furthermore, Pettigrew tells the story of how tea arose in each place. So many stories! Did you know that a five-acre experimental tea plot was planted in Washington, DC in the 1850s?

Related: United States of Tea - Mauna Kea Tea, Hawaii

I have found a new gold standard for tea books. It's World of Tea by Jane Pettigrew. Enter the giveaway below to win a copy for your library.

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A copy of World of Tea by Jane Pettigrew was provided for review.

August 21, 2018

In Pursuit of Tea Lapsang Souchong Tongmu Reserve

One of my favorite people to drink tea with is one of my husband's aunts. Our most recent tea time was at Té Company for the Té + In Pursuit of Tea pairings. In the flight we chose, the Lapsang Souchong Tongmu Reserve was our favorite. Keep reading to find out why.

Aunt E treated us both to In Pursuit of Tea Lapsang Souchong Tongmu Reserve to take home. I am slowly working my way through the pouch. It is a special tea both for its taste and for where it is grown. The tea plants are grown in a Fujian village with limited access to outsiders, but fortunately for tea drinkers, In Pursuit of Tea was able to visit the village. Lapsang Souchong can be an acquired taste if it's not processed well. This Lapsang Souchong does not have any of the typical acrid flavor and harsh smoke smell. Here's the process for making this particular Lapsang Souchong sourced by In Pursuit of Tea:
[The leaves are withered] in a smokehouse, spread on bamboo mats above smoldering local Chinese red pine[,] then a repeated sequence of rolling and firing.

Lapsang Souchong Tongmu Reserve

The dry leaves of this twisted leaf black tea smell like thick cut bacon sweetened with maple syrup and dried fruit. I steeped 3 grams in 200F for five infusions. The first cup was gently sweet and coniferous in taste. The second infusion was also sweet and coniferous but more forceful in its aroma. As the liquor cooled, the body of the tea thickened. I tasted chocolate mousse mid-palate. The third infusion was consistent with previous cups with the addition of a creamy texture which I felt on the roof of my mouth. The fourth cup was sweeter than the previous ones. Imagine infusing your tea leaves in maple water. The smoky character of the tea had lightened. The final infusion was very long at 10 minutes. The liquor was still aromatic! The tea was smooth, sweet, and smoky, with a new woody note.

In Pursuit of Tea writes that this Lapsang Souchong has cranberry and lilac flavors. I did not taste these notes specifically, but I highly recommend this tea. You can purchase Lapsang Souchong Tongmu Reserve on the In Pursuit of Tea website. The price is $35.50 for 2 ounces.

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