November 07, 2018

Books that Inspired Tea Book Authors

The Tea Life by the Book series brings you the book titles that influenced some of my favorite tea book authors. The series launches with Lu Ann Pannunzio, blogger at The Tea Cup of Life and author of Tea-spiration: Inspirational Words for Tea Lovers.

Tea-spiration: Inspirational Words for Tea Lovers is a book concerned with the way of tea in your life. The central content of the book is divided among five chapters starting with the Introduction. My favorite page in the Introduction is an infographic relating one's sensing of tea. The subsequent chapters guide you through making a place for tea, choosing your tea-ware and teas, opening a bag of tea for the first time, drinking your first sip of tea, pairing tea with food, the final sip, caring for your tea-ware, and storing your tea. Tea-inspiration is a narrative companion along your daily and lifelong journey with tea.

I asked Lu Ann to tell us about the books that influenced her career in tea and she provided the following stories.

Life by the Cup by Zhena Muzyka

I remember picking up this book with interest because of one of the endorsements saying it’s “a book with heart that you can stop, sip and enjoy not only a cup of tea but a cup of life.” Sound familiar? ;)
The author shares her story of her tea dream throughout the book, shining light on the struggles before her successes. To say it is an inspiring read would not be enough. The author went from being a single mom with little to no money for her son’s life saving surgery to owning a multi-million dollar tea company. I believe this book has influenced my career in tea because it opened my eyes to how one can overcome limitations.

The Tea Companion by Jane Pettigrew

This was one of the first books I picked up to dive deeper into the world of tea. I actually have not read it since the first time I picked it up years ago. I don’t even have my own copy! It was a library book I checked out, but one I remember really well as I often read this book more than the college textbooks I should have been reading at the time. Reading it allowed me to travel the world more with my cup of tea as I was learning about the regions tea is grown and tea production methods. The information had me hooked. This tea textbook was just the start of a very long and joyous tea journey to come.

Writing Down to the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

This is a newer read for me. Not tea related, but since my career in tea is becoming more focused on writing blogs, articles and books, I think a writing themed read is appropriate here. The author connects writing with Zen practices. I constantly take it off my book shelf to read bits and pieces as I find it helps get the creative juices flowing (much like a cup of tea does!). As a writer, I’m sure you can agree, some days are easier than others to write. I really do find that this book has helped me stop staring at a blank Word document and freeing the writer within, whether it is tea content for the blog, writing for my next book, or articles.

Share the books that have influenced your journey as a tea drinker, blogger, or book author.

This blog post contains an Amazon affiliate links and images.

October 25, 2018

Upton Tea Imports - New Zealand Oolong + Tindharia First Flush Darjeeling

Upton Tea Imports was the first tea seller from which I ordered teas. I used to read the catalogues front to back. It was a pleasure to see the packages on my stoop. I placed orders with the company between 2007 and 2009, at least according to my blog records. I didn't stop ordering from Upton for any particular reason, certainly not because of a poor experience with their teas. I was delighted to hear from them this year. I chose two teas, New Zealand Gordonton Estate Oolong and Tindharia Estate First Flush FTGFOP1 (EX-1) Organic Darjeeling, both of which I review here, and received a gift of Pre-Chingming Silver Sprout Green Tea.

I chose the oolong and Darjeeling for specific reasons. I did not drink enough first flush Darjeelings last year. I told myself if I was given the opportunity to drink a first flush this year, I should take it. Upton Tea Imports offers many first flushes so it was a difficult to choose only one but in the end, the Tindharia was most appealing. As for the oolong, I wanted to drink an oolong with which I had little experience. I had drunk only drunk a New Zealand rolled oolong one other time to my knowledge.

Related - Tea Tasting with Yoon Hee Kim of Tea Classics

Each tea was prepared per the instructions provided by Upton Tea Imports. The parameters for the oolong are 1t/6oz/3m/190F and for the Darjeeling are 1t/6oz/3m/212F.

New Zealand Gordonton Estate Oolong

Before steeping this oolong, I worried that 1 teaspoon wouldn't yield a flavorful cup of tea. The first infusion was light in color and in the flavor: pale yellow with a slight butteriness and a hint of flowers. The dried leaves had promising scents so I steeped a second cup using the same tea leaves and 195F water for 4 minutes. The tea had an improved body with olive oil taste and texture. There were floral notes mid tongue and everything lingered. There was a subtle roast flavor when aerated. As the tea cooled, I detected a slight dryness and a cherry tartness on the roof of my mouth.

Tindharia Estate First Flush FTGFOP1 (EX-1) Organic Darjeeling

The dry leaves of this Darjeeling smelled herbaceous, sweet, floral, and woody. When rinsed, a stone-fruit pit bitterness wafted from the teapot. The light brown liquor yielded herbaceous notes first followed by maple candy sweetness. Both lingered. The medium-bodied tea had a pleasant astringency layered with apricot jam on the roof of my mouth. The maple note declined as the tea cooled but the liquor was still sweet and left a slight hairiness at the back of my throat. I infused the leaves a second time and although the cup was less intense, it had more balance among the flavors.

The Takeaway

Use more leaves when infusing the oolong. Also, consider a higher water temperature. I was happy with the Darjeeling, but keep a close eye on the steep time. The Darjeeling my favorite of the two teas. Finally, I would encourage tea companies to provide steeping parameters for Western and non-western infusion styles.

The New Zealand Oolong and Tindharia First Flush Darjeeling were provided by Upton Tea Imports.

October 24, 2018

Tea Tasting with Yoon Hee Kim of Tea Classics

What's better than a bottle of champagne to start the new year? A grand tea tasting! On January 14 I attended a tea tasting hosted by Yoon Hee Kim of Tea Classics. Yoon Hee is the president of Tea Classics, a founding director of Korean Tea Culture Foundation, and a certified tea master of the traditional art of Korean Tea Ceremony.

The event was held in tasting room located Chinatown. In addition to Yoon Hee, there were two special guests, one of whom was Corinne Trang of Liquid Gold Tea. The tasting began with introductions and a short lecture about Camellia sinensis flowering and seed production, Dan Cong, Korean flushes, and wild Lapsang production. Then we turned to the teas. The tasting was arranged as a flight moving from lighter to darker teas. Here are my notes on the twelve teas we drank.

  • Korean Green Tea (Hadong) processed by Yoon Hee. It was a sweet, nutty, and vegetal cup. 
  • Sencha. Yoon Hee recommends steeping send and gyokuro in 140F water for two minutes. 
  • Darjeeling White. Soft, fruity, and hairy liquor which I marked as "a very good - a daily drinker". 
  • New Zealand Rolled Oolong. It was "so good and creamy". It scented the air around the cup. Corinne recommends pairing it with Cantal, a cheese from central France.
  • Dan Cong. This oolong courtesy of Corinne was aromatic, floral and oily on the lips. "Yum!"
  • Jin Jun Mei 2015. This black tea, also courtesy of Corinne, was malty ad woody with a bit of pure funk.
  • Aged Hwangcha.
  • Korean Hongcha. This black tea was smooth, barely sweet, with a lingering cocoa note.
  • 2009 Shou. This purple-tipped brick tea was earthy with beetroot flavor. Raspberry chocolate makes a good pairing.
  • Sheng. This raw puerh possessed a sweet, fruity nose with lots of astringency mid tongue. 
  • Wild Lapsang. Forget about bitter smoke. This lapsang, courtesy of Corinne, was a highlight with floral notes and pleasant astringency.
  • Kenilworth Ceylon. A Mariage Frère tea.

Yoon Hee Kim is passionate and knowledgeable about tea. Her teaching style was generous. Her tea preparation movements were elegant and seamless. She created a relaxing environment for tea appreciation and socializing. I was disappointed that I could not attend her tea tasting earlier this month, but am grateful for the experience I had in January. I would be remiss if I did not thank Jo Johnson for the invitation.

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
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