December 06, 2018

Books that Inspired Tea Book Authors with Jane Pettigrew

The new book review series brings you the books that have influenced some of my favorite tea book authors. Jane Pettigrew is today's guest. Jane is the award-wining author of 17 books about tea. Her most recent book is World of Tea.

Jane Pettigrew's lastest book, World of Tea, is aptly named. I dare you find a more comprehensive resource about the current state of tea. One of the wonderful aspects of World of Tea is the breadth of coverage of tea cultivation. In 434 pages she writes about every country on each continent that produces tea. Almost half of those pages are devoted to Asia which makes sense; China, India, Japan, and Taiwan are tea meccas. There are 17 states in the U.S. producing tea. I hear a lot about Kenyan tea but there are 19 other countries producing tea in Africa. Tea is even produced in Oceania -- Papua New Guinea, Australia, and New Zealand. Jane Pettigrew also makes the basics of tea interesting. Her chapter on origin and terroir, species and cultivars, and harvesting and processing is not a regurgitation of information you've read elsewhere. She presents new details about these subjects. Also, the graphics and photographs describing tea processing provide a fresh perspective.

Here are three of the books that have influenced the career of Jane Pettigrew, a well-regarded authority on tea.

All About Tea by William H. Ukers

This two-volume work was one of the first books I came across at The British Library in London when I started researching the history of tea. William Ukers investigated and documented every possible aspect of tea - history, cultivation, processing, ceremonies, tea businesses and tearooms, tea politics, tea regions, and so much more. I was fascinated at the breadth and depth of his writing and of the subject and the more I read, the more I was drawn in.

The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo
A friend gave me a copy of this book in 1988 and I have treasured it ever since. This is the book that captures people's souls and spiritual understanding of the importance of tea in our everyday lives. It is the true tea bible that keeps us on the right path and reminds us constantly of the need for tea in our lives. Anyone who cares about tea should carry this book with them through life.

Tea For The British by Denys Forrest
I discovered this book during my first explorations into tea history at The British Library and found so many references to British history and tea's importance in London, my home town, that I simply had to obtain a copy for myself. That book has been on the shelves of my study since 1985 and I still dip into it from time to time to check a date, a place, or an event that shaped our tea history. Mr Forrest's work led me from an understanding of the British tea story to a desire and need to know more about the tea history of other nations. And I'm still learning.

I am a fan of the botanical illustrations on the cover of Ukers's All About Tea. This book in particular looks like a gem. Thank you Jane for sharing these influential books with us. 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.

November 30, 2018

Blind Tea Tasting with Story of My Tea

Story of My Tea's Blind Tea Tasting pack is billed as "a guessing game for your sense of flavor." The company ran a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year. I got in on the action with a courtesy box. How well did I do in this tea tasting game?

Each pack includes 4 blind pouches, reveal cards, a tasting wheel, and tea filters. My blind teas were 6009, 6016, 6017, and 6023. By sight and taste, I knew the types of three of the four teas. Teas 6009 and 6023 were black teas. I knew that 6009 was a Darjeeling; it's full name is Organic Darjeeling Sungma SFTGFOP I. I noted that black tea 6023 was not Chinese or Indian (Darjeeling). I noted that it tasted like a Sri Lankan tea. It is St Clair Black, a high-mountain Sri Lankan tea.

The pouches for teas 6016 and 6017 were mislabeled. I knew that the pouch labeled 6016 contained a rolled oolong. It tasted like a milky oolong. The tea in pouch 6106 was actually tea 6017, a Chinese milky oolong processed by steaming the leaves in milk. The tea in the pouch labeled 6017 was a string-style tea. The tea in pouch 6017 was actually tea 6016 is a strip-style oolong, a brandy oolong specifically made from Camellia sinensis assamica.

Here are my blind tasting notes for the four teas in my pack. I should note that I didn't totally figure out the mislabeling until after I had a session or two with the teas for which I used preparation parameters that were probably not ideal for the two oolongs. The information reported below reflects the correct parameters for the two oolongs.

Tea 6023 St Clair Black
  • 1 teaspoon, 8 ounces, 200F water, 5 minutes
  • Light, bright cup of tea without any dark notes

Tea 6017 Milky Oolong
  • 1 teaspoons, 8 ounces, 175F water, 3 minutes
  • Rolled leaves smelled scented like cake batter
  • Liquor was flavored

Tea 6009 Organic Darjeeling Sungma SFTGFOP I
  • 1 teaspoon, 8 ounces, 212F water, 3 minutes
  • Hairy, musky leaves
  • Herbaceous, light muscatel liquor with woody tail note

Tea 6016 Brandy Oolong
  • 1.5 teaspoons, 8 ounces, 195F water, 5 minutes
  • Almost vermillion liquor was light bodied with a red fruit note

The Takeaway
Although I now have my Tea Sommelier certification, I am not a tea master. I did not recognize the strip-style tea as an oolong. My favorite of the teas was the Darjeeling. All of the tea experiences would benefit from a higher leaf to water ratio. My least favorite of the teas was the flavored Chinese Milky Oolong. If you haven't already, try a Taiwanese milk oolong made from the Jin Xuan cultivar.

Blind Tea Tasting pack provided by Story of My Tea.

November 07, 2018

Books that Inspired Tea Book Authors with Lu Ann Pannunzio

This new book review series brings you the books 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.

The Tea Companion is one of two Jane Pettigrew books in my library. I have been keeping a short stack of writing books on my nightstand and would love to add Writing Down the Bones. Thanks to Lu Ann for sharing books that have inspired her career. 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.
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