Monday, February 8, 2016

Welcome the Year of the Fire Monkey

新年快樂 - Xīn nián kuài lè
恭喜發財 - Gōng xǐ fā cái
Happy New Year !

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Red Miso's Second Birthday!

On January 26, 2014, I started my first batch of red miso using the recipe in Sandor Ellix Katz's book Wild Fermentation. I'm sharing the process here for anyone who is also a fan of home fermenting!

First I cooked 4 cups of dried soybeans until they were very soft. I also boiled a clean stone to use as a weight.


This is the koji (rice with Aspergillus oryzae) that I purchased from a local Japanese supermarket.


After the cooked soybeans cooled, I mixed them and mashed them with the Koji and a brine made with 2 cups of the beans' cooking liquid and 1 cup of salt.


I'm fermenting it in my Rumtopf crock. I cleaned and dried the crock, salted the bottom, and then pressed the miso inside (taking care to eliminate any air pockets). Then I sprinkled more salt on the top.


I used a ceramic plate and a heavy rock as a weight.


Then I covered the crock with a thick tea towel, labeled it with the date, and stored it in a dark cabinet in my basement.


Exactly one year later (January 26, 2015), I checked on my miso for the first time. It had a tiny spot of fuzzy mold on top and looked a little bit redder than it had when it started. I scraped off the mold and tasted the miso. It was great but not as mellow as I would like. I sprinkled some new salt on top, replaced the weight and cover, and put it back in the cabinet. (Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures that day.)

Now it's time for my miso's two year check-up. Let's take a look!

Looks great. A wee halo of mold grew around the edge. Quick and easy to scrape that off and toss it in the compost.

Definitely looks redder than last year. Smells good too. My wife and I each took a little taste. Very nice flavor with a delicate caramel note. Mellower than last year too!

I'd say it's getting there! I cleaned it up, sprinkled in some fresh salt and put it back to bed. Sandor's book hinted that the third year (or maybe even later) is when the real magic happens. He teased that some 9 year old Red Miso he tasted was "sublime." Not sure I can wait that long but I will update you all again in 366 days! 
Tasty!

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Winter Baozhong!

Last week I treated myself to a couple ounces of Winter 2015 Wenshan Baozhong (文山包種茶) tea from Phoenix Tea in Burien, Washington. Today I'm trying it for the first time.

Beautiful, fragrant dry leaves.

For this session I used ~7 grams of dry leaf in my 100 ml gaiwan and freshly boiled spring water. Water was full boil (or very close to it).

You know how sometimes a cup of very fresh tea seems to sparkle with all those essential oils floating on the surface? This tea has lots of that, which I love!
 

The mouth-feel is thick and amazing. I can feel the tea coating my tongue and lips. The fragrance notes are: blossom, awesome, yum, and plum. My tasting notes are: clean, green, and nectarine. When the winter days are particularly dark and drizzly this tea will bring me a lot of good cheer. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A New Chapter

Hi Friends! After 14 wonderful years as a tea seller and tea educator, I've decided to retire from the industry. I'm so happy that Phoenix Tea's owner and founder Cinnabar will continue operating the business. As long as she is the proprietress I will proudly buy most of my tea from Phoenix Tea!

Besides continuing my part-time cooking job at Redwing Cafe, here are a few of my plans for the new year: 

Spend more time with my family. 

Work on my house and garden. 

Make music.
                  
Drink lots of great tea!

Post whatever random crazy stuff I feel like on this blog.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mauna Kea Tea's 2015 Green Tea

Last week I received a half ounce of fresh green tea from Mauna Kea Tea Company on the big island of Hawaii! Since my first post about this wonderful family farm five years ago, I've only tasted their teas a couple times, but I often think about them and enjoy following them on facebook and reading about Hawaiian tea production on their blog. Today I will share my review of their new 2015 Premium First Flush Green Tea.

The dry leaf of this green tea is really beautiful. It is made up entirely of long, twisted, leaf-and-bud sets with flecks of jade green, forest green, and silver. It smells fresh and sweet. A nice toasty aroma remains from the pan firing. 


For this cupping I used a large pinch of dry leaf, 165º F spring water, and a 1 minute steep in my glass gaiwan (steep time increased slightly with later infusions). The tea liquor is pineapple-yellow with a thick body and grassy fragrance.


I poured eight awesome infusions of this green tea. My notes bounced all around including herbaceous, floral, buttery and vegetal notes. This is my kind of green tea, it's complex and refreshing with a smooth and substantial mouth-feel. If you've never tasted Hawaiian grown tea I can think of no better place to start than this green from Mauna Kea Tea company.   

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tea Catering Revisited

Hi Tea Friends!

Wow... nine whole months have past without a single post here on my tea blog. It's not like my life has been any less tea-focused than usual, it's just that all facets of life seems to be online more and more. Everyday I have emails, texts, and comments to reply to from wonderful customers and friends around the world. These communications keep me busy and fulfilled but sometimes lessen my desire to blog. I'm not going to be too hard on myself though. The blog is here when I need it and I'll post when I feel like it. And today I have something to say!

I love to serve tea for people. That has always been my favorite part of the tea industry and it is how I've met most of my friends and built my brand as a tea-seller and tea-educator. This past weekend I got a chance to do some tea catering. On a beautiful morning in Normandy Park, Washington, I put hot, delicious tea samples into the hands of nearly 100 people at a high school art festival. It was a lot of fun and will no doubt lead to a few new customers for Phoenix Tea.

Setting up.

My station after set up.

Ready for Action!

A display of the five teas I offered.  From left to right:

I am always excited to represent Phoenix Tea by catering events. If you are interested in having me at your event please email me at brett[at]phoenix-teashop[dot]com. The cost varies depending on the nature of your event and the convenience of the time and venue required.