Monday, July 25, 2011

Phoenix Tea Announcement

Last year my friend Cinnabar started an exciting new tea business called Phoenix Tea. During her first year she has worked hard to grow the business. I've watched as she sourced some incredible teas and served them to friends and clients at local tea clubs and festivals.

Soon after I lost my job at Teacup, Cinnabar emailed me about possibly working together on our own tea business. After several wonderful meetings with Cinnabar, I am now excited and honored to join Phoenix Tea as an owner/partner!

Continuing what Cinnabar has started, our focus will be on selling superb tea and tea ware from all over the world as well as building community, fostering sustainability and promoting tea education and tea culture. We currently have lots of exciting plans bouncing around in our heads and look forward to keeping you all up to date on any new teas and new developments.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Korean Lotus Root Infusion

My new friend Jason C. (president of the Penn State Tea Institute) recently returned from another one of his Asian tea treks. While he was in Korea I emailed him about my desire for some "primo Korean green tea." Jason didn't find any worthy specimens so instead I was so generously treated to a small can of dried lotus root tea!

The lotus is a beautiful and useful edible plant. It carries deep symbolic meanings for Buddhists. I've eaten lotus root before and found it to be quite delicious but for some reason I'd never thought about infusing it as a herbal tea. As it turns out lotus root tea is a very popular beverage the world over. The folks at Eden Foods state that lotus root tea is a macrobiotic staple and "long valued for its contribution to respiratory health."

I steeped about 8 slices of lotus root in ~8 ounces of boiling hot water for 5 minutes. The resulting cup had a pleasing amber color. The aroma was roasty, earthy and savory and it reminded me somewhat of french fries. The flavor in the mouth was a lovely surprise. It had a sweet, nutty, oolong-like flavor that I found slightly floral and very satisfying. I'm excited to have discovered this exotic infusion.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Garden Tea Party

Last Sunday, on a lovely summer afternoon here in Seattle, my wife and I hosted 12 friends to an afternoon of fine tea and light snacks in our garden.

On the tea menu was: Spring 2011 Alishan Zhang Shu Hu, Spring 2011 Wenshan Baozhong, Summer 2010 Formosa Bonita hongcha, 1999 Baked Tie Guanyin and a wee nip of Communitea Kombucha.

The all-vegan-nibbles included: cherry almond tart, fresh baked sourdough bread, hummus, strawberry jam, cherry-vanilla jam, and coconut date balls (all homemade by my brilliant wife).

Monday, July 11, 2011

DoMatcha's Organic Ceremonial

Last week my good friend and former coworker Tiffany P. asked me if I'd like to review DoMatcha's Organic Ceremonial tea on my blog. I've had a couple of great experiences with DoMatcha's products in the past at World Tea Expo so I happily agreed. Just two days later a can of tea and a new bamboo whisk (aka chasen) appeared at my door!

You may already know this (but it bears repeating) in order to taste good, matcha must be prepared well. It really takes skill, and that means a lot of practice. I'm by no means a skilled matcha whipper. I've only had a couple of short tutorials and seen a few videos. I don't drink matcha very often but I am lucky to already possess a very nice Japanese matcha bowl and chasen.

This morning I set up a serene matcha tasting under my cherry tree. As I opened the can I was delighted to find a small red booklet explaining matcha preparation waiting under the lid. Very classy.

The tea smells fresh and has a lively green color. I'll try my best to whisk it well!

I used two scoops from my bamboo matcha scoop (aka chashaku) and a few ounces of 190° spring water. I whisked as smooth and quick as possible in a zig-zag pattern for about 20 to 25 seconds until it looked like this:

Wide shot:

Close up:

The tea has a heady, sweet aroma and felt rich and substantial in my mouth. The texture was not at all chalky. My tasting notes included green banana (in a good way), and sugar snap pea. My daughter, who has never tried matcha before, took one small sip and stated that "Drinking matcha tea makes me feel like a sweet apple." (It should be noted that she is three years old and happened to be eating an apple at the time.)

I don't claim to have a well developed palate for matcha tea but I'd rank this one as very good.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2005 Gu Yuan Chen Xiang Shu Puer Cake

Today I'm reviewing the Cang Yuan Wa Mountain Tea Factories' 2005 Gu Yuan Chen Xiang shu puer cake (滄源佤山茶廠-古遠陳香-熟餅). I was recently given a half-cake-chunk by my generous friend T.Bass in Georgia (the state, not the country). He also included the beautiful gift box for this tea.

The box.

The wrapper.

The chunk.

The session.

I used a ~5 gram chunk of tea in a small gaiwan. I started with a three-second rinse before inhaling the sweet, earthy and smoky aroma on the wet leaves. The underside of the gaiwan lid presented a similar aroma with more fruity and rosy aspects.

When I drink shu puer tea I'm usually looking for something smooth, rich and pleasant. The liquor on this worthy specimen was very smooth and pleasant but not too rich. Compared to its cousin, the Cang Yuan Wa Mountain Tea Factory's 2006 Ripe Puer Brick (滄源佤山茶廠熟普洱茶磚), this tea seems pretty light.

Although lighter than I expected, it did display many lovely little bursts of complexity. My tasting notes included old wood, vanilla and ripe red grape. I'm also glad that the liquor was not very smoky. This cake will make an excellent summer shu.

Monday, July 4, 2011

CommuniTea Kombucha

Today is a beautiful, sunny day here in Seattle (Happy 4th of July btw!) and my beverage of choice is CommuniTea Kombucha. It is a fizzy, crisp, refreshing, local micro-brew made with organic green tea.

I've enjoyed this Kombucha many times over the last few years but yesterday evening I finally met Chris J. (the man behind the brew). We drank some Makabari estate Darjeeling green tea together and talked for quite a while about running a sustainable, community based small business, biodynamic farming and several other shared interests.

I'm happy to announce that this Saturday and next I'll be helping Chris sell his Kombucha at the University District Farmers Market!