Friday, October 21, 2005

The Tea Review

I have discovered loose tea.

I found it, of all places, at the shop where Andy gets his beer brewing supplies. They have a small selection of about 15-20 loose teas. I went with Andy the last time he needed something, and got myself a little sampler. The tea is super cheap (I think) at between $.95 and $2.49 an ounce. I thought I should try a few different teas.

The first one I was drawn to was called Sunshine Lemon Rooibos. I already knew that I liked rooibos. Although, technically it is not tea, as it is not even a leaf, more like tiny little sticks, it makes a wonderful cup of herbal tea. And the Sunshine Lemon is just wonderful. It is so fragrant and yummy. It is my instant favorite. Rooibos is such a delicate flavor, it is truly ahrd to describe, but it is almost like it has hints of cinnamon and sweetness, and a light "red" flavor. The lemon is a perfect complement to the rooibos, and I plan to buy plenty of this tea to have at all time. I also think this would make a fabulous iced tea as well.

I also brought home a Green Tea Chai. I am on the fence about this one. I like green tea, and I love chai, but this one seems out of balance. It may be that I steeped it too long, but the spice flavor is overwhelming,and the tea flavor is underwhelming. The flavors I get the most are cardamom and clove, which have their places, but are not my favorite. So I'm not sure what I will do with this one. I don't love it, but I don't hate it. I know I wouldn't buy it again, but in the meantime I have almost 3 ounces of loose tea- which is quite a bit.

The third tea I got is called Russian Caravan. There is no fence here. The tea is described as an a basic black tea with a hint of Lapsong Suchong tossed in. Um, it smelled good in the jar. The Lapsong is a smoked tea, and while you can faintly smell it, it wasn't overwhelming, and I thought it sounded good. I only steeped this one for 3 minutes, because I didn't want to be overwhelmed. The first sip of tea was like, oh, wierd, maybe it's an acquired taste. So I sat down determined to give it it's full trial. I did try it unsweetened, and then added a little honey as well. About 4 or 5 sips later, I just couldn't stomach it. The lapsong doesn't come out right away, it's more like a lingering finish. And I definitely do not like the taste of smoke lingering on my tongue. I would breathe and I could smell my breath. It was like I had eaten smoked fish or something. This was soooo not for me. I don't mind my ribs and chicken to be a little smoked- but I don't care to drink it. So I have nearly 2 ounces of this sitting around here as well. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to send it to you for nothing. It cost me little, but I feel like it's being wasteful if I just toss it. I will keep it around for a little while, and if no one is interested, I will toss it, but just in case someone likes this yucky brew...

Now to the basics of brewing tea. At least, this is my procedure. First I boil some water and fill my ceramic teapot with hot water and my cups with hot water to warm them. The I set the kettle of water back on and gently heat it to between 170 and 190. I've been using my probe and letting it get to 185 before I take it off the heat. Then I dump the hot water out of my tea pot. I add my loose tea leaves to the pot. My proportions are 1 teaspoon for each cup of tea, plus one for the pot. Add the hot water to the pot and let it steep for between 3-5 minutes. If you let it go much longer than 5 minutes, the tea can become bitter. Using a tiny mesh strainer, I strain the tea as I pour it into the warmed tea cups. Ideally, if I were to make more than one or two cups of tea, I think I will be getting a carafe specifically for tea. As the tea doesn't stay warm for very long in the ceramic tea pot, and leaving it sit and steep is a bad idea.

While I won't be giving up my Stash tea bags anytime soon, I am enjoying the experience of loose tea, and I will be sure an dshare my experiences as Andy tends to need more brewing supplies form time to time.

I will be back later today, as it is Andy's birthday and I have a few special things planned for in the kitchen. So tune back in later. :-)

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