A few weeks ago, while on vacation in the US, I went to an ordinary supermarket, curious what the regular consumer can expect when in the mood for tea.
I was a bit disappointed to see convenience ruling over quality. Rows of teabags of all sorts, not that there is something wrong with it, but it would be nice to give the regular consumer some choice; an avenue to explore towards new heights and infinite better quality.
In all fairness it is getting a bit better when compared to years ago as some loose leaf tea has found their way to the shelves. However it’s still a far cry away from the wonderful complexity and taste wonderland that is the loose leaf tea world.
As promised I would like you to take you with me on exploring tea finds in this wonderful part of Southeast Asia. I would to start with small daily observation. I noticed that in contrast to Italy, were I had to made quite an effort to find good tea, here in Myanmar tea will find me.
As a new tea sommelier my willingness to find new, exciting things about tea is omnipresent. As part of my journey with you I would like to share interesting little items I came across, some you might be well familiar with and some might come as a surprise to you.
Everywhere you go, there is an opportunity to drink some awesome tea. One amazing drink I discovered are matcha smoothies, a bright green colored drink with a strong presence of matcha flavors.
After one month living in Myanmar I am gathering my first impression of the tea culture here. For a tea sommelier it is truly a dream come true. Tea is present in every aspect of life and is by far the most important drink after water here.
The very first impression you get is the street tea culture as it is present in many Asian cultures. Myanmar people are fans of Indian Style tea with a big dollop of condensed milk with sugar.
Everybody has their own preference, some like it sweeter or less sweet, stronger or less strong. If you are a frequent customer to a particular tea stall, the tea barista will know your style and prepare according to your liking.
All over the city and most dominant in the downtown area, little colorful plastic chairs await their customers. Just order a small snack like a samosa and tea will automatically be served, normally Chinese style light green tea. In the canteen in my work place at WFP, big thermos jugs are on each table filled with light green tea and cute little small tea cups in order to enjoy a few round of tea. Continue reading →
Since it ended in July, I’m probably the last person to be writing a blog about the 2016 WORLD TEA EXPO, but the event was just so important and amazing that I still need to write down my thoughts.
Born as a Christmas Market idea in Germany, ManwithaMug.com became reality early in 2016 as I was approaching the finish line of my 52 week training to become a tea sommelier.
The program included a final graduation ceremony held during the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, USA. First I dismissed this idea due to the tremendous logistical challenges this was presenting (I was living in Rome, Italy to be assigned somewhere else in the world). But somehow with a lot of moral support from Ms. Tea we shifted our agenda around, planned our family visit to Boston around that time to hand over the kids to the grandparents and took the plunge and made reservations for the Expo.
After a few weeks of broadcast silence I am finally back behind the keyboard to continue my blog from Yangon, Myanmar.
You might think I lost interest or have achieved everything I wanted with this blog, but quite the opposite is true.
In the past weeks I had to set priorities as the move from Rome, Italy to Yangon, Myanmar, which is quite substantial. My focus was on settling the family into a new house, getting the kids used to a school routine and have a successful start into my new assignment as the Head of Finance and Administration for the World Food Programme in Myanmar.
As part of my studies, we had to write a final essay up for discussion on the opportunity for a tea presentation to overcome intolerance. I would like to share with you the result of this essay. The specific question was:
“In a world where the intolerance of the cultural values and practices of others leads to discrimination and mass murder, a creative and culturally sensitive tea presentation is an opportunity to promote the art and taste of tea, as well as nurture a peaceful environment of respect and appreciation of many cultures.”
We all come from different backgrounds. We live in different countries around the world. We went through different childhoods, different cultural experiences, which all have left their mark on the windshield on how we perceive the world.
The windshield of some people is so tainted and closed that it leads them to see people how they want them to see, with intolerance and discrimination. It leads them to engage in damaging acts and even worse, convince other people to follow their destructive path. Continue reading →
A big heated debate is currently running through the tea industry – what is a tea sommelier and how can these people compare themselves to highly skilled wine sommeliers?
As I am on the path to become a tea sommelier myself I thought it might be a good moment to add my five cents to this discussion.
In ancient times, the job of a sommelier (derived from the middle French “saumalier”) was to keep the provisions (food and drinks) of a royal house well-stocked. It also included tasting and taking sips of wine to ensure they are edible and not poisoned.
As I have mentioned in many blog entries before, I am passionate about the Darjeeling tea region. It has a special place in my heart as this relatively ‘small’ tea region has a unique structure but most importantly produces amazing teas.
This region strives to produce high quality loose leaf teas to amaze the tea community. I am not quite sure if this comes from my cultural DNA, as Germans in general have a strong connection to this tea region and this type of tea. This blog entry by no means is meant as a complete and conclusive overview of the Darjeeling region but more of a reflection of personal experience I had with these wonderful teas. Continue reading →
I have experienced this type of tea both on my own time and in my studies, but it’s not a favorite type for Ms. Tea. I have a feeling that I will spend more time with these great brews in the future as I find the process of creating dark teas fascinating. It is also the only type which has a fermentation process included in the creation of the tea. It’s also the only type of tea which can be collected and stored to become better over time just like a fine bottle of wine.
A large component of this category are Pu-erh teas and they come in all forms and shapes. Normally seen as little cakes or bird’s nests they have their own way of being brewed.
Some call it an ‘acquired’ taste, but several times I was able to prepare the most amazing tasting cup of tea. This tea benefits from multiple infusions similar to Oolongs and it is also advisable to use a Yixing clay tea pot to get the best results. Normally the first infusion or even infusions gets discarded to wash the tea and to wake up the leaves. I have also seen some exact opposite reports claiming that the first, unwashed infusion is the best and the purest. Some teas can give more than 30 infusions! I have read stories from tea houses that people gave up drinking but the tea leaves would still give flavor even after 30+ infusions!
Now this is probably the most common type of tea and most people in the world and mostly in the western world are used to some sort of black tea. Known as red tea in China, it can range quite a bit in quality – from the stuff that makes it into the tea bag up to a high quality loose leaf tea.