How should I choose my tea and how can I trust that I am getting what I am paying for?
One thing is for sure: if you buy tea bags from the supermarket aisle from a big name brand, you will get exactly the same thing: small bits of tea dust or fannings which will turn the color of the water brown and will taste like the same thing over and over. For some that is what they prefer, but I am reaching out to you on this one! There is another, far more amazing world out there of high quality loose leaf teas!
Yes, you have to be adventurous and you have to trust someone that they will sell you something that is of good quality, comes from the area they are advertising, and is free from pesticides or other items which are not good for your body. So which way to go?
What is Cold Brew?
I have been receiving some queries from my tea friends on how to properly cold brew tea.
Personally I am a big fan of this tea brewing method as it gives you a unique tasting experience and you get to know a different, relaxed side of your favorite tea.
When you brew tea hot, over 400 different components are released into the water and some of them are released quicker at higher temperature. You will have noticed that if you brew a hot tea at a too high temperature or for too long it becomes bitter. Not so with cold brew tea, which will be more mellow, more balanced and sweeter as the high temperature components are less dominant.
Cold brewing gives you a whole new range of preparing tea. But you will need patience, as this is not your quick tea bag dunk for 2 minutes. Good cold brew tea will take several hours, if not even overnight to release the wonderful magic that is cold brew tea. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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.
Enter the amazing world of Oolong teas. Oolong teas are semi oxidized in a wide range from low (20%) to high (80%). This type of tea means “little dragon,” due to its twisted shape of the tea leaf, a leaf shape you find for some Chinese Oolong teas.
This tea type is normally not just for the quick cuppa. It has the amazing ability to be infused many times and that is part of the journey with this tea. The aroma and flavor with each infusion is changing slightly with different balances on the flavor scale. It is like a dance on your palate.
When I decided to get my first Yixing tea pot, I wanted to be a purist and dedicate it to only one special tea. Inspired by a famous watch commercial my mantra is: “You don’t own a Yixing tea pot, you merely look after it for the next generation.”
My goal is to turn this into a generational piece for my kids. I had to think long and hard about which tea to choose. I wanted it to be a tea where I know as much as possible about it, down to the individual farmer who made it.
My pick finally went for a Chinese Oolong tea, Huang Zhi Xiang Dan Cong (Gardenia Dan Cong). I truly enjoy Dan Cong teas, the tea of ‘many tastes’ and I have tasted several varieties over the years. There are 12 main varieties of Dan Cong teas with different aromas and such beautiful names like Honey Orchid, Ginger Flower, Almond, Gardenia and Magnolia.
I picked a tea that is complex, has an interesting aroma and flavor profile and it will be interesting to see how the flavor profile develops over time (and hopefully generations) while using the same Yixing tea pot. I am fascinated by the mystery and the depth of Chinese Oolong teas. I have a similar passion for Wuyi Shan Oolongs.