I often reflect back to the beginning of my tea studies.
Here I was in my kitchen in Rome, Italy, holding a thermometer in one hand and a tea timer in the other hand, nervously anticipating the right mix to get the optimal brew.
Fast forward now to my kitchen in Yangon, Myanmar, were I grab some tea leaves and throw it into hot water to get a wonderful cup of tea.
In a way the past year has liberated me from following the instructions on the box and use scientific instruments to make tea.
However the one area where I never felt liberated is how I always experienced buying tea.
In most shops a nice tea salesperson would carefully open a tin box based on my request and would allow me to have a careful glimpse into the box. In good stores they might let me smell the tea from a safe distance.
Many people around the world who love tea every day engage in the same ritual.
Grab a tea bag from a box, drop it into a cup and pour hot water over it. Wait until there is some uniform color appearing in the cup and pour some more ingredients into it like sugar, milk or a slice of lemon. Then take a sip and hope that this mixture will not be terrible.
Or sit in a plane and after the meal service the flight attendant will come around announcing the arrival of the tea (or coffee) to be poured into your little plastic cup.
And many of us who are attending a conference or workshop, grab a teabag from a ‘selection’ box and hope for the best.
This is the daily reality, mostly in the western world, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is a beverage you made for yourself, you like it, it comforts you, and so of course that’s good for you.
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 →
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.
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!
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.
Green Teas are becoming more and more popular in the world and the varieties seem endless.
Almost every tea producing country is now producing a special green tea and the market is growing more and more. Green teas are more processed than white teas and have some oxidation in the processing.
After a withering process, leaves are fired to stop the oxidation and to retain the green color in the leaf. There are two main processes to accomplish this and it results in different types of green tea. Most green teas in China are pan fired before they are further processed. Green teas in Japan are steamed, very similar to what we do in the kitchen with broccoli and spinach. The result is a different texture and flavor.