Thursday, September 29, 2011

Buy, Buy, Miss America ... Tea?

I have long been curious about the South Carolina tea plantation and have finally gotten around to purchasing a sampler pack of their teas from Bigelow. They come in attractive little black tins with little stickers touting the fact that the tea was grown here in the States. Today, I sampled the Charleston Breakfast tea and found it very pleasant though a little less robust than my customary Irish Breakfast tea. It's the sort of tea that I privately classify as a very good "mug" tea ... well-suited to the work-a-day routines of ordinary life. It's not the sort of tea one needs to sip from a fine porcelain cup, with serene music playing softly in the background and flowers, dainty biscuits and silverware on the tea tray. This is the sort of thing you put in your to-go cup for the daily commute or make up at the office using an electric tea kettle and one-mug filtration deal. A good strong mug-on-the-desk sort of tea. I expect this little tin is going to find its way into the tea stash in my desk's second left drawer. I will be tasting the other teas in this sampler pack over the next few days and will report on them as well.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Learning Curve

I am delighted to have discovered the world of tea bloggers. I have been a tea-drinker since childhood. I have always been something of a tea cup collecter as well. But I have gotten serious about tea in the last decade. First, it was a matter of graduating from Lipton's tea bags to Barry's. Then, it was a matter of discovering Twinings loose teas. From there it was a major step forward to ordering loose teas from an on-line vendor, SpecialTeas. The world of black, green, white and oolong teas just exploded around me. I bought and tasted a wide variety of teas, inspired by the on-line descriptions and limited only by what I was willing or able to spend. Phrases like "first flush", "broken leaf", "whole leaf" and "single estate" entered my vernacular. I discovered teas that were tightly wrapped to unfold into lotus blossums and other shapes when exposed to hot water. I began to think myself quite knowledgeable, even became a bit of a tea snob. I started buying lovely little Japanese and Chinese tea pots. And I began planning my vacations around tea rooms, in addition to needlework shops. Well, not quite: but I always googled the availability of tea shops and needlework shops in the areas I would be visiting. I have started collecting quite a library of books about the history of tea, the preparation of tea, tea ware and cookbooks focusing on tea-time.

I have heard it said many times that true wisdom comes when you finally realize how much you have yet to learn. Well, I have only been reading tea blogs about a month and have discovered that I am a rank amateur, a mere novice, an acolyte. Oh well, think of all the delights still to come. Thanks in advance to all you tea bloggers out there who will contribute to my education.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Thoroughly Silly Post

Like most tea lovers, I fix a large enough pot of tea each morning to fill a to-go thermos to sip while commuting. I leave it on the entryway table so I won't forget it. Half the time I do forget it ... my discreet little to-go thermos is so bland it just seems to blend right into the background. The other half the time, I end up sipping a luke warm brew because very often an hour will elapse between breakfast and departure for the office. My to-go thermos' thermal capacity is only so good. But, I think I have found a solution for both problems. I still put the thermos on the entryway table but I cover it with an oven mitt. Voila, instant tea cosy!!! And one so thoroughly ridiculous looking that I can't help but noticing and grab my tea as I rush out the door. Of course, my husband is probably wondering why there is an oven mitt in the entryhall. But after 40 some odd years of marriage he knows better than to ask foolish questions.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nilgiri Nonsuch BOP

This is one of the teas recently purchased from Culinary Teas. There was a lovely fragrance when I opened the package to see this tightly curled broken leaf tea. I brewed it as directed at 212 degrees, for four minutes. [The recommendation was for three to five minutes] Next time I will brew it for only three minutes. My second cup, having cooled a bit, had a somewhat bitter taste even though I had removed the tea ball from the pot at the end of the brewing time. I tried it both straight and with milk and agave nectar. I definitely prefer it straight. It will make a very nice everyday tea and I will probably use it for afternoon tea. It isn't quite brisk enough to get me started moving in the morning ... need my Irish Breakfast or some other nice strong Assam for that. I recently read, on another tea blog, about Welsh Breakfast tea blends. I'd never heard of them before but will have to search them out to compare with my Irish.

I have come to the conclusion that Culinary Teas, though pleasant enough, will not be replacing SpecialTeas in my tea-loving heart. I'll be making a list of some of the other tea vendors listed in the blogs I have been reading and continue my search for a reliable source of quality teas. I have also ordered a copy of Teatime magazine to see if I might want to subscribe. Blogs and magazines will be my focus as I continue my self-education.