I love tea and all things tea, but I still have much to learn. In these pages, you will travel along with me as I prepare and taste different types of tea - white, green, oolong, black, in all kinds of formulations - loose leaf, pressed, even the elusive Bang Laa tea, a tea that is pressed into a baton shape and tied with twine. Coffee is never this cool!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tea and Cheese

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love tea and I love cheese (among other things). I hadn't thought to pair the two, though, until I read an article on Culture magazine's website about how to pair tea and cheese.  Why hadn't I thought of this before? I am always going on about how tea is just as nuanced and flavorful as wine, yet the next step didn't seem to occur to me. 

I discovered other references to tea and cheese tastings on Upton Tea's Facebook page, as well as on one my favorite tea blogs, Saturday Morning Tea. (See the Resources list on the right hand side of my blog page for a list of these websites.)

Well, I don't need much encouragement to try to host my own tea and cheese tasting - my plan is to find cheeses that might pair well with teas I already have. I don't have any green teas at the moment (other than the Bang Laa, which I want to take some decent pictures of before I use, and since my camera took some unsatisfactory blurry pictures the other day, and since it appears I won't be getting a tax refund this year, in fact, the opposite, it may be a while before I drink it). Anyway, I have some nice oolongs, a Pu-Erh, a Meleng Estate Assam, and a collection of Darjeeling tea that I can pair with various cheeses. Now, what to pair them with?

According to the websites I read, Pu-erh seems to pair well with Gruyere, and I am thinking its earthiness might also be a good match with a Gorgonzola. The floral notes of my oolongs might also harmonize well with the grassy notes in a good chevre. Darjeeling has also been suggested as a good match with Brie and other creamy cheeses - I will try this, and perhaps try the oolongs with them as well. The Assam would probably pair well with a hard cheese like a Fontina, as recommended on T Ching, or perhaps a cheddar.

My plan: get me to Wegman's, buy three or four cheeses (cheddar and/or Fontina, chevre, Brie, Gruyere, and Gorgonzola (okay, that's at least five cheeses, but I like cheese), prepare the tea, and get tasting! Bread. Bread would be good too.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Battling Coffee-centrism

It is hard being a tea-drinker in a coffee-centric world.

When I ask for tea in hotels and restaurants, I am usually presented with a basket of tea bags, most of them not tea at all, but tisanes - herbs or mixtures of herbs. While my friends get refills on their coffees, I am offered some more hot water for my soggy teabag. At conferences, I dig through that basket of teabags set aside for non-coffee drinkers, desperately searching for the few caffeinated tea bags that remain, and fill my cup with tepid water that tastes faintly of stale coffee. Yuck.

When I mentioned to one of my friends once that I was a tea drinker, he asked me if I own a tea service. Oddly enough, for a tea fanatic, I don't. I have the basics - a tea kettle for boiling the water, a teapot for steeping the leaves, a strainer, and, of course, zillions of mugs and teacups. But I don't own a tea service per se. I realized when he asked that that people seem to associate tea drinking with rosy-cheeked, white-haired old ladies, sipping tea from dainty china cups, nibbling on crustless sandwiches and scones, pinky fingers outstretched. Either that, or, from my experiences at restaurants, hotels, and conferences, it seems that tea drinkers are somehow opposed to caffeine. On the contrary.

I do like a formal afternoon tea on occasion, but my everyday tea experience involves only the accoutrements I listed above: kettle, teapot, strainer, mug. And I need my morning caffeine boost just as much as the next girl. What I like about tea is that I can drink cup after cup without getting the caffeine high that coffee gives you, and I can keep drinking it throughout the day.

What I aim to do with this blog is to explain what tea is and what an amazing beverage it is in its own right - not as second string to coffee.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Introduction to the Journey

Let us begin the tea trek here...

I do not remember exactly how I got into tea, but I know I used to use teabags, and I spent many years happily dunking them in hot water and calling that concoction tea. Slowly, though, it dawned on me that loose leaf tea had a fanatical following, namely Jean-Luc Picard, who insisted on his "Earl Grey, hot," and Mr. Arthur Dent, who held forth on the tea estates of India, and the plucking of the tea leaves, and the proper steeping, to a computer who didn't care, and who produced the usual cup of swill, to Arthur Dent's dismay.

Of course, these are fictional people, but the idea is the same. Loose leaves of tea, I thought. What a mess. But people like it. So, I tried it. It was good. I tried more. I read books on the subject. I read about the tea estates in India, the proper steeping, all the accoutrements of tea. The kettle! The teapot! The strainer! The cozy! (I don't have a cozy. But apparently you are supposed to, to keep the teapot warm. I have not yet reached this stage.) And slowly became a fanatic myself. And produced something better than swill, I hope.

But all of this was haphazard. I tried what sounded good, and when I remember, I cut out the labels from the tea containers and glue them into a notebook so I know (if I should care to look it up later) what I have tasted.

I have read what I can about tea, and continue to read, but there is only so much you can learn by reading. Especially when it comes to eating and drinking. So. I decided, "enough reading!" and decided, "drink tea!" What I want to do now is to embark on a focused quest to learn about tea and build upon that knowledge.

The purpose of this blog, then, is to educate those who are interested in tea about what I have learned, both from reading and from preparing and drinking tea.