Monday, 29 April 2013

Matcha Green Tea

Happy Matcha May everyone!  

If you're a tea geek like me, you'll know that Matcha is the name given to the powdered green tea traditionally used in Japanese Tea Ceremonies (or 'Way of Tea'), where you'll likely see beautiful kimonos, specialist teaware and a carefully set-out tea room.  These simple aesthetics together with Zen mindfulness makes the ritual involved in presenting tea into a meditation.  A mixture of T'ai Chi Ch'uan and making a cup of tea, if you will!  

Traditional utensils; chasen (whisk), chashaku (spoon) and chawan (bowl)

...Fear not though stress 'eads!  According to teapigs, their organic Matcha green tea is also a super power drink that gives you 137 times the antioxidants of regular green tea (which is why it's bright green) and an energy boost of up to 6 hours while keeping you all Zen!  I once tried one at a cafĂ© and could swear I was firing on all cylinders afterwards!  Other benefits consist of enhanced learning, concentration and support to the immune system as well as weight-loss and healthy skin. 

Matcha tea is grown away from direct sunlight and once picked, laid flat to dry before being stone-ground into its powder form.  This means you actually consume the tea leaf itself, rather than tea infused water and this is what makes it super healthy and simple to use.  In this powder form it can be added to a whole host of drinks (like my Matcha Mojitos), smoothies and food (check out my Matcha ice cream in my logo).  The lesson here, is not to be put off by this tea by thinking it’s complicated and out of your league.  

So for this experiment, I thought I’d make matcha lattes as this is a modern twist on the otherwise traditional Matcha!  Some of you may wonder how to make matcha, so for these lattes I sieved in half a teaspoon of teapigs organic matcha per cup with a tea strainer into soya milk and steamed it with the coffee machine steamer.  

using tea strainer to avoid lumps

My steamer isn't working it’s best lately so I gave it a little whisk at the end too and sprinkled some matcha powder on the foam for decoration.

We sat down with our drinks together as although lattes and coffee drinking can be an independent experience, tea has always been social!  We thought it tasted a little like 'tea semolina' with the soya milk and the tea being a little sweet!  Surprisingly, there wasn’t any bitterness to it so we were pleased to think we could enjoy matcha lattes for the taste rather than hold our noses and neck them in the name of antioxidants!

To be sure it wasn’t a fluke I made a teapigs 'skinny green' as well; just half a teaspoon with near boiling water in a teacup and gave it a little whisk.  

This definitely had that green tea taste you’d expect it to have, as opposed to other brands that can have a strange taste to it.  It was slightly vegetal but very smooth with a touch of sweet.  I braced myself for the thicker bit at the bottom thinking it'd be bitter, but it was fine and still pretty smooth for a concentrate of tea like that!  It also had a welcomed long-lasting aftertaste.

Straight up!

If this has got you excited for Matcha May I can offer a discount code for 15% off your tea online at teapigs!  Just enter the code BLOGGERS12 at the checkout (excludes offers and gifts).  They also have a newsletter you can sign up to on their website and of course like Tea Street, you can find them on Facebook and Twitter!

So grab your matcha and have some fun experiments!  I’d love to see what you come up with so feel free to share your pics!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Raw Puerh

Welcome to my first Puerh tea blog post! 

Who: Talisman Teas

'What are these little parcels?' I hear you say! This China tea from Yunnan comes in a little brick shape called ‘Tuo’, which means it’s rounded in shape with a hollow hole underneath.  Great way of transporting tea or giving as a gift!

Raw (sheng) means it's un-cooked like a green tea, unlike Ripe Puerh, which is cooked before being stored.  On the subject of storing, think 'dark cellar' because unlike other teas, Puerh improves with age similar to wine!  This one is from 2010, so three years old.  Now, I could have kept it even longer but I couldn't wait - I have a blog to write!  Puerh tea is said to have several health benefits, all desirable such as weight loss and aiding digestion!

How: Boil about 200ml of water to 95c, infuse the Tuo for about a minute and watch the leaves unfold.  I think this is meant to be drunk while it's nice and hot with multiple infusions throughout the day.  This Talisman Tea can take up to 6 infusions!  I was afraid to boil the kettle too much with the first Tuo but on my second go I took the bull by the horns and heated to the recommended 95c and made sure not to make it too weak.  I’m glad I did as this made it far more complex.

Notes:  I'd inhaled the smoky, sweet wood aroma that came from my Talisman Tea packet, which reminded me of my old wood burner (which I miss very much!).  I was therefore excited to get on and try this tea to see how it tasted.  On infusion, it kept the same smoky aroma, as if Grandad had been to visit complete with smoking pipe!  This brings me a sense of comfort, does anyone have a Werther’s original actually??

I wasn’t let down by the time I tasted the tea as it kept the same sweet woody flavour with a surprising hint of something floral.

Don’t get me wrong, there is that slight earthy flavour that people talk about with Puerh and I can see how lesser quality examples could be too 'dirty' and put people off.  The earthy flavour of this tea doesn’t overpower you but subtlety reminds you that what you're drinking is from a real leaf from the real earth – nothing wrong with that!

I tried the Kava drink ‘Grog’ made from Kava root on a trip to Fiji once and that was what i'd call an earthy drink!  This Puerh is the subtle campfire version that tastes much sweeter!

The aftertaste was almost a bit like Darjeeling because it wasn't overly vegetal nor bold or bitter.  After all, it’s a drink to be enjoyed straight up, without milk.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading my Puerh experiment and I have another to try in due course, so watch this space!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Iron Goddess of Mercy!

Who: Talisman Teas 
Looking on good ol' wikipedia, 'Talisman' means something that contains magical properties and provides good luck.  I have several samples from Talisman Teas to try and am very excited to write about them over the coming months, the flowering teas especially. 

What: AAA Grade Iron Buddha (Autumn 2012)
Hand-rolled, this is an Oolong tea that has been lightly oxidised to a specific level making the leaves a dark emerald green.  I felt particularly inspired to write about this tea when I read that 'Iron Buddha' is also sometimes named the 'Iron Goddess of Mercy'!  I mean come on, this is enough to set my mind into comic book and legends overdrive! Hmm.. an Iron Goddess with the compassion of Mother Teresa...  I shall insist my friends call me this from now on.

Where: Anxi Fujian Province, China 
Back to being sensible, Iron Buddha is apparently one of China's most famous teas.  AAA is a high grade rating also known as the 'Imperial' version and it's picked in a two-day window in the Autumn (must be a busy time!).  

1 tbsp per 200ml 90c brew for 2 minutes.

You'll notice these tea leaves come in loose ball shapes, so it took me back when I saw how they unfurled into quite large springy leaves!  I'll never get over the look of tea leaves having been brought up on black tea bags and these especially were like having a little cabbage or crispy seaweed in my infuser!

After brewing these Iron Buddha (cough - Goddess) leaves into an amber green infusion, I could describe the aroma as having a sweet floral scent with orchid notes.  On first taste, it seemed buzzing and alive with a slight seaweed taste.  It was so bright that I prepared to be hit with a tangy edge, but it suddenly steered the other way and with its smooth texture I found it soft and rounded on the tongue with a bittersweet, yet creamy aftertaste.  I could just about get two infusions out of my leaves and the second seemed more floral and less sweet than the first.

Overall, i'm pleased to say i've tried this famous China Oolong tea and think the smooth creamy taste will suit those who find it hard to let go of milk!  I've tested this with the men as well and received good feedback!  

Sunday, 7 April 2013

'White rose Red rose'

I just tried the delicious 'White rose Red rose' tea, the EqualiTea blend originally recommended by a friend on the Tea Street Facebook page!

This is a blend of mainly green and black tea, with a healthy sprinkling of rose petals, making it beautifully fragrant!

I found this to be a fairly light tea with a smooth texture and a long-lasting floral aftertaste.  I also made two small pots out the same teaspoon!  Great on a warm Spring afternoon, especially if you're having a hats and dress day!  Although I have to say it reminded me a little of Turkish Delight, which men like too - so no excuses!

Otherwise if you're looking for a gift that's a bit different, this would be a fun alternative to flowers!  From organic farming 'White Rose Red Rose' EqualiTea allows you to put your health and the environment first.

It was fun using a glass teapot to photograph the rose buds and I think you'd agree the visual factor adds another dimension to the tea drinking experience!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Green Tea Mojitos!

As you can see from Tea Street's last post, I tried my hand at some Green Tea Mojitos on Good Friday!  A combo of tea and rum, I think they could make any Friday a good one to be honest!

I got the idea from 'The Kitchn' website, which I posted on my Facebook page!

Turned out well!

The recipe for The Kitchn's 'Icey-Cool Green Tea Mojitos':

(adapted from Organic, Shaken and Stirred by Paul Abercrombiemakes one drink

1 tbsp fresh lime juice
4 large mint leaves
2 teaspoons sugar
approx. 1/2 cup brewed green tea, chilled
1 ounce white rum
Muddle the lime juice, mint, and sugar together in a Collins glass until the leaves bruise lightly and the flavours release. Add ice until glass is about 3/4 full and then pour in rum and green tea. Stir thoroughly.

These were really easy to make and tasted great!  I'm not sure what green tea others used, but I put matcha green tea in mine as it's easy to brew and super high in antioxidants!  I wish I had frozen more ice cubes though as I couldn't put in as many as needed and the ones I did have melted quite quickly!  
Hopefully this is the start of many tea cocktails..!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

T'Easter recap!

The sun finally appeared this Easter weekend so we were happy to enjoy a few cups of tea while visiting some family!  

Not starting off with anything too traditional, we made some Green Tea Mojitos on Good Friday!  I'll post the recipe next as they were delicious!

We then took a drive down to the New Forest National Park and tried out this 'Something's Brewing at the Watersplash' Tearoom in Brockenhurst.

Lovely Easter Morning complete with blue sky!

Stopped for a stroll...

We had a lovely lunch at the Traditional English 'Bay Tree Tearooms' in Wickham, part of the Bay Tree Walk parade of shops.  I chose a pot of Darjeeling Tea.

My sister was fascinated with the filter, it clipped on the side - very useful!

We finished Easter day with a slice of Mum's Easter Simnel cake!  It was Mum's first attempt at baking gluten-free and with the help of Phil Vickery's cookbook, it was a real success! It reminded me a little of stollen with its texture and there was just the right amount of marzipan.  Next time she thinks she'll brown off the top before the 'balls' go on and then brown them off a little.

There was a few mint leaves left after the Mojito cocktails so I made some mint tea today...  Why haven't I tried this before??  Good with a read of the kindle :-)

 Hope you all had a lovely weekend!