Posts Tagged ‘tea-making’

Chinese Green Art Teas – Yin Yuan

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

I have received a few Chinese Green Teas that have been hand crafted into intricate shapes – they are called Art Teas or Flower Teas and they really do look exquisite.  And for those tea drinkers like me, who love the ceremony and artistry of the whole pallaver of making tea, Art Green Teas are a wonderful luxury.

China Green Tea - Yin Yuan

China Green Tea - Yin Yuan

Yin Yuan is made from green tea that has been tied together and pressed into the shape of a coin; the word yuan is a type of round coin in China while yin is dark as in yin and yang.  Hidden inside are a few chrysanthemum blossoms tied to a piece of string.  Ideally you should brew this tea in a big glass bowl as the green tea opens out into a huge spectacle of tentacles or fronds like a chrysthemum flower or a sea anemone.  I think it looks really quite amazing and I liked watching the tea fold out and the blossoms suddenly float upwards; it’s mesmerizing and slightly mindless – a bit like watching a fish tank for hours on end – but strangely peaceful.

China Yin Yuan Green Tea Opened Out

China Yin Yuan Green Tea Opened Out

The tea itself has a lovely light green colour and tastes green and fresh, with hints of flowery blossom coming through.  There is no hint of bitterness and the flowers give a delicate peachy sweetness.  Yin Yuan Green Tea is one to indulge with yourself selfishly when there’s no-one else around to disturb your thoughts or noise to intrude your few moments of peace.

Brewed Bowl Of China Green Tea - Yin Yuan

Brewed Bowl Of China Green Tea - Yin Yuan

Recipe For Luxuriant Chocolate Chai Latte

Friday, January 1st, 2010

The snow is still here and it’s a white and cold Christmas and New Year period.  We’ve travelled to Northumberland, my home county, where we have observed the traditional first footing in a harshly, cold and rural climate – I love it. 

First footing is a Northumbrian superstition, where the first person to cross your threshold in the New Year must be a dark-haired man (and absolutely not fair or red haired or a woman), and he must bring gifts of bread, coal and money if the family is to be lucky for the year and have food, heat and wealth during the coming year.

But we needed a way to cheer ourselves up this morning after a short walk out in the snow, and this is what I came up with.

Ingredients

2tbsp organic Fairtrade strong black tea – Assam or South Indian would be good*
350ml/ 12½ fl oz freshly drawn water, brought to the boil
120ml/ ½ fl oz  full/ whole milk
½tsp organic cinnamon powder
¼tsp organic allspice powder
¼tsp organic cloves powder
1tbsp organic cocoa powder + some extra for dusting
Whipped cream (optional)

Boil the freshly drawn water in a pan on the hob.  Then switch off and add the strong black tea – allow this to stew away for 5 or so minutes.

Add the milk, chai spices and cocoa and simmer gently for 3 minutes.

Pour straight into mugs or large tea cups.  If you’re feeling decadent, you can add a dollop of freshly whipped cream and sprinkle some cocoa or cinnamon over the top.

Relax, enjoy and smile.  We enjoyed our chai latte with some orange biscuits and some lemon biscuits that we had made earlier in the day.

* I used a high grown South Indian from the POABS Estates – it was a FBOPF, ie some small fannings from a traditionally processed tea.  Fannings are great for this sort of tea as they get the colour and flavour through quickly, while the sweetness of the chai tones down the slight bitterness of the leaf.

Chinese Tea Ceremony

Friday, July 17th, 2009

TEA CEREMONIES IN A MING DYNASTY STYLE

The following extracts are adapted from the Châ’a Shu, a manual prepared by Hsü Jan-Ming in the Ming Dynasty, when loose leaf teas were prepared in a teapot and drunk from cups. In previous dynasties, tea was in a cake form.

Infusion:

Have the utensils ready to hand and make sure they are perfectly clean. Set them out on the table, putting down the teapot lid inner face upwards or laying it on a saucer. The inner face must not come into contact with the table, as the smell of the table or food could spoil the taste of the tea. After boiling the water it should be placed in the pot, then you should take some tea leaves and throw them in. Now replace the lid on the teapot. Wait for as long as it takes to breathe in and out 3 times before pouring the tea into the cups and then pour it straight back into the teapot so as to release the fragrance. After waiting for the space of another 3 breaths to let the leaves settle, pour out the tea for your guests. If this method is used, the tea will taste very fresh and its fragrance will be delicious. Its effect will be to produce well-being, banish weariness and raise your spirits.

Drinking:

A pot of green tea should not be replenished more than once. The first infusion will taste deliciously fresh; the second will have a sweet and pure taste, whereas the third would be insipid. Therefore, the quantity of water in the kettle should never be too much. However, rather than have too little, there should be enough for some to be poured on the tea leaves after the second infusion, as it will continue to emit a pleasant aroma and can be used for cleansing the mouth after meals.

Guests:

If one’s guests are in a boisterous mood, it is better to give them wine to drink and, if they get somewhat tipsy, follow this up with a pot of strong (ordinary) black tea. It is only in the company of one’s own kind, just those with whom one can talk quietly about anything under the sun without formality, that one should brew up some good tea. The extent to which the serving of the tea is or is not completely informal will depend on the number of guests.

Tea room:

This should be close to one’s study – it is good to have a small tea room that is spacious, clean, well lit and comfortable. Against the wall place two portable stoves. Outside the tea room, there should be a wooden stand for utensils in which water is stored and a small table for the various accessories, as well as a rack for hanging teacloths. These objects should be brought into the tea room only when required. All should have covers to keep them free from dirt that might affect the tea.

Times for drinking tea:

  • In idle moments
  • Thoughts confused
  • Beating time to songs
  • When the music stops!
  • Living in seclusion
  • Enjoying scholarly pastimes
  • Conversing late at night
  • Studying on a sunny day
  • In the bridal chamber
  • Detaining favoured guests
  • Playing host to scholars or pretty people
  • Visiting friends returned from far away
  • In perfect weather
  • When skies are overcast
  • Watching boats gliding past
  • Amidst trees or in the garden
  • When flowers are in bud and the birds are singing
  • On hot days
  • After drunken friends have left
  • When youngsters have gone out
  • When viewing temples or scenic rocks

How to Make a Good Cup of Tea

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

There is nothing worse than a dishwater-tasting cup of tea.

We seem to have forgotten how to make tea – whether it’s the result of a lack of time or trying unsuccessfully to extract some flavour from tea bags. Why is this? Is brewing tea an art form that requires an indulgent muse or a sacrifice to some un-named tea god? Or is proper tea brewing the product of military discipline or a Zen-like calm?

Actually, all it needs is a little patience, some good quality tea, clean water and to follow some basic rules. The key in making tea is (as in everything) to practice, practice and practice again.

Granny used to make tea following the Mrs Beeton method:

The old-fashioned plan of allowing a teaspoonful to each person, and one over, is still practised.  Warm the teapot with boiling water; let it remain for two or three minutes for the vessel to become thoroughly hot, then pour it away.  Put in the tea, pour in ½ to ¾ pint of boiling water, close the lid and let it stand for to tea to draw from 5 to 10 minutes; then fill up the pot with water.  The tea will be quite spoiled unless made with water that is actually boiling, as the leaves will not open, and the flavour not be extracted from them; the beverage will consequently be colourless and tasteless, – in fact nothing but tepid water.  Where there is a very large tea party to make tea for, it is a good plan to have two teapots instead of putting a large quantity of tea into one pot; the tea, besides, will go father.  When the infusion has been once completed, the addition of fresh tea adds very little to the strength; so if more is required, have the pot emptied of the old leaves, scalded, and fresh tea made in the usual manner. (Beetons Book of Household Management, 1861)

But it is much simpler than that.  The key is to follow some golden rules.

A ROUGH GUIDE TO TEA MAKING

These are my golden tea-making rules:

  • Fill the kettle with freshly-drawn cold water which is well mixed with oxygen (boiled water has lost its oxygen). Oxygen is vital to bring out the taste and aroma
  • Fill the tea-pot with boiling water, to warm the tea-pot and so prevent the brew from cooling too quickly then pour out as more water comes to the boil
  • Measure the organic tea carefully: for strong organic Fairtrade tea, use 1 teaspoon per person and 1 for the pot; for large leaf organic Fairtrade teas, ½ teaspoon per pot is ideal (or see our more detailed charts below)
  • Fill the kettle with more freshly-drawn cold water, pour away warm water in tea-pot and pour the new water into the pot as it boils, because off-the-boil water makes very dull tea. Infuse for 5 minutes (see below). A quick brew never gets the full flavour from the organic tea leaves, whereas a long brew is astringent
  • Add milk first, because milk dissolves better in hotter liquid
  • Ceramic and china teapots keep warmer for longer and don’t taint the tea. Even better are cast iron tea pots, although they are a bit expensive. Never ever bleach the teapot
  • Sit back, relax and enjoy!

AXEL’S TEA BREWING CHARTS

Here’s Axel’s overview table of everything about making organic Fairtrade tea:

Tea type Tsp in pot Milk Strength Time of day
         
Darjeeling 2 – 3 O 2 PM
First Flush Darjeeling 1 N 1 PM
Assam 3 – 4 Y 3 Allday
Ceylon 3 – 4 Y 4 Allday
Orange Pekoe 2 – 3 O 3 Allday
Earl Grey 1 – 3 O 2 Allday
Green tea 1 N 1 PM
Jasmine 1 N 1 PM
Lapsang Souchong 1 N 1 PM
Yunnan 1 – 3 O 2 PM
Keemun 1 – 3 O 2 PM
Japanese Sencha 1 N 1 PM
Nilgiri 2 – 4 O 2 PM
         

Key: Y = Yes O = optional N = No

Here’s a handy table that gives a little more detail on tea brewing times:

Tea type Brewing time Water temperature
     
Black teas 5 minutes Boiling water
Green teas 3 minutes Let water cool for about 1 minute after coming to the boil; it should be 65 – 70°C (150 – 175°F)
Oolong tea 7 minutes Let the water rest for 30 seconds after coming to the boil
Herbal infusions 5 minutes Boiling water
     

For these tables, we have assumed a classic family-sized tea pot – enough for 6 cups.