Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tea and Coffee Show, Toronto, Sept 26-27, 2010

Last weekend was the second occassion I had to attend The Tea and Coffee Show in Toronto and I can tell you its was a spectacular for me as the first time. In 2007, I  was a plucky gal and registered for this trade show, saying that I was looking into a tea shop start-up. I registered for the tea cupping session and frozen desserts. At that time there were not that many distributors in the trade show and it was easy to walk around between the sessions to have a look at the trade booths. I was lucky to get some free samples of tea from the vendors and to meet vendors I might do business with. They were eager to share information.

My first cupping experience was with Brendon, the Tea Guy. I tasted a tea that was so full of energy and life, I knew that I wanted to search exactly for that energy, for that communication between self and tea. Even Brendon admitted years later that he'd not found a tea similar to the one we tasted that day in 2007.

Waiting for the next session, I heard there was going to be a tea steep-off, a contest involving some new machinery called a tea press, used in the same way as a coffee expresso machine but crushing the whole tea  first. Seeing The Tea Guy, Brendon passing by, I asked for directions. However, he insisted that I attend as a guest judge at the steep-off of all things. Following his instructions, I went up to the judging panel and sat down next to a man. I asked who he was and I learned I was sitting next to Bill Kamula, one of the instructors at George Brown College in the  Tea Sommellier course. He looked at me and asked, "Who are you?" and I replied. "I'm your next student!" and indeed I was. I registered in the Tea Sommellier program only a few weeks later.

The winning tea drink in 2007 was made by Margot  who won with her Spice Pumpkin Chai Latte. Even Jennifer Bain, the Food Editor from the Toronto Star and fellow judge was overwhelmed with the deliciousness of this hot tea drink and devoted more than a full page to the Show in 2007. Margot B. not only won the competition that year, she also won the Tea Cocktails at the Show this year. She is a great competitor and has certainly established the bar (no pun intended) on drinks in the house with her Banana Creme.

There were many other highlights including the amazing Gyokuro tea prepared by three representatives of the Japanese Tea Exporters' Association. I sat with my Sommellier colleagues listening to Canada's best known tea sommellier, Karen Hartwick from Strattford's Tea Leaves speak about business start-up. I love her passion for tea. She has so much to offer and I am so eager to learn. In fact, I asked Karen  for a photo. We both grinned and found out later that we were both Librans.

Once again I got free samples of tea and this time, I was able to introduce myself to the vendors as a Certified Tea Sommellier. On my way out from the trade show, I met Bill Kamula coming in. I am grateful for his teachings. See you next time everyone!

Monday, September 6, 2010

How to Use Up Old Tea

No doubt you have wondered what to do with old tea. Here's a tip: Mix it with other teas to enjoy new flavours and health benefits.

I have a mixed berry tea from Germany, maybe Poland that's mostly colour. There are blackberries, black chokecherry, elderberry, rowan (that's sarsaparilla), black currant leaf, hibiscuss and "flavour". Well, I can't expect much from a package that doesn't identify where its from. Also, I had some white tea hanging about for the past year. It was tied up into little bows and had visual interest but was low quality.

I got out my favorite glass tea pot and put a warming ring on the burner as I knew this would be a long steep to coax the flavour out of the dried fruits.  I poured boiling water over an ample portion of the berries, about 1/3 c. to 8 oz. water and a small handful (about 2 tablespoons) of the white tea. I didn't want to use any tea that would turn bitter with a long steep.

 A long steep is at least 5 minutes or longer.  It is important to give the tea time to steep, keeping it warm in the meantime.The berries have to absorb the water then release their flavours.  I prepared a serving tray and rhubarb-bran muffin. The sour berries and sour rhubarb would require a balancing sweetness. I picked a home-made peach jam to also add some complimentary colour.  I could easily have made an ice tea as an alternative. Other times, I have soaked the berry tea in warm water for 10 minutes before adding in hot water and tossing in the white tea at the end of the steep. This keeps any bitterness from taking over the pot.If you have any leftover strawberries blueberries, apple, orange pieces, add them in as well.  This tea needs a good helping of sweetener.

The result was a beautiful burgundy-coloured tea with high antioxidants, great for saturating colour in the 1st chakra  and giving you an energy boost. You could also have made a dessert jelly by adding some unflavoured gelatin or agar agar for setting.  This tea was perfect for warming up a damp day and waiting for the clouds to clear.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bodum Tea Press

I decided it was time to get a Bodum press. My everyday work calls me into long meetings that have no breaks and there is no time between meetings to sit back and relax with a cuppa. It was time to put away the tea pot at work and get something simpler for my work style.

This travel press can be used for tea or coffee. I prefer to see the tea and the tea leaves expanding as they dance with the water. Using a Mason jar just isn't my style. The transparent Bodum shows the leaf and, you can slip a photo or an inspiring message between the two walls by unscrewing the bottom. The lid has a pouring spout but is not drip proof, so keep your canister upright.

To celebrate, I took a big tin of David's Mao Jian, an all purpose green tea with a bit of refinement without being exotic or bitter after a long steep at the bottom of the Bodum.  It had just the right amount of unami/vegetative taste and low astringency. I had the Mao Jian after a bitter salad greens and sharp dressing  and was content that I could still taste the tea through the garlic, oregano and feta cheese flavours. I don't recommend Mao Jian with Kohlrabi. Such a strange taste! I'll do a comparison with another Mao Jian later on. For now, I am superbly relaxed and am going to crash and have a nap before the next tea time! I love weekends!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summer Tea - Meng Ding Gan Lu

Summer Tea - Meng Ding Gan Lu
This wonderful smooth and mellow green tea tasting a little like cucumbers or melon and seems to hit the spot in the early summer morning before the heat of the day comes out. Meng Ding Gan Lu from Seven Cups is also known as "Sweet Dew" so its not suprizing it is a good tea to drink in the early morning while the dew is still on the grass. So, you'll have to sit outside to really enjoy this wonderful tea.

 Many tea houses in China are open to the air. You feel part of the environment, breathing in fresh air and increasing your own chi. As you sip, you are experiencing the chi of the tea. This tea works at the throat chakra, to clear any blockages. As the liquor works its way through the subtle energy pathways, breath in and focus on your Third Eye. The chi will be directed there easily as this tea has lovely subtle energy that moves well to where your thoughts go. It is lovely and light, so enjoy the feelings of bliss you will undoubtably  feel.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Welcome to The Tea Tiger

Perhaps you are aware that tea has a special affect on your mind as well as your body? As you sip tea. you may have noticed that you feel brighter yet relaxed and less stressed. You are feeling the subtle affects of tea! Now wouldn't you like to find teas that produce those effects without having to sample through so many?

As a fully Certified Tea Sommelier, I write about tea and the subtle affects of tea on clearing, fortifying and harmonizing the energy of the human body and spirit. I have a home web site under development  http://www.teatiger.ca/. You will be able to purchase some of these fabulous teas from my shop. I also offer tea teaching programs and tea attunements (tea tasting evenings).

If you would like to read about Tea and Spirituality, please see these selections form Amazon.com:

The Spirit of Tea, The Twelve Teas® of Inspiration: Celebrations to Nourish the Soul, Spirituality of Tea: God's Blessing for your Mind, Body, and Spirit, Taking Tea with The Buddha: The Gift of Practice

Meng Ding Cui Zhu (Green Bamboo) Green Tea

What you see  in the photo below is the Seven Cups' Meng Ding Cui Zhu (Green Bamboo) Green Tea.

The dry leaf is hard, almost brittle, and is very shiny and slippery. The tips are small bud and a leaf, some single leaf and no stem to speak of. The scent of the leaves is green, like fresh cut grass, with an astringent quality that captures your attention at the back of your throat.

I used about 3 grams of tea to 6 oz of hot water at 180 degrees. I felt a higher temperature was needed to hold heat long enough to soften these hard pellets. A full 2 minutes would be needed so I set my eye on the clock. Then, something wonderful started to happen. I saw the tips rise up in row like little soldiers on parade. I ran off to get my camera to capture the moment of quiet exhiloration in this magical display of a vibrant green bamboo forest coming alive.

As for the scent of the wet leaves, I had expected a heavy grassy note but the grass scent is quite subtle and generally of one note. The liquor is a pale and clear yellow-green pool. The wet leaves now turning gray-green from the heat still held the promise of another steep if only for a brief chance to get a little more from the already spent leaf.

Can a bamboo forest influence the taste of a tea? Definately. There is light astringency with a taste of grass and bamboo sweetness, even if you can only imagine it. There is a smoothness to the tea, and a fullness in the mouth. The tea seems to clear the head and the sinuses. There is a clearing of the throat and third eye chakras. The subtle effects of the tea chi doesn't seem to find its way downwards past the throat chakra.

As for clearing the mind, there is a vibrancy felt to both internal (insight) and external vision (the eyes). The body can relax yet feel all senses alerted. There is a luxurious feeling of sitting near vegetation, enjoying the vibrancy of teaming life from the elegant bamboo forests. The Green Bamboo Tea mimics these fresh green tubes in both colour, shape and flavour.

This is one tea that offers more than just taste. There is a whole experience at all levels. Find a quiet moment in the late morning or early afternoon to enjoy this tea.
For more information about Green Bamboo Tea, see the Seven Cups web site at ttp://www.sevencups.com/