3294 Tasting Notes
This afternoon I spent several hours cleaning my studio. Tomorrow I’m hosting what I call a “Bridal Tea”. Once a month I invite brides who have visited my booth at the Bridal fair to come for tea for an hour or so, during which time I talk with them about music for their weddings, answer questions, play my harp for them, & usually they go ahead & book me. I have 2 brides coming tomorrow, & when I asked what kind of tea they like, they both said they don’t really like tea. I’ll make some tea anyway (something I like, LOL), & set it out with some grapes, some macaroons, some rock sugar, & cute little cups & saucers.
So, I don’t really like cleaning. I have a special arrangement with myself: I work for 45 minutes, then I get a 15 minute break. During my first 15 minute break, I brewed my sample of Laoshan Village Chai. It was pure Heaven. Not the spiciest chai I’ve ever had, but SO very blissful & yummy. I drank the first half plain, then I added stevia & almond milk, and it was gingerbread! I re-steeped the leaves 3 more times, during my breaks, & although each cup was a little weaker, the flavors were still there. A warm, yummy brew!
I started the day with a cup of Elder Berry Tea, from Cheryl’s Herbs, an herb shop here in St. Louis that sells all kinds of medicinal herbs, tinctures, essential oils, etc. http://www.cherylsherbs.com/
I always drink Elder Berry in the Fall, Winter, & Spring. When I’m having allergies, my immune system gets low, and Elder Berry has wonderful antiviral properties, and other beneficial qualities.
It’s not a tea I drink for pleasure, but it isn’t really objectionable either. The smell is, of course, berry like, but with overtones of Valerian (another of my favorite herbs). The taste is slightly sweet & tart. I usually use 1 T for a cup of hot tea, sometimes stronger if I’m under the weather, & sometimes with a pinch of stevia. I have a tendency to lung ailments in the Fall, & I’ve seen this tea make a big difference, so I drink it often!
These statements haven’t been approved by meddling government agencies that are in the pocket of the pharmaceutical companies.
I’m in love with David Duckler!
I want to buy every variety of tea he has!
I want to read all of his tea writings!
I want to join his Tea Club!
Of course, I’m not really in love with him…My boyfriend, who I’ll call Tony, since that’s his name, would be very unhappy if I was.
But I’m in love with the ideal he embodies.
I keep telling my kids (ages 29, 26, 23, & 20) to “find something you love to do, & then find a way to make a living doing it”. That’s exactly what I’ve done, as a musician, and “All of my needs, desires, & dreams are abundantly fulfilled.” (That’s the affirmation I’ve been reciting for at least 20 years, & I’m grateful to say, it’s true.)
So I’m in love with the ideal of following your dreams, & believing that the powers of the universe will line up to fulfill them. I’m also in love with the ideal of the perfect cup of Black Tea. I’ve only just discovered David’s company, Verdant Teas, but it appears that he has done this, & his teas are SO enticing!
Today my first order arrived from Verdant. I have yet to add them to my virtual cupboard, but I was SO excited to try the Laoshan Black that I immediately opened it, & breathed in. Ahhh…chocolate…vanilla bean…deep malty milkshake…oh, the promise of the long awaited love of my life…That first cup went down, so smooth, so ‘thick’ in the back of my throat, everything that was promised, & more…
“je ne se quais”
I brewed my 2nd cup…
I wanted something soothing this morning, so I’m sitting in the sun, in my sun-room, enjoying a cup of Peach Oolong. It’s a beautiful fall tea, a darker Oolong that the one I drank yesterday, very smooth, a little earthy, with a mildly sweet peach backdrop. Although I’m drinking it plain, I know that a small pinch of stevia will bring the Peach taste forward. If it were cold outside, I’d add that pinch.
According to the National Weather service iPhone app, it’s suppose to be raining right now. My allergies are still bad, more crazy dreams & restlessness last night, but the sunshine feels awesome. Outside its 79 degrees, & although I’m not excited about braving the pollen count, I have places to go, people to see, things to do. I discovered a teashop in St. Louis that I am hoping to check out (and he sells Gaiwans!).
Last night was my 3rd night in a row of not sleeping well, which is highly unusual for me (I generally sleep like a vampire at dawn), and when I did sleep, my dreams were crazy, scary, & disturbing. It’s not the caffeine, as I’m pretty used to the level I’ve been drinking. In part there is the late night blogging to blame, but I’m also having awful allergies, which always makes me feel irritated from head to toe.
So today I thought I’d be gentle with myself & try a fun little experiment, which I’ll call “Peach Oolong – 3 ways”. I had students today from 10am until 4pm, with a few short breaks, so I felt like the day would lend itself to this sort of thing.
Peach is one of my favorite flavors. The Tea of this experiment is a dark green nugget style Oolong (summer?), mixed with pale chunks of peach, cut at roughly the same size as the tea. Dry, it has the scent of under ripe peaches. I’ll confess right now that it isn’t my favorite Peach Oolong, I prefer a more fall-like blend, so I’m not going to attempt to give a rating.
Brew #1: In a cup, 3 minutes, basically the standard brewing I’ve been doing for years. It’s a very light taste of less than ripe Peach with a brightness to it, & a slightly bitter green backdrop. I just remembered that I usually use a Tablespoon, because there’s more peaches than tea, & I only used a tsp. I re-brewed the leaves & the 2nd cup was less peachy, more green, slightly astrigent. When I use a T it is better.
Brew #2: Same as #1, only I added a few drops of Stevia, which really brought the Peach to the for-front, & my mind’s eye saw the color yellow. This was my preferred brew of the three.
Brew #3: I’ve been reading some tea blogs, so I decided to try something different. First, I gave the tea a quick hot rinse, then I went with 6 brewings:
20 seconds – lightly sweet, pale green
15 seconds – I felt clarity, a mild orchid scent, pale apricot essence
15 sec – Alkaline
15 sec – more Tannic, my mouth was really dry…
20 sec – OK….admittedly, at this point I started losing interest…
25 sec – This last one was like really smooth water…
I have to confess, I didn’t drink all the tea in this series. I drank the 20 sec & the first 15 sec cups, but after that I just sampled them. I tried this technique because…well…just to try it. I suspect it is more worth doing with plain, really awesome Oolongs, & I plan on doing so when the teas I’ve ordered arrive. So really, this was just a trial run, I suppose. But worth trying.
I don’t get insomnia often, but the last few nights I’ve been online late & by the time I laid down, my head was racing with thoughts, conversations, images, & ideas. Last night it took an hour of Cryptoquips (I must have been a Navaho code talker in a previous life, cuz I’m really good at breaking codes, & they help to empty my mind), yoga asanas, a warm heating pad, & a double dose of Valerian Tincture to finally go to sleep.
I thought I’d end the day with Republic of Tea’s Chamomile lemon. When I need a sleep aid, I put 2 teabags in my cup, with a little extra Valerian. So tonight I started the water, opened the canister, and what? Hmmmm…I think that’s some long forgotten black tea with Jasmine that a friend gave me back in the 90’s. Must have neglected to label it.
Luckily, I have a tin of Peach Tranquility. This is one of the first teas I bought from Teavana when they opened their doors. I was playing an Xmas gig at a local mall on Saturdays & Sundays during the month of December years ago. Teavana was new, & I fell in love. My 4 children (& a few students) gave me Teavana giftcards, & it was an awesome Holiday season!
Peach Tranquility is such a beautiful herbal tea, loaded with little chunks of dried peach, pineapple, apple, rosehips, chamomile flowers, & some other pretty things. I always want to nibble on the dried fruit, & usually after I’ve brewed the tea I like to pick out the pieces of pineapple with chopsticks & eat them. It’s fun!
The aroma is heady, with the sweetness of Peachy, bright, cheerful, juicy goodness, served on a bed of chamomile to lull me to sleep. There’s always this sensation that I don’t have words for, something I feel under my tongue. I think it’s from the pineapple, so I’ll call it tart & lively.(I actually tried googling a list of ‘oral sensations’, thinking I’d find a word to match what I felt. Sadly, there were only links to a porn site by that name. Call me naive. I didn’t go there).
This is a sweet & tasty tea that I’ve enjoyed for years, & (you’ll be glad to know) I refresh my supply fairly often!
I made a decision this morning to stick to green teas today, to give my palate a break from black teas. I’m also trying to clear my cupboards a little bit, & all of my greens & oolongs have been neglected lately.
So I thought it would be fun to have a little contest, so to speak. I lined up 4 similar green teas, so I could compare them.
I’m the President of the St. Louis Harp Society, which sounds way more important & prestigious than it really is. It just means I get to schedule events (our annual tea party, recitals, etc). My Vice President is a lovely Harpist from Japan, the most gracious woman I’ve ever known. I had my first cup of Matcha in her home, when she was the treasurer & I was a mere peon (before I worked my way up the ladder to greatness). There we were, a small group of teachers & officers, planning the year. She served us tea & those fun little rice/seaweed crackers, ceremonially, I might add. I was enraptured, & the tea was the greenest of all green! Smooth, foamy, creamy. I was in love! (with the tea, silly!)
My first Matcha purchase came from Teavana, & I bought the stupid little whisk (looks like a miniature egg beater, only made of bamboo, falls apart regularly) that came with a couple bamboo spoons in a cute bamboo stand. My Matcha was always lumpy, never as smooth & foamy as hers. I was too cheap to buy the real whisk, I mean, would it really make a difference?
Several years ago I became Madame President, & held my first Tea Party at my house. I had some Matcha ready for her to whisk for us. When she saw that egg beater-like thing, she smiled, bowed, and graciously declined. She also sweetly made sure that I knew how important it was to keep my Matcha in the freezer, so that it will stay fresh. I’d like to mention that Matcha is the only tea she drinks,& she orders hers straight from a preferred source in Japan by the case.
What was I thinking? I always knew my Matcha was never as awesome as hers, & there were always lumps at the bottom of the cup.
I bought the real Matcha whisk shortly afterwards, & have never looked back. I’m having my 2nd cup, & it’s rich in greenness, with a head of foam like a tap-drawn beer. I’ve only tried 3 Matchas so far: The wonderful brew at my Japanese colleague’s house (when I told her over sushi that I bought the right whisk, she nodded & smiled demurely in approval), Republic of Tea’s (which was a green tan color when I opened it, bitter & obviously stale. Guess they didn’t keep it in the freezer), & this lovely jade green brew from Teavana. Drinking this matcha is like sipping a cup of heaven, a wonderful spring tonic, any time of year. I whisk it in a blue glass bowl, breathing in images of asparagus in spring, while I recite a Haiku:
“Green essence of Jade
Steaming water in blue glass,
Sweet smooth sip of silk.”
I want a Gaiwan!
I thought I had all of the tea paraphernalia I needed. I have a variety of teapots, strainers, teas, utensils, bowls, etc. I think today is my 5th day on Steepster, & I need a Gaiwan!
Of course, these things must be chosen delicately, so, I’m ogling at a couple of them…I may have to have 2 sizes… I ordered some tea from Butiki last night, using the last of the money in my paypal account (if you care to help refresh my ‘tea buying money’, you can download my recordings from iTunes, or buy the CDs from CDbaby… ;).
So, about this tea: it’s ok. I don’t buy a lot of bagged teas, I always feel that they scrimp on the dosage, if you know what I mean. I bought this tea while I was traveling (we musicians do that), because I ran out of my Stash, & I needed some breakfast tea. It is unremarkable, requires 2 bags to brew a decent cup, but it will do for now, as I have to drive my son to college. It’s raining in St. Louis, & that’s a good thing!