Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Flushing out the bad stuff

It has been a full week of Obama, cameronies and lies dominating some of the world's crappiest news channels forced upon us. Add to that a persistent flu that would not go away. The solution? Brewing some twig tea, otherwise known as kukicha, a blend of stems, stalks and twigs.

Kukicha is made from Sencha. When made from Gyokuro or Matcha production, it is termed Karigane. In my case, this is a matcha karigane tea that has been carefully roasted to bring out its nutty scent and creamy sweet taste.

You will notice that the colour of a karigane infusion shares the same jade green colour with regular Sencha, yet ever so slightly lighter. In terms of taste, twig teas as a result of their composition, tend to be sweeter and less astringent. It is widely thought that the greener varieties are best steeped for less than a minute to minimise unsavoury tastes and flavours.

This matcha karigane (less green, with an overall yellowish hue due to storage) that I brewed was sufficiently sweet despite the use of just boiled water, way hotter than the recommended 80 degrees Celsius. This is most likely attributed to a two year aging process in its original packaging prior to brewing.

Sweet tea to detox the body, mind and soul. Ahhhh... now I'm ready to take on the world yet again.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Origins of Chinese tea and wine

One of my all time favourite illustrated tea book by Fu Chunjiang. If you haven't not already read it, you ought to. This book is highly informative and entertaining. Readers can meanwhile brush up on their Chinese skills through familiarising themselves with some of the more commonly known Chinese tea names in history and terms related to the tea culture.

Along the way, I will be posting some relatively interesting content from this book on my blog.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Comfort food and tea pairings

This week, I had a reasonably good time over dinner sessions at an Indonesian restaurant run by a very welcoming Javanese couple. Deserts were quite a treat for me, starting with a homemade (not everything branded home, or handmade is necessarily a testament to quality) delicious durian ice cream paired with a Russian Earl Grey tea (very rounded and mellow as opposed to Earl Grey) and a beautifully decorated piece of kueh lapis to take with me. I savoured it, of course, with three generous helpings of Earl Grey tea of varying intensities and finally coffee, but found the lightly brewed version to be the best fit with this coconut based sweet pastry.

And as it happens, Indonesians celebrate their well-earned 68th independence anniversary today.
So one good reason to share my culinary experiences on this joyous occasion.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Same tea, different cups

Experimenting with different porcelain cups and a ceramic one. 1) Porcelain yunomi 2) artisanal ceramic yunomi 3) porcelain tea cup.

Few days ago, I received a beautifully glazed Japanese yunomi in the mail by mistake as I had originally set my mind on regular porcelain ware. It was a rustic work of art. I have very few handmade ceramic pieces in my collection and this was the perfect addition so I realised on hindsight.

Being unfamiliar with ceramic pieces, I decided to compare the influence of tea cup materials on brewed tea -  Bi luo chun green tea brewed open style in an old blue and white bowl. Doing so will allow the tea to cool down faster on a hot summer day.

Next, I spooned equal amounts of tea from the bowl into individual cups and went about tasting. Before the infusion was ready, I already did a pre trial on the cups using boiled water and yes, I did notice slight differences in the liquid texture on my palates. Water from the ceramic piece felt softer and gentler on my throat.

Now onto the infusion. Notice the difference in colour intensities? This could be a clue as to how the tea will taste. Through this experiment and also from earlier experiences, the handcrafted ceramic yunomi in the centre gave the mellowest tasting tea. The porcelain cups on the other hand, seem to highlight the tea's fragrances well.

A reader suggested that I could switch to glass - a neutral material that potentially does away with any performance irregularities. Personally, I enjoy the process of collecting intriguing data. This way, I may be able to choose to drink tea out of glazed ceramic when my craving calls for a balanced cup of tea or pick a porcelain yunomi on a Monday morning so the fragrances can provide for an invigorating wake up call. There is always room for discoveries and fine-tuning one's brewing techniques along the way.

What are your experiences so far? Do you have a preference for certain materials or a particular dislike for others?


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Personal rituals

I quote: " Every day, usually in the mid-afternoon, I have a little tea ceremony at my desk. I get my four-cup tea press, put on a kettle to boil, and meticulously add the leaves and put the press, my tea cup, a little sweetener (usually honey) and a spoon on a bamboo tray that fits nicely on my desk while I work. When the water boils, I take its temperature, pour the water over the leaves, set a timer on my phone, stir, and bring the whole tray to my desk. I relax while it steeps - usually just watching the steam rising off of it. When the timer goes off, I press the tea, pour my first cup, and go back to work. It's elaborate, but it's one of my little rituals that helps me disengage for a bit—something meditative that helps me get through the afternoon."

Read on:

Obviously, with me, the steps in personal rituals do differ, but I hope my readers get the gist of my message. Happy reading ;-)