tea time

16 12 2009

Challenge day 16 – Tea of the year. I can taste my favorite tea right now. What’s yours?

Ah tea. Lovely lovely tea. OK, for those who know me, I’ve been a tea drinker longer than I can remember. I think it was Grandma Trede (not an actual blood grandmother of mine, but the lady who kept me from infant to age 5, and whose tea cakes are world renown) who must’ve gotten me hooked on the stuff well before I could even crawl. I never could figure out as a kid how she made it super-sweet, southern sweet, until I was older and learned more about molecular structure. (36 c sugar : 1 c water, if there are no impurities. Must have heat to facilitate this of course.)

First, Tea 101 – Quick (relatively anyway) tea primer: white, green, oolong, and black teas are all from the same plant. (While they’re tasty too, rooibos, mate, and other herbal “tea’s” are not actually a TEA, they are each a tisane.) But as for actual tea, it’s how young the leaves picked, and how much those leaves are fermented, that determines the differences between white/green/oolong/black. White teas are picked extremely young– before much of the chlorophyll in the plant has had a chance to take hold even. Green/Oolong/Black teas are picked about the same time as each other, the green is immediately dried (no fermentation), the black is fully fermented before drying, and oolong is partially fermented, then that fermentation is stopped , before drying. (That’s why oolong is kinda fragile, and you want to keep it away from sun/light/moisture moreso than with green/black teas.) There’s also different sizes of leaves, regions, etc, but that’s Tea 102.

Now that you know what tea is, and isn’t, back to the point:

Personally, I’m a purist: my true heart is in black tea. Sans sugar. If it’s brewed right, it doesn’t need it. Frankly, it’s really not all that difficult to brew correctly– the temp is important, but mostly if the only thing you watch is that you don’t OVER steep it, you’re golden. (#1 mistake– steeping too long lets the bitter bits leach out) The other thing is to get a decent brewing contraption. Best thing since sliced bread.

So my answer? Even though my normal go-to tea is some kind of Assam or similar, lately I’ve had two different teas within arm’s reach:

Earl Grey Extra – not only does it have the bergamot oil infused in it (which is what makes this black tea into the ever popular “earl grey”), but it also has pretty little purple flowers in it. I’m sure they have a function other than being pretty, but that’s enough for me.

Lapsang Souchong – a “normal” black tea, but the leaves are dried over a fire, so they’re infused with a wonderful smokiness that comes out when brewed. My work space often smells a wee bit like a campfire.

The folks that empty the trash at the office have got to be wondering how someone with such a girly name always has so much dip/chew/tabacco-whatever-you-call-it in her trashcan every day.

I wonder if we have any tea cakes around?




One response

16 12 2009

Oh, I am soooo into teas now! Thank you for the primer. I might have to get one of those steeper/strainers. The one from teavana looked huge though!

btw, love the snow!

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