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It's Easy to Drink the Drink---Now Learn to Talk the Talk

Mary Murkin

By, Lady Mary

As with any field of specialty, there is a certain vocabulary, or set of terms, that makes it possible to discuss a topic at a deeper level.  This is especially true in the world of food, wine, beer, liqueur, coffee and tea.  There is not a particular title for someone who considers themselves very tea knowledgeable, but it is agreed that calling a person a “tea connoisseur” or a “tea enthusiast” would be an accurate title.

We will cover the most basic tea vocabulary in this installment.  When you brew a cup of tea, you are infusing (steeping) your tea bag or infuser filled with tea leaves into the hot water.  Upon doing this, you are making a delicious liquor (the liquid obtained by infusing tea leaves).  One of the first things we talk about is the bouquet (the aromatic characteristics sensed by the nose) of the tea.  As with all food and drink, tea has quite an aromatic profile (the impact smell of the main notes). 

If a tea is balanced, its aromas interact with each other smoothly and are pleasing to the nose.  A complex tea describes a bouquet that is very rich in aromas, and a tea with finesse contains subtle/precise aromas.  However, intense tea aromas have strength and duration, and heavy aromas refers to the background notes.   There are many tea terms that describe the aroma….but, at some point you have to be done smelling your tea and taste it!

Take a sip.  Hold it in your mouth; slide it to the back of your mouth and pay attention to the taste.  Some teas are astringent (with bitterness, sometimes accompanied by a sensation of dryness), and some teas are smooth (lacking that harsh acidity).   Sometimes, the over-astringency of a tea can be caused by infusing the tea leaves for too long.   If you want a robust (full-bodied) tea flavor, you might need to lengthen the infusing time----but, you must be careful not to overdo this and infuse too long, or your brew becomes bitter.  Equally so, is if you want your tea flavor to be milder, experiment by shortening your infusing time and find what is most pleasing for your tastes.

We have only scratched the surface of tea vocabulary, but you have enough lingo to make, smell, taste and enjoy a cup of tea!

Make some tea and call out the tea drinker’s motto-----------“Bottom’s up!”

Tea As An Ancient Art Form

Mary Murkin

 

By, Lady Mary

Making and serving tea in beautiful, traditional ways is an art.  However, the tea itself has a place in the world of ancient art forms.   It is not every beverage that can make this claim!  I want to highlight a particular and very different form of tea that is considered functional art—flowering tea (aka blooming tea).

Sourced from the Yunnan province of China, flowering teas are painstakingly created by tea artisans and referred to as “liquid art.”  Historians have found mentions of flowering tea in Chinese literature, dating back centuries.  One early writing suggests that flowering teas were used during the Song Dynasty to entertain the Emperor (960 AD - 1279 AD). 

The making of flowering teas is itself an art form.  The artisan begins by sewing together different flowers and petals to form a unique floral piece that does not even exist in real life.  Traditionally, the flowers used for this are varied, but can include jasmine, chrysanthemum, globe amaranth, lily, acanthus, carnation or marigold.  Premium green tea leaves are hand-wrapped and stitched together around the base of the flower petals.  These flowers and tea leaves are then hand-formed into the shape of a little ball (or pearl) about an inch in diameter and tied with cotton thread and dried.  The threads are removed before packaging the pearls for distribution.

Flowering tea is usually prepared in a heat-proof, transparent vessel which allows you to see its complete transformation.  As the tea ball steeps and unfurls in boiling water, a beautiful flower appears to bloom before your eyes—there is something magical about this peaceful wonder.  The tea leaves brew in the water as the flowers inside emerge as the centerpiece—creating a delicious, delicate floral green tea.  This transformation time varies between 5 and 10 minutes.  Each blossom makes four to six cups of tea, and can be brewed up to three times.

It is rarely the case that something so simple and quiet can bring such delight to the on looker.   Take the time to enjoy a flowering tea with a friend or two.  You’ll be glad you did!

(To see several blooming teas in action, take a peek at this short YouTube video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnH3EAES8_8 .)

Keep sipping…….and as always:  “Bottom’s up!”

 

 

A Sexy Little Tea Geography/History Lesson

Mary Murkin

By, Lady Mary

When a tea client came running into the shop a few months ago, she had one very specific request on her mind.  She wanted to buy some Ceylon tea as a gift for her elderly mother.  She explained that Ceylon tea was her mother’s favorite tea.  I stood there blankly knowing that with ALL of the teas I had on my shelves, none of them were Ceylon tea.  I had heard of Ceylon tea, but was completely at a loss for how to help this nice lady.

This encounter instigated a search for Ceylon tea.  With just a few clicks on my favorite search engine, there was the ANSWER!!!  What a relief to learn these facts (this is the geography/history lesson part of this tale):  In 1971, Ceylon experienced a Marxist insurrection, which was quickly suppressed. In 1972, the country became a republic named Sri Lanka.  There you have it!!  Ceylon was renamed Sri Lanka forty three years ago.  Sri Lanka is one of the largest tea producers in the world, and as a result, Ceylon (its old name) tea can still be enjoyed all over the world.

I quickly gathered from my research that a most common Ceylon tea is a delicious plain black tea.  When brewed, it has a golden color and rich, intense flavor and it is used straight as well as in tea blends.  Armed with this new (very smart) information, I was able to direct this tea client to a number of exquisite teas from Sri Lanka.

Now for the sexy part of this story:   According to a May 13, 2013 article in the NY Daily News, “A hot cup of Ceylon tea is better known as being soothing and relaxing, but Sri Lanka is now marketing its most profitable export as a luxury boost for the libido.”  The tea industry is increasingly boasting of Ceylon tea’s supposed aphrodisiac qualities.  They may not yet have medical proof of Ceylon's performance-enhancing powers, but they have long been the stuff of legend among Sri Lankan tea lovers.  With that said, give it a try-------and at the very least, you’ll still have a tasty cup of tea!

Till the next time we meet---“Bottoms up!”