Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Holiday Greetings

Just want to wish you all the best during the holidays and new year! I'll be posting the next member of the tea family shortly; I've been quite busy with the holidays and work.

Best wishes teanions!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The 5 Tea siblings: White Tea

After our brief introduction to the tea family, I'd like to go into more detail regarding each type of tea; starting with the most gentle: white tea.

(don't worry, this post will be written with a more serious tone and (I hope) actually be informative)

White tea primarily comes from the Fujian Province but is also cultivated in Taiwan, Thailand, and certain areas of Nepal. It is a very gentle tea, lightly oxidized, and contains high levels of catechins (which are very good for you health). It is unique, both in it's preparation style and appearance.

Credit to this random site for the beautiful picture

White tea starts with a very strict selection process lasting from early spring to late spring. The chosen leaves are very young and covered with thin, wispy, white hairs. In fact, it is these hairs that give white tea it's name, and not the colour of the 'soup' (brewed tea) as most often believed. Once chosen, the leaves are allowed to bask and whither in the sun where they dry and take their shape. White tea is special as it's preparation process requires no panning, rolling, or shaking but instead, the young leaf is dried naturally. Once brewed, white tea can range from a lint green tint to a yellowish white.

White tea is a very mellow and laid-back tea, often very smooth and delicate. It has a subtle, sweet, and smooth aroma with little after taste and always leaves behind a feeling of warmth and comfort. I must admit that it is my least well-known tea simply due to my lack of exposure but it is a goal of mine to gain experience in the realm of white teas (as shown with my white tea sampler pack).

Two of the most famous white teas are Silver Needle (Bai hao Yin Zhen  ) and White Peony (Bai Mudan 白牡丹). The leaves appear as long, uniform, and thin while being covered in light-white hairs. People often describe the look as a "sparrows-tongue" as it has the same gentle spear-like shape.

Water temperature is very important when steeping white teas (as it is with most other teas). Unlike some of the more sturdy teas (black + pu-er), white tea is easily scorched if the water is too hot. This ruins the subtle hints of the tea and changes the experience entirely which is why it is recommended to use water that is around 160 degrees Fahrenheit or 71 degrees Celsius for a first steeping.

White tea can be steeped several times keeping in mind that a generous amount of leaves should be used because of it's delicate nature (2 teaspoons for buds, 2 tablespoons for leaves). Additionally, the water temperature should be increased by around 5 degrees Fahrenheit, or 3 degrees Celsius with each subsequent steeping. With care and the right amount of leaves, white tea will provide 3 beautiful steepings of increasing complexity. Make sure not to add too much water as the subtleties will be lost.

With all this in mind, I look forward to exploring the world of white teas. Stay tuned for a few white tea reviews and pictures!

The rest of the siblings can be found here

Here is a quick link to each of their pages

Monday, December 10, 2012

The 5 Tea Siblings: Introduction to the Tea Family

Mr. and Mrs. Tea met many years ago. It was a cool summer night, the stars were out, and a gentle breeze rustled the trees. Had you asked them back then if they could imagine where they would end up all these years later, Mrs. Tea would simply blush with a sidelong glance and giggle, and Mr. Tea would grunt affectionately while describing all the other varieties of shrubbery he could have chosen but was happy he didn't.

Despite some of their dry seasons, Mr. and Mrs. Tea stuck through it all and happily worked together to grow five rowdy little youngsters. Although the grew up in the same bush, these four brothers and their one sister could not be more different from each other.

The eldest of the five was a patient, calm, and meditative fellow named Pu-Er. He had been around a long time and knew that with patience and time, everything could be resolved.
Pu-Er Tea (Taken from this interesting blog)

Black Tea was the second son and always liked to joke that he had missed being the eldest by only a matter of weeks. Pu-Er never played along with this as he knew how much the extra years counted. This only agitated Black Tea more and often made him dark and moody.
Black Tea (Sasuke from Naruto)

Oolong was the happy middle child and liked to spend time with both his younger siblings and older counter parts. He learned much from his older brothers but still retained his youth and innocence from his younger years; never shying away from new experiences.
Oolong (Li Da Ren from In Time With You)

White Tea was the only girl out of the bunch and was the second youngest, and as such, she only related to Oolong, and her younger brother. Though she enjoyed the company of her closest brothers, she made sure to retain her unique, gentle, and lady-like characteristics.
White Tea (Belldandy from Oh My Goddess)

Green Tea was not only the youngest of the "Tea Five" but he was also the most rambunctious. This little one was impatient and always had something to say no matter what the conversation was. He often played well with others, but once in a while could be a little rascal.
Green Tea. (Meelo from The Legend of Korra)

Coming up: Meeting the Tea Five one-by-one

Edit: Here is a quick link to each of their pages

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Ottawa 2nd Annual Tea Festival

Hello Teanions!

Last week, while doing a bit of research and reading up on tea, I came across the 2nd Annual Ottawa Tea Festival being hosted at the Ottawa Convention Center. Despite my overwhelming urge to go and frolic with fellow teavers (tea-lovers), I had mixed feelings on going. Ottawa is two hours away from Montreal and at the moment of discovery, I had no one to go with. Not only that, but I had dinner plans back in Montreal which would mean a 4 hour drive for 4 hours in Ottawa....not entirely tempting.

Despite my hesitations, I threw out a public invite on facebook to see if fellow available teavers would surface. I had many bites, but due to exam season, I only had one catch. Good enough! I bought my tickets and started to psych myself up for an amazing, immersive, and bustling experience.


Turns out psyching myself up was a little bit of a mistake. In my head, I managed to put together a massive convention, filled with suppliers, retailers, experts, growers, anybody and everybody related to tea. My dream convention was held in a massive hall with aisles and aisles of tea. The air is filled with the unique smell and aroma of hundreds, no! Thousands of unique teas brewing; their scents all playing and dancing together. Fresh batches of tea are there for sampling and the booth representative is a chatty individual, able to recite an entire adventure behind each cup of tea. Where did the tea come from, who were the farmers, what unique characteristics does it have versus a similar tea; these are all questions that the representative could answer with beautifully weaved imagery and pertinent information. In my ideal tea convention, I would need to set a budget and pick and choose which teas to bring home with painful scrutiny, never one hundred percent sure that I made the right choice and fearful that I would not see such a collection of teas again. There would be unique teas from remote parts of the world, teas unlocked only by a 5 day trek on foot through misty mountains and vast valleys. A day in the convention would be a ticket to every small corner of the tea growing world.

My ideal convention began to take shape the moment I bought my tickets, and began to grow over two days. As I drove to Ottawa and got closer and closer, my convention started to take shape and the list of questions in my head began to grow. Where did they get their tea? What set it apart from it's counterparts? What types of hidden flavours should I focus on? My list grew on and on.

I gave in my ticket, got my hand stamped and walked into a bustling room lined with tea hushed  room slightly bigger than a classroom with a few hurriedly set up booths and a handful of people wondering around. I immediately dismissed my dream convention (putting the idea aside as a future goal) and focused on making the most of what was at hand.

The tea booths did not number very high. There were around 6 different tea retailers who set up booths and the rest of the booths (around 10-15) were all tea related paraphernalia (except for the pork sausage booth...still not sure why they were there). I must admit that I was a bit disappointed at the size of the event, but nonetheless, I gave it a fair chance; I started to wonder up the first aisle and started my quest for new teas (slowly as I had all day for a handful of booths).

I was mainly interested in trying white tea as it still remains a slight mystery to me. It's subtle taste does not linger and as such, neither did it's impression when I tasted it many years ago. It was my main goal for the event; luckily, I was not disappointed in the least as two of the booths carried a small variety of white tea to satisfy my curiosity.

The first booth worthy of mention was Tao's tea leaf, a store known in Ottawa. They had great presentation and a clever concept to sell sample size packets of tea. From them, I picked up 8 different types of tea which I will drink and experience at a later date (and share on this blog):

Silver Needle
High Mountain Green Tea
(Award winning) Golden Needle
(Award winning + personal favourite) Da Hong Pao
An Ji Bai Cha
Jin Ping Gong Fu (an incredible black tea I had the opportunity to taste)
(Award winning) Imperial Pu-Er
Organic Rooibos

A Selection of Pu-Er Teas at Tao's Leaf
They had a good selection of teas to try and sample and an excellent assortment of sample sizes to bring home. I was excited to question them further (and Mr. Tao in person) about his experiences with tea, and to hear about their teas directly from them. I was curious to know about their suppliers and their relationships, how they discovered the tea, and a unique tid-bit. Sadly, when I questioned them about it (and despite the lack of people) they referred me to their website and didn't offer much else. (though I just checked and their website isn't half bad and does contain information about their teas. Still, a personalized story or two would have been nice).

Jin Ping Gong Fu, an incredibly rich and layered black tea

The next booth I visited belonged to the pleasant people at Cha-Yi. Beautiful presentation, numerous samples, and a talkative staff made this my booth of choice. I picked up a sample pack of white teas which included:

Jinggu Theiers sauvage
Baihao Yin Zhen
Bai Cui Mei
Simao Bai Cha

The staff was very helpful and informative. They informed me that they have been opened for 2 years and take a yearly trip to China, Taiwan, and Japan to find new suppliers and develop a lasting relationship with local farmers and producers. The teas I brought home were from the Yunnan province, picked and prepared this year. I can't wait to try and talk to you about the ones I brought home.
Jinggu White Tea being steeped for tasting

All in all, I had a great time despite the small size of the event. The people were quite helpful and friendly, and I squirrelled away a good number of teas to try at a later date. If you are around the Ottawa region next year, I recommend stopping by...chances are, I'll be there!
Jinggu Tea - This was the 8th steeping and still incredibly flavourful

Stay tuned for future posts where I'll talk about the teas I tried and tasted (most of which I brought home)

Martin Out!

P.s. Teanion = Tea + minions