Thursday, February 28, 2013

The First Cup

Hello lovelies!

So it's been awhile since we've had a post. Martin's been quite busy and has just returned from vacation, me on the other hand-- I guess I have no good excuse. :) I've been meaning to write my first 'tea' post for awhile. Here goes!

Recently at work, a co-worker and I were chatting about nothing in particular when the topic somehow rolled-around to tea. She explained to me that other than an English Breakfast, Orange Pekoe, or Earl Grey, she's never had any other sort of tea. Of course I was shocked. "What do you drink with or after dinner?" I asked. "Well, water or coffee," she said, and thus we got into a not so brief introduction to teas. (She was actually interested, I have to say-- I didn't force this on her by any means!)

A great tea to start with for people new to Asian teas is Jasmine. Funnily enough, Jasmine is not actually considered tea. Jasmine is actually another tea (usually green) which has been "infused" or "scented" with the jasmine flower. Jasmine tea has a very light, slightly sweet taste, and is highly fragrant. It's a wonderful soothing/relaxing any-time tea. 

Jasmine comes in different forms. If you've had Jasmine, you've probably tasted it from this particular tinned-brand. It is the typical tea served at Chinese restaurants (if you haven't specified which tea), and can sometimes can be found in grocery stores. Don't go on your restaurant experience, though-- oftentimes they serve it so watered-down you can't taste a thing.

Jasmine Tea from Fujian Province, China - courtesy of Steepster

Another common form in which you'll find Jasmine tea is rolled into small balls often referred to as "pearls". Martin and I recently picked some up in our Montreal Chinatown, on the corner of Rene Levesque and Clarke-- This small tea shop, simply named "Thé / Tea", and owned by a Mr. Lau has a nice collection. We picked up 100g of a medium-high grade of Jasmine tea for about $9.00.

The jasmine pearls we bought at Mr. Lau's

The pearls after steeping-- not fully unfurled yet!
We need to buy some white cups so that you can see the colour!
Water temperature:
Jasmine is usually made with a green-tea base, so go with a similar temperature. Different teas are better steeped with the proper temperature water. Green tea require the coolest temperature at around 80°C. Boiling water will burn the tea and won't give it the right taste (it'll make it bitter), so if the water's been boiled, just wait 2-3 minutes for the temperature to go down a bit before pouring. 

How much tea? 
If it's your first time drinking tea, I wouldn't go too strong-- about 3-5 pearls to a cup is probably enough. In a pot, you can probably drop 10-15 pearls. You can re-steep maybe 3-4 times before the flavour is completely released. Also! One of the greatest parts about re-steeping teas is that for many teas, this is how you get the full experience. Each steeping will uncover a slightly different layer of the tea's taste. Don't worry about leaving the pearls in the cup if you're just drinking yourself. They'll naturally sink to the bottom when they unfurl.

Where to buy?
To get a good loose-leaf tea (in pearl format or other), you can probably find a tea-store in your local Chinatown or tea-shop. Occasionally you'll see the tin mentioned above at some grocery stores. It's a fairly common tea. It's also a fairly inexpensive tea. For $5-10 you can easily get a small bag of very decent Jasmine which can last you quite many cups. :)

Overall-- a great starter tea. Most people really enjoy the soothing, wonderfully fragrant experience of a well-brewed jasmine tea. My co-worker, after trying out the jasmine that I gave her, has been increasingly interested in trying more and different teas. Her husband was somewhat freaked out by the leaves as they unfurled in the cup-- something about their shape reminded him of worms. After a sip, he came around. Now they're looking for a place to buy. :P

Do you remember your first loose-leaf tea? How was your experience?

Until next time! :)

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