Thursday, March 29, 2007

Pairing tea with occaisions

Connoisseurs take pride in having found the perfect pairings of alcohol with chow, but doesn’t the beauty of tea lie in its I-felt-like-it whenever-ness? That said, some occasions suit certain flavors better than others.

Air Travel – green

Ask any business-class skyhopper or Disneyland-bound mother of four what the perfect flight would be, and both answers will likely include words like ‘peace’, ‘tranquility’, and ‘empty row’ or ‘good movie’. Green tea, the elixir of Zen monks, will get you as close as possible to the first two with bonus antioxidants. Unfortunately, due to recent policy changes those departing from American terminals are no longer allowed the home-brewed hot thermos. If you don’t mind it cold, fetch a glass-bottled Tazo or Honest Tea while they load in the first-classers; otherwise, stow a teabag or two with your MP3 player and ask the flight attendant for hot water after liftoff (as with all above-room-temperature beverages consumed above 55,000 feet, mind the turbulence warnings). Preferably, buy organic Matcha bags either in Chinatown or at Whole Foods Market, but when running late don’t hesitate at theft from hotel lobbies. Skip the 4 AM-taxi-traffic-jam Starbucks; jet lag renders excessive caffeine superfluous.

Tea tip: Green tea isn’t picky about its partners. If it’s too bitter on its own, brew it with mild fruity flavors like tangerine or raspberry, or herbal essences like mint. To stop the second teabag from overpowering the flavor of the first, take it out of the cup sooner.

The Cyber Café – fruity combos

For a couple hours of heated IM debates (“j00 r34dy n00b?” “just tel me hwo long 2 bake teh gadamn pie xO!11!!1!”), illegal acquisition of music, and addictive Flash cartoons, café is really a misnomer—no roast or frappe will pair as satisfyingly as a lively tea. A good WiFi parlor has a brand-name selection of both cold and hot teas, and a bad one dishes you the overpriced NesTea with high fructose corn syrup. Branch out from Twining’s Orange Spice; lemon and ginger is a classic, peach is infallible, and berries match green and black teas nicely. Your cyber café should be more about the ambience and drinks than the broadband; for a treat, find one that boasts of ‘free internet’ with purchase of a beverage, or else burn your tongue watching the per-minute meter rise.

Tea tip: Anything that tastes good hot won’t fail you with ice cubes, except for Earl Grey, which takes on the flavor of February’s dishwater. Remember; the tangerine slice floats in hot tea, but garnishes the rim when served with cold.

The Movies – mint, ginseng, ginger

Popcorn? Passé. A tall, steamy cup of tea in the dark (between fight scenes) won’t grease your fingertips and does not require sharing when with a group. If you like it iced, bring a jean jacket; the only thing more annoying during “I’ve always loved you” moments than a bawling baby or cell phone is the perpetual sneezer who denies the existence of air-conditioning. Make sure the cup has a heat-proof sleeve or bring a travel mug from home; you’ll be cool as long as your choice fits in the beverage holder. Hitting the screening with a runny nose is risky, but if protocol dictates, brew fresh sliced ginger with lime juice and spin in a spoon of honey just before heading out.

Studying – black

Even when writing a thesis, don’t confuse your metabolism with Coke or coffee. Earl Grey is dark for a reason—it works all night long, like hospitals and Cartoon Network. If the brew is too strong, spread it among two or more teacups and top off with hot water. Any fresh juice of the citrus can be added for taste, but I discourage sugar. At dawn, press the cool teabag on each eye for a few minutes while performing the savasana, or corpse pose, and do some stretches to preserve daytime posture. Expect queries on how your hangover is treating you.

These are suggestions only, of course. Sports, drawing, and lunch are among the events when personal taste is the only guideline. This is why everyone gets stuck in ruts—eating the same lunch, driving the same route home, sipping the same flavor Gatorade in between drag-ups at the gym—and gets the idea that they have no control over whether or not their lives are boring.
So try something new every week. As for tea, you never know when you’ll discover a new favorite, but the right stimulation of your taste buds at the right time is the definition of pick-me-up, if not nirvana.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Tazo Tea - stylish and sweet

Tazo has style, I`ll say that. The work of graphic designers with talent infused its packaging, labels, and Flash website, where a `read your tea leaves` sage spews nonsense that you wouldn`t even find on fortune cookies (Tonight I got, `believe it or not, you`re about to become a champion bass fisherman´) with panache. Even the flavor names are designed to accentuate some trippy folklore (African Red Bush, Mate Tropic). So...what about the taste? Well, I`ve yet to try the bottled juiced teas, but I`m looking forward to that Giant Peach green tea on my next Atlanta layover. Wild Sweet Orange, hot brewed, seemed a bit more like lemon & spice, but I give them credit for letting the citrus run free instead of smothering it in spices like many other orange-flavored teas do. This is a fun brand, perfect for internet cafes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Earl Grey vs. English Breakfast

To get the answer to this head-scratching question of the ages, I decided to procure the aid of a professional at

Status: Connecting ...
Status: Looking for a guide ...
Status: Connected to guide: James(40274)
James(40274): Welcome to ChaCha!
You: Hi James(40274): hi
James(40274): What info on tea can I get for you?
You: What is the difference
You: between english breakfast and earl grey tea?
James(40274): ok
You: because they taste about the same
James(40274): Please wait a moment while I search for your
You: ok
James(40274): Thanks for being patient! Rest assured I'm
finding the most relevant results for your search.
You: its like theyre evil twins separated at birth or something
James(40274): lol
You: Wow there really isn`t a difference is there? it feels like a conspiracy!
You: Just some basic info on both with suffice then good sir
James(40274): i can not find any
James(40274): ok
James(40274): thanks
James(40274): there ytou go
You: thank you
James(40274): good luck with it
James(40274): lol
You: this shall be all
James(40274): bye
James(40274): Please RATE ME. Thanks for using ChaCha.
Status: Session ended.

I feel like writing Twinings and asking that they put the two labels on the same bag to save paper. According to Wikipedia:

Earl Grey tea is a tea blend with a distinctive flavour and aroma derived from the addition of oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, a fragrant citrus fruit.
Traditionally the term "Earl Grey" was applied only to
black tea; however, today the term is also applied to both green and white teas that contain oil of bergamot.

The Earl Grey blend is named after the 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime
in the 1830s, who reputedly received a gift, probably a diplomatic perquisite, of tea flavoured with bergamot oil. The legend usually involves a grateful Chinese mandarin whose son was rescued from drowning by one of Lord Grey's men, although this blend of tea was first made from fermented black Indian and "Ceylonese" (Sri Lankan) teas. As green tea is much more popular in China than black tea, it seems somewhat unlikely that they would have had a recipe for what we now call Earl Grey to bestow on visitors, though over the years many other varieties of tea have been used. In addition, Lord Grey never set foot in China. Another version of the legend has the son of an Indian raja being rescued from a tiger by one of Grey's servants.

Whatever. About English Breakfast:

English Breakfast tea is a black tea blend usually described as full-bodied, robust, and/or rich, and blended to go well with milk and sugar, in a style traditionally associated with a hearty English breakfast.The black teas included in the blend vary, with Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan teas, and Keemun common. Common brands
of English Breakfast tea include
Twinings, Taylor's of Harrogate, PG Tips, Stash Tea Company, Lipton, Celestial Seasonings, Ringtons Tea and Dilmah.

Accounts of its origins vary. Many[1][2] attribute its origins to a man named Drysdale in Edinburgh:
Over a hundred years ago in Scotland a man named Drysdale went into the specialty tea business within sight of the
castle of Edinburgh and offered a tea called Breakfast....[ As of 1982 ] they still sell the only tea on the market called simply Breakfast and nothing more, probably reasoning that Scots ... at that time of day want to be told nothing more than which blend of teas makes a good eye-opener. [3][4]
Another explanation of its origin
[5] cites a Journal of Commerce article which dates the blend to 1843 and a tea merchant named
Richard Davies in
New York City. Davies, an English immigrant, started with a base of Congou and added a bit of Pekoe and Pouchong. It sold for 50 cents a pound, and its success led to imitators, helping to popularize the name.

I guess Earl Grey is the one you drink without milk at any time of the day...

Monday, March 5, 2007

Tea Trivia: Who Knew?

Adagio Teas
has an interesting trivia page. Did you know that in restaurants, 'tips' stands for 'to ensure prompt service'? Me neither.

another reason to hate the war
American tea consumption prior to World War II is an interesting bit of trivia. In those days, black tea accounted for only about 40% of our tea intake. Another 40% were green teas and the remainder were oolongs. However, the war with Japan had closed off Asian tea markets, our source of green and oolong teas. Americans were left consuming black tea from countries unaffected by the fighting, primarily in Argentina. Ever since the war, America's consumption of black tea had remained close to 98%.

save the queen and tea
Tea deliveries to Britain were also affected by the fighting in the two World Wars. The German U-boat blockade had severely restricted supply during World War I, resulting in rationing and price controls on tea. Rationing was less severe during the Second World War. However, given its role as a national morale booster, stocks of tea were dispersed to over 500 different location all over England in order to better protect it from air raids by the Luftwaffe.

to insure prompt service
Tipping as a response to prompt service was born in the tea gardens of England. A small wooden box was placed on each table in the garden. The box was inscribed "To Insure Prompt Service" or TIPS for short. A coin dropped in the box usually assured prompt tea service. And thus the custom of tipping was born.

america's early millionaires
The fortunes of America's first three millionaires were made in the China trade. T.H. Perkins of Boston, Stephen Girard of Philadelphia, and John Jacob Astor of New York prospered by bringing tea directly to the colonies, bypassing the hugely wasteful and monopolistic East India Company.

the union of milk and tea
The British custom of drinking tea with milk has its roots not in taste but economics. The long journey from the Orient made tea prohibitively expensive. Milk, on the other hand, was cheap and became the condiment of choice among the lower classes. The amount of milk added became a telltale of one's social standing. The wealthy took their tea undiluted. The middle class poured the expensive tea and then diluted it with milk. The lower class filled the cup with cheap milk and then added a splash of the costly tea.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Honest Tea - USDA organic all the way

Some things need to be said about Honest Tea. First, their products are USDA organic certified; second, they don't use High Fructose Corn Syrup to sweeten their exquisitely flavored bottled teas, and third, they have an artsy feel, with trivia or zen-like sayings on the flipside of the bottlecap. Cool.

Of their many bottled-iced-tea flavors, I have tried Moroccan Mint Green, Lori's Lemon Tea, Green Dragon Tea, and my favorite, fair-trade-certified Peach Oo-la-long. Perfect for sports and traveling, you can depend on Honest Tea for never being too sweet, nor too bitter.