Thursday, April 20, 2017

Office Tea Club Tasting: Yunnan Jig by Adagio

It's tea-tasting Thursday (yes, I decided that's going to be a thing. And yes, I taste tea every day but it sounds kinda catchy, right?), and today we're going to look at a black tea from Fengqin,Yunnan. I recently received a few samples from Adagio Teas, and decided to brew up Yunnan Jig for our Office Tea Club. I try to serve a wide variety to the tea clubbers, and realized we hadn't done a Chinese black tea in a while. This tea is part of the Adagio 'roots' campaign where the consumers get to learn a little bit about the farmer behind the tea. Scroll down on the tea's product page to read a Q&A with one of the tea farmers.

This is an attractive black tea with lots of fuzzy golden tips. The dry leaves are quite sweet with notes of cocoa, citrus, and hay. There is a brightness to the aroma, which makes me think it will be smooth but flavorful.

The liquor delivers on that sweet promise. Tea clubbers detected smooth chocolate, caramel, and malt coming through. There was also tobacco and earth. Something slightly fruity was lingering, perhaps a muscatel flavor. The brew was super smooth and thick, with a slight citrusy/astringent dryness that helps make this tea a bit more interesting to me. As it lingered there was a peppery finish. The wet infused leaves radiated chocolatey goodness, along with burnt toast giving it a slight smokey aroma. There was malt and caramel in the mix too.

This was an extremely popular tea with the Tea Club folks. Everyone enjoyed it, and we drank quite a few rounds. I didn't have any snacks to pair at the time, but I think I'd like to nibble on a bit of cheese with this tea. Last night I attended a tea and cheese tasting (more on this soon!), and so I have cheese on the brain. I think this tea would pair nicely with something super-creamy (we had a very similar pairing last night) but since the tea's mouthfeel is so smooth I'd like a cheese with a little bit of a tang to it to liven things up. Perhaps a creamy sheep's milk cheese. I wish I knew more about cheese so I could name an exact type...

The mellow smoothness of this tea would make it a nice late-morning or afternoon cup. I don't think I'd reach for it in the early morning since it's a bit too smooth and soft to wake me up. But once I've had my morning tea, I'd happily switch to this one.

Thank you to Adagio for providing the sample.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tasting: Tea Dealers Thurbo 2nd Flush Darjeeling

I have a real soft spot for Darjeeling black teas, specifically 2nd flush or later. Now before you all start telling me that 1st flush Darjeelings are beautiful teas, I know! I love them. My feelings for 2nd flush are so strong because it's the first tea that me realize there was more to tea than those dusty yellow-labeled bags. This happened when I was in my early 20s, in a fancy-ish restaurant. I asked for tea and was presented with one of those large wooden boxes of tea bags. Unsure of what to select, I fished out a Darjeeling tea. I remember being taken with the aroma, which was sweet and not at all like the musty bags I was used to. The flavor was of course vastly different from the dusty stuff as well. After this day, I became curious about tea, and started my journey.

Ever since then, sips of Darjeeling give me an extra wave of comfort. It's like my liquid security blanket. It was my first favorite tea, after all. That's why when Tea Dealers sent me three teas to review, I selected the Thurbo 2nd Flush to try first. This is a 2016 2nd flush, from the Thurbo estate.

The dry leaves are small and twisted, with lots of fuzzy buds. Colors range from silvery, to green, to dark and coppery. Thave a floral aroma mixed with honey and soft muscatel grapes. It's quite inviting. A familiar and welcome aroma.

I decided to steep this in a gaiwan, because, why not? I wanted to extract a good amount of flavor. The liquor has that light grapey thing going on, with a nice hint of spice and wood. It's ever so slightly astringent, and I find the tea quite enjoyable. I'm thinking this would make a lovely sweet simple syrup with the strong honey and grape notes...I can picture it drizzled on pancakes, stirred into sparkling water, or even in a cocktail...I'll get back to you on that. This may need a bit of brainstorming.

This tea is such a pleasant sipping experience. Perfect for an afternoon with a few sweet or savory snacks. I'm imagining it served outside on a picnic blanket, with a plate of fresh grapes and a nutty cheese. Perhaps not the most expected springtime sip, but perfect nonetheless.

Thank you to Tea Dealers for the sample!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Vote For The World Tea Awards 2017!

We're nearing the 2017 World Tea Expo (June 13-15) and part of the festivities is the World Tea Awards honoring achievements in the tea industry. The voting is now open, and you can nominate your favorites in many different categories such as Best Tea Publication, Best Tea Health Advocate, Best Tea Blog (wink, wink!), and Best Tea Community Level Campaign/Program just to name a few. Of course, you should vote for your favorites in every category, but I wanted to bring your attention specifically to the Best Tea Community Level Campaign/Program category.

The World Tea Expo describes this category as:
A program, initiative or group that promotes either the enjoyment of tea consumption and/or in some focused manner the well being of those involved in the supply chain of tea.
This category is dear to me not just as a member of the group, but because it has been such a source of inspiration and support. Last year our Tea Bloggers Roundtable (TBR) was nominated for a World Tea Award which was a huge honor. We want to be sure to get nominated again this year, and I hope we can win! To get the word out, I wanted to highlight what the TBR is, and why we deserve a nomination.

The TBR is an international community of tea bloggers. We all have different interests in tea with different areas of knowledge and study, and most of all we share our passion for tea with our readers. Through tea reviews, interviews, informational posts and videos, stories, and adventures, we promote the enjoyment of tea drinking to the world. Many bloggers have even organized festivals, classes, and tastings. We discuss tea culture and rituals from all over the world. To learn more about each blogger in the community, visit our website. You may even discover a few bloggers you didn't know before!

One of the other things we do, is support each other. We ask fellow bloggers for feedback, answer each other's questions, support bloggers' initiatives...we really are like a big family. I've received so much support from fellow bloggers, it's been a huge positive influence in my life. We have meetups with local tea blogging friends and we do online hangouts as well. Every blogger I've met has been welcoming, supportive, and kind. We all just want to share our love for tea as much as possible.

So I urge you to take a few moments of your time to vote in the 2017 World Tea Awards, and please keep the Tea Blogger Roundtable in mind. To vote, you can visit the Expo website HERE, after reading the categories, be sure to scroll down to the bottom to access the nominations page.

Thanks to everyone for your support! It is truly appreciated.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

GIVEAWAY: Lapsang Souchong from Arbor Teas

Lapsang Souchong is a versatile tea. On its own it can be incredibly smoky with lots of character. I personally enjoy it as-is but it's also great to add to an Assam or Ceylon tea to give it a little hint of smoke while you sip. I also find it interesting to add to Earl Grey, especially since I don't like the bergamot on its own. It can also be fabulous in a tea cocktail. It's also a great item to cook with. Have any of you tried my Lapsang Chili Recipe yet? The tea lends a nice subtle hint of smoke in this vegetarian recipe.

If you're interested in trying some lapsang for yourself, you can now win a 3 oz bag from Arbor Teas!

Contest Rules:
Please 'like' Arbor Teas on Facebook, and follow them on Instagram. You can also follow them on twitter for extra entries! Please enter through Rafflecopter:

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Best of luck to everyone! I will announce the winner next Friday.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Tea-Infused Chili Recipe

I love to cook (as does the Littlest Tea Critic), and I've been known to dabble a little bit here and there with adding tea as an ingredient. A few weeks ago I was cooking and decided to add some smoked paprika to the recipe. 'Smells like lapsang' was my first reaction when I opened the spice jar. I tucked that information away for later, and I recently got the chance to use it.

When Arbor Teas reached out to collaborate on a creative project using a tea of my choice, I thought it would be fun to try and create a recipe with one of their teas. It's still winter here in the northeast, and I decided to make something warm and comforting. I like creating variations on chili, as it's easily whipped up for a crowd, and the flavors can be tinkered with. I like to make mine with at least two different kinds of beans, and a sweet potato. Ok, so this isn't exactly a traditional chili recipe, but trust me, it works. To give my chili added comfort, I decided to use Arbor Teas lapsang souchong. The powerful flavor of this tea becomes a subtle smoky addition to the chili, similar to smoked paprika. The Littlest Tea Critic and I made this over the weekend, and I think she ate more of it than anyone else. She gives is a big thumbs up, which is a huge endorsement!

The Tea Happiness Smoky Lapsang Vegetarian Chili

2 15oz cans of beans, rinsed (I like to use kidney and cannelini, but it's your choice)
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, seeds removed, chopped (these are often be found in small cans)
1 carrot, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 small sweet potato, diced (about 1.5 cups)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/8 tsp cinnamon
A splash of red wine vinegar (about a tablespoon)
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper 

1 cup water
2 tsp lapsang souchong (I used this one from Arbor Teas)

Add the lapsang souchong to a small bowl or mug. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil (you can do this in a kettle), pour over the tea and steep for 8 minutes. Strain and set aside.

In a dutch oven or large pot, heat the olive oil over medium/high until hot, add garlic, carrot, celery, and onion and cook until soft. Add sweet potato and about 1 tsp salt and a pinch (or a few grinds) of pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes more. 

Add the drained beans, chopped chipotle, chili powder and cinnamon. Stir well. Add in the steeped tea, vegetable broth, and red wine vinegar. Everything should be covered in the liquid, so add a little more broth (or water) if necessary. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Keep the pot mostly covered- I like to leave a little space for the steam to escape and let the broth reduce a bit. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20-30 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired (I like to add quite a bit of salt to mine, but not everyone agrees).

I like to serve my chili on a bed of rice, but you can use it top nachos, or add in a taco or quesadilla, whatever you feel like. It freezes really well too, which is nice if you want to plan ahead. 

Do you cook with tea? If you try this recipe, let me know how it goes! You can sub out any of the ingredients or add in more vegetables. Get creative with your chili, but don't forget to add tea. It's great for the winter weather, but also light enough for an early spring evening.

Speaking of tea, if you're interested in trying the Arbor Teas lapsang souchong, stay tuned! Next week I will be posting a giveaway where you can win a bag of this versatile tea. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tasting: Mana Organics Assam Tea

Today's tasting is with a robust organic Assam from Mana Organics. It's a certified organic tippy golden flowery orange pekoe Assam black tea, to be exact.This basically means there are lots of buds included among the tea leaves.

Mana is enabling tea farmers to be self sufficient and organic. This Assam is from the Chota Tingrai Tea Estate, a family owned estate established in 1943. It is an organic 2nd flush tea. To learn more about Mana's organic farming practices check out my interview with Mana co-founder Avantika Jalan. Here are a few details on the company directly from Mana:
At Chota Tingrai Tea Estate, Mana Organics works directly with tea workers and management to oversee more than 100 hectares of certified organic tea land. We make all our compost and bio-controls on site. Additionally, Mana Organics invests a portion of our profits in projects that we operate with our worker communities. We are providing extra teachers for the estate schools, and a waste collection system in the worker villages.

The dry leaves are super sweet and floral. The sweet aroma is full of dates and honey. I'm getting a nuttiness as well. It smells like a selection of delicious snacks! It reminds me of a perfect afternoon respite with a selection of toast, honey, cheeses and nuts. The snacks are on a table topped with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Actually, this Assam would pair perfectly with those snacks. Are you as hungry as I am now? Sorry, on to the tea...

The steeped liquor smells like honey spread on toasted bread. It tastes slightly spicy along with honey, malt, and toast. I want to take a bite of that tasty toast (guess I really am hungry)! There is a slight astringency with a touch of dryness and it works well with this brisk tea. Overall it's a smooth, bold cup that has a pleasing flavor. I have a generous bag of this tea and I've been drinking it every morning. It's a great way to jumpstart the day.

The infused leaves smell sweet and malty, reminiscent of dates and sweet potatoes. I can smell the 'golden blossom honey' we used to put in our tea growing up. This tea is sweet and flavorful and doesn't need any milk or sweetener added. As I mentioned, it is a nice morning tea.

I'm curious to learn more about the company and their organic sustainable farming efforts. An interview is in the works, so stay tuned. Thank you to Mana Organics for this sample.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Steep Thoughts: Avantika Jalan of Mana Organics

Avantika Jalan

There are many tea companies that support sustainable organic farming, but there is often no explanation of what this really means. I recently had the chance to learn more about Mana Organics and taste their organic Assam tea (review will be posted tomorrow). I was curious to learn more about the company, and was able to correspond with Avantika, co-founder of the company, 'agri-specalist', and tea grower. Read on below to learn about Avantika, organic tea farming, and the challenges it poses in India.