Saturday, February 27, 2010

Weekend Cooking... or at Least Weekend Steeping

I love tea. I love the smell of tea. I love the taste of tea. I love the habit of tea. Picking the tea, brewing it, picking a cup to put it in, holding the warm cup in my hand as I drink it.

Did I mention I gave up tea for Lent. Not just tea, but all beverages except water...but it is the tea I miss. I admit...I crave it. Not just the caffeine, although I am also used to the little boost the shot of caffeine can give you. But the tasty tea itself.

Did you know that tea is the most consumed beverage in the world, except water.
"Tea is the most popular drink in the world in terms of consumption. Its consumption equals all other manufactured drinks in the world — including coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, and alcohol — put together.
All tea, all the various types of tea, come from the same plant, leaves of Camellia sinensis. With some minor variations, the newly picked leaves are all the same. The major differences between the types is determined by how it is processed once it is picked.
"Leaves of Camellia sinensis soon begin to wilt and oxidize, if not dried quickly after picking. The leaves turn progressively darker as their chlorophyll breaks down and tannins are released. This process, enzymatic oxidation, is called fermentation in the tea industry, although it is not a true fermentation. It is not caused by micro-organisms, and is not an anaerobic process. The next step in processing is to stop oxidation at a predetermined stage by heating, which deactivates the enzymes responsible. With black tea, this step is executed simultaneously with drying. “

“Tea is traditionally classified based on the techniques with which it is produced and processed.[16]
White tea: Wilted and unoxidized
Yellow tea: Unwilted and unoxidized, but allowed to yellow
Green tea: Unwilted and unoxidized
Oolong: Wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized
Black tea: Wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized
Post-fermented tea: Green tea that has been allowed to ferment"
I am most fond of black tea, although on occasion I will drink green. Not as an everyday, that would be black. Maybe an Earl Grey, which is a black tea flavored with the rind of the bergamot orange. At work, I usually use tea bags for convenience. Granted tea bags from Ireland, Barry's Irish Breakfast tea, not some nasty Lipton. At home, I usually brew the tea from loose leaves. here is a picture of a few loose teas from my 'collection'.The little pellets, in the front left, are gunpowder tea, green tea from the Guangdong province of China. Gunpowder tea, as the name implies, is made up of leaves hand-rolled into tiny pellets. These resemble gunpowder, and give this tea its distinct name.
Then, going clockwise in the picture, the larger balls are black dragon pearls.Hailing from the Yunnan province, this black tea version of the popular Dragon Pearl is naturally sweet and smooth with a touch of earthiness. Comprised of only the highest quality leaves and buds, expertly rolled into a large pearl-like shape.
The more curly leaves are xue ya ballad, an early spring harvest green with fruit-like, mellow sweetness with a delicate yellow cup color, and last, the straight leaves are kai hua crescendo, one of the top ten most famous teas in China, its name meaning "Dragon Peak", with lovely orchid notes and a light bodied, semi-sweet character. Or so Adagio teas, form which they can says.
And then last, in the front, are some ordinary black tea leaves, this one and Irish Breakfast blend.

I rarely order tea when I am out because Americans do not know, or care to know, how to brew tea. First, for black tea, the water must be boiling, not the less than boiling tea they get from the coffee maker. If it is not boiling many of the tastes are not extracted. But then they use such nasty tea bags it might be best. No, when out I usually order coffee..or nothing.

I was straightening out my various boxes and cans of tea the other day. I admit, I took of the lid of a can or two and sniffed them. If you are curious, here are the teas in the boxes and cans in the pics.
Oh, they smell so nice.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. I'm sitting here drinking tea as I type. I love it. Almost on the scale of browsing a bookstore, I love to walk into a tea shop and smell things and taste things. What can be more fun than the ritual of steeping your own little pot of loose leaf tea?

  2. I LOVED this post - so informative!

    I know very little about tea, but would really like to cultivate a taste for it.

    I tried some Stash Tea this Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed the flavor - especially at night (not sure I could give up my morning cup of coffee).

    I guess experimentation is they key?

  3. Educational and inspiring post. You have me wanting to become a tea drinker - a real tea drinker. No tea bags.

  4. I don't know much about tea and have never acquired a taste for it. You are brave to give up something you love so much for Lent.

  5. I've always been a tea drinker. I notice you didn't mention orange pekoe tea. Although it falls under the black tea category, it is just the bud and two leaves of each branch/twig, and it tastes much less bitter than the typical black tea. The only real orange pekoe must come from Sri Lanka, but you're right: most North Americans don't understand that, and it's almost impossible to find the good stuff.

  6. This post must have ben torture to write (and photograph) if you've given up tea for lent...extra graces for this one!!

  7. Awesome post! Wow! I've been exploring tea this past year, but I don't really know that much about it. I've gotten away from tea bags though and have noticed the big difference in flavor.

  8. Have to admit, I'm a tea drinker. For everyday I like a breakfast tea or Luzianne black tea. I have a wonderful friend in Japan who has sent me LOVELY green tea. I have another friend in France who sent me a LOVELY white tea. She makes it herself (she's an herbalist and also grows and harvests saffron!).

    Favorite...oh, yes, just a hot cup to warm the hands and spirits. With a bite of dark chocolate to sample.


    Found the blog via another review blog...and couldn't resist the tea article!


  9. I am with you, it can be scary ordering tea when out. luke warm water with the cheapest teabag they can find. eeks.

  10. I'm much more of a coffee drinker, but enjoyed this post very much. I'd have a hard time giving up something I loved so much for Lent!

  11. Great post! You are a strong woman to give up something that you love so much for Lent! I love tea and enjoyed reading your post. Do you happen to know how long the loose tea lasts? I had some that was a few years old and pitched it. Do you use a special tea pot? I have a paper filter and holder that I use that my cousin sent from Germany but I'd like to find something else for loose tea. My favorite is the Rooibus tea, Celestial seasonings has a wonderful red vanilla madagascar tea. I also love English breakfast tea.

  12. I love tea too. In fact I consider myself a tea snob. I love Adagio tea!!! I even created my own. :) You gave it up for lent?!! A true sacrifice. Green tea is soooooo healthy. Try mixing it with Peppermint or Spearmint. Try the McCarthy Medley at Adagio!!!!

  13. Fun post! I gave up sweets for Lent but am using the "Sundays don't count" philosophy so there is a chance I may make it to the end. I had never heard of that possibilty until I started hanging out with some Catholic girls transplanted from Louisiana where this is the accepted rule!

  14. Very nice post! Last year I rather reluctantly went to a lecture on tea and found that I enjoyed the talk immensely.

    I agree that tea bags are not necessarily satisfying, and also I think the quality of the water can make a difference.

    Thanks for the lovely informative post!

  15. great post! i too love (love love love!) tea! giving it up for lent, that would be so hard! I think lately jasmine pearls are my favorite.

  16. As an American, I agree about not knowing much about tea - real tea - and I do use the bagged herbal teas. The thing is, I've tried "real" tea and my taste buds were shouting at me - not in a nice way.
    I'm afraid my Americanized taste buds will have to be trained to taste real of these days.

    Great post! Great information. I hope doing the post helped with your tea-withdraw instead of made it worse!!

  17. Ah yes a fellow tea lover-I gave it up for lent a few years ago-once once though-Earl Grey is my favorite-surprisingly Russian Earl Grey by Liptons-although we cannot get it in N. America. Nothing annoys me more than lukewarm tea-hot water for tea from the Sparklets or microwaved-It needs to be boiling hot. Whenever I come home from Europe there are always tins and tins of tea in my bag-my dentist just returned and he was sweet enough to pick me up some. Any interest in hosting a tea exchange with other bloggers? Let me know.

  18. Brave lady giving it up for Lent---but they're right - Sundays don't count, so hurry up and go brew some right now!!!

    I'm one of those crazy people who loves both coffee and tea. I tend to drink coffee ( and I like it really dark, really heavy, and really black) in the mornings. Then I switch to tea about 2-3 in the afternoon. I have a collection of teapots and teastrainers (and even tea cozies) from our world travels, and several relatives who have mastered the art of tea who keep me supplied with decent leaves.

    I too hate to order tea out in America, but I have taken to putting a ziploc bag of decent tea bags in my purse. It can be hairy insisting on BOILING water, but eventually you'll get it.

    Great post --like I said --go put the kettle on RIGHT NOW.

  19. I am glad you liked my little ode to tea.
    I was called out of town yesterday morning to an unplanned trip with my SIL and niece to Washington D.C. While the niece was visiting friends, the Sil and I stayed at the Ritz Carlton Pentagon City and I had a terrible night's sleep. No fault of the is a very, very nice hotel...but this morning I did have to take advantage of the "Sunday don't count rule" which I don't fully believe, and had two cups of Earl Grey for the caffeine.

    Purely medicinal I tell ya. Really. Didn't enjoy it in he


please speak up, I LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!!