Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Minor Crush

I am a fan of French tea taster Christine Dattner, and cherish her volume Le Livre du Thé Vert (Plume, 2002)
Barbara Dufrene recently wrote a little piece about her career for World Tea News. It gives me courage to keep tasting and exploring new teas.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Tea and Stress

The restorative power of tea is well known. However, it is not necessarily tea on its own that offers relief from stress. Even a short ritual of familiar, repeated movements can offer enough respite from your own thoughts to bring some perspective to a situation.
Drinking tea isn’t about sitting and doing nothing; it is almost a type of guided meditation.

Because they are slightly fiddly to prepare, oolong teas are the ones to reach for when you need to focus your mind on something other than the problem at hand. Since the colour of oolong teas vary so much between rusted green and bright gold, simply contemplating your brew can offer solace.

The work of discerning the different flavours in the tea you are tasting is part of why tea drinking blocks out the noise of the world. Concentrate on the texture of the tea you hold in your mouth. Tannins are drying and these are the components that give the sense of puckering in your mouth. Brew for too long and tannins can overwhelm the aromatic components, while short brewing will offer an insipid brew – a liqueur without the body needed to hold all the flavours in your mouth.

Another aspect of tea is the amount of sheer trouble people go to so you can have a cuppa. Tea is an intensively worked leaf and it is worth remembering the people who have been involved in its processing - from picking to steaming and to the leaves being hand-rolled.

After my flatmate, the personification of bravery, dealt with a half-decomposed mouse trapped under our fridge (while I hopped about uselessly), I sat us down to prepare a couple of oolongs to quiet the mind and the stomach.
A Dong Ding from Le Palais Des Thés and a Baozhong (light roast) from Tea Smith in Spitalfields did the trick.

The Boazhong was very special. I brewed it in a Yixing pot and the tea was meltingly flavourful, evoking white flowers and later, as it cooled, unripe melon and nectarine. After the first brew, my flatmate and I had a good sniff of the inside of the lid (it's where the all the aromas are concentrated) and we both experienced an intense smell of commercial perfume but without the accompanying alcohol. It disappeared almost instantly but it was lovely enough to bring a tear to Isabelle’s eye (really, I saw it).

Which ever tea choose to keep your spirits up, remind yourself that spending half an hour of concentrated effort on preparing tea is a better plan than hiding under the covers with Leonard Cohen.

Reading: Silence by Sara Maitland
Watching: mostly South Park
Drinking: Gin and Tonics

Thursday, 6 August 2009

On Being Under Pressure

I've invented a new fun game involving pouring hot water over tea leaves and playing Hunt the Teapot while it brews. The skill is locating your teapot before your leaves over-brew and the game becomes especially exciting if combined with Hunt the Strainer.

Having a messy kitchen and writing a dissertation is clearly taking its toll.

Reading: The Makioka Sisters
Watching: Downfall (for the laughs)
Drinking: Jing's Yunnan Gold