General Tea

Part 2 of the Caterpillar Commercial

Here is the second part of that tea/caterpillar commercial – unfortunatley it’s not subtitled – but the affect is not lost:]

Inspiration Tea

Itzhak Perlman, Dung Ti Oolong and being in the presence of Greatness (Part 2)

We recommend reading Part 1 of this piece before Part 2 to fully appreciate our meaning.  As in the first part of this post – you can click on the link on the right hand side under Liquid Visions and hear Perlman playing Bach for the full experience.

Perhpas you’re scratching your head and wondering what the relation is between Itzhak Perlman and Dung Ti Oolong – or any tea for that matter.  The relation is quite simple – it’s Greatness.  For a tea lover, answering the question – which tea is your favourite – is incredibly difficult.  For all the reasons that I love tea, I am hard pressed to narrow down my answer to one.  The types, styles and flavours of tea vary so greatly that a different one can be chosen to fit a time of day, the temperature in the air or the mood in your heart.  If however I must choose – then I choose a category – and that is Oolong. 

dung tiMany people will argue that Oolongs are the most complex teas to produce.  So much of the end resulting flavours will depend entirely on the skills of the tea master who has produced your tea.  Oolongs are partially oxidized teas.  They are picked and wilted in the sun for a short period of time.  They are then placed in baskets and shaken in order to bruise the leaves.  This bruising process allows the juices/enzymes within the leaves to be exposed to air allowing the oxidation process to begin.  The leaves are then spread out to dry and finally fired in order to stop the oxidation process.  Oolongs are allowed to oxidize between 5-80% – hence the vastly differing flavours in your cup.

So now that we have all the technical data behind us – where does the Greatness and the Dung Ti Oolong come into play?  If you’ve ever had a really great Dung Ti Oolong – you are familiar with the sweet floral notes that linger through your nose and in your mouth.  This particular Oolong is referred to as Jade style – it is very lightly oxidized – about 5-10%.  Dung Ti or Tung Ting Oolong grows in the Nantou County of Taiwan.  The story goes that in 1855, a villager named Ling Fung Tse went to the WuYi Mountains in the Fujian Province of China.  He brought back 36 tea trees from his journey and being grateful to his friend Ling San Yen for financing his trip, he gave him 12 of the tea trees.  These trees were planted along the mountain roads that surround Chi-Ling Lake which is where this unforgettable tea is still picked from.

The first time I brewed a cup of Dung Ti, it brought a smile to my face – the light liquor and the sweet aroma is breathtaking – not only in aroma but in flavour as well.  I drank it slowly enjoying every drop and I gave thanks to the tea master who had had the skill, the wisdom and the talent in knowing at exactly what moment to stop the oxidation of this tea in order to produce the heavenly flavours that I was now enjoying thousands of miles away on the other side of the world. 

We are surrounded by Greatness – but stop and recognize it sometimes and it will humble you when you become aware, conscious and acknowledge the Greatness that may be before your very eyes.  Sometimes it’s as obvious as listening to the giant Itzhak Perlman – sometimes it’s in a cup of tea – sometimes it’s in the person next to you.

Inspiration Tea

Itzhak Perlman, Dung Ti Oolong and being in the presence of Greatness (Part 1)

perlman_itzhak For your full experience, you can click on Perlman playing Bach on the right hand bar of this screen under Liquid Visions while reading.

I had the great privilege of experiencing Itzhak Perlman live in concert recently and yes the experience was awesome.  Not awesome in the teen slang version of awesome – but awesome in the true meaning of the word – inspring awe or admiration or wonder.  He played for us for only a short 45 minutes – but the experience moved me close to tears.  Now why would a violinst playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major move me close to tears.  Simple really – as I sat and watched and listened – I was clearly aware and conscious of a simple fact – I was in the presence of Greatness – and that conscious realization is an emotional one.   It is a rare moment I think that those two moments collide – one, being in the presence of Greatness, and two – knowing it.

I must make a further confession – I have wanted to see Ithak Perlman perform for a very long time – ever since I was sent this piece written by a journalist from the Houston Chronicle many years ago.  It has stayed with me for all these years –

On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches.To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an unforgettable sight. He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

 By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap -it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do.

People who were there that night thought to themselves: “We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage – to either find another violin or else find another string for this one.”

But he didn’t. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again. The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before. Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that.

You could see him modulating, changing, recomposing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.

When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said, not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the [way] of life – not just for artists but for all of us.

So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left. (Jack Riemer, Houston Chronicle)

Brewing General Tea

The Importance of Water

At their historic first meeting in 1972, Mao TseTung chose Lung Ching Dragonwell to serve to Richard Nixon.  More importantly for our story though, the tea was brewed in water from the LongJing Spring at West Lake – where the tea originated from.  The spring water is said to be clear, light and sweet adding delightful flavours to an already delightful tea.  Was this overkill – or is water important to your tea brewing process?  detoxifier

Well, water is what your tea is steeped in – so the importance of the quality of the water you use is almost as significant as the quality of the tea that you use to steep into that water.  The truth is that the same tea leaves, steeped in the exact same way will taste differently in different parts of the world.   Clarity, colour and taste are the most important characterisitcs to any tea – and the clarity can be adversely affected by the mineral content in your water.

The following are the primary problems with water that can affect the quality of your tea:
1.  water hardness – is caused by a high mineral content – calcium and magnesium
2. chemical taste/odor – caused by chlorination of water and the presence of hydrogen sulfide
3. particulate matter/scale and lime accumulation –  

That means…smell your water – if it smells like chemicals, don’t use it.  If the water in your area is high in minerals – then try a filtration system, either a built in one or a simple Brita filter.  Alternatively, you can use bottled water. 

The fundamental message…care as much about the water you use for your tea, as the tea you are using – it is afterall 99.9% of what you’re drinking.

Brewing General Tea Tea Education

The Golden Rules of Brewing

This is priceless – and surprisingly accurate.  So many things done right:

Brewing Tea

Brewing the Perfect Chai

Now the English language is about oversimplification – and the word Chai has fallen victim to that. Chai simply means tea in many different languages – cha, chai, tsai, etc. – the variations are extensive but the word is the same. That means that the term ‘Chai Tea’ is a redundant term. So what is being referred to when you see the word Chai in your local tea store? What is being referred to is an Indian spiced tea. The variations and combinations are endless – as many recipes as there are Indian households in the world. The consistency in the recipe is that it has a black tea base and is then blended with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. You can either leave it at that – or you can continue adding ginger, pepper, saffron, etc.

So what is the best way to brew your Chai? We love brewing ours directly in milk on the stove. Here is the recipe:

Hot Chai – makes 2 servings

2 heaping tsp Kashmiri Chai, Decaffeinated Chai or Rooibos Chai
2 cups milk (whichever type you prefer)
honey to taste

Combine tea with cold milk in saucepan – bring to simmer over medium/low heat being careful not to scald the milk. Strain into cups and add honey to taste.

Chai Milkshake – makes 4 servings

3 heaping tsp Kashmiri Chai, Decaffeinated Chai or Rooibos Chai
4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Steep tea in 5 cups of boiled water. Set aside and allow tea to steep for 20 minutes. Remove and discard tea leaves. In a blender add ice cream and tea – blend well. Serve in tall glass with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Inspiration Tea

The Art of Tea

The New York times ran a piece about a month ago on the Art of Tea – the images are beautiful, so we thought we would share them with you – click on the picture for the full slideshow.


Tea Tea Education

Gong-Fu Cha- Chinese Tea Ceremony


Gong-Fu – literally meaning the art of preparing tea skillfully dates back many centuries.  It is first mentioned in Cha Jing or The Classic of Tea – the most famous treatise on tea written by Lu Yu.  This ceremony does consist of some very specific steps, but the focus is more on the appreciation of the tea – in contrast to the Japanese tea ceremony which places more emphasis on symbolism and gestures.

 There are a number of elements that are required in order to perform the Gong Fu Cha:

1.  Yixing teapot – clay
2. Water dispensing tray
3. Wodden teaspoon to measure out the tea
4. A tea pitcher
5. A tea strainer
6. Wooden tweezer
7. Tasting cups and aroma cups
8.  Tea towel used to clean the table

Gong Fu Cha

1.  ‘warming the pot and heating the cups’ – fill the teapot with boiling water and drain it – warming the pot is important as this will enhance the flavour of the tea
2.  ‘appreciate excellent tea’ – Ti Kuan Yin Oolong is what is traditionally used for the ceremony
3.  ‘black dragon enters the palace’ – this is in reference to the Ti Kuan yin – fill the teapot 1/2 – 2/3 full of tea leaves
4.  ‘rinsing from elevated pot’ – pour hot water onto the leaves from an elevated height
5.  ‘the spring wind brushes the surface’ – brush the froth that will form at the top of the teapot to keep the tea clear
6.  ‘bathe the immortal’ – let the tea steep a while longer allowing the inside of the teapot to get warm
7.  ‘a row of clouds, running water’ – drain out the tea completely – we do not drink the first infusion
8.  ‘pour again from a low height’ – pour hot water into the teapot with your tea leaves again – this time from a low height – we don’t want to force too much flavour out all at once
9.  ‘bathing the sniffer cup’ – the tea is poured into the aroma cups in one sweeping motion to ensure equal flavours amongst all cups
10.  ‘walk in the mountains and play in the river’ – clean excess water from the bottom of the pot
11.  ‘the dragon and phoenix in auspicious union’ – balance the tasting cup ontop of your snifffer/aroma cup
12.  ‘the carp turns over’ – carefully invert the two cups
13.  ‘respectfully receive the fragrant tea’ – with three fingers lift the snifffer/aroma cup and take in the sweet warm aroma – use your thumb and forefinger to lift the tasting cup and your middle finger to balance the bottom – drink in three sips – a small sip, a second larger sip and the thirs is taking in the aftertaste


New season picks 2009

This is amongst our favourite times of the year – the first picks of the new season are picked, processed and shipped off to anticipating tea purveyors as well as customers.  This year we’ve flown in three teas to share with everyone.  Makaibari Imperial Delight is a gorgeous first flush Darjeeling – it is the first seasons pick and has all the delicate floral characterisitcs that are unique to the teas at this time of year.  The second is Meghma Honey Oolong – this is not a first flush – but we couldn’t resist bringing you this beautiful Oolong from Nepal.  The subtle honey notes of this tea are truly a treat.  Last, and certainly not least – Thurbo Bai Mu Dan – a white Darjeeling.  These are always interesting as some white Darjeelings impart the muscatal flavours unique to this region and others are softer and more floral.  This particular white Darjeeling steers to the latter making it one of the lightest teas we have tasted in a very long time.  The leaves on this tea are so spectacular, we can’t stop staring at them – they are virtually undisturbed showcasing the true craftsmanship in the production of this tea.

Thurbo Bai Mu Dan - White Darjeeling - First Flush Organic
Thurbo Bai Mu Dan - White Darjeeling - First Flush Organic
Brewing General Tea

James Norwood Pratt – the tea guru

Here is a great interview with James Norwood Pratt – who we consider one of the most respected experts on tea:]