Saturday, December 27, 2014

On Tea: Dejoo Estate Assam

You may remember Assam from the Ty-phoo review (that rhymes…) so I won’t rehash that too much.  Assam is generally the second most esteemed tea after Darjeeling, and is also named for the region it’s grown in.  Assam has its own distinctive taste and quality, a somewhat more “malty” aspect. 

I picked up a bit of loose Assam from the Dejoo Estate (note that the tea schedule didn’t list it as a 1st or 2nd flush or give a grading, but did note the growing estate – if you Google up “Dejoo estate” you will see some STGFOP1 grade available). 

As I mentioned with Ty-phoo, I particularly like Assam for breakfast, but it’s a good anytime tea.  I brewed up a pot of this Assam for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning to have with a bit of bacon and cinnamon toast.  I only brewed it for several minutes to be on the safe side, but halfway through the first cup I decided to pop the leaves back in for a bit.  Assam generally stands up to a much longer brew (or maybe it’s just me who likes it like that) and I usually brew my Ty-phoo for as much as 10 minutes. 

Loose-leaf Assam in cloth bag at Cafe Moulin.
Some weeks ago I was out and about, and after a good, long wander on a chilly, damp day, I decided to pop into a little creperie in my favorite neighborhood.  I went for a smoked salmon crepe an
d noticed that their menu had an Assam on offer.  You very rarely see specific teas like Assam listed in restaurants around here (even the British pub and chippy just does a basic bagged selection of Lipton, Twinings, and such).  So I took them up on it and it was awesome!  They brew loose leaf in muslin bags (which you can get from tea suppliers if you’re so inclined). 

Because you can brew it longer for a bolder (yet still smooth and not bitter) taste, Assam is a good high quality tea to start out with (you can’t botch it).  It also goes fine with pretty much everything, from toast and bacon to smoked salmon crepes and your afternoon tea sandwiches and sweeties as well. 

Very nice versatile tea.  10/10 here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On Tea: Celestial Seasonings' Candy Cane Lane

Those merry, industrious polar bears aren't even remotely
considering eating you....  Honest!
Just so you all know, this is probably the only time you’re going to see Celestial Seasonings in this tea series.  Outside of Sleepy Time tea and Throat Tamer tea, their flavors are generally overwhelming to my palate and don’t usually count as tea in my book.  Just sayin’.

But there are exceptions to everything.  This is also an exception on the side of “color” of tea.  Most of the teas I’ve talked about so far have been black teas with a few of the more outstanding flavored/herbals mentioned.  Candy Cane Lane is a decaffeinated green tea, so there’s a switch.

This is my “Christmassy” tea, hands down.  And it shouldn’t be confused with any other “peppermint” tea.  Candy Cane Lane is particular in that it balances the peppermint with a touch of vanilla for a smoothly-sweet treat.  In order to keep that balance, remember that with a green tea you’ll want to take the water off the heat just before it gets to a boil.  You want to be mindful of the brew-time here, too.  About 3 minutes, tops, I’d say.

Because it’s decaf, you can enjoy this anytime of day, but I find especially nice on those cold, grey, late afternoons we get this time of year, curled up by the fire (if you’re lucky enough to have one of those!) or a Christmas tree, maybe even with some mellow seasonal music, or just a good read. 

Candy Cane Lane is a good tea to pair with whatever little holiday nibbles you’ve got around – cookies, sweets, perhaps dried fruits/nuts.  Light little things here, probably not your leftover turkey or ham on a sandwich.  Of course, standards like digestives or rich tea (or Jaffa Cakes!) are always applicable, as well.  I had mine with half a Tiffin bar the other night for dessert.  It would take the tiniest bit of milk nicely, but only the tiniest – less than a teaspoon!

For a nice, cosy, quiet moment in the middle of all the December “holiday” madness, this earns itself a 9/10.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

On Tea: Russian Caravan

 So, you say “tea is tea” and it’s all “a bit weak” for your tastes, huh?  Well, this one is guaranteed to knock your socks off.

Celebrating a friend’s birthday/early Christmas with afternoon tea recently, another friend ordered the “Russian Country” tea (a Harney and Sons blend) after hearing its description as a rich, profoundly smoky tea - I opted for the house blend, myself, and the guest of honour took English Breakfast.  When our teas were brought out and poured, the smokiness was exceptional!  It was like sitting in front of a toasty fireplace on a winter afternoon… with a few drops of 18-year Laphroaig in your tea!  I was most definitely intrigued, to say the least.

After tea, I had a look at a few tea lists I keep handy at home and noticed a Russian Caravan loose-leaf listed at both local shops I’m most likely to pick up tea from.  I made a stop at one of the shops and picked up a couple ounces for myself.  Because I’ve been feeling pretty worn out all week (it’s that time of year – cold, dark, busy, and germy!) I decided that just having an afternoon to sit still and drink tons of tea would be the best thing for it.  I went right for this smoky Russian that is the single heartiest tea I’ve ever had. 

Russian Caravan (or Country, from Harney) is a Chinese origin tea, blended from keemun, oolong, and lapsang souchong (which I somehow always manage to call Lhasa Apso), whereas most of the ones I’ve talked about here so far are Indian, like Assam, Darjeeling, etc.  It’s the lapsang that gives Russian Caravan its smoky flavour as that is how that particular tea is dried.  There are stories about how long it took to transport this blend from China into (populated) Russia by caravan and how that influenced the taste, etc.  But really, that’s all rather apocryphal and doesn’t matter anyway. 
If the interwebs could transmit smells, this is what the leaves
would call to mind.  

This is the tea which favors the bold.  Perfectly good by itself, you might wish to tone it down with a splash of milk.  Or send it over the top with a splash of Scotch.  Have it with something flavourful or whatever you have may be overpowered.  Personally, I think this is best suited to afternoon and evenings.  It would be way too much for me in the morning. 

This rates an easy 9/10 with me, with a bonus point for sheer assertiveness.  Full marks!

Friday, December 19, 2014

On Tea: Paned Cymreig

Lovely color.  Bonus nail art and background cat.
Beth am gael paned o de, cariadon?
(Roughly pronounced, depending on region: Bith am guy-l pan-ed o day, carry-at-on).

Oh, sorry.  Shall we have a cup of tea, dears?

The other day when I stopped in my local tea shop to pick up some holiday pressies (and a few ounces of Russian Caravan – review coming soon!) I decided to pick up something a bit different in the basic/bagged/black tea area as well, since my usual morning Ty-phoo reserve is getting a little low.  They had on offer a few boxes of Paned Cymreig (pronounced Pan-ed Coom-rig - literally Welsh Cup but translated as Welsh Brew). 

Paned is a good, basic black tea blend (of African and Indian teas it says on the box).  It’s stouter than a typical English Breakfast (Ha!  No surprise there!) but is still a nice, mild blend.  As with most black blends, this will give you a nice start to the morning and can go for afternoon or dinner just as well.  Not at all a fussy tea, Paned Cymreig is essentially Welsh – robust, cheering, and welcoming. 

I had mine with a bit of Walker’s shortbread and later with a cup of thick beef-vegetable stew for lunch.  Anything with cheese and/or leeks would do, too.  Maybe even a taffy or two?

I’n graddio ei 8.95/10.

Oh, and Nadolig Llawen :)