Monday, July 14, 2008

Tea Seminar Part 4 & Homemade Chai

Last Wednesday was my 4th Tea Seminar in a 5-part series. I am really going to miss this class after our final session this week. I am having such a great experience and learning so much. I even have a mini-ritual for my tea class now. I leave work a little early, take a small snack/dinner and go up and sit on the wall overlooking the ocean and relax a bit and watch the surfers before heading off to class. It makes a nice transition and gets me in a "ready to learn" mind frame.

This week it was a Japanese style sandwich pack from Watanabe Bakery, I love my bread crusts cut off and not having to choose one kind of sandwich--this way you get 5 different kinds in one sandwich.

There was even a rainbow out as I went to class (from the parking lot on the KCC campus). If you look closely you can see it was a double rainbow.

This week's class was all about Black Teas. In China what is called black tea here is called red tea and Pu'erhs (which we tasted last week) are considered black teas. In fact in China for many years they only drank green teas and Pu'erhs and black tea as we know it didn't come about until they started shipping teas to other places. They found that by fully oxidizing the tea leaves, it made for less damage and mold and made the tea travel better.
We tasted seven teas, pictures of the dry leaf and the wet leaves and liquor are below each description. (They are more for my personal record than anything else as I don't know how many people enjoy seeing this many shots of wet tea leaves!) As the air con had died they had a fan on in the class and most of the the overhead lights so picture taking was a bit dicey. It's hard to get a good shot of the liquid without the reflection of the fluorescents in it!

The first Chinese tea was a Keemun Hao Yah from the Anhui Province. It was first produced in 1875 and is a prominent ingredient in English Breakfast tea. This tea features tight black leaves and the dry leaf has a light, slightly musty smell. The liquor is a rich brown color with a delicate aroma with a hint of pine. The flavor has a slightly winy and fruity taste to it. The tea is pretty smooth with not a lot of astringency. Good and very drinkable.

Next was another Keemun, this one was "Mao Feng Style" (meaning "Fur Peak") and referring to the processing--it is made of the twisted buds of the tea plant, which are withered then rolled to break up the cell structure so it oxidizes over time. The dry leaf has some spicy, earthy notes. The taste of this tea seemed a bit smokier or mustier in flavor than the first tea but it seemed to have a lighter mouth feel to it.

Our third tea was a Raspberry Scented Black Tea. We learned about the difference in scenting versus flavoring teas. Scenting teas means leaving them to absorb the scents of whatever they are being flavored with--herbs, flowers or fruit. The process takes longer and is much more labor intensive than flavoring teas which is done by applying a extract or oil to the tea. Usually with flavored teas, the aroma holds loner than the flavor. Scented teas tend to hold both aroma and flavor longer. (After going home I looked at my flavored teas and most said "infused" so I need to ask Dave in which camp that lies. I am hoping it it the same or similar to scenting!) This tea had a very strong fresh raspberry scent in the dry leaves. The wet leaf and the aroma of the tea was not quite as strong. Both the aroma and flavor were of real raspberry, not fake tasting. The taste of this tea was sweet and fruity, not too overpowering. I really liked this Raspberry tea.

Next we moved on to Indian black teas--we tasted teas from two out the of three areas that form the "triangle" or triad of teas: Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri. The latter tea Nilgiri we did not taste, it is most commonly used for flavoring or blending. The leaves of the black teas from India (camellia sinensis assamica) are broader than those from China (camellia sinensis).
We sampled a Darjeeling, a vintage, first flush (first picking) from the Goomtee Estate. Darjeeling is considered the "prize" tea or "Champagne tea" of India. The leaves are not fully or evenly oxidized so the leaves have a color variation. This tea had a light, almost bitter chocolate smell in the dry leaves. The wet leaves had more of a floral aroma. The liquor was a light amber color and was slightly fruity with a slight astringency. I did taste a little of the musky spiciness that is referred to by experts as "Muscatel". Although I liked the Chinese Black teas better, this was a pleasant, drinkable tea.

Next was an Assam tea, again the tea leaf is bigger and broader than some of the other teas we tasted. Assam teas are often blended and sold as breakfast teas (English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, etc.) This tea was an Assam Gold Tips (characterized by the golden ends or tips of the leaves) and was grown at sea level by the Hamutty Estates. the dry leaf to me smelled like an old cedar box, slightly musty. The liquor was a richer, brighter color and was very full-bodied with a pronounced briskness and a malty flavor--kind of like the aftertaste of a dark beer. Not my favorite--maybe it is more of an acquired taste?

We did a quick Masala Chai--just the tea, no milk. It was from a tea bag and you could definitely smell and taste the ginger, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper mixed in with the black tea. I am a big Chai Tea fan and make my own at home sometimes. (See the recipe at the end of this post)

The class ended with our final tea, a Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka. Tea production started there after a fungus wiped out most of the coffee crops in the 1800s and now Sri Lanka is the third largest producer of teas globally. Ceylon teas are used by themselves and in blends. (Lipton Tea is one of the largest growers and exporters of teas fro Sri Lanka). The tea we tried was from the Lumbini Estates. The tight rolled dry leaves have a white tip and have a light citrus aroma. The tea's liquor is a coppery red and it has a spicy, sweetness and some briskness.

Another full and interesting class. We end the series this week with Oolong Teas.


Chai at Home

I make Chai often at home and drink it with hot milk, iced milk and sometimes even shaken with a bit of vodka or gin and some half & half for a delicious Chai Martini. I usually make the Chai tea liquid and keep it in the fridge for up to a week--adding milk and sweetener as I drink it. I switch around my spices depending on my mood, (I fancy myself quite the Chaiwalla or Chai Tea Maker!) but I usually come back to the following recipe and ingredients:

Homemade Chai Tea

4 cups water

1-2 star anise
6 green cardamon pods (split open)
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
12 peppercorns (white, black or mixed)
1 tsp powdered ginger or 1 tsp fresh ground ginger
2 Tbsp Black tea (preferably Darjeeling or English Breakfast)

Bring water to a boil and add spices, boiling for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and steep spices for 10 minutes. Bring water back to just at a boil, add tea and simmer about 4 minutes. Strain and reserve Chai liquid.

When ready to drink, get your favorite cup or glass, add the tea to the milk of your choice and add your sweetener of choice to taste. (I usually use honey or raw sugar) Proportion milk to your taste (I do about 2/3 Chai to 1/3 milk). Enjoy!


  1. what a great way to get in mind set for your class! I also love chai, I should try making some so that I can have it iced. I'm going to miss your tea seminar updates.

  2. Kat--I am going to miss the updates too! :-( I love my Chai iced almost more than hot--it is so good both ways and nice to have on hand ready to go.

  3. Iced chais are one of my favorite drinks at coffee shops. I've been trying different chai concentrates from the store too. I never thought that you could make chai at home. thanks for the recipe, I think I'll try it next month!

  4. OH my goodness-that rainbow, the sandwiches, your class-it's enought to make me pack up and grab the next flight out.

  5. genkitummy--I hope you like this one. You can play around with the amounts and the spices. It won't be sweet until you add a sweetener though. It's nice to make some up yourself because you know what went in it!

    Prudy--come on over! ;-)

  6. Mmm! I used to make my own Chai! I'll have to try your recipe and see if ours are similar (it's been so long, I don't remember). I love your little ritual before class and I'm so glad you have been posting about the class and all the different teas you've tried - it's so interesting! I'm going to have to check out those classes once I get into a routine and try something new. Any you're looking at for your next one?

  7. Hey Michelle,
    I now have the bug and do want to take another class.
    They said tonight the next schedule (Fall--is it fall already!?!) is coming out Monday so I'll know what they are offering soon. Maybe we will end up classmates--that would be fun!

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  9. Have you tried liquid Chai.

    Just add a drop in to your cup of tea

  10. How fun! We're huge tea drinkers here...even sacrificing one cupboard to various boxes and a tea class sounds right up our alley.

    And the warm-up and view, prior to class? Don't think that could be beat!

  11. Pat--hmm, sounds interesting--although I find making it myself kind of relaxing.

    Stephanie--I have the top shelf of my pantry overflowing with tea too. You would love this class--I really have learned a lot and I thought I was fairly "tea savvy" before.

  12. Thank you for this chai recipe. I have been searching for a good one.

  13. It's nice to make some up yourself because you know what went in it! Thanks for the ideas. There's always something new to learn and improve on in this mad internet world. Uptiming is surely something to keep an eye on.


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