Teas That Depend On Nature's Intervention | Jane Pettigrew

Posted on July 22, 2014 by LISA KUNIZAKI | 0 Comments

I recently took a focused tasting workshop on teas that depend on nature's intervention. The session featured five teas that only develop their unique character when certain natural conditions coincide. The powers of nature always play a special role in creating individual teas which each have a distinct character, but these five teas depend more than others on nature's intervention.
The five teas we focused on were Milk Oolong (Taiwan), Oriental Beauty (Taiwan), Nilgiri Frost (Southern India), Peak Season Ceylon Uva (Sri Lanka), and Raw Aged Puerh (China).
Milk Oolongs are balled oolongs and are typically produced in Taiwan and China. They naturally have a silky, buttery taste with orchid notes. They have a characteristic milky mouth feel which is where it gets its name. In Taiwan, the best milk oolongs are made from the Jin Xuan (Jin Suang), a tea plant varietal developed in the 1970s and released to farmers for planting in 1981.

The plants are grown at altitudes of 650-5000 feet.The unique character depends on varietal, altitude, the age of the tea shoot when plucked, and manufacturer. Natural milk oolongs are more about mouth feel and less about the creamy flavor. In real milk oolongs the natural buttery flavor is quite subtle which is why so many farmers feel the need to add milk flavoring or essence to give the teas a buttery, milky character. It’s fine to flavor the teas, but information given must be honest and clear. I admit that I've had quite a few that I enjoy very much and find quite nice despite the fact they're not the "real" thing.

It is believed that the very best Oriental Beauty oolongs are made in Taiwan. They can only be made when the tea bushes are infested by little leaf hoppers (Jacobiasca formosana, known as ‘jassids’ or ‘thrips’). The insects bite the buds, leaves and stems while they are still growing on the bush. This causes oxidation to start. It also causes the bushes to defend themselves by producing enzymes called monoterpene diol and hotrienol which give the tea its unique flavor. The teas are sweet and fruity. 

The Nilgiri tea gardens are located in the Nilgiri Hills (Blue Mountains) in Southern India where tea grows on hills at an elevation between 3280-8000 feet. Frost Teas are made from end of December to February. Night temperatures are close to zero, sometimes as low as minus 4-7 degrees Celsius. Frost settles on the bushes at night and disappears as the sun comes up. The sweet character and flavor is due to stress on the plants from factors such as temperature, altitude, etc.

Frost Teas are made from the end of December to February.The result is a mellow fruity aroma and a balanced, fragrant, aromatic, smooth liquor.

I learned how weather conditions in Sri Lanka’s Uva district create the special character of the best peak season Uva teas.
And then Jane moved onto one of my favorite teas, puerh. She elaborated on why and how ancient trees and ancient processing methods produce amazing raw puerh teas.
We compared a raw young puerh vs. a raw aged puerh.
I had the honor and privilege of having Jane Pettigrew as my instructor. She is a well respected International Tea Consultant and author. She was also the proud recipient of the 2014 World Tea Award for Best Educator.

Posted in California, Ceylon Uva, Jane Pettigrew, Long Beach, Milk Oolong, Nilgiri Frost, Oriental Beauty, Puerh, Tea Education, Teas that depend on Nature, World Tea Expo 2014

Pairing Tea with Cheese & Chocolate | Robert Wemischner

Posted on June 26, 2014 by LISA KUNIZAKI | 0 Comments

Recently I've been very interested in learning more about  pairing teas with food, both sweet and savory. I believe it is important to realize how valuable the use of tea is as a pairing beverage when tasting chocolate and cheeses in particular. It is a refreshing alternative to wine, beer and other spirits especially when certain people are abstaining from alcoholic beverages.
I took a class at the World Tea Expo that focused on just this. We were first given a selection of teas and cheeses to pair with. 
Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog (one of my all time faves), Bellwether Farms Carmody and Pt. Reyes Original Blue... 
and some bread for cleansing the palate between tastings. We worked with three teas: (from left to right) Harvest Spring Sencha, Ti Quan Yin and Sessa Assam.
The tasting involved tasting a cheese/chocolate and then slurping all three teas and working down the line. Taking notes the whole time. It was surprising to see how the teas enhanced the flavors of the cheese. Some worked really well and some were just awful which makes you think about the impact a beverage like tea can have on a meal like Afternoon Tea (or even a tasting menu at a restaurant). 

Guittard Chocolate Company: (clockwise) Soie Blanche White Chocolate, Soleil d’Or Milk Chocolate and Etoile du Nord Dark Chocolate. When tasting chocolate, it's good practice to inspect the chocolate first. Is it glossy? Does it have snap? Or is it gray or whitened in spots? Once you're done with the visual inspection, smell it and then taste it. Take notes on your experience. 

When tea is brewed and served properly to bring out its best and fullest character, it has the potential to really enhance a sweet and/or savory dish. It is a wonderful accompaniment to a multi-course meal. The class was taught by Robert Wemischner who is an author, pastry chef and culinary educator whose long-standing interest in the flavor potential of ingredients has culminated in his latest culinary book, The Dessert ArchitectI loved this class because I got to 1) eat cheese 2) drink tea and 3) eat chocolate. YUM YUM YUM.
I can't wait to keep exploring all the great cheeses out there and see how they pair with teas. I carry around this tea journal made by Moleskin when I travel around. I have a few from their Passions series. Keep track of everything. Trust me, you'll thank me later. 

Posted in California, Chocolate and Tea, Long Beach, Robert Wemischner, Tea and Cheese, Tea Education, Tea Pairing, World Tea Expo 2014


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