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  1. "Msk" posed a good question in another thread and I believe it deserves some space of its own for discussion.... Wow. This is wide open and there are so many. Plenty more are sure to be forthcoming but here's what I look for and want to know.... ==================================================== What To Look For: 1) Is the portafilter being left in the grouphead of the espresso machine when it's not in use? The thermal mass of the brass portafilter asembly is crucial in retaining heat so the brewing temp does not drop off as the water is forced through the grounds. If you walk into a cafe and see the portafilters sitting on the counter separately from the machine, waiting to be filled and used... fuggedaboudit - chances of getting really good espresso are nil. 2) Do they make a practice of grinding large amounts and leaving the doser filled with already ground coffee? Not good. Grounds sitting in the doser will literally, within an hour or so, start getting flat and losing the potential for creating good crema and superior shots. If they grind to fill the doser every ten to fifteen minutes or so during the morning rush, it's fine but if you walk in at a slow time during mid afternoon or evening and they don't grind the coffee right then for your shot - chances are you just won't get a good shot. Some of the very best cafes use timer assemblies that grind the right amount of reach shot and the beans for every shot are ground when you order the drink - this is the best. 3) Does it appear that they're tamping and doing it well? Usually the mark of a place that cares enough to try for good results. In some places you may see a LaMarzocco Swift grinder - this is the one where the barista actually locks the portafilter onto the grinder and hits a button. In this case the barista does not tamp. The grinder automatically grinds the right amount and tamps. Some purists believe that hand tamping is the best but a Swift can actually do a better and more consistent job than all but the best baristas. A relatively inexperienced barista with a well maintained and tweaked espresso machine and a Swift can produce very good results indeed. 4) Is the steam wand nice and clean and does it get wiped down and purged after each pitcher of milk is steamed? If you see a milk crud encrusted steam wand it's safe to assume that, at the very least, they don't do a good job of steaming milk. More important - it speaks to the big picture. Lack of attention to a crucial process detail like this generally indicates that the owner/manager/staff either doesn't know or doesn't care enough about milk preparation to do it correctly and more likely than not.... that attitude extends to espresso preparation. 5) Is the barista continually adding milk to pitchers that have sat around for extended periods of time on the counter or re-steaming milk that has sat around for awhile? During a busy morning or evening rush it's a resonable practice to steam in the same pitcher for awhile and keep adding more cold milk but the use old milk/warm milk/re-steamed milk means the same thign as the previous comment - lack of attention to process control. What To Ask: 1) Do you roast your own beans, how often is this done and how fresh are the beans you use? They should not be using beans more than ten days past roasting date. 2) If you don't roast them yourselves, where do they come from? In some areas you may find cafes using five pound bags of the popular Italian bar blends like LaVazza. Beans like this can make very good espresso but they have to be coming from a trusted source that monitors dates and has good turnover. Good microroaster beans will still be better in nearly all cases. Other cafes will buy from reputable microroasters. I know of a place in Brooklyn that buys from Caffe Vivace in Seattle. One of Vancouver BC's better local cafes actually has their beans shipped in from Chicago IL in the US! (Intelligentsia Roasters) 3) How many ounces in your double shot? If they say 1.5 to 2 ounces and they really deliver this amount - chances are good that they're trying to do it right. Perhaps they won't be hitting it on every shot - nobody does - but it likely means they understand what's needed. ==================================================== These are only a few but in my experience if any of the above don't meet the right criteria.... chances are slim that you'll get really good espresso.
  2. Varietal: Mao Xie Oolong English Name: Hairy Crab Oolong Harvest: Fall, 2009 Growing Region: Anxi County, Fujian Roast: Heat dried, no roasting Vacuum Sealed into 50 gram portions eG Society member Greg Glancy at http://www.norbutea.com is contributing 7 gram vacuum packaged samples of a new Fall 2009 Mao Xie, also known as Harry Crab for this Tea Tasting & Discussion. Greg has provided four samples of 7 grams each, and I will mail three of them to the eG Society members participating in this Tasting and Discussion. This is the first of the last three Tea Tasting & Discussions for this year. However, several interesting Tea Tasting & Discussions in a new format are already slated for the first part of 2010. If you subscribe to the eG Coffee & Tea forum you will be among the first to know when one is posted. While the tasting is open to all members who have posted at least ten substantive posts in the eG Coffee and Tea forum, preference will be given until midnight (EDST) Monday, November 16th to those who have not participated in the last two tastings. Although many teas brew well both gongfu style aand Western style, Greg says this one really needs to be brewed gong fu style, so samples will go to those who will brew this tea gong fu (which means "with skill") style in a gaiwan or Yixing teapot. The three free samples are available to members who also 1) will do at least one gongfu style brewing session with multiple infusions from the sample, 2) will report on their experience and participate actively in the discussion, and 3) who have previously posted at least ten (10) substantive posts (questions, answers, comments that add to discussions) in the Coffee and Tea forum. As always, everyone who does not receive a sample is welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussion. So, please PM me now for details if you would like to receive one of the the free samples and participate in the tasting and discussion. Here's more information on this special Oolong tea from the Norbutea.com website. (Used with permission.) I have known Greg for several years since a presentation he once gave on a trip through the tea markets and farms of China fed my growing interest in learning more about fine teas. Since then Greg has become a tea friend and we drink tea together and trade teas and tea stories from time to time.
  3. On page 42 of the April 2004 issue of Food Arts magazine there's a photo of a really cool looking "layered espresso" created by some guy named Alan Miguel Kaplan. It's in a tall clear glass, and it appears that the drink has milk on the bottom, espresso in the middle, and foam on the top. All it says about how it's made is "By expertly and delicately adding the steamed milk with certain precision, we created the illusion of three different layers."
  4. It's true. Heated frothed milk can be simply that or it can be an entirely different substance with not only a different viscosity, mouthfeel and sweetness but the capability for blending with espresso in a manner that yields a drink quite unlike the run-of-the-mill capuccino or latte most folks have ever experienced. I'll quote myself (from the Latte Art Video section of my own web site) as a place to start the discussion: Schomer has a good article on these techniques at his Espresso Vivace website Milk Texturing Basics I have also found the free pdf tutorial offered by Gimme! Coffee to be concise and very helpful Milk Preparation Tutorial I'm no expert.... heck... I can't even pour decent "latte art" despite having a really good machine and plenty of resources to study. What I do know is this: using manual frothers with heated milk is a worthy substitute if you're in a pinch but true microfoamed milk is a thing of beauty and the drinks one can prepare with it really are superior. There is no substitute but few cafes actually produce it. Visit a really good cafe.... JJ Bean or cafe Artigiano in Vancouver BC, Vivace, Vita or Hines in Seattle, Intelligentsia in Chicago, Gimme Coffee in NYC or Ithaca.... you'll find that the difference between a latte and cappuccino is the espresso to milk ratio - lattes get more milk. There's none of this Starbucks style "scoop the extra foam on top and call it a cappuccino". Uh uh.... no sir.... all the milk they serve is microfoamed - it's been prepared so that the milk itself has been transformed in its entirety rather than having a separate layer of foam and milk. I'll welcome and respond to dissenting views but I've had enough first hand experience to feel strongly about this. Here are what I consider to be really "basic basics": Start with cold milk - the colder the better - the longer the frothing time the better developed the foam (within reason) Use an appropriately sized pitcher. Smaller machines in the sub $500 range generally steam no more than 5 - 6 oz of milk at a time properly. $500- $1200 units generally do well with up to 10 or 12 ounces. Best results are obtained when the milk is at least 2" or 3" deep - thus we need a 10 oz pitcher for small amounts and a 20 oz pitcher for larger amounts. Higher milk fat produces more velvety and longer lasting microfoam. I can get passable results with 1% but 2% or whole milk works better. I even know people who juice up their whole milk by adding half 'n half or condensed whole milk. Skim milk creates lots of dry, fluffy and light foam that separates from the milk - exactly what we DON'T want! Purge the steam wand and then start steaming with the tip fully submerged. Immediately lower the pitcher so the the tip stays just under the surface of the milk - feel free to move it around a bit as the milk is "stretching". It will begin increasing in volume from the air being introduced but we're only looking to expand volume by 15% to 25% at most - what we're after is better texture. At about 100 degrees, tip the pitcher or tilt the wand (or both)so that the tip is still just slightly submerged but the wand against the side of the pitcher, more or less parallel to it and get a swirling motion going. This is the process where the larger bubbles initially created are broken into the smaller bubbles of microfoam. At about 130 degrees keep the same swirling motion going but raise the pitcher to fully immerse the tip so it's close to the bottom of the milk. Stop frothing at about 145 degrees. That's pretty close tro the sweet spot - literally. It's the point at which the sugars in the milk have been converted to produce extra sweetness from the milk but well below the level where scorching can occur. Many people forego the use of a thermometer and work by the level of warmth on the outside of the pitcher and the sound that the foaming creates. Maybe I'll be at that level someday but for now I find that having the thermometer really simplifies things and helps me control the process Yes... I know... it seems like a lot of hoo-hah and monkeying around for a coffee drink but if it wasn't worth I wouldn't be here
  5. Oolong tea is a semi-oxidized tea, occupying the middle ground between green and black teas. Combining the best qualities of green tea and black tea, Oolong Tea is not only as clear and fragrant as GreenTea, but also as fresh and strong as Black Tea. If you drink Oolong tea, the natural aroma may linger in your mouth and make your throat comfortable. Anxi Ti Kuan Yin is one of the most famous and typical one among all the Oolong tea. With the new Autumn tea, here I show you how Ti Kuan Yin looks step by step by brewing with Gaiwan teapot. Preparation: The best warter for making Ti Kuan Yin is well water which is very naturl to better taste the aroma. Water should be brought to a boil and transferred to some kind of portable stove to keep it on the edge of boiling. The teapot(Mostly for Ti Kuan Yin, Gaiwan is used) should be clean ready for making tea on the drip tray. The cups and aroma cylinders (the latter only if present) should be also placed face-up on the drip tray. Here is high quality tea tea looks before brewing: Brewings: First round: The first round of brewing begins with filling the Gaiwan full of near-boiling water. The Gaiwan is filled to the brim and excess foam and tea leaves are simply swept aside by the lid before placing it firmly on top. A little extra hot water poured over the top helps keep the temperature high. The tea is brewed for approximately one minute and then quickly transferred to the serving pot to mix it evenly, avoiding uneven flavour from cup to cup. A narrow, metal filter can be used to catch fine particles that would spoil the flavour of the tea. The tea leaf looks after 1st brewing:
  6. pateluday

    Masala chai: a simple recipe

    Come Winter and Masala Chai (Spiced tea) becomes popular in India. Most of the masala chai available in packets are a mix of mind boggling spices. But I make mine very simple. Here is the recipe for tea enthusiasts: Ingredients: CTC tea leaf (Assam Black) Milk Sugar (To taste) Cardamom (2/3 Pods) Shreded Ginger Clove Powder (1/10 teaspoon) Jaggrey (1/4 Teaspoon) Method Bring water to boil Add leaves and simmer for two minutes Strain Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for another two minutes. This hot beverage proves to be good during winters for some cheers. It is alo good for people suffering from bad throat.
  7. Okay just finished my 4lb stash from a trip last year comprising of peabery from both UCC and Greenwell farms. Personally felt that Greenwell had a much superior product vs. UCC. Looking to restock, does anyone have any other roaster recommendations, I'm going to just do mail order instead this time round. Might give the Greenwell Special Reserve a go...
  8. Richard Kilgore

    Tea Bags vs Loose Leaf & Tea Filter

    Several posts have raised the issue of tea bags vs using tea filters with loose leaf tea, including these: What's your preference and why?
  9. jpr54_


    This appeared on teamail this morning Harney & Sons will be opening up a tea room at 433 Broome St. this month, according to the Wall Street Journal: "The SoHo store will combine a country aesthetic with downtown chic, with rustic and modern design elements. In the 2,500-square-foot space there will be a tasting bar with tea consultants and a modern afternoon-tea service with light fare."
  10. I'm trying to figure out how to figure out the appropriate number of tea infusions based on prior infusions, time, exposure to air, and who knows what else. Take today. I put a few leaves of Norbu Ruby Black Tea into the pot this morning and made a nice brew. I'm now about to make the second pot: it has been only four hours; I left the leaves in the pot wet and covered (though air gets in through the spout). But then what? Tomorrow morning? There's a storm on the way: Thursday? Covered? Uncovered? Exposure to light? Sound? And please don't say "trial and error." Surely there's some guidance that's less hit-or-miss out there!
  11. Richard Kilgore

    Tea: To measure or not to measure....

    Over on the Tea 101 topic the issue of measuring water, leaf and timing has come up. My impression is that the tea world is roughly divided into those who are inclined to measure and those who are inclined to wing it. Much like the baseball fan world tends to be divided into those who are most concerned with the stats and those who are most concerned with the human dynamics. Personally, I tend toward winging it, especially when it comes to weighing the amount of leaf. But I have found that I can be way off with estimating the amount of leaf needed. One teaspoon full of a CTC leaf is a lot different than one of a wiry Indian leaf or a large Oolong leaf. So I finally broke down and bought a small pocket scale that weighs to one-tenth of a gram. And it has definitely helped with the learning curve for new teas. With inexpensive teas and ones I know I can replace easily, I often still wing it, but for teas that are hard to find or expensive it is more than helpful. I do use a timer (or count off the seconds with Puerh and Oolongs brewed gongfu style). Although I use a thermometer to check the water temp, I now know my water kettle well enough that I can tell the temp within a few degrees by sight and sound...but only about 75 - 85 % of the time. How about everyone else? Do you tend to wing it, or measure?
  12. Hi All, I'm an espresso freak but my wife loves tea, jasmine in particular. Are there any places online that sell tea that could be given as a gift, maybe packaged in a nice box or something? Thanks for any advice? Joe PS They need to be in bags. Loose tea is not her thing:)
  13. jpr54_

    Taking Tea

    In today's NY Times Travel Section , there is an article on tea houses in San Francisco- Imperial Tea Court Samovar Celadon Tea
  14. i don't know why i think this stuff is so good. i pretty much have substituted water with this. and with 0 calories and at 99 cents for a big green bottle, it's hard to stop! anyone else tried it?
  15. ghostrider

    Loose tea needs to breathe

    Since I'm going through this ritual for the umpteenth time with two new varieties of Assam from Upton, I thought I'd inquire whether anyone else has noticed this pattern. Some teas seem to yield their full flavor from the very first pot, as soon as you open the tin, or hermetically sealed bag, as the case may be. Others taste dull & flat at the start. The dry leaves frequently have a good aroma, but that doesn't travel into the cup at the outset. Then, after a week or two of use and openings and closings of the storage container, the flavor of the new tea suddenly takes a quantum leap for the better. A fellow tea aficianado has also noticed this effect. It seems that the leaves need to interact with the atmosphere for a time to develop their full potential. Perhaps the fermentation process that occurs during the drying of the leaves needs to be restarted before they'll brew up really well. Perhaps there's such a thing as the leaves being too dry, and they need to be rehumidified to a certain degree in order to exude their maximal flavor when the boiling water hits them. My friend's approach, when he finds a tea that remains dull after a couple of initial tries, is simply to put the tea away for a couple of months; when he comes back to it, he usually finds that the flavor has blossomed. I'm not that patient or organized, I generally keep the tea in the rotation (I usually have 3-4 morning teas, & a similar number of afternoon teas, available), though I may select it less frequently until it develops. Has anyone else had this experience?
  16. jpr54_

    The Art of Tea

    I just received issue #2 of this beautifully prepared magazine- I purchased my copy at www.houdeasianart.com The magazine has articles on yixing teapots, puerh tea, gong fu style tea servic joanne r. aka jpr54_
  17. Just wanted to spread the benefits... specialteas.com, an old favorite source of good teas, has a 75% off everything in their inventory. I hope this is a inventory refreshing operation rather than a last hurrah, but either way, there are (still) some great deals there now.
  18. Richard Kilgore

    Tea Trucs - Tips for brewing better tea

    Please tell us what you have learned that makes for better tea brewing. I'll kick it off with a few basics --- 1) Use the correct amount of leaf (leaf:water ratio) 2) Use the correct temperature for the type of tea leaf 3) Violate 2 & 3. That is, experiment with all the variables and see what pleases you. More later. What have you learned in making your tea?
  19. windtrader

    Cup at a time is a bummer

    Hello tea lovers, I'm new to the tea forum, having recently stepped forward to learn more deeply the fine points of tea beverages. I just received a very nice tea samples from Anupa at Silver Tips Tea, as recommended in this forum by Gautam. I don't mind making a cup or two at a time while learning and studying a specific tea, appreciating it's unique color, aroma, and taste. After trying a few variations in steep time, tea to water ratios, and additional infusions, I can get an adequate idea of what works and if I like it and if I do, I just want to brew up a thermos full and draw out of it for the next few hours. No more fussing with water, boiling, strainers, etc. I did not see much howling about doing this in the forum, so none of you do this or it is not a big deal or or or. As long as I keep the cap tightened it seems not much aroma would be lost. If all the tea leaves are carefully strained out during the decant to the thermos, color and flavor changes would not occur. Very small particulate would get into the pot such as the powder in some Japanese green tea but the majority of teas would strain out completely. This topic is not about the fine art and etiquette of formal tea preparation or serving as pouring a pot of freshly brewed tea into a thermos jug would I'm certain constitute a sin, rather just a practical way to lessen the time spent preparing (fiddling) tea to drink throughout the day. When preparing an amount such as a litre, is there much practical difference in taste and aroma between using a quantity of tea leaves so a single infusion produces the desired amount in the least amount of time and assuming the tea can take a second infusion, using half the amount of leaves, brewing half the desired amount of tea and pouring into thermos, followed by a second infusion producing the remaining half? Thanks
  20. Mussina

    Loose tea

    I am looking to buy some good quality loose tea that (ideally!) would be produced in the US. It will be made in a bodum tea pot. Is there good quality tea produced in the US or does the rest of the world the franchise on tea? Where would you recommend getting tea? Thanks!
  21. JAZ

    Milk/cream in coffee

    A while back, a co-worker offered to get me a cup of coffee and asked if I wanted milk or sugar. "A little milk," I replied. He brought me a cup that was pale tan in color and had to have been 40 percent half-and-half. To me, it was undrinkable -- lukewarm and unpleasantly mouth-coating; yet another co-worker who got a virtually identical cup proclaimed it "perfect." (I ended up pouring half the coffee out and refilling the cup with straight coffee, at which point it was almost okay.) Since then, I've been paying attention to milk in coffee, and I believe I'm in the minority. Most people who drink milk or cream in their coffee seem to like much more than I do. I also prefer whole milk; although half-and-half is acceptable, it's much easier to overpour. "Reduced fat" milk is okay if I'm desperate, but non-fat is worthless in coffee. (And forget non-dairy "creamer" -- I'd rather not drink coffee than use it.) What kind of milk do others prefer? How much? Steamed or cold?
  22. 12BottleBar

    Frost Tea -- Anyone tried?

    Has anyone else tried the frost teas produced by Los Angeles' Chado and James Norwood Pratt. They introduced them several years ago. Single estate leaves picked at the height of the frost, just like ice wine. Do any other producers make this kind of tea? Absolutely lovely stuff.
  23. finnfann

    Reseasoning a Tea Pot

    I love my son's baby sitter, really I do. She works really hard with him, stimulates him to no end and has him keeping up with kids twice his age. She does great things for us too; she does the laundry, she tidies up, and when she's run out of things to do during his nap, she creates new projects for herself. Yesterday, she scrubbed my tea pot. My beloved tea pot that I've been seasoning for 5 years. 5 years. I didn't know if I would notice a difference, or if the value of seasoning was all in my head, but suddenly my $2 an ounce Ceylon tastes like it cost $2 an ounce. All of the depth of flavor is gone. So, I'm wondering, does anyone has any tips for speeding the reseasoning process? Help. Please.
  24. jpr54_

    Tea and Coffee

    I drink both tea and coffee- I appreciate the separating tea and coffee out as a special group of its own- I will be traveling to Fort Lauderdale and would like suggestions/recommendations for tea! Joanne
  25. rob7

    Romance Tea

    Tonight I went to a Japanese restaurant. At their bar was a container holding a very interesting looking tea. The owner said that this was called Romance Tea. We tried it and we really enjoyed it. Although I can't say exactly what is in the blend, there are rose buds and violets. It definitely had floral notes in the taste but I also tasted notes of honey. On my way out I asked the owner about the tea and she said that I will not be able to find this tea anywhere. I asked, "even online", and she said that she doesn't think so. She said that they get this tea directly from Taiwan. I'm not even sure if the proper name of this is Romance Tea or if this is a rough translation. Has anyone ever heard of this? If so, any one know a supplier? Or, can you suggest a tea that may be similar? Again, I'm not sure of the entire blend, but there were clearly rose buds and violet. Maybe some lavender. It had a light floral taste. Appreciate your help. Thanks very much.