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Fat Guy

I need to try to care more about tea

68 posts in this topic

The biggest obstacle I had to overcome to consistently enjoy good tea was the confidence to try something more than the two teas I was first introduced to: once I realized that I liked tea, I tried occasional bagged teas here and there when dining out, and generally was so disappointed that I gave up and stuck to the ones I knew well.

Eventually I started to buy a little here and a little there of some different teas, found forums like this one, read a couple of books about tea, and then the tea mania took over.

I'm not sure if you're stuck at quite the same point, but you clearly like tea, know that there are some better teas out there than what you're routinely drinking, but are puzzled at how to consistently buy & brew better tea.

One excellent program that's easily available is outlined in the "Harney & Sons Guide to Teas". They walk you through a series of tastings comparing various teas in different styles, and while it may be impossible to procure exactly the teas they discuss, I found it a very useful thing to read and reread as I was exploring teas. And one of the most useful things I got out of it was the idea of comparative tastings, setting about it like wine. That, plus a good digital thermometer and a scale, were what I needed to gain the confidence to shop for and brew better teas.

Are you looking for a more specific program, or is that a good start?

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I've been drinking more tea in the last few years than I ever did before, and for one reason: I needed caffeine at work and, because I'm in a very public setting, I can't have things like coffee grinders buzzing or espresso machines hissing. I'm also more like Matt Kayahara than Moopheus, happy to try new things and see if I can acquire a taste for those that are challenging, and so I took it as a learning opportunity.

It's been very rewarding, though I don't have a lot to add to what's been written here. I think cdh hit the nail on the head.

Keep trying them... maybe you'll find something that resonates... maybe not. ...

And sample broadly. Assam black teas are night and day different from any Japanese green... and even amongst those, there is an incredible breadth of flavor. Just because one sencha tasted of lawn clippings does not mean that you won't find completely different flavors in teas made just down the road.

I'll add that Greg at Norbu and the folks at TeaSource are very generous about sending samples, working with you to identify styles you like, and so on.

One last thing. Like any enterprise to which people dedicate themselves, tea-making can get pretty particular. I have an electric kettle, a cheap glass pot with a removable strainer, and a standard issue white mug that are my main go-to tools. Now and then, I'll weigh out the tea in grams and take the temperature of the water, and I always time it (I start at 5 minutes and work from there). But I confess not to having the seriousness of purpose and method that others around here have.

Now cocktails....


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I'm also more like Matt Kayahara than Moopheus, happy to try new things and see if I can acquire a taste for those that are challenging, and so I took it as a learning opportunity.

I should clarify that I am not adverse to trying new things. I'm just not motivated to keep trying them over and over again. A few weeks ago I happened to have something I'd never had before--raw oysters on the shell. There were a few different varieties on the platter, I tried more than one. My response was, meh. Sure, I know other people really like them, but I couldn't really see any point to going any further with that for myself.


"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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I think tea is a very good place to consider this issue of acquired tastes. One of the things that happened with tea -- and has happened with rum, oysters, and other items as well -- is that my first few encounters were often "meh." Then, as I tried new ones, different varieties, and, honestly, better product, I realized that I didn't like the bad stuff but was very interested in certain types. And, the more I learned about different oolong varieties, say, the better I understood my own tastes. That is to say, I acquired a better understanding of the tastes I have.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I should clarify that I am not adverse to trying new things. I'm just not motivated to keep trying them over and over again.

I think this is probably simply a fundamental attitude difference between different sorts of people. I personally don't want there to be any broad category of food I don't like, so I actively seek to eradicate dislikes as I discover them. And I find eating more pleasurable if I can appreciate the food rather than just accepting it as "meh." I'd love to be able to appreciate tea, I just haven't taken the time to do it.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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There has been some good advice on getting started. Honestly I think one of the reasons I hesitated to learn more was that I read tea reviews and thought -huh? it reminds you of, tastes like???? But that is closed minded thinking, and I really want to open that part of my tasting mind.

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There has been some good advice on getting started. Honestly I think one of the reasons I hesitated to learn more was that I read tea reviews and thought -huh? it reminds you of, tastes like???? But that is closed minded thinking, and I really want to open that part of my tasting mind.

I think you have hit on the exact thing that bothers a lot of people new to tea drinking when they read some of those tea reviews.

There are a few basic terms that anyone can understand and they have been used for generations, such as "malty" which I think goes back to the early 1800s.

Some oolongs do have a distinct flavor of peach some Indian teas taste a bit like chestnut and that too is a term that goes back a long way.

However, those highfalutin terms that some tea folks use are confusing, not to mention intimidating, and not all that informative to a novice. If someone has never tasted moscato, how can they determine that flavor in a tea? I don't understand some of the terms they use and I've been drinking tea all my life, beginning with "cambric" tea in the nursery.

If a tea tastes good to you, then you should enjoy it as you wish and to heck with anyone else.

I like some teas with milk and sugar, some with plain sugar or honey, some with lemon and some plain.

When someone begins telling me how I am supposed to drink my tea, I am on the way out the door.

And I like flavored teas, at which some tea fanciers turn their noses up.

If I want to drink my tea out of an old tin cup, that's my choice.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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There are a few basic terms that anyone can understand and they have been used for generations, such as "malty" which I think goes back to the early 1800s.

Some oolongs do have a distinct flavor of peach some Indian teas taste a bit like chestnut and that too is a term that goes back a long way.

However, those highfalutin terms that some tea folks use are confusing, not to mention intimidating, and not all that informative to a novice. If someone has never tasted moscato, how can they determine that flavor in a tea? I don't understand some of the terms they use and I've been drinking tea all my life, beginning with "cambric" tea in the nursery.

I had never understood the taste of muscat, until I tried a (fresh) muscat grape -- since then, though, I can easily see how Darjeelings have a strong muscat flavor. And of course, most of us haven't spent much time tasting cat pee, road tar, or pencil lead... however, I have experienced tastes which these kind of silly terms help me put a name to. As with wine, some people can go a little overboard with these things, but they are useful to a limited extent, simply because they give people a (somewhat) standard language with which to describe their taste experience.

Of course, some of these things are culturally determined - with Chinese tea, people frequently use Chinese medincine, camphor, longyan, dried ume, etc. as taste descriptors, and often these aren't familiar reference points to non-Chinese. But even if you've never had the experience of trying these things, you quickly get a sense of what people mean when they describe a tea as tasting a particular way, and I think that's really more to the point.

I go back and forth - sometimes, I prefer to just keep it at the level of "I like this" or "I don't like this"; other times, I try not to be as judging ("good" vs. "bad"), but try to focus on the various tastes I'm experiencing... terms like the one you describe are, at the very least, a way to keep track of your sensory experience if you write down your thoughts on a particular tea (yes, this is a little obsessive, and I rarely do it when I'm sharing tea with friends, but I do find these little notes helpful, both to look back on, and as a way of focusing my thoughts about a given tea).

Tea is both interesting and intensely frustrating at times, because we have all the variables in individual taste, atmospheric conditions, etc. that people have with wine, but also, the nearly infinite possibilities that come from variable brewing (and, in some cases, storage) really makes the whole thing very complex. In other words, with tea, you have a lot of rope to hang yourself with, and while you can strive for consistency, you will probably find it hard to re-capture that perfect tea experience from last week.


Edited by Will (log)

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It so happens that a friend works with Harney & Sons and has offered to make a connection. So I'm hoping to get down to the SoHo store one day soon for a tasting with one of the Harneys. I will of course report in full if and when that happens.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'll suggest a contrary approach: if you don't relish the prospect of all that brewing hassle, find some more interesting tea bags. There are actually some teas that I (shame) like better in tea bags than loose. Rather than reverting to Lipton's, run through some small packs of different varieties. When you find something you want to come back to, then maybe try the loose leaf to compare. Then try to optimize the brewing parameters.


It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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I don't know when my educational session will occur, but for now what I'm trying to do is make and drink a cup of tea every day. From the tea bags in my cabinet. I think this will help my palate become more aware of tea flavors.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In my earlier post I should have posted the link to the site where you can join the Teamail discussion group which is an excellent resource for information.

There are many very knowledgeable members - John Harney is a long-time member, as are other owner/managers of commercial tea businesses.

There is also a very extensive list of tea shops all over the world. Not all the shops are still in business because these listings depend on updates by members, but corrections are made when the site owner is notified.

I joined in '98 and I get the Teamail messages via digest, in a group, rather than individual messages.

And there is also a Tea Blog that was begun in '07 and like my blog, does not have regular posts but the ones that are there are often very informative.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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From the tea bags in my cabinet. I think this will help my palate become more aware of tea flavors.

Do you mean teabag teabags, and are you joking? Because I don't think you will develop much of an appreciation for tea drinking floor sweepings.

teachat.com is another good resource, if you haven't seen it.

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From the tea bags in my cabinet. I think this will help my palate become more aware of tea flavors.

Do you mean teabag teabags, and are you joking? Because I don't think you will develop much of an appreciation for tea drinking floor sweepings.

teachat.com is another good resource, if you haven't seen it.

There are some very good teas in tea bags. They are not all "sweepings" - I have some from The Republic of Tea which are very good.

Amanzi produces tea bags with premium teas and there are several others.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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Look what I got:

P1020987.JPG

I'm busily reading through it in preparation for a tasting at Harney & Sons on Thursday.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Excellent! Do you know what kind of teas you'll be tasting, so you can read up on the relevant chapters?

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i had my virgin foray to the Harney flagship in Soho this weekend and was going to recommend that book - from the minute i picked it up, i imagined myself drinking my way through all the chapters, tea by tea.

the shop itself is utterly gorgeous, beautiful airy space, uncluttered (unlike English-style tea establishments) and full of light.

when i went in, i noodled around for a bit, then went straight to the back to the tea lounge, sat down and inquired if i could order some kind of tea tasting. the response was that they didn't do that, so i monopolized the server for 20 minutes trying to decide which tea to order and have them brew. i probably smelled 30 teas, much to my nose's confusion.

i also ordered a very good snack from their nicely-curated short menu.

having finished a small pot of something i liked but did not love, i went back into the main shop area and was dismayed to find that the staff at the LOOOONG tea bar offers (1) tastes of ANY of the hundred or so teas and (2) FLIGHTS of tea tastings, which was exactly what i wanted.

gee, thanks cafe folk!

so i tasted a bunch of things, bought two ounces of something i liked, and promised myself i'd go back next weekend.

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This afternoon at Harney & Sons was a pretty enlightening experience. I'll report more fully soon.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Lots of good ideas here. Do tell about your tasting experience, Steven. Many of the best tea shops offer tea tasting, flights of tea, and tea appreciation classes. I think it's the best and easiest way to learn if someone wants to go beyond Lipton tea bags, but is overwhelmed with all the tea categories and selections - as well as the many way of brewing - available. Makes conquering the learning curve a much faster.

One can brew tea as simply or as complexly as you are inclined. If you just want to brew a cup a day that's as simple as it gets once you find a tea or teas you like. Just don't buy large quantities of any one single tea. While you are exploring, try very small quantities (1 - 2 ounces/25 - 50 g) of, say, three teas at a time. Or high quality tea bags. Otherwise you'll just add to the quantity of dead teas you already have.

My 2 cents.

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To me once you start getting into tea, you really learn that it is a lot like fine wine. The different estates, brews, kinds and like wine the kind that is good is the kind you like and will drink.

I also happen to feel that some really good teas come in bags. A lot of my "every day tea" and what I call "work tea" comes in bag form. Easy to brew. Now when I am at home I break out all the stuff to brew up a pot. But I am a tea snob, I admit.

I think you have a fine book for getting into it. I know you will enjoy the adventure!


"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

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To me once you start getting into tea, you really learn that it is a lot like fine wine. The different estates, brews, kinds and like wine the kind that is good is the kind you like and will drink.

I also happen to feel that some really good teas come in bags. A lot of my "every day tea" and what I call "work tea" comes in bag form. Easy to brew. Now when I am at home I break out all the stuff to brew up a pot. But I am a tea snob, I admit.

I think you have a fine book for getting into it. I know you will enjoy the adventure!

I agree completely. There are some excellent teas available bagged. Some are certainly superior to many loose teas.

The tea "pouches" in which Mighty Leaf offers most of their premium teas, are beautifully constructed - and are transparent so you can actually see the tea they contain.

The Organic Darjeeling Estate is to my taste, a superior Darjeeling - and it can be infused twice.

Adagio also offers their teas in teabags and they are the full leaf teas.

A step up from there are the teas offered in the pyramid-shaped silken tea infusers of Tea Forté which are pricy but are impressive when people see them for the first time. Oprah gushed about the infusers on one of her shows.

Their teas are also offered loose.

There are other tea merchants that offer teas in silk or nylon bags and I have tried some but can't find the links right now.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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I really do care about tea - it's not quite an obsession but is certainly a habit. :wub:

I have spent part of the day shifting my collection of teas into a temporary abode while I rearrange some shelves in the cabinet where they have been living.

Needless to day, I "discovered" some teas that have been languishing in the darker corners of the cabinet, some hiding behind larger containers. :hmmm:

All these contain tea or "tisanes" of various types.

I noted in an earlier post that I am somewhat partial to Republic of Tea and the top shelf holds 31 offerings from RoT, plus three tins of another brand.

Most on the second shelf are from Adagio.

The third shelf holds some of my own tea blends in the Cambro containers - and some miscellaneous teas, including several brands of bagged teas.

The bottom shelf also has some of my own blends and some more bagged teas.

tea cabinet.JPG

Contrary to some of the "tea gurus" who declare that tea loses much of its flavor with time, I have found that some teas taste better to me when they have been stored for a while. What seems a bit harsh in a new "flush" becomes much more mellow after several months or even a year.

I do store teas carefully, in a dry place that is not subject to excessive heat or cold.

The boxes with the bagged teas are usually in the large square Cambro containers with tightly sealing lids but those are currently in the dishwasher.

Should I start worrying that I have gone a bit too far? :unsure:


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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