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Good tea selection to keep on hand?


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My friends and acquaintances know that they'll always get to try one of my ever changing espresso blend when they visit and I typically have some roasted coffee varietals (at least three or four) in the freezer for regular coffee.

How about tea? I drink it only on occasion and keep a tin of Earl Grey and one of Irish Breakfast in the freezer (loose tea - I use a tea ball). Will one of you kindly souls with tea expertise suggest five or six varities that I might invest in? I'd like to have a coupl stalwart old reliable type selections for the unadventurous but also want to have a few that most of my friends have not tried - something a bit less commonplace that I might introduce them to.

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If you desire something really different, and more exotic, you might try these:

Pinhead Gunpowder Pearl

Keemun English Breakfast

China Yunnan

and Russian Caravan

They are all quite distinctive and certainly make for some delightful tea experiences. I have ordered them online from Grace Teas.

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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You gotta be careful with Russian Caravan. I recommend G. H. Ford as a reliable source. I bought some RC from Teavana (I think) and it was just awful. Way too musty, no subtlety, nothing you'd ever want to ingest.

A good Darjeeling is considered to be a fine, fine thing. I think I read Republic of Tea labelling it "the Rolls Royce of tea." And speaking of Republic of Tea, why not try their Mango Ceylon or Ginger Peach, to kick things up? The Mango Ceylon is our Sunday tea. It's wondrously floral and aromatic.

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I can't recommend these guys highly enough:Upton Tea Imports

Unbelievable selection, tons of informations, and best of all, customer reviews. The most exhaustive selection of excellent teas I have ever encountered.

Some you might consider:

A full-bodied Ceylon for the English Breakfast types.

My favorites for naturally decaffeinated teas are Rooibos (red tea) and Honeybush.

At least one type of green tea; something less commonplace than your usual sencha. Gyokuro is my favorite-- it's bright and sweet but can be hard to find. Genmaicha is nice too, but a lot of folks don't like it. I keep mugicha and kukicha around for making iced tea. I don't know much about Chinese green teas. If I were you, I'd probably venture into a tea shop and do some tasting or order a sampler.

White tea is wonderful and surprisingly few people have tried it.

The best flavored tea I have ever had is the Honey Pear Black Tea (loose; comes in one of those trendy black tins) made by Golden Moon. It sounds gimmicky, but it's utterly amazing.

Hmm. If you have the right ingredients on hand, you could whip up homemade spiced chai, which always goes over well.

Lady Grey beats Earl Grey anyday. It has citrus peel added, and is divinely aromatic.

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one should always have some chamomile on hand for tummy aches or insomnia.

lisa

edited to add: i realize that you arent actually looking to medicate your guests, but EVERYONE should have some chamomile around.

Edited by ElfWorks (log)

"Animal crackers and cocoa to drink

That is the finest of suppers, I think

When I'm grown up and can have what I please,

I think I shall always insist upon these"

*Christopher Morley

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If you're going for greens, I'd steer away from Upton's - theirs never satisfied me the way greens from SpecialTeas, Harney's, or Silk Roads [the latter has no on-line presence, but gets stunning greens from China] have. I think they do better with their black selections.

Other on-line vendors I've recommended would be Capital [Toronto], In Pursuit of Tea, Rishi, and TeaTrader.

Remember that greens, oolongs, blacks, and whites all have different brewing techniques in terms of times and temperatures to pull out the best - and even within categories, e.g., Darjeelings, esp. first flush, only about two minutes, Assams 3-4 minutes, Yunnans - up to five minutes; greens 140-165F, oolongs 180-196F, blacks, 205F, and whites can be stunning if brewed for as long as ten minutes using 130F water.

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edited to add:  i realize that you arent actually looking to medicate your guests,  but EVERYONE should have some chamomile around.

Sez who? :laugh: but I'll choose something other than chamomile tea for my nefarious schemes :wink:

Remember that greens, oolongs, blacks, and whites all have different brewing techniques in terms of times and temperatures to pull out the best - and even within categories, e.g., Darjeelings, esp. first flush, only about two minutes, Assams 3-4 minutes, Yunnans - up to five minutes; greens 140-165F, oolongs 180-196F, blacks, 205F, and whites can be stunning if brewed for as long as ten minutes using 130F water.

Perhaps this deserves a separate thread but do you mean water that stays at about 130 degrees F for the duration of the steeping time? Would one use a thermal carafe or somethign of the sort to maintain the temp stability? Sorry for my obvious ignorance but I'm still way down on the learning curve.

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I'll choose something other than chamomile tea for my nefarious schemes

shame shame shame. . . . .

:biggrin:

lisa

"Animal crackers and cocoa to drink

That is the finest of suppers, I think

When I'm grown up and can have what I please,

I think I shall always insist upon these"

*Christopher Morley

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i would not give guests earl grey , russian caravan, or lapsang souchoung -

these are usually very strongly scented-

lightly fermented oolong-ali shan from the Fragrant leaf or Upton Tea

first flush darjeeling- from Kyela Teas

jasmine pearls -Imperial Tea Court, Upton

a Korean winter green tea from Shan Shui teas-

a Puehr from Silk Road Teas- there is not much of a storage problem

I would also keep 1-3 different types of tisanes

mint/chamomile/lemon verbena,etc.

rooibos

chamomile is not a tea-it is an herb brewed in water- a tisane

same for rooibis

Joanne

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chamomile is not a tea-it is an herb brewed in water- a tisane

same for rooibis

Thanks for the suggestions (everyone). I suppose I should have been more specific or just more enlightened :rolleyes: - I have a tendency to include herbal "teas" in my thinking when I use the term "tea". Now I can wow my friends by using the proper terminology. So tell me.... (I'm addressing my easily impressed guests here) would you like your tisane shaken or stirred?

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I'll second the recommendation of Gray & Seddon as a supplier, but I'll tell you to buy a different set of teas from them than Gary suggested-- Go for their oolongs, the Anxi Gold King in particular, but also the Shantou Autumn Bloom and the Water Maiden. All are very much unlike most other teas you've had recommended so far. Floral in their aroma, delicious when brewed at about 180.

I'd also suggest Ten Ren's Pouchong and the Green King's Tea... I'm drinking both in the second grad right now... can't make myself spend for the first. The Pouchong is another floral tea with a long lasting finish, and the King's Tea is their Green Oolong infused with some ginseng, which gives it a great mouthfeel and flavor. The Ten Ren teas come in canisters that seal very very well, so storage isn't a problem.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Everyone always has chamomile or mint. If you want to stand out among your tisane drinking friends, go for something more unusual, such as a rose or lavander tea. Tazo makes a brew called Passion that I love.

Edited by hillvalley (log)

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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If you're looking for non-tea brewed-stuff beverages, something really cool to get your hands on is hibiscus flowers. They brew up into a ruby red, tart drink... kinda like natural Kool Aid... Add a little sugar, cool it down, and you've got a vitamin C rich iced drink that beats any powdered mix.

You can find the stuff in bulk at latin food shops under the name Flor de Jamaica.

There is a middle eastern tradition of mixing it with mint, which makes quite a good refereshing cool drink too.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Tea is truly a subjective taste. Not everyone senses the same taste in a paritcular tea. You can go broke buying a selections of teas and often they will languish on the shelf until they no longer brew up as they should.

I would like to suggest that you check out Harney and Sons

http://store.yahoo.com/harneyteas/index.html

Harney has a sample program where you can order up to 5 samples of loose teas per order, each sample costs 2.00 and is enough to brew 4 cups of tea.

Place an order for a regular item, either in bags or loose, perhaps a tea with which you are familar such as an Irish breakfast if you like strong tea or a Formosa Oolong if you like a more delicate, winey tea.

Then add 5 samples of teas that sound interesting and you have a good selection with which to experiment with not a lot of outlay.

If you like floral teas, Jane's garden tea is a green tea (Bancha) blended with rosebuds.

"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

 

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You should read some of the posts on the TeaMail list. Incredible detail....

I do love tea but the descriptions of the various aromas and flavors as the tea steeps and as it is consumed, the after tastes and etc., may be educational for some but for me it is enough to simply enjoy the tea. I do not have to reassure myself with all this minutiae to get satisfaction from my cuppa.

"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

 

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As far as brewing goes, preheat your brewing vessel, be it a Brown Betty, or a YiXing pot, a gaiwan, a Chatsford with the removeable infusing basket [highly recommended] or a Jenaer glass mug with glass infusing insert [also highly thought of] with hot water. Depending on how obsessive you are, bring the brewing water to a boil in a separate kettle, and then let cool to the appropriate temperature - some use thermometers, others simply learn how long it takes to drop to the appropriate range, empty out the brewing vessel, put in your leaves, let 'er steep for the length of time that fits the type of tea, and decant through a strainer if your leaves were floating free in the pot or pull out the infuser. Our preference is for an infuser that lets the leaves float as freely as possible - fie on tea"spoon" infusers or tea balls. Far better to decant through a strainer into cups, mugs, or another pot. If your pot was preheated, it will retain sufficient heat for the few minutes it takes to brew.

As I noted on the other of your tea threads for today, Andie's right about getting samples unless one of your constant visitors is a tea drinker or you find yourself going over to the other side....And if you have any more questions, there are several of us glad to chime in with our opinions - I know there are at least three of us TeaMailers here - me, andiesenji, and jpr54_, and I think I've seen cdh on rec.food.drink.tea

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I'll second the recommendation of Gray & Seddon as a supplier, but I'll tell you to buy a different set of teas from them than Gary suggested.

I've been impressed with G&S's service and pricing, but feel let down by them this year. I'm not a tea maven, just a nut for longjing and an occasional biluochun (for variety, LOL), but G&S seems to have dropped the seasonals. I even emailed David Gray several weeks ago to ask when the 2004 longjings would come in, and never got a response.

I got my shipment from Todd & Holland today, and the 2004 pre-Qing Ming longjing was, if anything, better than I got from G&S last year, though it could be weather-related, of course. T&H is notably pricier than G&S, but pleasant to deal with. They (that would be Janet Todd) are very prompt to reply to email queries and they have an 800 number. Gray & Seddon are in Australia.

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As far as brewing goes, preheat your brewing vessel, be it a Brown Betty, or a YiXing pot, a gaiwan, a Chatsford with the removeable infusing basket [highly recommended] or a Jenaer glass mug with glass infusing insert [also highly thought of] with hot water.

The Jenaer is one I've considered getting, because the infuser is almost as big as the glass. Plenty of room for the leaves to "perform." But I fear my wife's scorn, so I resolutely adhere to the Shanghai style: no infuser, and just a tall glass tumbler without a handle. I call it "double jeopardy" style, because you not only usually get tea leaves in your teeth, but also burn your fingers.

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I knew that :laugh:

I've seen discussion on other boards that this year's LongJing and future year's crops are threatened, as usual, by industrialization via the loss of land. I think that's an ever-present problem in the tea-growing world, as well as in other parts of the globe, like the loss of habitat, wild spaces, and family farms here in the States

Edited by memesuze (log)
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I've seen discussion on other boards that this year's LongJing and future year's crops are threatened, as usual, by industrialization via the loss of land.

I believe the prime growing area (i.e. in the immediate vicinity of Longjing town) is under government protection. Industrialization will eventually mean a scarcer supply of more affordable LJ, and higher prices for the good stuff, though. FWIW, Todd & Holland's price for pre-Qing Ming, pricey though it may be, is the same this year as it was last.

There are also vendors selling "longjing" tea from Fujian...

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  • 2 weeks later...

If you don't drink tea yourself, I wouldn't invest in too many types as they will sit on the shelf and just age. If I didn't know my guests' taste, I would go with some very cautious popular varieties, such as Darjeeling, Ceylon, and Earl Gray. Lapsong Souchong has a very smokey flavor, not to everyone's liking (including my own). I also keep some decaf tea on hand for those who want it.

I have been buying my tea at Fortnum and Mason whenever in London but have not traveled there lately, so I will try some of the links for suppliers that were posted here. Thanks folks!

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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