Why is Cheese Seasonal?

The upcoming Cheese Tuesday, “Summer’s Best”, will celebrate farmstead cheeses that are only available now, or are at their best during the summer months. (July 17 at 7:00)


Cheeses for July 17th’s Cheese Tuesday

I am often asked about seasonality: why are some cheeses not available year round, and why are some cheeses better at certain times of the year? We are talking about farmstead cheese (where the animals are raised and the cheese is made on the same farm) and small farm cheese. Industrially made cheese is the same day in, day out, year in, year out.

Well, it is all about the milk. Cows, sheep and goats all have a natural cycle of lactation, giving birth in the spring, and producing milk until the fall, when the animal goes dry, and rests up until the cycle begins in the next spring. It is easy to adjust a cow’s breeding cycle so that most members of a herd will always be producing milk. Not so easy with goats or sheep; sheep farmers usually run out of milk in October, and goats stop milking in November/December. No milk, no cheese.

Just as importantly, the content of milk changes dramatically during the milking season. After all, the purpose of milk is to feed a baby animal, and as this baby grows, its nutritional needs change, and Mamma knows best.  Summer milk is relatively low in fat content, which shoots up dramatically in the fall. This summer milk is superior to fall milk if you are making hard cheeses meant to last: high fat content can lead to spoilage issues.  Traditionally, Comté, a hard Alpine cheese with long aging potential is made in Summer months when the cows are grazing in alpine meadows. When the cows come inside and the fat content of the milk climbs in the fall and winter, production of Comté stops, and soft, lush and fatty Vacherin Mont d’Or is made instead.

Summer milk has other very desirable qualities. The grazing animals have a great diet of fresh grasses, wildflowers and herbs, the flavors of which are transferred to the milk and cheese.  As the animals move from pasture to pasture, their daily diet changes, which leads to subtle but wonderful variations in the daily batches of cheese.

Industrial makers, on the other hand, use “standardized” milk, similar to supermarket milk that has been adjusted for fat content.  No variation, no subtlety, no change.  I recently read a great definition of artisan cheese making. The artisan changes the recipe to fit the milk. The industrial cheese maker changes the milk to fit the recipe. Vive la différance!

A visit to Nepal

Your intrepid L’Espalier Tea Sommelier has just returned from an extra-ordinary trip to Nepal. If you have been in to join us for tea within the last couple of months, you may have already enjoyed an exceptional tea from the Kuwapani Estate in Nepal. I’m hoping that many of you can join us in the very near future to experience some breathtakingly fresh teas from Nepal that were still on the bush last week! There is so much that I’d love to share with all of you, so I’m breaking it up into multiple blog entries, with this being the first of several to come.

Nepal is an incredibly beautiful country, with wonderful teas that are unfortunately practically unheard of in the west. Part of the problem is that Nepal is landlocked, without the readily available ports found in China to the north and India to the south. In fact, a significant amount of Nepali tea leaves are routed through Darjeeling and then sold as Darjeeling tea, with very little of the money going to the Nepali farmers. Overtime, I hope that these very special teas will be appreciated here in the US so that the Nepali farmers will be able to sell their finest harvests directly to US importers.

I was fortunate to be invited to be part of a delegation from the US Tea Association in affiliation with USAid. We were traveling as a group of 9, with 6 of us being American, 1 Bengali, 1 from Holland and 1 from Denmark. The timing of our trip was non-ideal as the country is in a bit of turmoil over the finalization of their constitution. This resulted in our having an armed military/police escort at all times that we were traveling outside of Kathmandu, which was the majority of the trip. Depending on the determined risk within each area that we traveled, our escort varied between 4 and roughly 20 soldiers. All of whom where friendly yet professional at all times.

After being shown some of the local historic, architectural and religious treasures in and around Kathmandu the first day, we headed up and out to the mountains and the tea!! In addition to tea growth and production, which is always fascinating for me, I was particularly pleased to see an example of the local vermiculture, where live earthworms and a form of composting are used to produced a fully organic fertilizer which is used twice a year on the organic tea growth. Embracing organics is just a part of the Nepali ‘Code of Conduct’, an extraordinary set of self imposed rules followed within Nepal to embrace sustainability as well as improve the lives of the workers. In my next blog I’ll go into details on this exemplary practice.

For now, enjoy a good cuppa, hopefully of Nepali tea. I hope I will see many of you over the next few weeks to enjoy some hand-couriered incredibly fresh tea! Namaste!!

How to make breakfast for dessert

Pastry Chef Jiho Kim whipped up this dessert, which he calls “Breakfast”, a play on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,  at Boston Magazine‘s Top Desserts event last week. Jiho’s dish includes a butter brioche cake, gianduja cremeaux (similar to Nutella), Concord grape jelly, bacon powder, milk foam, and milk sorbet (not pictured).

Here are all of the recipes for the components on the dish, should you dare try this at home!

Gianduja Cremeaux
Yield: 22 Cylinders

560g Gianduja
651g Heavy Cream
420g Water
42g Glucose
2.1g Agar (a gelling agent, derived from seaweed)
2.1g Iota (a gelling agent, derived from seaweed)
.53g Locust Bean Gum (a gelling agent, derived from the seeds of the carob tree)
2.1g Sea Salt

Bring cream to a boil with the gianduja and glucose. Hand blend all the dry ingredients into the water. Bring to a boil for 2 min, transfer to a vita prep (or blender) and blend for 2 min. Strain into ganache mix, whisk together and pour into cylinder molds.

Milk Meringue
Yield: 2.5 Dehydrator Trays

1000g Skim Milk
500g Mint Milk
2.5g Iota
1.25g Guar Gum
150g Sugar
1 tsp Pregel Mint Extract

Bring milk to a boil and transfer to a Vita Prep (or blender). Add iota, guar, and sugar, blend well for 3 minutes. Strain and whip until stiff peak. Pipe into small “kisses” and dehydrate.

Concord Grape Fluid Gel
Yield: ~ 1qt

600g Concord Grape Puree
400g Water
10g Low Gellan (gelling agent)
3.4g Sodium Citrate
200g Sugar
1g Xanthan Gum
4g Malic Acid

Boil puree with water. Transfer to Vita Prep (or blender). Blend in remaining ingredients in order. Blend well. Set on ice, blend again, and pass through a chinoise for smoothness.

Milk Sorbet
Yield: 1 gal

1800g Whole Milk
1200g Light Cream
120g Glucose Powder
4g Locust Bean Gum
4g Iota
4g Salt
200g Dehydrated Milk Solids
560g Sugar

Whisk the chemicals into the wet ingredients. Bring to a rolling boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and hand blend for 2 minutes. Then hand blend in glucose powder, milk solida, and sugar. Set on ice. Blend in Vita Prep (or blender) and pass through a  chinoise.

Brioche Microwave Cake

5ea eggs
60g cake flour
120g brioche
100g sugar
120g brown butter
6g salt

Vita Prep (or blend) together the eggs, brioche, sugar, and salt. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in sifted cake flour. Stream in melted, but not hot, brown butter while whisking. Load into a canister and charge twice with N2O. Pipe into a paper cup and microwave for 25 seconds or until fully cooked.

Bacon Powder

Malto Dextrin
Glucose Powder
LIquid Nitrogen

Bake bacon at 350F until crispy. Drain fat, mix in food processor with enough malto dextrin to make fluffy powder. Dip fried bacon in liquid nitrogen and Vita Prep to powder. Whisk into maltodextrin. Season with salt and glucose powder.

Jiho demonstrating one of the components on his dessert

Buying and Storing Tea

L’Espalier has recently introduced its fifth signature blend, available for enjoying with
us, or to purchase for home consumption. The current L’Espalier collection consists of:

L’Espalier Afternoon Blend

This signature tea consists of a blend of Darjeeling and three Sri Lankan Estate teas as well as two Chinese green teas lightly scented with jasmine, Italian oil of bergamot and grapefruit peel.

Chef’s Blend

A unique blend of black teas from China, Sri Lanka and India, blended with a touch of fruit,
Chinese herbs and chrysanthemum petals.

Boylston Breakfast Blend

Our signature version of an ‘English Breakfast’ tea consists of an assertive blend of Ceylon, Indian and Chinese teas. It was blended with milk in mind.

Gloucester Street Blend

Another L’Espalier exclusive, this assertive and smoky blend of teas is reminiscent of the
old ‘Caravan’ blends. It is an ideal accompaniment to cheeses of all sorts, especially more
pungent cheeses.

L’Espalier Masala Chai Blend

Another L’Espalier signature, this blend of Indian Assam and Nilgiri teas is enhanced by freshly ground spices. This blend is typically enjoyed with milk and sweetener.

While on the topic of teas for you to enjoy at home, we thought we’d share with you
some basic information to ensure that you always have fresh high quality teas available
for your enjoyment.


Photo courtesy of Julian Landa


Buying and Storing Tea

Freshness is crucial for virtually all teas, with the exception of aged teas such as Pu-Erh.
While it is tempting to ‘collect’ teas to the point where there is a cabinet full of teas of
unknown origin or date, this may lead to consuming stale teas. Therefore it is best to
purchase small quantities that will be consumed relatively quickly. We recommend no
more than a quarter pound of any one tea.

When choosing what teas to purchase, ideally it will be possible to see the leaves, smell
them and possibly even taste the infusion. When looking at the leaves, look for clean,
glossy, even sized leaves without twigs or stray particles. The tea should not have a
dusty, crushed or powdery look to it. When steeped, the tea should be clear, never
muddy looking. The aroma and taste should be fresh. The specifics of the taste and
aroma will vary by the style of tea, but dull, musty or strong, off flavors or aromas should be a red-flag of improper handling. If the freshness or quality of the teas is questionable, purchase from another source.

If no good local sources exist, then the internet can be the ideal answer. When
purchasing mail order, the tea can’t be seen first, but consider ordering small sample
sizes for new styles, particularly with first time purchases from new companies. Once
vendors are identified with the desired quality, price and selection, larger quantities can
be purchased, keeping in mind that tea is to be drunk, not ‘collected’.

When storing teas, assuming the purchased tea was fresh and well handled up until this
point, it is crucial to keep them away from air, light, moisture and heat. This means
DO NOT store teas in that cabinet above the stove that is so convenient to the kettle!
The variability of temperature within that cabinet will shorten the lifespan of the tea
considerably. They should be stored in air-tight and moisture proof containers. If the
container is clear, then it should be stored inside of a dark cupboard, and never put that
damp teaspoon back into the container to scoop more tea!

Historically, tea caddies had locks on them, but these days we’re more worried about
moisture and air than thievery.

While you may not be collecting tea, you may still want to have several different varieties
available at a given time. Whether it is for drinking, or for cooking with tea (a passion
of mine), an array including blacks, greens, oolongs, scented, and Pu-Erhs can meet your
mood and needs. And of course a L’Espalier signature blend or two should be among the


Cynthia Gold

Posted in Tea