Our Sunday focused Tea Tasting: Assam

On Sunday, February 24th was our monthly tasting, and this month we had the pleasure of exploring the northern Indian tea growing region of Assam.  Along the banks of the Brahmaputra River can be found the beautiful tea gardens that produce the distinctive, full bodied, bold, malty flavors with a touch of fruitiness that we have come to associate with Assam teas.  The classic Assams follow this flavor profile, but we also enjoyed some rare atypical examples of this region.  A highlight of the afternoon was a slow-cooked Masala style Chai, made of course with Assam.  Wherever you go in India, you will find marvelous examples of hand-made, slow simmered Masala tea.  Everywhere you turn, there will be a slightly different recipe for Masala tea (the word chai simply means tea, but in the US it has come to be commonly used for Masala style tea) each one a masterpiece.  Many versions are made by first simmering water, tea, and spices for a period before the milk gets added, others by simmering the milk for an extended period as well.  This second approach is my preference, and the one we served.  Most of the spices commonly found in Masala blends are fat soluble.  Slow simmering in milk allows a wonderful depth of flavor to develop.

Assam teas are grown at a relatively low elevation, roughly 500 feet above sea level.  This explains the bold, full-bodied Assams that go so well with the addition of milk and sweetener.  Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica is native to this region, observed growing wild in Assam by Scottish Botanist Robert Bruce in 1823 after attempts to grow the China bush, Camellia Sinensis Sinensis were meeting less than ideal results.  In India, and elsewhere, it can often be found hybridized with the more common Camellia Sinensis Sinensis.

Assam leaves may be finished as either Orthodox or CTC (Cut, Tear, Curl), with Orthodox style typically offering more complexity and CTC offering more assertiveness.  The teas that we enjoyed during the February tasting were all Orthodox style, but those of you who enjoy your tea particularly strong, to stand up to a LOT of milk, such as in Irish Breakfast blends, may enjoy exploring CTC styles of Assam teas as well.  Speaking of Irish Breakfast teas, that is the topic of our St. Patrick’s Day tasting on March 17!

As promised to our guests during the tasting, below you will find the recipe for our Assam based welcoming tea cocktail:

L’Espalier 24

1 1/2 ounces Assam Infused Beefeater 24
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1/4 ounce Absinthe (for rinse)
1/2 ounce ginger oolong simple syrup
3 dashes orange bitters

Pour Absinthe into chilled cocktail glass and turn to coat interior, pouring out any extra. Shake remaining ingredients with ice for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into the Absinthe rinsed cocktail glass.

Assam Infused Beefeater 24

1 liter Beefeater 24
2 tablespoons Assam tea leaves, or other full bodied black tea

Place 1 liter of gin in non-reactive container. Add tea leaves. Taste periodically until desired strength is achieved. Probably around 2 to 3 hours. Strain multiple times through cheesecloth or coffee filters until no visible tea remains. Store at room temperature or chilled.

Oolong Tea and Ginger Simple Syrup

2 cups white sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped fresh sliced ginger
1 wedge lime
1 tablespoon Oolong tea leaves, preferably a smoky high oxidation Oolong

Place sugar and water into a saucepan. Stir sugar up from the bottom, squeeze in lime and add ginger. Place over medium-high flame and bring to a boil. Turn down to low and let simmer until a clear syrup is formed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add tea leaves, stir and let sit until cool. May be left overnight at this stage. Strain.

 

The Boston Tea Party tasting Event

As our December monthly tea tasting topic, we couldn’t help but take advantage of the fact that December 16th is the anniversary of the ‘Destruction of the Tea’ which was later renamed to ‘The Boston Tea Party’.  For our tasting, we enjoyed the teas that were thrown into the harbor on that fateful day.  Our teas were much fresher however and without a hint of sea water!  For our welcoming tea cocktail, we embraced a historic Colonial Tea Punch.  Punches in that time in history had a much more sophisticated flavor profile from the ‘day-glo’ versions that you may remember from your college party days.  They were also typically much stronger than modern styles, but this recipe can be adjusted to your sensibilities.  The very act of icing this punch down, something that was not readily available to our colonial forefathers, will of course reduce the alcohol content.  One of our guests on leaving the tasting commented that ‘it tasted like history’.  So enjoy a taste of history on us.

Fish House Punch shown with a Colonial Era Tea Caddie

Fish House Punch

In honor of the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, we’d like to share with you a colonial favorite.  ‘Fish House Punch’ was created in 1732 at the gentleman’s club, ‘The Schuylkill Fishing Company’ in Philadelphia.  This angling club, which is still in existence, was the first of its kind in the American Colonies, and claims to be the oldest social club in the English-speaking world.  George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, as well as of course the Boston patriots, enjoyed Fish House Punch.  Who knows?  It may have been used to fortify the nerves and warm the bodies of the Tea Party participants on that fateful night. While the original 1732 formula is still secreted away at the ‘Fish House’ as the club is referred to, many recipes and variations have circulated over the last 280 years, through the colonies and beyond.

It is typically shown being diluted with either water or tea.  All written records of variations refer to either black or green tea (we used a Bohean black in our photo), which is what was available at that time, but to tease forward the flavors of the Peach Brandy, you may want to consider substituting your favorite Oolong.  The recipe shown is adapted from research by David Wondrich for Esquire Magazine.

Ingredients

1.5 cups superfine sugar

2 quarts water

1 quart lemon juice

2 quarts dark rum

1 quart cognac

4 ounces peach brandy

3 tablespoons full-bodied Chinese black tea leaves

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and steep tea leaves for 5 minutes.  Strain and discard leaves. Set tea aside to cool.  In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in two cups of the water, and then incorporate the lemon juice. Add the spirits and the remaining water and tea to taste.  Place a block of ice into your bowl and let stand in a cool place for the flavors to develop for an hour or so before serving.  The ready availability of ice is a modern luxury.  Since our forefathers were typically drinking at room temperature, they would balance it with more water and tea than you might, as they did not have to account for dilution from the ice.

Note: To learn more about the history of Punch as well as modern variations, see the fall issue of TEA Magazine, or the excellent book Punch, The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl by David Wondrich.

Photo courtesy of Julian Landa.

A Tea Blending Event

As part of our holiday season tea events, earlier this month we had the pleasure to host an Afternoon Tea combined with a tea blending class.  Our guests all arrived to our bright and sunny Corner Room ready to create their own signature blend.  We discussed why tea blends are created, both historically and currently, as we tasted and discussed our chosen base teas.

The base teas we played with were a classic Earl Grey, scented with bergamot oil, a full bodied and rich Chinese Keemun, a bright and aromatic Darjeeling and a Chinese Green tea, Chun Mee.  We tasted each of these individually, then started to combine them in different proportions.  Once everyone decided on their base tea, or base blend, it was time to start playing for real!

We had a variety of different dried fruits, spices, flower petals and more for scenting and flavoring our signature blends.  Initial blends were all made one cup at a time so that the test blends could be tasted and tweaked as much as desired.  When a success was reached, then it was time to formalize that tea with a recipe and a name.  A new tea was born!  After each perfect blend was named, local artist and photographer Julian Landa did a calligraphy label of the tea and then a quarter pound of the new creation could be blended, packed and sealed.

Many of our guests chose to bring home multiple bags of their signature blend when it occurred to them that a pouch of their own tea blend would make a wonderful holiday gift.  Homemade gifts are always appreciated, and this was far more unique than a batch of holiday cookies and of course can be enjoyed for weeks to come.  For our guests that chose to leave with their one quarter pound of tea, I hope they still have the opportunity to share their tea with their holiday guests, pot by pot.  Here at L’Espalier we are always blending up something new and are featuring our Holiday Blend tea for this month only.  Visit L’Espalier while it is still available!

Posted in Tea

Tea Cocktails at the DeCordova


On the rooftop of the DeCordova Museum. What a view!

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of leading a seminar at the DeCordova Museum on the evolution of the modern Tea Cocktail.  Before the event began, we had a chance to relax, chat and taste some teas on the beautiful roof-top deck of the museum. What a beautiful place to enjoy a cup of tea!  We sipped on a variety of L’Espalier signature blend teas as well as tasting one of the teas that we would later be enjoying blended into a Colonial style tea punch.  As much as we were all looking forward to tasting tea cocktails, it was hard to leave that beautiful open space to settle into a more traditional lecture space!

 

However, with the promise of Tea Cocktails, I headed on down into the museum to help the bartender set up for the event.  Arguably, the first tea cocktails could be considered the Hot Toddies of Scotland.  They were originally created to make the taste of Scotch more palatable to women.  Although tea in it’s early days was a medicinal, these early Hot Toddies were not the cold remedies of your grandmother!  Far away in the British East Indies, Punch or Paantsch was being created by the  British East Indies sailors and ‘tea men’.  Now this punch was a far cry from the day-glow overly sweet versions that many of us remember from our college days.  The punch of our forebears was a complex and well-balanced drink.  The name derives from the Hindi word for five, and refers to the five elements of a true Punch.

  • Spirit.  In Colonial New England due to the local rums that were available, this was often rum, but historically, many different spirits were used.  The most revered being Batavia Arrack from the East Indies (now Indonesia)
  • Sour. The preferred sour initially, especially with the sailors at sea was lime.
    n England, lemon and orange were preferred.  In colonial New England, where citrus could be hard to come by, we often used vinegar or verjus as well.
  • Sweet.  Sugar in the colonies was quite different from our modern refined white sugar.  It was a coarse raw sugar in block form which was ideal for using to scrape the
  •  zest off of any citrus that they were fortunate enough to have!
  • Water
  • Spice.  Spice was often interpreted as tea, but the tea could be used instead of the water component as well.  In fact, although these are two of the critical five, more often than not they could be added as one in the form of hot tea.  Another traditional spice that was often added was freshly ground nutmeg.

For those of you who are curious about what a traditional colonial Tea Punch tastes like, or would like to learn more about the teas of the colonies, I want to draw your attention to the December Tea Tasting.  As you probably know, we offer a guided tea tasting on a particular theme each month.  In December our theme does not represent a particular tea growing region, but it is focused on the December 16th Boston Tea Party.  We will be tasting the teas that went into the harbor on that fateful day! 

Join us on Sunday December 16th at 2:00 for our Sunday Tea Tasting focused on the Boston Tea Party.

 

But, back to the DeCordova.  We went on to taste and talk about Tea Sangrias which are a lighter, more modern version of a Tea Punch, and then modern tea cocktails.  The cocktail that we enjoyed was the Southern Earl Grey, a champagne Tea Cocktail currently on the menu at L’Espalier.

 

The Southern Earl Grey, a champagne Tea Cocktail. Photo by Julian Landa

Here is the recipe for the Southern Earl Grey:

Ingredients:

1/2 ounce Earl Grey infused Bourbon
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon Green tea and ginger syrup
dash of Orange Bitters
Prosecco

Add first four ingredients to a champagne flute. Fill with Prosecco or your favorite
champagne. Optionally garnish with a curl of orange zest.

Infused Bourbon

1 liter Makers Mark Bourbon
1/4 cup of Earl Grey tea leaves

Place 1 liter of vodka in non-reactive container. Add tea leaves, taste periodically
until desired strength is achieved. Probably around 2 hours. Strain multiple
times through cheesecloth or coffee filters until completely clear. Store at room
temperature or chilled.

Oolong Tea and Ginger Simple Syrup

2 cups white sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh ginger
1 wedge lemon or orange
3 tablespoons Oolong tea leaves

Place sugar and water into a saucepan. Stir sugar up from the bottom, squeeze in
citrus and add ginger. Place over medium-high flame and bring to a boil. Turn
down to low and let simmer until a clear thick syrup is formed, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, add tea leaves, stir well and let sit until cool. May be left
overnight at this stage. Strain.

 

Pairing Tea as you would fine wines. A seminar from the World Tea Expo.

I recently was once again traveling away from L’Espalier to attend the World Tea Expo where it was my great pleasure to again teach a seminar on Pairing Food with Tea.  This is one of my favorite topics to speak on.  Pairing tea and food as well as cooking with tea are areas which I believe deserve much more attention and exploration.  Camellia Sinensis is a flexible botanical with diverse culinary potential that is just beginning to be appreciated.
It was an exciting and hectic trip as this class overlapped with the certification level Specialty Tea Institute classes that I was also teaching, meaning that it was a mad dash back and forth!  The concepts in this class discussed tasting teas to deconstruct them into their basic elements in the same way you would look at wines to pair them.  Once you have looked at the teas flavors, aromatics and textures, you can then pair them for compatibility, contrast and/or balance.
Wine is of course an ideal complement to most meals, and L’Espalier is known for it’s exceptional wine list, but for a variety of reasons, you may not always want to be consuming alcohol.  Fine teas give you the opportunity to offer an ideal pairing of food and beverage to elevate the dining experience on the days that wine does not make sense for you. This class was a fun and tasty one where we nibbled on various fruits, cheeses, chocolates and even some tea cured salmon and talked about why certain teas paired well with some of these items and others did not.  Although my goal was for all the students to leave the class able to taste teas with an eye towards proper pairing, and develop ideal pairings on their own, this was still a much more relaxed and casual class than the certification level classes for STI.  There were no exams involved with this pairing class!

I’ve been away from L’Espalier quite a bit lately for various classes and conferences, not to mention a recent trip to Nepal, but I am not planning any more trips in the next couple of months as we have so many exciting tea events coming up here at home!  If you want to find out more about our upcoming tea events, you can look on our website, but for a quick summary of what will be keeping me here in Boston for the next couple of months, and happily steeped in tea:
November 18th, our monthly guided tea tasting focused on Darjeeling.  We’ll be enjoying some classic Darjeelings as well as some very rare and unusual ones.
December 2nd, we’re having ‘A Tea Blending Party’ where we’ll talk about how to blend teas and then get hands-on!  Each of our guests will leave with a pouch of their own signature tea blend.
December 9th, our ‘Princess Tea’ geared towards our younger tea lovers with a variety of special treats and tiara’s and crowns for all of our special young guests!
December 16th, the anniversary of the historic event that led to the American Revolution!  We’ll be tasting the teas that went into the harbor on that fateful day as well as a colonial style tea punch.
December 23rd and 24th our Holiday Tea Celebrations with a lively Holiday theme and special holiday treats.  A great family event.
December 30th, a Tarot Tea.  See what 2013 has in store for you!  Enjoy a classic Afternoon Tea experience, including L’Espalier fortune cookies many of which reveal special prizes, then have your cards read.  What a great way to finish off 2012.
January 6th, A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  Come unveil your favorite hats at a very special tea party for children of all ages!
Photos courtesy of Julian Landa.
Posted in Tea

The Launching of the Sunday Tea Tastings

Last month we launched our new Sunday Tea Tasting series.  This afternoon tea experience is structured like our Wine Mondays, with all guests arriving at the same time.  One Sunday a month we will gather at 3:00 to enjoy a themed afternoon tea with some special surprises, as well as taste our way through five different teas.  The menu, teas and discussion on our first session on Nepal was lively and varied!

Along with discussing and tasting the various teas, we had the opportunity to chat about some of the local customs and cuisine of Nepal.  We shared a welcoming drink made with Alliya, a Nepalese liquor distilled traditionally from either millet or rice.  This is often made at home to serve to special guests (which of course our L’Espalier guests are!) or at festival time.

The last tea that we tasted was a Himalayan salted butter tea.  When enjoyed in Tibet and Nepal it is traditionally made from Yak butter, but Yak butter is curiously hard to come by in Boston, so we enjoyed a version made from a recipe shared with me on my recent trip to the Illam tea district in Nepal utilizing cows milk.  Rather than the clear glass teapots that we used for our other tasting teas, to best enjoy the color, clarity and hue of the teas, we enjoyed our salted butter tea from authentic Nepalese teapots.

As we finished up our meal, our guests had a chance to taste some lapsi, a popular Nepalese snack.  The brown-orange squares shown are lapsi, a sugared dried fruit that tastes like a wonderful combination of mango and passion fruit perhaps with a touch of tamarind thrown in.  The darker pieces are a variation that consists of pureed lapsi combined with salt, chilies and spices, then dried and fermented.  Quite popular in Nepal, but the general opinion at our tasting is that it is an acquired taste!

 

At L’Espalier we are looking forward to Sunday, October 21st when we will take a focused look at the teas of Fujian province, China, the birthplace of both white and oolong teas.  There are so many exquisite teas from that region, that my biggest challenge was deciding which teas for us to feature.  But you’ll need to join us next week to find out.

Tea Cocktails in San Diego

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in the San Diego Spirits Festival to do some Tea Cocktail demos.  Throughout the industry, bartenders are beginning to consider the use of tea, Camellia Sinensis, within their creations.  I’m hoping for it to become a comfortable part of all mixologists arsenal, and not a ‘special’ ingredient to use.  To this end, I demonstrated the concepts of infusing tea and other botanicals into your base alcohol, using tea in your simple syrups and using tea in various garnishes such as tea smoked salt drink rims.  It was great fun and a wonderful opportunity to see what else is hot and new in the field.  This festival was for  both cocktail professionals and enthusiasts, so the audience was varied and appreciative.

One of many highlights of the multi-day gathering is the bartender competition.  Twelve passionate and talented bartenders competed in a series of 4 elimination rounds.   Seen below is a group of those bartenders, early in the heat.

The judges put the bartenders through their paces.   Featured judges included Henry Preiss, Johnny Schuler, Kyle Hall, Jeff Josenhans, Scotty Wagner and Adam Stemmler. The final round was close, with only one point between runner up Nate Howell and the winner, Oscar Takahashi.  Congratulations to Oscar, the 2012 champion.

In between the various parties, demos and competitions, I also had the pleasure of doing a number of book signings.  San Diego is a beautiful city with wonderful cocktail and culinary options, hopefully soon to have a touch more tea added to their options.

Distillery 209 Gin supplied product for my demos, so a couple of drinks were planned to be served during the class using this gin.  As soon as I tasted this beautiful citrus forward gin, I knew that one of the drinks that I featured needed to be a vehicle to play up on these clean, fresh citrus tones.  Hence, the birth of the Gimlet 209.

Gimlet 209

This is a variation on the classic Gimlet which would normally be gin, lime juice and simple syrup.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces Infused 209 Gin
  • 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 ounce green tea lemongrass syrup
  • 4 leaves fresh basil

Muddle 3 leaves fresh basil with a small amount of ice and the lime juice in a cocktail shaker.  Add additional ice, infused gin and syrup.  Shake well for 10 to 15 seconds.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Add remaining basil leaf as a garnish.

Infused 209 Gin

  • 1 liter 209 Gin
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh lemongrass
  • 1/4 cup of green tea leaves, Dragonwell or Sencha are good choices

Place 1 liter of gin in non-reactive container.  Add tea leaves and lemongrass.  Taste periodically until desired strength is achieved.  Probably around 2 hours.  Strain multiple times through cheesecloth or coffee filters until no visible tea or lemongrass remains.  Store at room temperature or chilled.

Green Tea and Lemongrass Simple Syrup

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh lemongrass
  • 1 wedge lemon or lime
  • 2 tablespoons green tea leaves

Place sugar and water into a saucepan.  Stir sugar up from the bottom, squeeze in citrus and add lemongrass.  Place over medium-high flame and bring to a boil.  Turn down to low and let simmer until a clear thick syrup is formed, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, add tea leaves, stir and let sit until cool. May be left overnight at this stage.  Strain.

A visit to Bully Boy Distillery

Members of the L’Espalier team recently enjoyed a visit to Bully Boy Distillery, owned and operated by brothers Will and Dave Willis.

Photos by Julian Landa

New England has a long history of artisan rum distilleries stemming back to colonial times and the triangular trade routes. By 1770, New Englanders were exporting 5 million gallons of rum, the most profitable and prolific export item. It has been estimated that there were over 150 rum distilleries in colonial New England. During prohibition, the last of these distilleries closed down, but the Willis family farmhouse basement was home to a significant collection of local artisan spirits.

 

Some 70 years later, this hidden vault was rediscovered on the farm, inspiring in the brothers the idea for a new distillery to carry on Boston’s tradition of small-batch distilling. Their childhood home and fourth-generation working family farm now also supplies much of the grain used in their products. A small batch distillery which produces noteworthy (and award winning) spirits and also grows its own organic grain speaks strongly to L’Espalier’s core beliefs in artisanal and New England ingredients, so a visit was destined to occur.

 

Bully Boy white rum, which exhibits wonderful caramel and butterscotch notes, is made from Blackstrap molasses from New Orleans rather than the Caribbean molasses used by its colonial predecessors. It is a smoother and more complex product than the rums of our forefathers, but the artisan and entrepreneurial spirit is the same.

For their upcoming aged rum, they are aging in 80% old bourbon barrels and 20% old wine barrels, and they are currently slow-aging their first batches of aged whiskey (a bourbon and rye blend) in new American oak barrels. Among many aspects of this small batch distillery, it was fascinating for us to experience firsthand the talent, care and passion of the Willis brothers. An informative, enjoyable as well as delicious trip.

 

Autumn in the Park
This drink is perfect as summer comes to a close or as you head into the fall and the days begin to cool off. Darjeeling Tea plays beautifully with the natural caramel and vanilla tones of the Bully Boy white rum. If you have it available, a second Flush Darjeeling is ideal, but you will find that any good quality Darjeeling will give you memorable results.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 ounces Darjeeling infused Rum
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 ounce Falernum (I use Trader Tiki’s brand)
1 1/2 ounces apple cider
1/2 ounce ginger oolong simple syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Optionally garnish with a floated dried apple ring or a slice of candied ginger on the rim.

Darjeeling Infused Rum

1 liter Rum
3 tablespoons Darjeeling tea leaves, preferably a second flush

Place 1 liter of gin in non-reactive container. Add tea leaves. Taste periodically until desired strength is achieved. Probably around 2 hours. Strain multiple times through cheesecloth or coffee filters until no visible tea remains. Store at room temperature or chilled.

Oolong Tea and Ginger Simple Syrup

2 cups white sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped fresh sliced ginger
1 wedge lime
1 tablespoon Oolong tea leaves, preferably a smoky high oxidation Oolong

Place sugar and water into a saucepan. Stir sugar up from the bottom, squeeze in lime and add ginger. Place over medium-high flame and bring to a boil. Turn down to low and let simmer until a clear syrup is formed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add tea leaves, stir and let sit until cool. May be left overnight at this stage. Strain well. Will keep for weeks if stored covered and refrigerated.

 

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!!

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
mix!

Cheers!

Cynthia Gold

Posted in Tea