Friday, March 25, 2005

B Green

Who wants some B Grade tea? I know I do. It can't all be fine tea so I've been hitting a bag of Gunpowder Green from the World Market, formerly Cost Plus. In general, green tea doesn't have a very long shelf life which was a problem when shipping was a business of creaky wooden ships and caravans featuring mules. Gunpowder Green's leaves are very tightly rolled so it could stay fresh on long trips from one side of the world to another, hence its popularity in the West. These days the market is crowded with refined green teas because we've all web-enabled our e-commerce platforms to bring the world to our doorsteps 24/7, but Gunpowder Green is still a pretty common variety. Personally, I like it for the way it looks kind of like Nerds (tm) candy. It also resembles Cocoa Pebbles (also tm) and in a pinch you can sprinkle it around your kitchen counters if you need to give someone the impression that you have a rodent problem. It also tastes fine when submerged in hot water.

Also, please people, pay attention here, it really makes a difference if you brew it correctly. I'm not ordinarily a purist about method but with the greens there is a world of difference between right and wrong. Let the water cool down before you add the leaves and let it steep for 2, maybe 3 minutes tops. You'll feel like a champ when you've done it right.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


I was in a bad mood yesterday after getting jostled by the lunch crowd at Teaism. There I was, just an honest, tea-drinking guy trying to get some tea in a sea of expensive-pants-wearing, pseudo-pan-Asian-lunch-ordering people who were all positioned between me and the not very helpful staff. They didn't have the tea I wanted anyway. Today is different, in part thanks to my ipod churning up Boston's Hitch a Ride right as I got off the train. There is plenty to like and dislike about Boston, but Hitch a Ride has one of the greatest, totally overblown guitar solos of all time. Pardon me, guitar duet. Anyway, it improved my mood.

Since I couldn't get the Dragonwell tea I was hankering for I fell back on the Jasmine Green tea from Ten Ren that my secret santa gave me. Ten Ren, based out of Taiwan, is a big operation with stores all over the U.S. and a heavy presence in the tea aisle at your local Asian supermarket. Seems like most of their tea falls into that comfortable B grade which is a solid step above regular commercial grade but not fine tea either - Outback Steak House, not French Laundry. They do offer some very expensive teas but I've never tried them. I enjoy visits to the Ten Ren store in Rockville, MD, partly for the bubble tea but mostly, honestly, for the staff who are all beautiful, young, Asian women who entice customers like me with great big canisters of loose tea and good attitudes. I like this jasmine tea - it does the job with no questions asked. I especially appreciate the detailed information on the package:

Degree of Baked: (Totally Dried)

The recommended brewing time is one minute and 50 seconds. No more, no less.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Green Tea Linked to Football Violence, Hooliganism

According to this article green tea might have some genuine cancer fighting properties afterall. Real science giving the props to the tea. Oddly enough, this story was hiding in the "Oddly Enough" category of my Yahoo news feed which is usually reserved for articles of the "Norwegian Scientists Uncover Remains of Wolf-Boy" and "Man Mistakenly Chops Off His Own Penis While Watching Football Match" variety. No matter, news is news.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Loving Yunnan is Easy...

I'm back on the horse today, thoroughly enjoying some Golden Yunnan from the Tea Spot. Yunnan was sort of kind of like my first "real tea" so it has special place in my cupboard. There are just so many things to like about it - the sweet clay smell, the total lack of bitterness, the way you can brew the same leaves again and again and never get tired of it. It has a gentle, enduring strength. I am in love with this tea, plain and simple.

Friday, March 04, 2005


I can't stop with the silly teas.. Spring is almost here and I've placed an order with the Tea Spot to deliver to my door, in plain brown wrapping, discreetly labeled, a half pound of good old-fashioned self-drinking tea. (If you're not hip to the lingo, the term "self-drinking tea" is used in tea circles to describe high quality tea that can stand up on its own without blending. That's not to say that teas in blends aren't high quality or anything like that. It's just a thing tea people say while waiting for the kettle to boil). In the meantime I am over the edge, looking down into another cup from France.

In the cup is Les Classiques from Betjeman & Barton. It's a nondescript black tea which has been heavily flavored with caramel and vanilla. In fact, there's so much flavor I can't taste the tea. It is weird to encounter caramel flavor in liquid form because it smells great but tastes like nothing. I suspect this is why you don't see a lot of caramel sodas on the market. I tried sweetening it and adding milk and brewing it really really strong and even rebooted but it was still missing the buttery richness my nose was expecting. It works fine in certain situations, like with sorbet after a big meal, but a nice Darjeeling would fare just as well if not better. Overall, I'm a little disappointed. I suppose I had unrealistically high expectations for caramel tea.