Springtime tea & baked goods pairing

I know what I want to be when I grow up.

Alexis Siemons, a tea consultant and author of Teaspoons & Petals, (who I had the honor of meeting) taught a class on the art of pairing spring tea and baked goods at Metropolitan Bakery’s Cafe, featuring teas from Premium Steap, on Monday, April 28.

A simple Septa ride from Overbrook, a stroll through Rittenhouse Square, and I walked into an intimate gathering of food and tea lovers. Before this class I had no experience with pairing tea except pairing scones and clotted cream. I like to think I left with some more knowledge.

Guests, or should I say students, sat outlining most of the perimeter of the café while a bunch of us gathered around a community table in the center. Our evening began with an introduction by the owner who wanted this evening to inspire food and community. She handed it over to Alexis who introduced our teas and springtime baked goods.

 

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The menu consisted of four teas and baked goods:

Sencha Green Tea from Japan, paired with a chocolate cherry bread

This first flush tea is reminiscent of spring vegetables, smells of fresh cut grass, and pairs well with buttery/rich food like the chocolate cherry bread I devoured, alternating sip after bite.

Genmaicha Green Tea from Japan, paired with Rosemary Focaccia

This second flush tea pairs well with savory flavors, like the sourdough of the focaccia, because of tea’s  nutty, toasty flavor.

Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea from China paired with a plain croissant

The butter of the croissant brought out the floral taste of this velvet oolong tea. We were encouraged to try a leaf, and it wasn’t as bitter as I was expecting. In fact, I had seconds.

Iced Green Earl Grey Rhubarb Tea with a raspberry crumb bar

This is the potpourri of tea. This tea was served iced and had a sharp floral taste, almost like a creamsicle. It was cold on the palate which makes pairing more difficult, but the hints of rhubarb were brought out with the raspberry in the bar.

Tea class photoshop

Other than the art of pairing, the evening was full of useful tea tips which were easily jotted down on paper provided:

  • Alexis stressed the importance of steep time. As someone who enjoys a strong cup of tea, I took this to heart. For example, if you steep a green tea too long, you might burn the leaves and end up with a bitter taste instead of a morning cup of an earthy green tea.
  • Stay away from microwaves. It’s better to just warm your water in a pot on the stove if you don’t have a kettle or electric teapot.
  • Mesh tea balls suffocate tea leaves– they leave no room for the leaves to expand, thus compromising the flavor.
  • White wine + green tea= tea sangria!
  • Boiling water is not required for all teas. The Sencha Green Tea was brewed for 60 seconds at 180°F, the Genmachia at 185°F, and the Oolong at 190°F.

I left with a belly full of tea and baked goods and a mind full of tea pairings.

Calmer Sutra Tea Tasting

Finally, a moment from my studies–my apologies for the hiatus. I went home this weekend, thankful for a break from school so I could focus on tea. Coming home from school for a weekend always has its benefits; one of them is improved photography with the variety of tea ware, better lighting, and more space.

Recently I received a few samples from Calmer Sutra Tea, based in Brooklyn, New York (originating from Melbourne, Australia). Thankful for the opportunity to try a new tea, I’ve decided to share my tasting.

After tearing open my package, I found three teas: Floral Fields Tisane (Chamomile), Peppermyntle Tisane (Peppermint), and their signature chai, Spiced Masala Tea.

From left to right: Chamomile, peppermint, chai
From left to right: chamomile, peppermint, chai

 

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Floral Fields Tisane

Floral Fields Tisane is a chamomile tea with hints of rose petals and lavender. Other than looking delicate with pink rose petals and bits of lavender added to the chamomile flowers, this herbal tea actually smells floral too.  I added a couple of teaspoons to my infuser and let it steep for about five minutes. Go ahead and let it steep longer for enhanced flavor. Like any chamomile tea, this tea is caffeine-free, good for right before bed (when I tried it actually), or if you just need a moment to yourself.

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Peppermyntle Tisane

Peppermyntle Tisane is an herbal peppermint tea with lemon myrtle and subtle citrus notes. Before even drinking this tea, smell it. This is the perfect tea if you’re feeling under the weather– one sniff and it clears your sinuses (and not in a wasabi way). The first sip is immediately invigorating. It floods the mouth and nasal passage, leaving a lingering clean feeling on your tongue.

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Spiced Masala Tea with milk

Finally, Spiced Masala Tea, Calmer Sutra’s signature chai. The chai was much different than what I am used to, though I’m no chai expert. The leaves were wet, because it is infused with honey (please keep refrigerated after opening). The smell reminded me of warm, soft gingerbread cookies. It is an infusion of black tea, with Indian spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger root, and is perfect for cold weather. I tried it both with and without milk. As a chai latte it’s creamy with accents of honey (without adding any extra), cinnamon, nutmeg, and black tea.

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Spiced Masala Tea without milk

Usually when I try tea I add nothing to it, so I had a second cup without milk to get a better idea of how the tea tastes, hoping to catch the ginger highlights from the ginger root that the milk might have masked (or I just didn’t brew it correctly). The spices were much more pungent. I think this tea would compliment a big bowl of oatmeal, either as a drink on the side or brewed with the oats for a chai oatmeal.

Stay warm and hopefully spring weather is sooner than we think! Until then, brew yourself a hot pot of tea.

Cheers!

 

Disclaimer: Calmer Sutra Tea provided me with complimentary tea samples but did not ask for a review. 

Longjing Tea

So this weekend was a tough one which means I was unable to get into the city and find a cafe or tea house to blog about but that does not mean I did not get my hands on a new kind of tea!

One of my good friends from school was supposed to go into the city with me on Saturday morning to come along and discover some new tea place with me while I soaked up some tea information for this blog. Unfortunately it just was not possible for me to make it into the city, so she decided to come to my apartment late Friday night instead.

She brought me some tea her family uses in Hangzhou, China. So you can imagine I got really excited. And if you can’t, trust me, I was beaming. She told me that that people who love this tea in China will drink it all day everyday. My kind of town!

The tea she brought is called Longjing tea, a green tea, also known as Dragon Well Tea. It has origins in Hangzhou, China, but it is currently produced in Zhejiang.

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I looked inside the tin and realized the leaves were huge! She told me to skip the infuser and to just pour the water right over the leaves. “Just don’t drink the leaves,” she said. So that’s what we did.

While I can now say that I have experience with loose tea, and love how “real” it seems compared to bagged tea, this loose tea was really tea leaves!

Leaf!

Several sips into my first cup, I noticed it got really strong, but I kept drinking…and may have ingested a few tea leaves, but it was so much fun and I don’t think I would have had such an experience if we went out to tea.

So we sat for an hour or so talking with my roommate about school and life and enjoyed our authentic Chinese tea at 1AM. Does anyone else do this with their friends? It doesn’t have to be so late at night but what about in the morning, afternoon or early evening?

I did a bit of research and found that Longjing Tea is traditionally brewed using an Yixing clay teapot. Owning a teapot like this is on my wish list!

I found this video and I think it’s worth checking out, let me know what you think!

How to brew Longjing Tea

More than loose tea

Okay, I know I was so against using tea bags when I started this blog, but I have come to realize my “budget cannot survive on loose tea alone.” And I’m pretty sure some people can relate!

It is cost effective to reuse loose tea leaves, trust me, I do that all week long. But, what about convenience? I live a fast-paced life and sometimes cleaning out my infuser takes up time if I’m running late to class, have a lot of dishes to do, or it’s late and I just want an easy clean up. Or, maybe I’m just lazy and a newbie to loose tea.

Anyway, the point here is to give tea bags a chance and to include people who do not have access to a tea gallery or if ordering loose tea online is not appealing.

Sometimes using a tea bag sounds so easy, so convenient and portable! But, that is a lot of “throwing away,” so keep in mind that tea bags can be environmentally friendly. When I buy tea bags not only do I try to make sure the brand uses organic and fair trade tea but also biodegradable packages and tea bags.

This weekend I went to the Whole Foods Market near me to go tea shopping, in light of my re-acceptance of tea bags.

I bought four different brands, two I think are well known and the other two I’ve never seen before. I think that’s a pretty fair balance, don’t you?

Four tea bag brands

Mighty Leaf Tea

These tea bags aren’t really tea bags at all. They’re little mesh pouches with loose tea! I’ve bought this brand before and loved the variety pack. This is a pretty good step for tea drinkers that are curious about loose tea. Mighty Leaf Tea has many organic teas available and has a compostable tea pouch.

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Numi Tea

I’ve had Numi’s Jasmine Green Tea before but I wanted to try something different this time. The Golden Chai is perfect for fall! I think it should go right up there with the pumpkin spice latte. While I did not add milk for that creamy chai taste, it will be happening next time. Numi is USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified, and has Eco Responsible Packaging.

Numi

Teatulia

This is a new brand to me, but I thought the packaging was different so I decided to give it a try. The package was right, the black tea does have a unexpected sweet finish. This brand is USDA Organic and is a Certified B Corporation, which means they aim to help solve social and environmental problems.

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Guayaki

This brand, also new to me, is all about the environment! This green tea was just as good as some of the loose green tea I own. They are Fair Trade Certified, USDA Organic, don’t have GMO’s, are Kosher, and a certified B corporation.

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