Monday, October 20, 2014

Camellia Sinensis with Effusive Blossoms

As you know, "tea" comes from the camellia sinensis plant.  And here's what that plant looks like, in case you have not had the pleasure to see one.  This plant came to me as a gift from Marmalady about three years ago and, thanks to the green thumb of the DH, has been thriving.  This year it bloomed effusively.

"Cami", as I call her, has been living for the past year on our north balcony.  The plant seems to be thriving within a large pot (I think this is pot #3), well-drained soil and the level of light in that space. It's not a full day of sun.  We had Cami on the south balcony for a bit and it was too much direct sun. The DH also provides an occasional fertilization and has done some shaping of the plant, as well. 

If you have a tea plant that is doing well, what tips can you share for its healthy growth?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Baozhong: Lunch

Shiuwen, of Floating Leaves Tea, is writing a series on her blog about five major categories of Oolong tea from Taiwan. This is based on her recent presentation at the NW Tea Fest and I'm honored to have been able to help with that.  She begins with Baozhong tea - read the story here.

Farmer Chen

For the duration of this series, I thought I'd share a few side stories.  Today I'll talk about a fantastic lunch we had in Pinglin. We had been visiting and tasting teas in Farmer Chen's shop. When it was lunchtime, we walked to the restaurant that his wife operates and were treated to a feast!  

Walking through town

Farmer Chen's wife
The lunch menu:  apple soda, chicken on the bone, pork fat sandwiches on sesame buns, red rice with dates and pork, river shrimp, shrimp with apples and guava, whole "fragrant fish", fried mashed potato balls with egg and corn, chicken broth soup with goji berries and dates, greens, tea jelly.  Here are a few images.

Chicken broth with dates and goji berries 

The meal included several types of fish

Shrimp with apples and guava

Fried river shrimp

Meals always included greens

Tea jelly

This was our first full day of adventuring in Taiwan and we were welcomed with such generosity! I continue to send thoughts of thanks to Farmer Chen and his wife.  And thanks, too, for the great tea you make!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tea Alchemy: Butterfly Pea Herbal Infusion

A friend generously shared with me this butterfly pea tea,  a treasure she brought back from Thailand. It's a fun tisane with a bit of fascination.  I thought it would be good for this month of magic!  

To start, the tea brews up in this lovely cobalt blue color.  The taste is, well, a bit legumey but not unpleasant.  Just an unusual flavor for my Westernized taste buds.    

Presto/Chango....When you add a little citrus (in my case, lemon juice), magic ensues!  The herbal tea transforms from the cobalt blue to this lovely aubergine color.  I also preferred the flavor of the brew with a splash of lemon. 

Butterfly Pea herbal tea is known botanically as Clitoria ternatea.  It has been used for Ayurevedic medicine for a very long time and is also used in Southeast Asian cooking as a food coloring.

Have you ever seen this magic herb brewed into tea?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Smacha Tea in Bellvue, WA

As part of the grand weekend associated with the NW Tea Fest, some tea friends and I visited Smacha Tea in Bellevue, WA.  This shop is modern and inviting.  Clean lines, lovely teaware and a wide range of teas to taste and purchase.  Owner Jason Chen is an expert in Chinese teas and has written books on the topic including A Tea Lover's Travel Diary and  Four World-Famous Chinese Green Teas.  

The tea bar is made of beautiful wood, into which an attractive drain has been fitted (I think the drain is copper) to handle the pre-warming of pots, the rinsing, and all the liquid fun associated with brewing good tea. 

Jason has also invented the Smacha Automatic Tea Brewer (below) which simplifies the brewing process by controlling the timing and volume of water moving through the tea.  I think this is a useful solution for an office or other situation when you don't have the time to bring out all the "stuff" associated with making tea in the small pot style.

Here we are, enjoying tea and snacks. 

Jeffrey Macintosh, another really smart tea guy, is preparing tea for us.  He also explained how Jason spends a lot of time with his partner tea farmers to ensure the processing methods yield the quality of tea desired.

I brought home a Phoenix oolong, Yellow Branch variety.  

Smacha is a tea shop worth visiting.  I respect the care and attention that goes into the growth, production and selection of each tea.  The next time I visit I would like to dive into some of the Chinese greens.  See, I'm already planning a trip!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

NW Tea Festival 2014

Shiuwen Tai of Floating Leaves Tea (left) and me

The 2014 NW Tea Festival has come and gone.  It was a great year with record attendance.  I was very busy this year and failed to get any photos during the event itself.  Thank you to my friends who provided these (CW and Marmalady)! 

It was great (though too brief) to catch up with friends whom I see only once or twice per year.  In addition, this year I participated in new ways.  I hosted a tasting on bowl-style brewing and had a great time with those folks exploring a simple yet profound way of drinking tea.  I also helped Shiuwen Tai of Floating Leaves Tea with the discussion of the 5 most common teas of Taiwan: Baozhong, Oriental Beauty, Dong Ding, TieGuanYin and Alishan (presented in the order of the tea's emergence in Taiwan).

Many of my local friends also hosted events this year:  Wu-Wo tea, and tea classes and tastings.  I feel so honored to be among so many smart and generous tea friends!

One of the things that really struck me this year was how friendly everyone was - and I mean everyone, including the big names.  For example, I was in the "green room" prepping for my tea tasting and Michael Harney came up and introduced himself to me.  Same thing with Lorna Reeves, editor of Tea Time Magazine

Our local tea group headed to Seattle a few days early and had so much fun at the pre-tea party!  (We visited 4 local tea shops.)  I'll share pictures from that soon.  For now, I'm still unpacking all my new teas and tea toys and expressing my gratitude for living so close to this great event!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Come and See Me at the NW Tea Fest

If you're in the Seattle area this weekend, come and see me at the Northwest Tea Fest!  My Portland tea friends and I will be very involved this year, supporting many tastings, classes and events.  I'll specifically be involved with the Wu-Wo brewing, hosting a tasting focused on bowl-style brewing and assisting Shiuwen Tai (Floating Leaves Tea) with her class on the World of Taiwanese Teas.  

See the program:  

This weekend is always one of the highlights of my year!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Meatless Monday: Purple Potatoes and Quinoa Oatmeal

Purple Potatoes

The DH grew these potatoes.  We didn't know they were purple until he pulled them out of the ground.  They were a volunteer plant that he rescued.  What a great surprise!  They remain purple when cooked, the color a little softer.  And I just LOVE this photo from a style perspective, the color and detail of the potato, his hand, the fabric texture.  Love it.

Oatmeal with quinoa and huckleberries

And here is a recent breakfast - oatmeal blended with quinoa and topped with huckleberries.