Monday, January 30, 2012

Hot Tea Enjoyment step 6 - Tea Tastings

We have been working our way through 7 ways to enjoy hot tea in celebration of January as Hot Tea Month.  Here is number 6.

6. Host a tea tasting with friends. Try several different flavors and compare notes. Or hold an actual tea and serve scones and treats with your tea selections.

I love the possibility of inviting people over to try tea.  When I do programs on tea and herbal tea, I always have participants try samples because once you understand how different teas and herbs taste you can begin to put them together into blends of your own which you can enjoy.

Al you need to host a tasting is a tea kettle, some cotton tea infusers (easier than cleaning out the tea ball each time), a selection of tea cups or mugs, and a few friends.

A short tea sample list would include both traditional tea and /or herb teas.  You can combine a tasting of both or choose one or the other as a theme.  You brew up the teas or herbs and have everyone jot down impressions, likes and dislikes and discuss them.

Two Tea Tasting Event Suggestions

Be aware that black, green, oolong, and white teas all come from the same plant – Camellia sinensis.  The flavors of these tea leaves however, vary by growing region’s soil conditions and weather.  So tasting the various teas and linking them to country of origin is always a great way to study the differences in flavor.

Varieties to include in Camellia sinensis tasting:

Black Tea is the strongest tea in color, flavor, and in caffeine content. It is fermented giving it a dark color, and a full-bodied hearty flavor. 

Earl Grey (a black tea blended with bergamot oil so it has a citrus after taste)
Assam (rich aroma, strong-flavored, malty body)
Darjeeling (rich golden color with a delightful aroma)
English Breakfast (traditional full-bodied tea, familiar aroma)
Irish Breakfast ( darker and more rich than English breakfast)
Lapsang Souchong (a robust tea with smoky aroma and flavor, may be an acquired taste)

Green tea is created using hand-picked tea leaves steamed immediately after harvest, allowing the leaves to retain their bright green color, and fresh vibrant taste.  A popular tea, it is most well-known for its health benefits and as a powerful antioxidant. 
Two main styles to try are Gunpowder (also known as Pearl) and Dragon well.

Oolong is a medley of black and green tea leaves created by only partly fermenting the leaves.  This tea is beautiful, full bodied, and has a mildly smooth aftertaste. It is preferred by those who dislike the bitterness commonly associated with green tea and contains less caffeine than black tea. 

White tea has become recently popular.  It is the least processed for the tea leaves are simply picked and dried.  White tea is picked early in the season when the buds are still fresh, young and tender. The taste is very mild and sweet.

An herb tea item list for tasting, could include:

Once you have tried the herbs, find three to combine together to make your own herbal tea blend.  Although herbs can be taken singularly in tea, the best flavors come when you combine the herbs together to create a rich combination that exhibits all the aspect you enjoy singly.

Blackberry leaf – this is an earthy flavor, it combines well with sweet and floral tastes and is goof for female issues of cramping, digestion and other concerns.

Lemon Balm – this is a sweet gently lemony flavored herb with a multitude of medicinal properties which it can impart to tea.  Trying it to see that it is not overpowering in its tartness is always good

Spearmint or Peppermint – these mints are gently cooling in flavor and will work well with most other herbs earthly, savory or sweet.  Peppermint is a sharper more mint-like flavor and Spearmint is a gently soothing taste.  You may want to try both to discover a favorite.

Thyme – a savory traditional cooking her, this herb brings many medicinal properties like being an anti-bacterial to the table.  It is to be used sparingly as it can overpower the flavor of other herb and more is not needed to gain it medicinal benefits.

Chamomile – an old fashioned remedy for colic and sleeplessness this herb adds a apple-like flavor to tea.  It is used for it soothing properties as well as its nice sweet flavor.

Lavender – some lavenders can seem soapy tasting, so I recommend a pure blue lavender for tea.  The savory sweet flavor as well as the relaxing and stress relieving qualities make it a great addition to herbal tea.

Rose hips – the flavor they add is soft, but tart, however the vitamin C they bring is better than several glasses of orange juice.

To go with your teas, you can enjoy scones and biscotti.  Tea is the perfect accompaniment to dry items and those with light flavors so you combine with the flavor of the tea rather than overpower it.

Here is a seasonally friendly scone recipe:

Nut & Raisin Sticky scones

4 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 T baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 egg
4 T butter, cut into pieces
1 1 /2 cups buttermilk
½ cup raisins
1 cup pecans
4 T butter melted
¾ cup brown sugar
1 T honey
1 T molasses

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large mixing bowl add flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, baking powder and soda.  Stir.  Add the egg and butter pats and beat at low speed with an electric mixer for one minute.

Slowly add the buttermilk to the bowl and continue to beat just until the dough is formed.  Do not over beat

Turn out the dough onto floured bread board and lightly press out the dough to form a rectangle, approx 1 inch thick.  Sprinkle with raisins and nuts.  Roll up the dough form the long side, to form a log.  Cut into 8 to 10 slices.

In a small bowl Mix together melted butter, ¾ cup brown sugar, honey and molasses.  Pour this mixture into buttered 9 x 13 baking pan.  Place the sliced rolls into the baking dish.  Bake for 28 minutes.

And if you want already blended tea for your event, be sure to check out all our Backyard Patch tea blends, or our monthly tea subscriptions available on Etsy.

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