29 March 2009

Dustin Enters the Modern Age

Well! If I had known it was going to be so darn easy, I would have jumped in here ages ago... anyway, here I am. Hello to all of you questing tea drinkers -- I know some of you remember me (yes you do, come on, admit it). Years, years, where have they fled? Never mind; we have tea to talk of, so let's get to it...

First of all, Trixie wants me to tell you that she has things up and running at http://www.TheTeaDrinker.com -- Teahouse Style (and its companion, TeahouseStyle.com) is finally going bye-bye, making way for The Tea Drinker to take its rightful place as the undisputed BEST place to hang out with tea on the Web. Trix has all kinds of nifty stuff over there, including dozens upon dozens of delicious teas and even some tisanes (say it "tiz-ahnz" my darlings, and it means herbal infusions) (of course it's French), so don't be a stranger, go there now and see what's in the cupboard. When you get there, if you don't see exactly what you're looking for, just shout out to me or to Trixie and we'll get right on it. We promise! The suitcases and trunks are still, so to speak, stacked in the hallways, but you can get the general idea of how wonderful it's going to be very soon.

Now... last time I spoke with you all was (mumble mumble) years ago, and we were talking about taking our tea out on the road... if you want a refresher, yes of course I'll go over it again. Love to! You know me, any excuse to fill up a tea flask and haul the old Brexton hamper out of storage, I'm there. When the daylight lasts just a little bit longer, I'll share some of my favorite North Bay tea-traveling places with you; but it's still a little chilly out there so we can think about staying indoors a while longer and perfect our tea-making techniques while basking in the warmth of our trusty dark-blue Aga.

Green Tea!! Lets talk a minute about green tea -- supposed to be so excellent for you and everything, doctor says Drink It, yada yada... but Americans so often resist the siren call. Why is this? I'll tell you why... Everyone asks me, "Dustin, how the heck can I make green tea taste good? It's so bitter, and it dries my mouth out so badly I can't even swallow after two sips" (and then they sob). Not a day goes by that I don't get a call from a distraught person, weeping, confused -- and the cure is so simple: NO BOILING WATER. Stop boiling your beautiful, vibrant, verdant green tea leaves! Ouch. Hurts just to think about it. When you douse the poor, defenseless leaves with too-hot water, they exude all the tannins their cells were holding on to; so instead of a pleasantly piquant mouthful of pale green liquid, you get a brash, bitter, boiled-over bowl of unhappiness... promise me you will stop inflicting such torture on your green tea from this very moment (then I'll stop ranting).

Key points:
1. Fresh tea leaves (if your "green" tea looks brown*, toss it onto the potted plants as mulch and get something fresh, please);
2. Simmering water (if the kettle boils take it off the hob, or turn it off, and let it cool down for five full minutes);
3. Short infusion time (one to two minutes) -- don't try for a dark-colored brew, it won't go there;
4. Pour off ALL the infusion into your teacup, pitcher, little teapot, or flask (if you use an infuser, you can remove it from your cup or pot so the leaves won't sit in there and "stew");
5. Multiple infusions -- decent green tea will yield several delicious infusions by the foregoing method. Each one tastes a little different from the previous one, and all are worth having.

Plenty of "experts" will be happy to give you exact calculations of leaf quantity, water temperature (and water type, with full mineral analysis), steeping (infusing) time, direction of wind, barometric pressure, special incantations, and so on and so forth -- if your tea is halfway decent, the method I sketched out for you above will be all you need to remember. Practicing a few times will prove to you how simple and delightful the process really is.

* There are some wonderful green teas that actually do look quite brown, yet they may be as fresh as daisies and worth lots of tin -- such as Houjicha (Japanese roasted bancha), some green Pu-Erh teas, etc -- but in general, green tea ought to look fairly green in the dried leaf.

Dry your tears, people, and get yourselves a new stash of green tea to celebrate Spring.

Until next time, Dustin wishes you well...