22 July 2011

Delights From Afar

Wowie zowie! A whole corner of England was somehow squeezed into our mailbox, genie-like, awaiting discovery. Such majesty! Such variety of treasures! The usually unflappable Dustin is, at this moment, well and duly flapped; I, myself, find it rather hard to remain composed. I'm doing this for you, you know, because if I did not share the joy of this day I would be mean and stingy (which are two things I prefer not to be).

We have a friend, far away, who loves us and sends parcels... with actual Royal Mail philatelic emblems affixed (lots of them!)... with such a plethora of good reading that we shall be swimming in it for quite some time, happy and transported... with TEA (Royal Wedding Tea, no less -- Dustin just realized that and fainted)... with a vanilla-scented car freshener which, in the peskiest of traffique jams, will enable us to Keep Calm and Carry On... and with a special-special pencil (hiding from view) to use when we feel particularly intercontinental in our prose styling.

See the beautiful card, too (a true gilding of this gigantic lily) -- I admire it so much that I must rouse D. so we can discover how to import said lovely card for our once-and-future emporium. Glorioski Petunia, what a fine day! Thank you, thank you, thank you dear Friend-Far-Away.

With a big, fat pot of hot tea nearby, clutching The Lady -- on which I naturally have dibs -- I bid you Good Evening... wishing you such a bountiful surprise as we had today (where is my hanky??),
xo, Trix

21 July 2011

Thursday's Thirst: Cold-Infused Eagle Nest Oolong-Style Tea

It seems that I talk about, lecture about, explain about, and generally spout off about cold infusions more than about any other tea-related topic... and today will simply confirm that impression, for I am about to regale you once again... because it's hot outside, once again, and we crave cold tea. Since I am making it for Trix and myself, let me show you how it is done...

Simply put, cold infusion is the safest, easiest, best-tasting way to make cold tea that I know. I was taught how to do it by Den Shirakata of Den's Tea (USA)/Shirakata Denshiro Shoten (Japan), and Den will always have my gratitude for the lesson.

See the top image! What's that? A regular 1-quart Mason jar with lid and ring, nice and clean (squeak! squeak!). Into it goes the tea -- we put our leaves in a polyester Japanese infusion pouch; you can put your leaves into the jar loose, or use a big spice ball, or some other handy method that you like if you have no pouches like these. Yes, to answer a question from the Peanut Gallery, pre-made (commercial) teabags work fine, too. Now, it looks like we're about to make Sun Tea, doesn't it?

There's a lot of talk about Sun Tea... tea made by sticking leaves or teabags in a big jar and setting the jar in the sun for half a day or longer... People who do this are legion, and they are also rather fierce in their defense of the practice. But woe betide any of them who drink in enough unhappy bacteria to get a stomach ache -- they will probably blame the potato salad... again... but it could just as easily be the tea that made them feel so poorly. The problem can arise from bacteria in the water, or on the tea leaves, or in the jar itself; if the infusion stays too long in the "danger zone" -- bacteria's favorite hangout and breeding ground -- which is longer than 1.5 hours between 40°F and 140°F (jot that down, keep it handy, save a lot on medical bills) -- you run the risk of food-borne illness.

Avoid the possibility -- simply do not give it the chance! -- by making your infusions in the 'fridge instead. I'll even throw in a tip to speed up the process, for those of you who like everything right-this-moment... Pre-rinse your leaves in a little bit of boiled water, only for a minute or so (pour the rinse-water out, or onto plants) -- then fill the infusion jar with leaves + cold water (preferably filtered or bottled water, for the cleanest taste). Your "awakened" leaves will infuse a bit faster, and you will see a little more color in the infusion later on.

Now... unlike Sun Tea, at this point OUR tea jar goes into the refrigerator, where the environment is dark and cold. You ask: how will the tea "make itself," without heat, without light? Please see the second image -- this is our same jar, after quietly infusing for just a few hours. Is not this tea? It is indeed, and very tasty, too. {another tip: if you are going on a picnic, or a long hike, you can still do the cold infusion inside a cooler or cold-pack carrier... the tea is in a tight-lidded vessel within the cooler, of course}.

What is the difference in flavor between cold-infused tea and Sun Tea? In Sun Tea, heat and light bring out more tannins from the tea leaves, resulting in a darker color and more tannic taste (some call that "bitterness" or "briskness"); cold-infused tea has less tannin and tastes more mild; but flavor oils in tea leaves (which have no color) are extracted whether the water is cold or hot, so there is plenty of flavor and aroma in cold-infused tea. Please try cold-infused tea with your palate rather than your eyes... you will be so pleased! By the way, since the infusion is already cold, you need less ice (if any). That in itself is a good reason to try cold infusing, because if you resemble me at all you forgot to fill the ice tray again last night -- darn! -- but it's OK because the tea is perfecto as-is.

See the third image... A welcoming glass of delicious cold-infused Eagle Nest oolong-style tea from the Idulgashinna organic/biodynamic tea gardens, high up in the Uva district of Sri Lanka (which in the tea biz is still called Ceylon). The dry leaf is very beautiful {see fourth image}... unsprayed, hand-picked and -processed, made with care and skill. Of course we drink this gorgeous tea in cold months, too -- Oolong-style teas are so interesting to prepare gong-fu style (multiple infusions, each having different flavors and aromas). There's never a dull moment with tea!

Into the beautifully breezy (yes! Thank you Pacific Fog!!) evening I go, Eagle Nest in hand, bidding you safety, comfort, and happiness,
xo, Dustin

p.s. It's alright to keep that tea in the infusion jar for up to two days (as long as you keep it refrigerated), adding more water to make more tea... after which please put the spent leaves on your plants and start afresh. Thank you.

11 July 2011

Dustin Does Digital, or a Montage on Monday

Usually Dustin leaves the picture-taking to me, but today -- full of tea and pep -- he decided to have a go... and this is the result. I am very, very shy, but with a nice teacup in the frame I found I could endure being "shot." One must encourage one's friends whenever possible, and D's budding interest in PhotoShop required forbearance. In return I shall ask him for a trip to a wonderful local treat-hub called Patisserie Angelica. I have earned it.

They do not serve our Edwards Premium Tea at P. Angelica, but they do serve Mariage Frères, which is darn spiffy enough for us. All of a sudden this modeling thing doesn't seem so bad...

With photographic Monday greetings to you all,
xo, Trixie

10 July 2011

As The World Turns {Today's Tea Tray}

Down the long drive and beyond the gate, a world's worth of activity whirls and swims; in here it is calm and repose, an afternoon of recoup and rewind in preparation for the coming week. Background sounds of fountains and birdsong, and occasional zephyrs from the seaside, add to the wonderfabulosity of it all. A day such as this is worth more than rubies, and we have duly deposited a bagful of the red gems at the gate in gratitude.

To show further appreciation, we drink tea... lots of tea... and we eat Baked Things to help soak up all that tea.

Gosh how we adore Baked Things! Today's handsome selection includes Fred Bread by Grace Baking, a farmlet favorite, slices of which we covered with an almost-embarrassing layer of mixed preserves; and, on our second and more recent tray, assorted cookies from one of our regular suppliers of sundry Baked Things. Although it is well into the afternoon as I type this -- with Trix looking over my shoulder to catch spelling gaffes -- we are drinking Aurora Breakfast Blend, the once and future flagship blend of our own Edwards Premium Tea, and we are liking it fine. Somewhere on the planet (we say to ourselves) someone is sitting down to breakfast, and we like to think that we are tapping into the zeitgeist of a vast breakfasting community in another time zone while drinking breakfast tea at this hour. Yes, certainly, tea can do that.

Keen-eyed readers of this weblog have asked why our tea tray pictures show ONE big cup of milky tea and ONE small cup of tea-sans-moo, and usually ONE dish holding all of the edibles. As you can see, our tea trays are only large enough for such a configuration, and as Trix and I are about as close as two beings could possibly be, we may as well use one tray and move ahead to the business of enjoying teatime with a minimum of delay. As to who drinks with and who drinks without, let that remain our secret for the present.

I sincerely wish each and all of you many, many days such as this one, preferably in the company of your closest chum, and blow you a tea-stained kiss from the northern California wildlands,
xo, Dustin

02 July 2011

An Independent Wish for You

This Fourth of July, we wish you independence from all worries and difficulties! Happy, healthy, joyous holiday to you and everyone you love... now get out there and drink some tea!
xo, Dustin