Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Teaware roundup!

This is my modest teaware collection. I will be going through each item individually, With what I use it for.
Above is my tea strainer and the cup I keep it in. The strainer came with a ceramic tea set that I no longer have the pot to, although I still have four of the six cups it came with. The cup came from a local resale shop for fifty cents.
These are my eighty-eight cent diner-ish mugs. That very slight taper makes them perfect for grampa style. They are also decent quality, Albeit not very fancy, they are not for fancy tea, so why care if they are?
This is my VERY EXTREMELY FAKE cheap "yixing" pot. Yes, I knew it was fake when I bought it. Still debating on whether or not to sand it down a bit to smooth it a little, it is very grainy.
This is my celadon glazed coaster from Odd Kitten Art. She has one more, with an apple logo on her store envy site. She is an awesome artist, and I am glad I purchased this coaster to help her pay her bills.
This is my $15 gaiwan that I bought at the same time as the fake "yixing". This has turned out to be a much better buy, overall.
My scale. EVERYONE, no excuses, needs one of these.
The four cups from the set that the strainer came in. they are very thin and break easily, which is why I only still have four of them, and not the pot.
My "teaspoon" and knife. I use the spoon to keep handling the tea sanitarily, and the knife is for my pu'erh cakes. It's pretty dull but has a nice thin tip for prying the leaves off.
My two DAVIDsTEA Perfect mugs. the one with the leaves is an early color changing model, and I don't use it much, because inevitably, someone leaves part of it in the sink and part of the pattern rubs off. That is why the lid doesn't have a leaf on it any more. (T_T) 
My ingenuitea gravity steeper. note the three lines, they are measurements using my three mug sizes, known as regular, medium, and big.
my three cheapy chinese restaurant cups. They are much thicker than the blue ones and are most definitely stoneware.
My antique Richi China tea pot from Japan. If anyone knows of a matching sugar/creamer, let me know, ok?
My McCormick tea pot, of an early run by Hall ceramics. chipped in a couple of places, but still has the contrasting white infuser insert. I really do not use it, I just bought it because I fell in love with the history behind it.
My kitchey rooster teapot and mugs set. It's great for herbal tisanes made from big pieces of dried fruit, because the filter holes at the spout are quite large.
Yes, an infuser tumbler. I LOVE this thing. its great for large tea pearls or rolled oolongs in summer when I cold-brew them.
My two estate sale bone china teacups. $1.50 a PIECE, you can't beat that. the one on the right is from lefton, and the one on the left just says japan on it.
My nalgene and H2JO. This sucks for coffee, I am sorry to say, but for brewing rooibos on a road trip, it is perfect.
My 4L Zojirushi. Best thing my husband has bought for us yet. Yes, it only has four temperatures, BUT, if you know how to manipulate heat right, you can get any temp you want by putting it into different vessels, ect.
And this is where I store it all. Two Rast dressers from Ikea, with an old shelf on top to keep spills contained. My teabags are in the top left drawer, my tea ware in the bottom two left hand drawers. In the right hand dresser are all of my teas. Pu'erh on bottom, tins in the middle, and pouches of loose in the top.

And yes. we have a keurig. I don't use it. I don't drink coffee any more unless I have a pounding caffeine headache. It is mostly there for the convenience of the rest of my household.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The beauty of the simplicity of Grampa style tea brewing, a simple guide

Grampa style is the way most people in China drink their tea, or so I have read amongst many sites.  The technique is so astoundingly simple, and as such I find it very beautiful, almost daringly so.

First off, let me give you a little grampa style tutorial.

  • Take a pinch or so of tea leaves and put them in the bottom of your favorite mug. That's right, no infuser, no filter, no tea bag.
  • Add very hot water, hotter than you would normally use for a given tea.
  • Let it sit for a little while
  • Then drink until you need to refill.
That's it, those are the basics.

There are however some nuances to brewing grampa style, and my little tweaks are as follows.

  • I like big-ish mugs, but they kind of need to have a tapered bottom or sloped sides. It seems that the leaves don't float into your mouth as easily as in a straight sided mug.
  • in a mug, if you are drinking a tightly rolled oolong don't even cover the bottom of the mug with the tea. It expands exponentially, and you need room to refill and drink.
  • I usually go with 195, but a LOT of people go with straight boiling. I find that I don't drink tea fast enough to go full boiling without the tea getting bitter as I drink it, unless it's shou pu'erh, which is kind of a special case.
  • When most of the leaves have sunk to the bottom, it's usually strong enough to drink.
  • Drink only to about half-way. that way there is still some strong tea to mix in to the hot water, meaning you have tea ready faster.
  • Don't do this with herbal teas, ESPECIALLY not Rooibos.
  • If you find the tea looking like a gradient, don't be afraid to give it a stir.
  • Most teas can take 5-10 refills, and pu'erh and oolong can take more, much of the time.
  • Biggest tip of all- Don't be afraid to stop when the flavor is gone. once a tea is done, you can always drain the leaves and put them in a jug of water overnight in the fridge and have decent iced tea in the morning.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Both of Teavivre's Milk Oolongs Side-By-Side, Grampa Style!

So, I was thinking to myself "what's the best way to review those milk oolongs I got from teavivre for christmas? It would be a shame to review them indivudually, but I only have one gaiwan, and I only have one gravity steeper. I am not overburdened with a great number of small teapots either." Then I looked in my kitchen cabinets, wondering if I could fake a gaiwan using a glass measuring cup, when I noticed my husband and I's two white mugs. Other than the print on the outside, and the fact that mine has a bad crack on the handle, they are exactly the same. That's when I had my idea.
"Why not do grampa style? Every time someone asks me the easiest way to drink tea, I suggest it, so why not follow my own advice?"

Because of the simplicity of today's tea session, I did not take 48 photos. 

As the caption states, the flavored milk oolong is on the left, and will remain there. Once it is in the mugs, it will be in the green print one.

Ok, here goes. I alternated between the two mugs, and it took me around 30 minutes to get to the point where they would need to be refilled, the good, and sometimes bad thing about doing oolong teas grampa style is that they can literally go all day, and it's already past 3, and if I drink too much tea this late in the day, I WILL be up all night. If I hadn't slept so late, I could have told you how the flavor changes with each hot water refill. But I really can't, since I want to be able to sleep tonight.

Again, the stuff on the left is the flavored oolong, And I think it's worth noting that it is almost all single leaves, where as the unflavored oolong is almost all leaf sets.

I love them both, but for different reasons, and different tastes. The flavored milk oolong is just that, very milky and creamy, almost like drinking warm milk spiked with vanilla. the unflavored oolong, however, is very floral, with a buttery texture.

Since today was very rainy and cold, I found myself favoring more the flavored variant, whereas on a less gross day I would probably be singing the praises of the unflavored one.

I give them both 85/100, and here are the links to the teas reviewed in todays post.
( they were a christmas present from my mother, so give a shout out to her)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My favorite big mug for tea has bitten the dust.

My favorite big mug for tea that I found at family dollar, for a dollar, almost a year ago, has finally bit the dust. The handle is starting to separate away from the body of the mug and it just doesn't feel right to use it anymore, as I am afraid the handle will break away completely when I pick it up to drink, and that the mug will crash down onto my foot. Not only would it hurt, but that would be a waste of good tea. 

Anyone have any suggestions for a good big mug? I prefer the 16 oz size for my morning cups, and I would prefer white or another light color, so I can see my tea. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

An intro to my new tearoom, as well as Dong cheon daejak 2013 sparrows tongue 'jakseol' green tea from what-cha

First off-  Welcome to my new tearoom! I move the table in front of the chair for easier access when brewing gong fu, and as I do not yet have a tea tray with drain, I must put down an old towel to protect it's finish, and keep spills contained.
The following review will be of Dong cheon daejak 2013 sparrows tongue 'jakseol' green tea from what-cha

 Yes,I have reviewed this tea on steepster, but I have decided to go more in depth, and put together quite a few pictures, as an introduction to my new tearoom. I am brewing this tea in a 150 ml gaiwan, using 5 g of leaf

 I weighed out 5 grams of the tea on my nifty .1 gram american weigh scale. This tea is a very tightly wound, lightly curled green that smells vaguely of grass and warm summer's days.

 Into the gaiwan it goes, the gaiwan holds 140 ml to the start of the flared brim

This pot is holding my 150~ F degree water. I prefer when my later steeps are slightly cooler, and this will cool faster than my zojirushi (I will be doing a teaware breakdown on here later).

Oops, a tealeaf escaped!

 End of first steep. Notice how the leaves are still fairly tightly wound!

The first two steeps reminded me quite a bit of Japanese matcha, but without the hassle of whisking. 

On the third steep the corn flavor is very pronounced, like a sweet summer corn at the peak of harvest season. The color also smooths out to a butter yellow.

The fourth steep lasting 55 seconds looks just like liquid clarified butter. This is also a very good description of the taste, although it is buttery but it is without the greasy mouthfeel. 

On the fifth steep the color pales almost to the color of chamomile tea.  The flavor has paled to a mere floral shadow of itself. 

The sixth steep had to be the last, there was absolutely no flavor left to be extracted out of the leaves.  All in all, the changing flavor profile kept me interested,until there was no flavor left to be gained, which is unusual for me.  I feel that this tea is best suited for short steepings in a gaiwan. 

I give this tea an 88 out of 100 score. I only wish it had lasted for a greater number of steeps. 
This tea was purchased by me, for my own enjoyment.