There is no single recipe for making the perfect tea, as there are no rules for producing a Titian or a Sesson. Each preparation of the leaves has its individuality, its special affinity with water and heat, its heredetary memories to recall, its own method of telling a story. — Orakura Kazukō, "The Book of Tea", 1906
Y'a pas le feu au lac. — Old Swiss proverb
Let's do something a little different to wrap up August. I love tea, and this summer, despite all the stress, I got to drink a lot of really great tea. I just want to share with you 5 of my absolute favourite teas from this past summer.
Si Ji Chun Jasmin, Oolong, Taiwan
Leif found this one for me at Épices de Cru from the Jean Talon Market back in the spring. I always have at least one jasmine tea in my weekly tea roster. I usually drink them in the afternoon (or even evenings, if I haven't had much caffeine already that day). This one is heavily perfumed but nonetheless delicious — while it has a very intense jasmine flavour it's not at all overwhelming. I often find jasmine underwhelming or waaaaaay too fragrancy, so it's rare that I drink one that smells and tastes so strongly of jasmine while remaining a really lovely, calming oolong. I prefer steeping it at 85 degrees Celsius rather than 95 degrees Celsius, and the leaves keeps opening and developing through 5 or even 6 resteepings!
Guricha Zaira, Sencha Guricha, Kumamoto, Japan
This is one of the imported Japanese teas I discovered at Cha Do Raku this summer. It's hard to describe how flavourful this tea is. First of all, it's meant to be steeped for only 10 seconds at 95 degrees Celsius... any longer and you will probably get a caffeine headache. There is a lot of caffeine in this one — and for that reason alone I recommend not drinking it on an empty stomach. It has a flavour that reminds me of the smell mountains and grass in late summer (I nicknamed this tea my "mountain sencha" for this reason). It has a very distinct and almost herbal taste, though these almost-flowery notes never seem to unbalance the more traditional umami sencha notes. When I poured this tea for the first time, it was in a clear glass, and I was blown away by how green the colour of this green tea is. If I ever bring a tea hiking, it will probably be this one. (It works fantastically as an iced tea, as well, but short brewing times are a must even with cold (50-60 Celsius) or iced brews.)
Earl Grey, Orange Pekoe, Sri Lanka
This is actually a tea from The Metropolitan Tea Company which I found in a little cooking supply store in Southampton, Ontario. Well. Where to even begin about this tea. It's by far my favourite Earl Grey, ever. When I think of Earl Grey, I'm thinking of this one. The bergamot (the fruit that gives that citrus flavour) and the Ceylon tea are extremely carefully balanced, it can be resteeped over and over and over without losing any of its intricate notes. It is just all-around an incredible Earl Grey. I brought back several vacuum-sealed packs of it, and I'm carefully rationing it out as The Metropolitan Tea Company only sales wholesale and I haven't quite gotten to the point in my tea-love where I buy tea wholesale... yet. It's an extremely good tea — and makes a kickass London Fog!
Tsukiji Yamakai, Sencha Asamuchi, Shizuoka, Japan
This is a really beautiful sencha that has such a delicate taste that it's pretty much a crime to steep it in water hotter than 60 Celsius, in my humble opinion. If you've ever met someone who complains about green tea being too bitter, I heartily recommend preparing a cup of this beautiful tea for them! The umami is so delicately balanced to constrast the more "stereotypical" astringent, bitter notes of sencha that this tea tastes sweet and light, without ever being overpowering.
Hirumasan no shirocha 2016, White Tea, Saitama, Japan
The last of the five teas, and by far my favourite just in terms of how happy it makes me (so much so that I featured it in my last blog post, Drink tea and read books 2019.08.12!) I am so excited to have tried this Japanese white tea! It makes for an absolutely delicious drink, with just the lightest aroma of dried seaweed. It's a little "saltier" than most of the Chinese white teas that I've ever had the pleasure of drinking, but it's really, really nice. And, as I wrote in my previous blog post, Japanese white tea is a real rarity due to the particulars of their growing season. All in all, happiness in a cup!
Bonus! A herbal tea I made.
Whenever I'm at the market, I often like to buy herbs in large quantities so that I can make my own blends of herbal tea at home. My favourite from this summer is one I made with my friend Ananarchie, composed of locally-harvested nettle (good for inflammation & allergies), raspberry leaves (good digestive aid and can help with cramps and inflammation), chamomile (good digestive aid and can help with stress and sleep trouble), and peppermint (good digestive aid, tastes yummy!). Portions-wise, I tend to try to make sure the mint and the chamomile combined slightly outweigh the nettle and raspberry leaves because I prefer it. But no matter how you combine them, I find all of these herbs are sweet rather than bitter, so the proportions are not too crucial for taste. If you decide to make it, you should let me know! I find it to be an excellent tea to drink after supper, to help ready myself for sleep.
Have a tea-filled and peaceful end of summer!
Sharing tea with a fascinating stranger is one of life's true delights. — Uncle Iroh