I like the way this sounds, so I am going to blab about brewing. So many visitors to the CarriageHouse Tea Room at Selby Gardens are confused about how to brew tea. I hope this helps with Infusion Confusion.
Let’s start with the Kettle, used only to heat water. There are some great models on the market which switch off when the boiling point is reached. There is even one with a thermometer to catch the water before the boiling point is reached. Great for making green or white tea.
A Teapot is a vessel in which the tea is made. You may brew directly in a cup or mug, but I love my teapots. I always warm the pot with boiling water before adding the tea. After I pour out the heating water, I add the tea to the wet pot. After a minute or so, I inhale deeply. As the leaves start to open, the aroma from these warm environs is fantastic and hints at the pleasure soon to come.
Use a teaspoon for each cup of tea you want to prepare. My mum used to say, “and one for the pot,” and my husband and I still always add an extra teaspoon of tea when we brew a pot. A teaspoon is different for each kind of tea, as teas come in many shapes and sizes. Not to fret; you will soon get accustomed to the amount of tea you prefer as you brew more tea. Experiment, though it is not an exact science, have fun.
Steep your tea for the recommended time. White and green teas are 2 to 3 minutes. Black tea is 4 to 6 minutes. Herbals and tisanes are 8 to 10 minutes. Above all, personal preference is the rule. While I use a timer in the tasting room to bring garden visitors the perfect taste, at home, I just look at the color of the liquor and guess!
Many teapots have Infusers, mesh baskets to hold the loose tea. Other pots have Strainers to keep the leaves in the pot and out of your cup. I like to let the leaves move around in the pot, and with glass pots, it can be quite a show.
Loose leaf tea holds a lot of flavors, and I always recommend multiple steeping. Add more boiling water to the leaves and double the steeping time. Your second cuppa will not be as strong as your first, but I cannot bear the thought of throwing away tea leaves with even a bit of flavor. If you don’t plan to drink multiple cups, put the teapot in your fridge, and enjoy the tea over ice.
This afternoon I am brewing my favorite Oolong and will infuse the leaves at least four times before the leaves are laid to rest in my garden, but that’s another posting.
Sit back and enjoy the perfect cup of tea. Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination. I hope this helps.
The tea lady
Korean Way of Tea – Panyaro
The Korean Way of Tea – Panyaro is not as rigid as the Japanese Tea Ceremony [Chanoyu] but more formal than the Chinese Tea Ceremony [Gongfu Cha]. Kim is very passionate in her presentation of the Korean Way of Tea – Panyaro. She explains tea is an important part of reclaiming the true heritage of the Koreans.
After the Japanese invaded Korea in 1910, many traditions and aspects of Korean culture were lost. The invaders systematically wiped out much of the history. Some writings survived in remote monasteries, and from these historical relics, the Korean Way of Tea – Panyaro is revived.
Hyo Dang initiated the revival and wrote the first full-length study of tea in modern Korea. The ceremony is an expression of the graceful way of life. Peace and understanding accompany each cup of tea.
As with the previous ceremonies, Kim wears a beautiful costume. She kneels for the ceremony, and the four guests, myself included, remained in the same position. This is very difficult for all of us!
Each movement is performed slowly and precisely. Kim returns her hands to her lap after each movement. The tea items are covered with a cloth, red on one side representing the earth and blue on the other, representing the sky.
Tea and Water
Hot water in a large teapot is poured into a bowl. The teacups are filled with hot water to warm them. Each time the bowl is lifted, Kim uses a small napkin to wipe the bamboo scoop before placing the tea into the teapot. The water is removed from the cups and filled with a small amount of tea. Kim keeps going back up the line again until each teacup was filled.
Similarly, Kim places each cup on a saucer with the same precise movements and presents a cup to each of us. After that, when she indicates, we all sip together.
The cloth is placed on the cups and pots after we finished our tea. We all bow and, with great relief, stretched out our legs!
For instance, here is a photo of Kim and me after the last ceremony.
Above all, what a great day at Selby Gardens. The experience is fantastic and very different from the English ritual of taking tea; however, it is very similar in many ways.
In conclusion, regardless of how you take your tea, make it special every time and embrace the moment. Local Tea Company was a proud sponsor of all three Tea Ceremonies at the Asian Cultural Festival.
The Tea Lady
Chanoyu – Japanese Tea Ceremony
Chanoyu – The Japanese Tea Ceremony is more complex, absorbing, and meditative than the Chinese Tea Ceremony [Gonfu Cha]. For instance, through tea, every human encounter is a single occasion and is not repeated. Nothing is permanent, and every aspect of the ceremony is to be savored. Seek beauty with your mind and your heart. Cherish each moment. Tea culture is “god-like” and is Teaism in Japan.
The ceremony happens in a designated room, with bamboo mats defining the area. Guests remove their shoes. Kim is wearing a simple creamy blue kimono. Up to four guests participate, and on Saturday, Michael is the honored guest. He enters the ceremony by crawling through an imaginary tunnel, signifying leaving any material items outside the tea ceremony. All are equal regardless of status or social position. No words are spoken.
Only the host touches the water, which is held in a stone jar. The Yin is represented by water and the heat of the fire, Yang. The container symbolizes purity. Guests are served a sweet while the host wipes the ceramic jar with a fine silk cloth or Fukusa. The Fukusa is carefully folded after each movement. In other words, a high level of concentration or state of meditation is required.
The host rinses the tea bowl and whisk. Pouring the water represents a waterfall. The tea, in this case, matcha, is scooped and whisked, then presented to the guest with a bow.
The teaware does not match. The tea bowl represents the moon (yin) and is cherished by the host. The water container is next to the tea bowl representing the sun (yang). After each guest drinks, the host wipes the bowl. The host does not drink any tea. The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a gift to the guest, a gesture of love or respect.
Next, see notes from the Korean Tea Ceremony soon.
The Tea Lady
Gongfu Cha – Chinese Tea Ceremony
Gongfu Cha. This last weekend was the Asian Cultural Festival at Selby Gardens. The event was packed with uniquely Asian activities; bonsai displays, martial arts performers, taiko drummers, and other dancers. For instance, on Saturday, the Local Tea Company-sponsored 3 tea ceremonies – Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. I enjoyed all three and participated in the Korean Tea Ceremony. Here are the details, along with a few pictures.
Kim Pham presents all three ceremonies in traditional attire. She uses proper tea accessories and authentic teas. She owns Kaleisia Tea Lounge in Tampa. Kim is fantastic, very knowledgeable, and thrilled to share the history and details with all that attended. Above all, Kim is a true student of tea ceremonies.
I will break the details into 3 posts.
Gongfu Cha, the Chinese ceremony, was first at 11 am. This style of the ceremony is all about the tea, what it tastes like and smells like. After that, the audience asked questions, and Kim talked all the way through, describing the ceremony as “tea with friends.” Each step is meant to be a sensory exploration and appreciation. Similarly, a tiny unglazed clay teapot, Yixing, is filled a third full of tea for multiple, quick infusions. The pot and small drinking cups get rinsed with boiling water first. Then the tea is rinsed or flushed.
The first infusion is only 30 seconds.
In other words, Kim explains the tea comes from a wild tea plant in the Yunnan Province of China. She buys directly from farmers. She calls it ‘No Name’ tea because the family drinks this tea, and it has no name. Above all, this very special tea is sweet and delicious. And Kim wears a traditional Chinese special occasion dress of silk, but back to the Gongfu Cha.
In other words, the tea is poured in a continual motion over each cup. All are filled together and taste the same. There are 2 cups. The larger is called the “snifter.” This is tipped upside down, releasing tea into the small drinking cups, about 2 sips worth. Then the snifter is smelled to appreciate the aroma. Kim moves everything using bamboo chopsticks. Typically up to five infusions are made from the same leaves, adding 10 seconds of steep each time.
Next up, the Japanese Tea Ceremony,
The Tea Lady
Cami to Chamomile
Someone asked me about Chamomile tea. This herbal blend is not one of my favorite teas; however, I wanted to find out why it is such a popular beverage.
Well, I found some information that has really piqued my interest. I might even be contemplating adding it to the pot!
The Chamomile plant (Matricaria recutita) is native to Europe, North Africa, and the Mediterranean region. I found a long history of use for this mild botanical. Most interesting, it’s safe to use for long periods of time without any adverse effects. Be sure to consult your doctor.
Science Daily cites a study where researchers found over a 2 week period; chamomile tea drinkers experienced increased anti-bacterial activity in their urine. In simple terms, this means that chamomile can boost your immune system and fight illness. The study also found an increase in amino acids helping to alleviate muscle spasms and relax nerves.
Chamomile can help people suffering from stress, spasms, and cramps. Others found relief from intestinal discomfort and the reduction of gas. Therefore, drink chamomile tea after meals to alleviate these symptoms.
Will I convert to drink Chamomile tea? Perhaps, now that I know more about this lovely herbal tea.
The Tea Lady
Are you Spellbound?
While sampling our iced Earl Grey, a customer told me she had read that Bergamot was bad for you.
How can the most popular flavored tea in the world possibly have an unhealthy ingredient for you? I wanted to prove that theory very wrong and found some interesting facts. Though, I’ll tell you about our iced Earl Grey later.
Bergamot is small, pear-shaped citrus native to southeast Asia. Now it is commercially grown in Calabria, Italy. The fruit thrives on the Calabrian coast and is the symbol of the region. Like most citrus, I am sure it makes excellent marmalade. My Key Lime marmalade would be hard to top, but I digress.
Bergamot is used in half of all women’s perfumes. And Bergamot is used in aromatherapy to treat depression and aid digestion. I couldn’t find much negative press.
Extract from the bergamot plant was used in sunscreens but was banned in 1995. Bergamot blocked the absorption of potassium in the intestines. Why would it be used as a digestive aid then?
I found that various North American plants of the mint family are also called bergamot due to their fragrance. One was used to make a beverage by the American Indian Oswego tribe. In the 18th century, colonists drank this ‘tea’ during their boycott of British teas! We won’t get into that now, though!
The worst info I found was that Bergamot had been used in Witchcraft. Maybe it cast a spell on all those people who think it is the best-tasting tea ever! Are you spellbound?
The Tea Lady
Tea Party for 110
On Sunday dawned the day I served tea to the biggest tea party I have ever been involved with! This was definitely a first in my tea journey.
The occasion was to celebrate and give thanks to the Associates of Selby Gardens, all 110 of them and a bunch of tea lovers to boot! Not only that, they wanted the “Champagne of tea” Darjeeling. We selected a beautiful tea from the Tukdah Estate, which was the first flush TGFOP. I could not mess this one up!
Tea Party Prep
So, my dilemma. How to serve the perfect tasting, piping hot cup of tea to all these people? How much to make? What time to start brewing? When it boils down to it (sorry!), you just have to replicate what you do best when making tea for two. So that is just what I did, along with some helpers, of course.
I got together all the containers (one of these was a Silver Samovar, which looked fabulous) we were using. I weighed the tea in correct proportions and got the kettles boiling! We steeped the leaves twice, first for 3 mins and second for 6 mins. In my experience, this gives a well-balanced taste. It took one and a half hours to complete the process.
Tea Party Service
We delivered the tea to another building (no easy fete over the brick paving’s in the garden). Then we decanted the hot tea into very nice Silver teapots owned by some of the Associates. The tables were served tea as the guests were invited to the buffet table. Each server came back for more and more tea!
It was a brilliant feeling seeing all those people slurping Darjeeling. Sorry, Selby Associates don’t slurp, but you know what I mean. We had plenty for everyone and very little leftover tea.
It was great to receive such good comments and no negatives. Then you start to ask yourself, why did I worry so much?
“If you say you can, you will” is a great motto. And one which is working well for me this month, stir in a little love, and you have the perfect cups of tea.
So, if you are planning a BIG tea party, call yours truly.
The Tea Lady
Tea Class at Selby
February 2009 certainly got off to a busy start in my tea world! Tea Class at Selby.
Last Thursday, we had our first Tea Appreciation course at Selby Gardens as part of the Sarasota County Adult Learning Education Program. From the second floor of the Payne Mansion with a wonderful view of Sarasota Bay, the sun dazzled on the water and shining on the Ringling Bridge.
Does this sound amazing? It was!
The picture-perfect tea morning, bright and sunny but on the cool side for us wimps in Florida.
I had 16 lovely ladies attend. (Come on, you tea-loving guys, there must be some of you out there!) During our 90 minutes together, we tasted 6 different teas; 2 black, 2 green, and 2 herbals. We discussed the origin, processing, preparation, and health benefits of each tea. There was time for lots of questions and some lively discussion about brewing the perfect cuppa.
I must not forget to thank my excellent cha walla Michael, who served the tea in true airline stewardess fashion! In Indian families, ‘cha walla’ is used as a term of endearment to encourage a fellow family member to make the tea. Also, a term used in the film “Slumdog Millionaire” for the hero Jamil Malik but not with the same endearment!
As ladies are wont to do, the ladies then proceeded to our Tasting Room to sample 3 more teas.
We had 3 more ladies attend during the afternoon and had an “unplugged version” of the same class. Very up close and personal but just as much fun. A brilliant start to the month.
Watch this space, we are planning more Tea Appreciation and other Tea associated classes in the coming months, and it would be great to have you join us.
The Tea Lady
Holy Basil Tea
At our booth at the Downtown Sarasota Farmer’s Market, someone asked for Holy Basil tea. I was not familiar with this tea and did some research that you may find interesting.
Holy Basil, or the Tulsi plant, is called ‘Holy’ and is an important symbol in the Hindu religion. Tulsi means “the incomparable one,” and the plant is worshiped morning and evening. No Hindu household is considered complete without a Tulsi plant.
Apart from the religious significance of Holy Basil, the plant has many medicinal benefits. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is termed “the elixir of life” as it promotes longevity. In other words, the tea has antioxidants to boost the body’s ability to fight nasty free radicals that can cause disease and aging. It is also an adaptogen that helps the body fight stress by balancing the mind, nerves, and emotions and maintains the respiratory tract’s health.
Initially, I was curious why this customer wanted this tea. I understood the importance of this tea when I learned about the spiritual nature of Holy Basil. I am thrilled to know a bit more about another aspect of this beverage we love called tea.
The Tea Lady