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neogeo0823
Jul 4, 2007

NO THAT'S NOT ME!!


DurianGray posted:

Also, what the gently caress is SUPERFRUIT ENHANCED supposed to be (besides a marketing gimmick)?

I have no clue, but it sounds like it's riding on the hyped up "superfruits" of the moment. It probably means it's got some extract of(or in Teavana's case, probably just the same chemical/nutrients as) acai or pomegranate or something. Hell, it could just mean that it's flavored like them.

I know when I was browsing through the store, they had these large jars of GERMAN ROCK SUGAR! Made from BEET ROOT EXTRACT!! The only way to sweeten your tea WITHOUT CHANGING THE FLAVOR!!

The jar was around $30. I wouldn't buy a $30 thing of sweetener unless it cooked all the foods it would also be sweetening, while it was sweetening my tea and cooking my food.

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.Z.
Jan 12, 2008

que ojos tan lindos tienes...


Anyone have suggestions on some high quality oolongs to get? I about to finsh up the $45 version of this: http://seattlebesttea.com/?page_id=...=4&product_id=1

I'm not looking for everyday stuff, I've got a large supply of daily quality/cost puerh and oolong. I just want something for every so often.

axolotl farmer
May 17, 2007

I had me a vision
there wasn't any television



Nap Ghost

neogeo0823 posted:

I know when I was browsing through the store, they had these large jars of GERMAN ROCK SUGAR! Made from BEET ROOT EXTRACT!! The only way to sweeten your tea WITHOUT CHANGING THE FLAVOR!!


Most sugar sold in Europe is made from sugar beets, which is just a variety of the same species as beet root. It's chemically identical to cane sugar.

The unrefined rock sugar just has a little bit of raw sugar taste, but it's all marketing bullshit.

NihilCredo
Jun 6, 2011

iram omni possibili modo preme:
plus una illa te diffamabit, quam multæ virtutes commendabunt



axolotl farmer posted:

Most sugar sold in Europe is made from sugar beets, which is just a variety of the same species as beet root. It's chemically identical to cane sugar.
Wait, what? When I see cane sugar in stores (or in small packets in coffee bars), it's brown, coarser, and has a noticeably different taste from regular white beet sugar.

I can figure the 'coarser' part, but is the rest also merely a deliberate choice in the refining process, i.e. unrelated to the plant used?

FAUXTON
Jun 2, 2005

daef


NihilCredo posted:

Wait, what? When I see cane sugar in stores (or in small packets in coffee bars), it's brown, coarser, and has a noticeably different taste from regular white beet sugar.

I can figure the 'coarser' part, but is the rest also merely a deliberate choice in the refining process, i.e. unrelated to the plant used?

Yep. The brown color is actually what didn't get refined out into molasses (which is the leftover gunk from making beets or cane into sugar).

niveous
Oct 16, 2010


I know Teavana is a total scam but the last time I stopped in the store at the mall I walked out with 4oz. of their white Ayurvedic chai/Samural chai mate blend because it was just THAT delicious. I brought my electric kettle and my little teapot back to school with me so that I can make tea proper now, too. So exciting.

Anybody have a recommendation for a good loose genmai cha? The local sushi place has one that's really tasty and while I have some okay bagged stuff I'd rather buy something that's nicer quality.

Sirotan
Oct 17, 2006

Sirotan is a seal.


Ham Wrangler

niveous posted:

Anybody have a recommendation for a good loose genmai cha? The local sushi place has one that's really tasty and while I have some okay bagged stuff I'd rather buy something that's nicer quality.

I would argue that buying 'high quality' is sort of against the point of genmaichai since it was originally created to save money so the lower classes could afford to drink tea. Adding toasted rice to a cheaper tea would make it go farther. I think you could find good selection of loose genmaicha in any asian/Japanese grocery store.

Otherwise, I'm sure any of the number of web sites previous posters have recommended would have some.

Cizzo
Jul 5, 2007

Haters gonna hate.


I've never actually had genmai cha. Does it taste sweet at all because of the brown rice?

QuentinCompson
Mar 11, 2009


Cizzo posted:

I've never actually had genmai cha. Does it taste sweet at all because of the brown rice?

To me it tastes like popcorn.

Sirotan
Oct 17, 2006

Sirotan is a seal.


Ham Wrangler

Cizzo posted:

I've never actually had genmai cha. Does it taste sweet at all because of the brown rice?

Its actually toasted white rice. And it isn't sweet at all, I'm terrible at describing how things taste but I think the rice gives it this nice savory quality to an otherwise traditional green tea base flavor. It just makes me feel nostalgic about Japan every time I drink it.

Hummingbirds
Feb 17, 2011



So from what I can tell, are goons too elite for Adagio? Because I've been buying from them and have zero complaints about the quality of the tea (although I have little reference) and as a bonus, their stuff is fairly inexpensive. Do you guys think Adagio is at least good enough for becoming acquainted to all the different types of tea? It's hard to pass up $2 samples.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Adagio is awesome

I mean, if you want more variety/choice once you figure out the styles of tea you like, you should probably go elsewhere*, but as far as an introductory seller, or a seller that has great prices for good quality stuff and amazing customer service, you can't go wrong. drat their reward point system too, it keeps me coming back again and again because I have free stuff to redeem.

Their sample packages are a pretty great deal too, and perfect for figuring out what you like and starting to develop a tea palate. I'm kinda sad that they went to the bag-only packaging. I loved those tiny little tins you would get with the samples. I'm glad I kept all mine.

Also, if you haven't checked out their custom blend area it's... interesting. I can say that pretty much the entire Zodiac series is fantastic. It's also bizarre seeing the pop-culture based series of teas that come out. I've seen Twilight, Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Game of Thrones, and others in the past and unsurprisingly someone has made a My Little Pony series...

It really is a pretty cool feature and worth checking out if you're into blending your own stuff, though.

*Even people on the tea forum that Adagio itself hosts admit that while Adagio is a great starting point, most of them have since moved on to other retailers.

tirinal
Feb 5, 2007


Adagio is actually fairly good quality in objective terms, and some of their stuff (the fruity tisanes, especially) can be really delicious despite not being what people will snobbishly call "tea." People just dislike them because a lot of their marketing is bullshit, they gouge you on accessories, and the teas themselves are indeed expensive. I don't know how you can call them fairly cheap if you compare them to something like Upton Teas.

Hummingbirds
Feb 17, 2011



tirinal posted:

I don't know how you can call them fairly cheap if you compare them to something like Upton Teas.

I was referring more to the sample sizes. I found Upton's site ridiculously hard to navigate so maybe they really are cheaper and I'm too stupid to realize it, haha. Additionally though, Adagio's low shipping fee is what got me in the first place. I hate overpriced shipping, especially since I'm usually not buying a whole lot of tea.

And thanks for the validation, Durian you're right, I'm still in that period of learning what I like and dislike, so I guess I shouldn't feel bad about getting my stuff there.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


tirinal posted:

People just dislike them because a lot of their marketing is bullshit, they gouge you on accessories, and the teas themselves are indeed expensive. I don't know how you can call them fairly cheap if you compare them to something like Upton Teas.

Oh, I know Upton is a hell of a lot cheaper than pretty much anything else, especially considering the huge catalog of stuff they have, but if you don't know exactly what you want it's incredibly intimidating. Hell, I've been pretty into tea for the last 2+ years and I'm still sort of scared by just how much stuff they have (I get their quarterly catalog thing and drat is it huge). Their website design is pretty atrocious though. Out of curiosity though, what do you mean by Adagio's marketing bullshit? I've never seen anything from them as terrible as a lot of tea retailers that tout (false) health benefits constantly and make tea seem like some sort of miracle sap gathered from the gently weeping teat of Great Odin himself. Just sort of confused as to what you're referring to. Adagio is pretty inexpensive compared to about 90% of tea retailers I've come across. Unless perhaps you're getting them confused with Teavana, in which case every single accusation you're making makes a hell of a lot more sense.

Just an interesting comparison between Teavana and Adagio:

Both have Black Dragon Pearls for sale. From what I've heard (this is conjecture, but seems plausible) they probably get their BDPs from the same supplier.
Adagio charges $50 for a pound.
Teavana charges $60 for HALF a pound.

Hummingbirds, don't feel bad at all. Adagio was my starting place, and the starting place for a lot of people, and while I haven't gotten anything from them in a while, I probably will get a few things from them in the future when some of my "daily" tea stock starts running out. And when I have money.

Culinary Bears
Feb 1, 2007



On that shipping note, that's actually exactly why I use Upton Tea so much. Their shipping is always flat, I believe around 4 bucks to the US and around 9 bucks to Canada, whether you order $1 worth of tea or $100. They don't even care if you order a bunch of tin cases or something to the point that it runs them like 40 bucks to mail, they'll still ship it to you for that flat rate (don't be a dick and order just tins though).

I guess if you're in the US that's nothing to go crazy over, but in Canada the vast majority of tea sites (Adagio etc. included) will end up shafting you with a $20 priority shipping fee on even the tiniest sample.

Crash BandiCute
Nov 7, 2004

Dona Nobis Pacem

I just moved and my tea cupboard was empty so I tried a local place to stock up, Pekoe Tea in Edinburgh, and bought some Russian Caravan, Caramel flavoured Rooibos, Pai Mu Dan white tea and a lavendar infusion.

I'm drinking the russian caravan right now, it's pretty good.





Cizzo
Jul 5, 2007

Haters gonna hate.


I got some pretty generic Tie-Guan-Yin from Upton and I have to say, it's pretty good. I'm new to the world of teas outside of my own little world but this stuff is amazing. It almost tastes sweet as an after-taste. Definitely would recommend it to those who want to try something.

And Upton also gave me a free sample of Darjeeling Ftgfopi. No idea what this stuff is but hey, if it's free, I'll try it.

esquilax
Jan 3, 2003



Cizzo posted:

I got some pretty generic Tie-Guan-Yin from Upton and I have to say, it's pretty good. I'm new to the world of teas outside of my own little world but this stuff is amazing. It almost tastes sweet as an after-taste. Definitely would recommend it to those who want to try something.

And Upton also gave me a free sample of Darjeeling Ftgfopi. No idea what this stuff is but hey, if it's free, I'll try it.

It's from the Darjeeling region of India, and is graded "Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe" (i= First Flush?) It also comically stands for "Far too good for ordinary people", because unless you drink a lot of tea you probably won't notice.

In general, the more adjectives the tea has the better it is.

Noricae
Nov 19, 2004

cheese?

Have any of you had Kusmi tea? http://www.us.kusmitea.com/en/ It's my favorite Russian tea, and up there among my top five sources (the others are various HK and Japanese greens and whites, mostly). Great quality tea, mostly for their black varieties - they're my favorite source for Earl Grey and they have a buffalo grass scented black tea that is really unique and tasty. They're kind of expensive, but they go on sale on Amazon sometimes for $10ish per 4.4oz tin.

Noricae fucked around with this message at Oct 21, 2011 around 01:47

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Hi! Some people were talking about genmaicha and such and because this is a thread that needs some love I figured I would say hello.





Brew temperature: 179F, or roughly freshly boiled water cooled for 5-7 minutes
Steep time: 90sec - 2 minutes, adjust to taste
Suggested serving size: 2 tablespoons per 4oz of water in the teapot
Longevity: 5-8 steeps, increasing the steep time by 15-30sec each time

Overview



Genmaicha is a low to medium grade green tea blended with roasted and popped brown rice kernels. White rice is used in place of brown rice sometimes too, but "genmai" translates to brown rice. It is designed to be a cheaper alternative to the often much more expensive and more carefully cultivated grades of green tea in Japan. Because there is less actual tea leaf by volume, the overall cost tends to be significantly cheaper. A good poor man's tea.

That's not to say it's a bad tea!

Taste

Genmaicha is a very robust tea that takes to multiple steeps well. The flavor profile is a little on the sweeter side accentuated by the planty/vegetal flavor profiles of sencha. The roasted kernels provide a very "toasty" liquor (the robustness from earlier). With the right amount of genmaicha, you typically don't have to worry about oversteeping. The most important thing is to make sure you don't brew the leaves too hot.

In the hotter seasons it's great to have iced. Very refreshing!

Doesn't really take well to honey/sugar in my opinion, but that's personal taste.

Food Pairings

Anything dry savory/salty will work well. Try rice crackers, potato chips, nori senbei (Japanese rice crackers w/ seaweed). Both dry and 'fluffy' sweets work well too such as crumbly cookies, cakes, and biscuits.

Pricing and Availability

Genmaicha, being a cheap tea, is found in plenty of places. The brand I typically drink is HIME Brand genmaicha since it's available at my local grocery store (Lucky's in the US) - 10oz for $3.75 + tax.

Provided you have stuff to brew with already, you get about two to three months of genmaicha if you used the brewing suggestions above if you brewed once a day and dumped the leaves after one steep for every day of the week at 7 cents a cup. Money well spent? Maybe!

Other Notes

Try brewing cold! Use a disposable tea bag and pack it with 4-5 tablespoons in one pitcher (3L or more). The longer you let it steep the better, overnight is good.

Blending genmaicha with other green teas will make the brew milder overall. Try 2 parts genmaicha to 1 part gunpowder green tea. You can probably steep that up to 10-12 times with the extra 'strength' the gunpowder gives to the cup! (note: please do not use actual gunpowder. that is dangerous and probably tastes terrible)

I'll throw some pictures up later!

aldantefax fucked around with this message at Oct 25, 2011 around 17:10

herbaceous backson
Mar 10, 2009

a thousand smackeroos


I'm pretty new to the whole tea thing, so forgive me if some of these questions are silly.

My mom gave me an old school porcelain teapot with one of those mesh stainers you hold over the cup as you pour, along with a tin of loose leaf twinings English breakfast. She got them as a gift but isn't really into tea.

I've made a few cups so far, and it tastes a million times better than the Lipton bags I've been using. You don't see much loose leaf tea in stores around here, so I didn't really know what I was missing.
I love the teapot, but the tea usually ends up oversteeping and getting too bitter before I can finish the pot. Should I be steeping in one pot and then pouring it into another to serve?

Which brewing method works best? Bodum pots/presses, the ingenuitea, tea balls, strainers, removable in-pot infusers? It's kind of bewildering at first.

Cizzo
Jul 5, 2007

Haters gonna hate.


a handful of dust posted:

I'm pretty new to the whole tea thing, so forgive me if some of these questions are silly.

My mom gave me an old school porcelain teapot with one of those mesh stainers you hold over the cup as you pour, along with a tin of loose leaf twinings English breakfast. She got them as a gift but isn't really into tea.

I've made a few cups so far, and it tastes a million times better than the Lipton bags I've been using. You don't see much loose leaf tea in stores around here, so I didn't really know what I was missing.
I love the teapot, but the tea usually ends up oversteeping and getting too bitter before I can finish the pot. Should I be steeping in one pot and then pouring it into another to serve?

Which brewing method works best? Bodum pots/presses, the ingenuitea, tea balls, strainers, removable in-pot infusers? It's kind of bewildering at first.

I think it really depends. Some of the older folks like to dump the tea directly into the water and let it steep forever so it can be super strong towards the end. I prefer to let my tea steep for a few minutes (based on your tastes) and then just remove it.

Investing a tea steeper helps to manage this. Something like this:
http://www.amazon.com/Stainless-Ste...19328214&sr=8-1

Obviously there are like a million out there but they all generally serve the save purpose which is preventing your tea leaves from scattering all over the inside of your cup.

I would personally just warm water in the teapot and then put the tea steeper into the cup itself. Then pour the water into the cup. Let it sit for a few minutes (this varies based on how strong you like it I imagine) and then just remove the steeper full of tea. No mess.

edit: I wouldn't really worry too much about the equipment you use to make the tea because unless you're drinking some top-knotch high grade stuff; it's more hassle than it's worth. Just don't use boiling water. Just make it just hot enough where it won't boil but will still be relatively hot. This varies by tea though if you do care to get exact temperatures for that "perfect taste".

Devi
Jan 15, 2006

CYCLOPS
WAS RIGHT


Tea thread! How exciting! I just found a great tea place about a month ago. I was going to dinner across the street and we had some time to kill so we wandered over. If you're in there area, [url=http://www.sereneteaz.com/]Serene Teaz[/i] in Wheaton, Illinois is worth checking out. They have a location in Elmhurst as well, but I haven't been there yet. Bright shop, all the teas have little jars for you to sniff, the prices are good from what I can tell, and the people who work there are really knowledgeable and friendly. They'll brew up anything in store for you to try. I took their Tea 101 class because while I've tried a lot of teas, I know I've brewed them/had them brewed incorrectly. I went in thinking black tea is my favorite and left in love with white tea. They sell their tea online, too.

I drink Peony White Tea almost every day and usually some flavored rooibus or another blend as well. I have a Dream Steeper which is basically the same as the IngenuiTea. Love it because I can rebrew easily. I have a little basket strainer from Republic of Tea that I like, but it's smaller than most of my mugs and tea will float out. For work, I have the 4 mug size T-Sacs. They're easier to fill and maybe the tea gets more room to move around. I want to get one of those French press style travel mugs now, though.

It's amazing how good a good cup of tea is. I've got a bunch of little bags of teas now and I get stupidly excited about picking what to brew next and planning out what I'll do if it's one that can be resteeped.

I've always liked those little pot/cup/saucer sets but until recently I didn't drink enough tea to justify them. Now that I do, it seems silly since I've got a good setup going. A small teapot would be nice. I could make cozies for it.

Someone mentioned Dobra in Madison a page or so back. I went there last year while I was in town for a class and wish I'd gotten some tea to bring home. I really enjoyed the tea I had there and loved the sweet couscous dish I had with it. Someday I'll find an excuse to visit Madison again and spend some more time there.

I really wanted to get milk oolong from Serene Teaz but it's four times the price of most of their tea and I was getting a few other kinds already. It's on my wishlist. Has anyone had milk oolong? Anything to say about it? I know it can and should be resteeped so the price isn't that terrible. And it smells so good...

Thoht
Aug 3, 2006



Milky oolongs can be really good. Taiwanese oolongs are some of my favorite teas, especially the lighter styles. Too bad they're so damned expensive.

horchata
Oct 17, 2010


niveous posted:

Anybody have a recommendation for a good loose genmai cha? The local sushi place has one that's really tasty and while I have some okay bagged stuff I'd rather buy something that's nicer quality.

i have the teavana genmaicha, i quite like it. but then again the only other genmaicha i can compare it to is the coffee bean and tea leaf brand one

ohnoyoudidnt
Mar 18, 2005

I was told there would be pie

Spuckuk posted:

Are bog-standard electric kettles not an everyday household item in the US/Canada then? Literally every house and office here has one, it's as essential as a toaster.

The very idea of not having a cuppa available is a little terrifying to me

To add to the discussion, get thee some Yorkshire Tea, it's far from fancy, should be brewed strong and sullied with full fat milk



YES. Yorkshire is the gold of teas. I for one am firmly on the side of people who remove the bag AFTER pouring the milk. And one sugar.

This is the hierarchy of standard British teabags:

Yorkshire > PG Tips > Twinings Everyday > Tetley

Barry's is the best from Ireland. The Irish drink more tea per capita than anyone in the world, and Barry's is probably the main reason why. It's delish.

adventure in the sandbox
Nov 24, 2005



Things change




ohnoyoudidnt posted:

This is the hierarchy of standard British teabags:

Yorkshire > PG Tips > Twinings Everyday > Tetley

Uh oh, I thought Tetley was pretty good, at least better than Red Rose. I love me some British tea though, I should try to find some Yorkshire.

pork never goes bad
May 16, 2008

gin&milk!!!


I'm a PG Tips guy, in general, but recently I have been drinking Ahmad Tea English Blend #1. Usually Ahmad's stuff is pretty bad, as it is often very old by the time it hits shelves, especially in the US, but if you find some that isn't like 3000 years old when you buy it, the English Blend #1 is actually really good!

And don't pour milk in before removing the bag, ohnoyoudidnt is a philistine and his (or her) advice is heretical!

ohnoyoudidnt
Mar 18, 2005

I was told there would be pie

pork never goes bad posted:

And don't pour milk in before removing the bag, ohnoyoudidnt is a philistine and his (or her) advice is heretical!

But but but it's nice to squeeze out the bag and see the last tendrils of dark brown tea goodness go swirling down into the depths of your milky mug

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

I added some pictures to my earlier post about genmaicha, and later I will about gaiwan and some oolongs!

Something to tide you over. hooray, images


Always Tie Guan Yin, from Imperial Tea Court (Berkeley, CA)

Cpt.Wacky
Apr 17, 2005


adventure in the sandbox posted:

Uh oh, I thought Tetley was pretty good, at least better than Red Rose. I love me some British tea though, I should try to find some Yorkshire.

Red Rose is Canadian and I didn't know until just now. I like Red Rose more, on average, than PG Tips but then again I'm using Red Rose loose versus PG Tips bags that spent who knows how many months on a slow boat to America. Ranking them against each other is just personal taste, and I've found a lot of variation between batches in all the mass-marketed teas. Drink what you like, and don't worry about whether it's the "best".

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

.Z. posted:

Anyone have suggestions on some high quality oolongs to get? I about to finsh up the $45 version of this: http://seattlebesttea.com/?page_id=...=4&product_id=1

I'm not looking for everyday stuff, I've got a large supply of daily quality/cost puerh and oolong. I just want something for every so often.

Hey this question never got answered! Prepare for

Personally I like high grade Wu Yi oolongs for their extreme bold flavors that last for a long time. The flavor is so distinct you would probably be able to distinguish it in a blind taste test.

If you live in America, two of the top fancy tea purveyors that are in the West Coast are Téance and Imperial Tea Court. It depends on the amount of tea you're looking for but there's one from Imperial Tea Court that the owner of the place, Roy Fong, hand fires himself every year at his facilities in Oakland, CA. (edit: sorry, i forgot to mention that it is extremely limited supply and I believe only available by special request or in store)

One of my favorites from Téance (you can find this elsewhere too) is Buddha's Hand oolong. Rather than being rolled into curled shapes, the broad tea leaves are instead kept fairly straight and hand fired. The Spring 2010 leaves I have 2oz (e: oops, not 4oz) of are still good! It has a somewhat nutty texture, with a very tantalizing liquor and aroma. Definitely worth trying if you can find some, as it is reputed to be somewhat rare due to how it's made (?).


2 Tablespoons of Buddha's Hand Oolong


Original Packaging 2oz Spring 2010 Harvest from Teance, Berkeley CA


Buddha's Hand, second steeping. Had to blow out the exposure a little bit to get some of the details out!

Abroad, look for oolongs that have "Monkey Picked", "Imperial", or "Premium" in their title. Generally speaking, the first two are to signify that it's the pride of a given tea shop and thus some of their most select products. If you can, try a cup before committing, though, because a lot of the more expensive oolongs tend towards much more subtle differences.

As mentioned very briefly earlier, Taiwan has one of the ideal climates for growing oolongs. "Formosa" being one of the designations for Taiwanese oolongs, I believe 'milky' oolongs are noted so for their texture, aroma, and appearance, and like the Buddha's Hand oolong mentioned earlier, they have special processing methods which are much more labor intensive than even regular oolongs.

A special mention is Zealong, which is oolong made in New Zealand. I have yet to try it but there are no other tea plantations that produce commercially in New Zealand that I'm aware of, and you get a fair amount with a $55 US purchase. Check them out here. Recently I see they've been getting a lot more exposure and are working on securing exporters, so you might be able to get it locally if you prod around.

tl;dr: any Wu Yi, Buddha's Hand, Formosa Milk, (bonus) Imperial Grade Baozhong, Monkey Picked Tie Guan Yin

edits: added a couple of pictures to brighten this text post up. I'll add some wu yi tie luo han later!

aldantefax fucked around with this message at Oct 26, 2011 around 18:28

Charmmi
Dec 8, 2008

:trophystare:


Thanks for the great info, aldantefax. What kind of gaiwan do you use? I heard it's a really good way of preparing oolong tea but I don't really know what to look for in a quality gaiwan.

adventure in the sandbox
Nov 24, 2005



Things change




Cpt.Wacky posted:

Drink what you like, and don't worry about whether it's the "best".

Absolutely! I like to see if other brands or types are better than what I currently drink. If people recommend a certain brand as the "best" of a type of tea, I want to try it right now

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Charmmi posted:

Thanks for the great info, aldantefax. What kind of gaiwan do you use? I heard it's a really good way of preparing oolong tea but I don't really know what to look for in a quality gaiwan.

Hoho, glad you asked. Time for

What is a Gaiwan?


An extreme close up of one of my favorite gaiwan that I use at work. It is made of thin porcelain.

A gaiwan is a Chinese drinking vessel that originally evolved from the chawan, which was a large bowl where tea was steeped, mixed with herbs and spices (orange peel, peppercorns, salt, and all sorts of other stuff), then drunk in one go. Chawan tends to live on in the Japanese tea ceremony tradition, however in China and abroad, it has since been supplanted and refined to a more personal level.

Why Gaiwan?

Gaiwan in general is one of the preferred methods of brewing small servings of tea designed to be drunk by an individual. Next to yixing gong fu teaware, a gaiwan is generally affordable and easy to handle, once you know how to properly measure and handle tea. Compare this to a traditional Western-style teapot which tends to hold as much as four to eight times the amount of tea liquor that a gaiwan has! It is a different experience altogether.

Originally designed to provide a way for people to enjoy multiple steepings of the same leaves, the gaiwan is best suited for pu-erh (cake or loose) and oolong teas. Very finely cut teas such as black tea blends from India and abroad such as Earl Grey and English/Irish/Scottish Breakfast black teas may not work well, because more often than not you'll get tea bits stuck in your teeth.

In use today, there are places in China and abroad that serve teas in gaiwan rather unceremoniously, as it is well integrated into every day life. In restaurants that do provide gaiwan (or tea bars, cafes, etc.) it is also said that positioning the lid of the gaiwan in certain orientations (upside down, leaning against the bowl, away from the bowl) serves as a sort of signal to a server if you need more hot water, or you stepped away and intend to return, or if you're done, etc.

Parts


A gaiwan I use at home. Note the lid on the side leaning on the saucer.

A gaiwan is comprised of three parts - lid, bowl, and a wide fitted saucer. Since pu-erh and oolong is meant to be served hot (208F and 194F, respectively), the drinker will typically employ both hands in order to hold the saucer, while the other hand manipulates the lid so that when they are drinking, they can sweep the leaves away from the liquor. When you are used to drinking from a gaiwan, you can definitely use a claw-like grip in one hand while getting water all over the place.

The lid deserves special note here as it is meant to be used to help agitate the tea leaves to help them unfold. It also keeps the tea from losing too much heat during steepings, and as mentioned before, it helps prevent getting a mouthful of tea leaves. It's also possible to serve some tea on the convex side of the lid to help cool the liquor down and serve it to more temperature sensitive individuals, such as people with children.

The bowl of the gaiwan will typically be glazed and a reflective pale color to help accentuate the color of the tea liquor and the leaves themselves. Tea, like wine, is meant to be a sensory experience, and it overall helps if you are able to see everything in good contrast - while still keeping everything nice and hot.


Wu Yi Tie Luo Han 2011 from Imperial Tea Court, Berkeley CA

The saucer, of course, ties everything together. Most times you will have the saucer fitted to the bottom of the bowl so they do not rattle about and potentially spill everywhere. The extra layer of glazed stoneware is vital to preventing burning and scalding, as this is where the entire thing is grasped.

Operational Instructions

Like any other way of making tea, preheat first! It will improve the overall experience of your drink by a very wide margin unless you're drinking Lipton (in which case, why are you even reading this?).

I'll put some action pictures here demonstrating two holding techniques and the parts of a gaiwan mentioned above soon!

A fancy walkthrough of gaiwan preparation done in the gong fu style can be found at the Tea Masters blog, but it needn't be so complicated (or done squatting for that matter, jeez). Thanks Bob McBob for the tip!

Being a glorified cup, a gaiwan normally invites a minimal amount of tea, no more than 2 tablespoons at the maximum even for the most broad-leafed teas. Take note and use the same spoon or scoop each time so you don't overmeasure the amount of leaves.

Gaiwan have a usually invisible fill line which is about half a centimeter before the lip begins to curl - that is, the liquid should not go farther than where the lid normally rests.

When drinking from the gaiwan, it is generally not considered rude to slurp, because you're shotgunning 190+ degree liquid into your mouth! Just take it slowly and enjoy each somewhat noisome sip.

Caveats
  • A gaiwan is definitely not an active travelling accessory, it is meant to be used in a stationary setting where you can pay attention to the tea. In an office environment it's only useful if you are never busy or you have a ready supply of temperature specific hot water.
  • Some people will tell you that X is better than Y when it comes to gaiwan, but those are typically sales tactics. See below for shopping tips!
  • As well, gaiwan do not go over so well with teas that have leaves processed by way of CTC (Cut-Tear-Curl)- you will be able to distinguish them as the leaves have been chopped finely. Use whole leafed or coarsely chopped tea leaves.
  • When you first start using a gaiwan you will probably have some bad starts. It's okay, since it does take getting used to, but keep a small hand towel handy...and maybe a bib.

Pricing and Variety

A typical good quality gaiwan will cost $20-30 USD and will hold about 4-8oz of liquid, so expect to have about 25-50% of that volume taken up by the leaves expanding.

Bob McBob informed me that there are in fact other places that sell gaiwan cheaper:


Gaiwan are typically made in many places in China and Taiwan. Taiwanese gaiwan, in my experience, tend to have heftier glazes which can sometimes cause the parts of the gaiwan to rattle when you're holding it (if it's a bad fit).

When considering purchasing a gaiwan, consider the aesthetics and personal comfort level - tea, like any other culinary experience, is best experienced when you're most comfortable, so if you like a certain design over another, then by all means don't let the price sway you.

Many, if not all, specialty tea stores sell a gaiwan, though they may be surprised if you ask to buy one if you're not in an Asian tea producing area (it does not see much use in India, for example). Since it's a tactile experience, try many different types and just hold them in both hands for a little while. If you find that you're constantly studying the intricacies of the gaiwan or it feels pleasant to hold, then you've probably found a pretty good one for yourself.

Unless there's a physical defect with a gaiwan, it is like any piece of non-transient wares; take good care of it and it will stay with you for a long time.

I've purchased gaiwan from two places, chiefly: Imperial Tea Court (direct link to gaiwan section) and Tea Au Lait, which sadly no longer stocks gaiwan since they closed their physical store location. Imperial Tea Court actually serves tea in gaiwan at their tea houses, so if you're looking for a reliable restaurant quality gaiwan, their 'Teahouse' Gaiwan is pretty good. I have this Dragon Celadon gaiwan and I use it at home.

edit: added some extra stuff from bob mcbob

edit 2: added images

edit 3 (future): add action shots and video?

aldantefax fucked around with this message at Oct 29, 2011 around 03:36

forbidden dialectics
Jul 26, 2005



I just discovered something that seems pretty obvious but made me feel like a genius at 7:00AM.

I usually bring coffee into work in a big, 8 cup thermos. I wanted to mix it up with some tea but my teapot doesn't hold anywhere near 8 cups.

So I boiled the water, primed the thermos with some hot water, then added the tea leaves directly into the thermos. Pour in the boiling water, tighten the lid, and turn it on it's side so the leaves aren't all just clumped into the bottom. Brew for the normal time, then strain the tea and put it back into the thermos.

A thermos is really the perfect teapot, when you think about it. They're designed for minimal heat loss and if you prime it, the water should stay right at around perfect steeping temperature easily for the 3-5 minute brewing process. It was fantastic and didn't take much longer than getting coffee ready.

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Be careful what thermos you use, though! When I used to work at a previous job where no hot water was available in the building (call center, go figure), I would bring a thermos to work every day. I tried cheap glass vacuum thermoses, stainless steel thermoses from a mysterious place (taiwan or china maybe), and finally settled on The Rock by Thermos.

Ideally, you want a thermos with a wide enough mouth that can accommodate teabags, however I have found an alternate solution of using a filtered tumbler in conjunction with the actual thermos. Teavana has one which, while it appears expensive, is actually made out of double walled borosilicate glass and is much more durable compared to an acrylic one (which can be damaged during prolonged use and abrasive cleaners).

Treat the tea tumbler like an actual teapot and be sure to preheat, though! You throw the leaves in the cup, pour hot water, and let steep. Be sure to use teas that actually take well to extended steep times such as greens and oolongs. If steeped properly, good quality tea will never become a bitter liquid that you have to discard!

Tea tumblers are kind of a modernized version of a gaiwan, seeing how they operate on the same "brew in cup" philosophy!

GrAviTy84
Nov 24, 2004



Are there any real temperature guidelines for tea brewing? the OP is incredibly vague.

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aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Hoho, yes indeed there are. Very important to follow too for teas you are paying a lot of money for! Lipton get out.

All teas generally follow the same guidelines:

1. get water up to a boil
2. POUR BOILING WATER INTO YOUR TEA POT (just a little)
3. swirl that poo poo around and then dump it in the sink or water some plants idk

The first three steps are so vitally important that you will immediately taste a difference if you don't do it for any tea at all that actually has flavor other than "turpentine" (see: a lot of bagged teas: lipton, bigelow (sorry other guys who were saying it was "pretty good",), etc.).

TEMPERATURE LIST

All temperatures are expressed in Fahrenheit. This assumes a full kettle of water that has been poured into its intended serving vessel (such as a tea pot, tea tumbler, gaiwan, or mouth):

  • Black - 208+F or "still boiling", rolling boil
  • Pu-erh - 208F or "just at boiling", freshly boiled water left to sit for 2 minutes
  • Oolong and Yellow - 194F or "near boil", water makes small "fish eye" bubbles; or, water has cooled down from a fresh boil for about 3-5 minutes
  • Green - 176F, water has cooled down from a fresh boil for about 5-7 minutes
  • White - 140F, water has cooled down from a fresh boil for about 7-10 minutes

After all this crap you will be ready to actually throw your leaves in the pot (or a strainer, or a disposable tea bag, or...ugh, a tea ball)

Why Does Temperature Matter

Tea (that is, camellia sinensis of any variety) is prepared in such a wide variety of ways that are generally classified as five groups by their oxidation level noted above. The steps to prepare each kind of tea determines their final oxidation level and packs in all the flavors and mysterious wizard chemicals that are inside of the actual leaves themselves.

As a general rule, the more oxidized leaves are, the higher the water temperature. This is why with Pu-erh (nominally a 'fermented' and aged type of tea) and black teas (100% oxidized) require a high water temperature. Think of the water temperature as a magic password to flavor country.

If people want I can give a more scientific explanation later when I get home, but remember:

* FRESH BOIL IS PRETTY GOOD
* PREHEAT THAT POT
* OKAY NOW GET THE WATER TO THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE
* ENJOY LIFE

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