tea primer: 6 posts

In Praise of Jasmine Tea

Jasmine tea is one of the most ubiquitous flavored teas, but finding a high-quality blend takes some research. Andy describes how jasmine tea is made and also how to buy a truly artisanal product.

The immense variety of gourmand perfumes make smelling good enough to eat a simple task. Between the chocolate-torte richness of Angel, the strawberry cotton candy of Pink Sugar, or the licorice and violet pastilles of Lolita Lempicka, the possibilities make for an endless dessert case of choices. But when I want to smell good enough to drink, I sometimes find myself at a loss. Instead, I brew myself a cup of jasmine tea, and I quickly forget my fragrant dilemma.

jasmine tea

While drinking a cup of jasmine tea, the lines between food and fragrance quickly blur. As soon as the aroma of soft white petals and sweet, toasted leaves begins to fill the air, I’m left almost unsure whether I’d rather dab the tea on my skin or take a sip. In few other cases is the humble task of brewing a cup of tea elevated to this level of almost magical sensory indulgence. And perhaps the most blissful part of it all is the fact that enjoying jasmine tea can be a daily ritual, not just an experience for special occasions.

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Tisanes : Fragrant Caffeine-Free Teas

I have a tea drawer, which is hard to explain to those who either don’t drink tea or don’t drink so much that they actually need a designated tea drawer. “What do you do with it?” ask bewildered guests suspiciously eyeing the dozens of packages that I keep in a credenza in the corner of my dining room. (Those guests become even more bewildered when they see my perfume shelf, but that’s another story). Although all tea comes from the same plant, camellia sinensis, it exists in such a range of flavors and tastes that one box of Earl Grey simply doesn’t cover all of my cravings. But since high-quality tea is best bought in small quantities and drunk as quickly as possible, the bulk of my tea drawer is made up of herbs and dried flowers that I use for tisanes.

tisane-gingertisane-rose3

Tisane usually refers to a non-caffeinated beverage made by steeping flowers, herbs, or spices in water. I’m very sensitive to caffeine, and after 6pm I don’t drink anything caffeinated. For this reason, linden blossom or cinnamon and honey tisane is one of my favorite ways to wrap up the day. Some infusions like linden, sage and ginger have health benefits, but I drink them for their aroma and taste. It takes less than 10 minutes to brew rose tea, but the boost you receive from a steaming cup that smells like summer itself lingers for hours.

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Tea Primer Part 4 : How to Brew a Perfect Cup of Tea

In my last article of Tea Primer, I discussed the three essential parts to brewing any cup of tea: water, tea, and teaware. Now you have all three ready, but where to start? It’s really very simple, and only requires a bit of practice to master. Just as your preference for particular fragrance notes and styles would be evident after a look at your fragrance wardrobe, each person’s way of preparing tea is unique, shaped by their preferences and proclivities. Luckily, once you are familiar with the techniques detailed here, you will have a basic understanding of how to prepare any tea using any method of preparation that you like, as the basic underlying principles are always the same. To make it easier to follow, I’ve separated the elements of brewing a cup of tea into four easy steps.  Let’s get started!

tea-primer4

Part 1 : Black and Oolong Teas

Part 2 : Green, White and Herbal Teas

Part 3 : Tea Brewing Basics

Part 5 : A Guide to Buying Quality Tea

1. Know your tea

Before you start heating up your water, it is important to decide what kind of tea you are going to drink, as this will determine how hot the water needs to be. In my experience, this step can often be the hardest of them all, because, as with perfume, choosing what tea you are in the mood for is sometimes difficult. Below is a chart of time and temperature information for brewing various types of tea. Teas differ from company to company, however, so it is also a good idea to refer to the company website and packaging for exact instructions for the tea you wish to prepare. And, as always, feel free to experiment! The information on this chart is only a guideline for brewing tea. Your instinctive sense of scent and taste is always the best guide.

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Tea Primer Part 3 : Tea Brewing Basics

In the world of fragrance, the difference between being lightly veiled in scent and being a walking thundercloud of headache-inducing vapors is often a fine one. Whereas a citrusy eau du cologne might be sprayed on with reckless abandon, to no ill effect, a single drop of a rich gourmand perfume might suffice in scenting you generously for the entire day. Wearing fragrance is simply not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and the same goes for brewing tea, which requires a bit of know how to be done correctly. Fortunately, the skip over from perfume to tea is a short one, as knowing how to brew your tea properly is a lot like knowing how to wear a fragrance appropriately—once you have mastered the technique, it becomes second nature.

Part 1 : Black and Oolong Teas

Part 2 : Green, White and Herbal Teas

Part 4 : How to Brew a Perfect Cup of Tea

Part 5 : A Guide to Buying Quality Tea

Of first importance in learning how to brew tea is to realize that there are very few hard and fast rules that you must follow to enjoy your tea to its fullest. Most of the tips I describe below are merely guidelines. It is perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged that you experiment with quantities, temperatures, and steeping times to discover a personal style for brewing tea that makes your teatime the most delicious and enjoyable experience possible. No matter how much you customize your tea experience, though, there are three essential elements to all tea preparation—water, tea, and teaware.

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Tea Primer Part 2 : Green, White and Herbal Teas

In Part 1 of Tea Primer, I discussed black and oolong teas, which are both well known for their typically robust, rich flavors. In comparison, green and white teas, the topic of today’s post, shed all suggestions of darkness, showcasing lightness and freshness. The reason for this marked difference is that black and oolong tea leaves are given a chance to oxidize (basically, to wilt and turn brown) during processing, whereas green and white teas are not. As a result, while black and oolong teas are the equivalent to earthy vetiver and patchouli in perfumery, green and white teas call to mind the vibrancy of violet leaf and citrus. The difference is very marked, which is part of the reason why it never ceases to amaze me that so many diverse teas can come from the same Camellia sinensis plant.

Part 1 : Black and Oolong Teas

Part 3 : Tea Brewing Basics

Part 4 : How to Brew a Perfect Cup of Tea

Part 5 : A Guide to Buying Quality Tea

Green Tea

Though green teas have gained popularity in the West only in recent decades, both the Chinese and Japanese have been producing these teas for thousands of years. With such a long history, today’s methods for producing green tea are, understandably, highly variable, differing from region to region. It is most common for the freshly picked tea leaves to be quickly steamed (so as to allow no time to wither or oxidize) and then rolled or pressed in a hot pan before being dried.  Because the leaves are not given any time to wilt or oxidize before steaming, green tea leaves retain their green color, as well as many of their antioxidants.

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