I am what one may call a tea aficianado. I don’t necessarily know how to process tea leaves, I leave that to the professionals, but I support what they do and enjoy my tea on a daily basis.
I one day found myself in a store called Teavana, I had been lured me by samples of white tea and a cute scruffy boy distributing the warm delightful treats. He was in an apron.
I was with my dear friend and roommate from my freshman year dorms, she is used to this. By this I mean the state of mind to which I transform when I see tea, chocolate, good food, running paraphernalia , yoga pants, babies, cooking utensils and Mediterranean looking men. She said she’d be at Borders across the way, I think she repeated herself four times before I noticed she was talking to me. I was too busy focusing on not touching the tea pots. It has to be an active effort.
So I wandered around the store. I found myself at the counter reading the names of all of the teas, with a blank look on my face. The woman at the counter asked if I could be helped. I claimed that I was just in awe of all of the tea. She asked me what my favorite tea was. I chuckled.
“It depends on my mood, the time of day, the weather, and whether I’m with company or alone.”
Her face lit up and she said we would make great friends.
“I guess my favorite tea is Earl Grey. ”
She introduced me to something called Earl Grey Creme. A blend of Earl Grey with Vanilla extract and some
sort of cream flavoring. Quite nice, especially for early mornings with a dry biscuit dipped in it.
I enjoy green tea, gunpowder to be specific, on chilly Pacific Grove days when I eat lunch with my mom on her lunch break. The typical lunch consists of olives, cut up vegetables, toasted bread, labneh (the Syrian version of what you may know as Greek style yogurt served with olive oil and crushed, dried mint leaves), various white cheeses, and zeit ew zatar (again this is a typical Levantine food, it is a dried thyme and sesame seed mixture (among other spices) served next to a bowl of olive oil, you then take bread and dip it first in the olive oil (zeit) and then dip it in the thyme mixture (zatar), it is also served together sometimes, the olive oil mixed into the thyme mixture and you dip your bread directly in that, it is also put on flat breads and baked in a hot clay oven for a thin treat known as mana-eesh). This meal is followed by green gunpowder tea and fits the meal perfectly as it is light and not too strong of a flavor, and the food is all light and fresh.
When I have an upset stomach I like mint tea. I make it out of dry or fresh mint leaves. My mom likes to mix it with green tea, which is also delicious. When I was in Morocco the locals drank that several times a day. They served it with lots of sugar and it was just splendid that way.
For a sore throat remedy I swear by fresh ginger root, sliced real thin boiled in a pot of water for about 20 minutes, then half of a fresh lemon squeezed in and some honey. If you drink this 3 times/day, your sore throat will be cleared, I can almost guarantee it.
Fruity and flowery teas I like iced. My favorite is Jasmine Fancy
by Peet’s Coffee and Tea, my aunt has a pitcher of this tea on the counter of her kitchen available at all times. She makes this sweet and the smell of jasmine tea and the taste of it takes me back to my childhood and all of the learning and tasting I did at her house.
Smokey teas are good for cold days and with cream. These include Lapsang Suchong, and some less smokey teas such as Russian Caravan. Lapsang Suchong is very strong and has a bit of a bitter taste, I cannot drink this tea daily but every once in a while it is just right.
Chai Tea is perfect for the times I am feeling like something sweet as I enjoy this spicy drink with warm milk and honey.
Herbal teas are perfect for the evening, and are famed to help you sleep. This includes lemon verbena, rose hips, chamomile, etc.
White teas are great but often served mixed with fruit flavors, these are wonderful but would not be my first choice.
I have recently discovered Rooisbos which means red bush in Afrikaans.
It is completely unrelated to black, green or white teas, all of which come from the Camellia sinensis plant. The difference between these three teas is the time of oxidation. The tea is classified as white, green or black depending on how it is processed and prepared. After the leaf is picked, it begins to wilt and oxidize if it is not dried well. Oxidation often referred to as fermentation (although it is not true fermentation) in the tea leaves is considered enzymatic oxidation, the tea leaves turn brown as a result of the chlorophyll breaking down and tannins being released. The tea is then heated to stop the enzymatic activity. Black tea is then dried and then considered done. White tea is unoxidized wilted tea, green tea unwilted and unoxidized (which is why it still slightly green and where it gets it’s name) the last major class of teas, oolong is often considered half black, half green; it is wilted, then bruised and partially oxidized. Rooibos on the other hand comes from the Aspalathus linearis plant, a member of the legume family. Similar to “traditional” tea, it is allowed to oxidize after harvesting followed by drying. During the oxidation process, it gets to be it’s red-brown color.
Back to Rooibos, it has a very earthy flavor, I imagine it to taste like Africa, it is red and resembles the taste and smell of red clay. I recently tried Rooibos Chai with some honey and soy milk. It was wonderful, creamy and soothing, yet earthy and sweet.