xdunlapx's Tea Blog


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xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby xdunlapx » Oct 31st, '12, 17:33

Hi guys, I'll introduce myself here and explain a little about my (lack of) experience with tea in any form.

My name is Brittany Dunlap, I consider myself new to the world of tea. I never thought I'd ever like tea because I didn't know of the huge wide variety of it available in loose leaf form. I only knew about the bagged varieties in the grocery store. I knew the Lipton name and tried it once. Hated it. It was far too "bright" and not much depth of flavor. Seemed bitter to me at the time. I think I tried Lipton at a restaurant when somebody had ordered hot tea. I was curious of the taste since my family never drank tea in any form. They were always coffee drinkers, from my grandpa down through my parents and even I only drank coffee on occasion. I grew up drinking coffee with cream. My grandpa would spoon feed me his coffee (some, not a lot) when I was a toddler.

Probably at the age of 10 or somewhere around there I tried hot tea at a restaurant I think one of my aunts drank tea. That is when I decided tea was not for me. Bitter, strong and very bright in flavor. I then later tried a sip of iced tea (again - probably Lipton) and hated it more than the hot tea. But jump forward probably 16 years...

I came across the idea of Chai one day and decided to spring for a box of it in the grocery store. It was Celestial Seasonings India Spice tea. It sounded so yummy I had to try it. So I did. Wow what a flavor explosion!

I quickly decided to sweeten it with lots of sugar. At that time I didn't add milk or cream as I was never one to add cream or milk to coffee on the occasion I'd drink some. I preferred my coffee very sweet and black.

I drank a few cups but lost interest (that was in probably 2004 or 2005). Jumpt to 2010 and I learned of the world of loose leaf tea. But not until after I bought 6 boxes of Tazo Organic Chai (after trying it once and loving it). I continued to sweeten it a lot with sugar. Then I found out I was diabetic so I switched to Splenda. I still didn't add any milk or cream to the chai. I burned myself out of it since I drank at least 10 cups in one day for a few weeks, if that. Though I felt great thanks to the wonderful benefits of tea, I lost interest after I bought some samples from Adagio and I didn't like them.

The samples I bought were Assam Harmony, Assam Melody, and I think Lapsang Pouchong (?). I was inexperienced in teh world of tea and didn't appreciate the nuances of flavor then.

So I quit drinking tea probably no more than 2 months after I started in 2010. Fast forward to 2012 and my interest was piqued again. Only this time I knew there was a universe out there of tea that I hadn't explored. I still had 5 boxes of Tazo, 2 boxes of other chai, Twinings Irish Breakfast, and Twinings English Breakfast teas (all bagged tea). So I ordered an electric kettle so that I could brew tea at night without the loud whistle waking up my parents since we now live in a tiny one floor apartment.

The kettle I got was a Bonavita gooseneck electric kettle. It's a dream! Love it!

I started drinking the tazo bagged chai and really enjoyed it, but this time I added cream to it. Yum! So I went online and decided to find and buy some flavored teas.

I bought from The Tea Table Masala Chai (with vanilla in it), Caramel Black tea, and Bourbon Sunday blend (that is bourbon vanilla in it). Once these teas arrived I was in heaven! The aroma of the teas were excellent to me. So the first tea I opened was the Masala Chai. I brewed one teaspoon for 4 minutes. Tried it without sugar or cream, decided yes it needed splenda. Then I tasted it again and definitely needed cream. It was a very satisfying experience drinking that loose leaf masala chai.

Second tea I tried was the Bourbon vanilla tea. Another delightful tea full of flavor though I didn't taste the vanilla nearly as much as I could smell it. What a shame. But I have a feeling that all flavored teas are like that. Then i tried the Carmal Black tea. Again, amazing fragrance in teh bag. Not so much caramel flavor in the liquid though. But still a good starting point for me.

So those are the teas I've been drinking daily for a few days now. I have an order coming from Harney & Sons. I bought Chamraj Nilgiri FOP, Tippy Yunnan and Irish Breakfast. Those should arrive tomorrow. I'll try the Nilgiri tea first. I'll report back here with what I thought about it.

I know this post is very long but I wanted you to know about my experience with tea.

I've met a group of great people here on TeaChat.com. They have been very kind to me and my newbiness. Even going so far as suggesting teas I might like because I prefer sweeter teas. I have 4 teas that I want to find and try. One of them is a Nilgiri tea, so I've got that covered so far. The other three are Qimen, second flus Darjeeling, and Dian Hong.

Thank you guys for helping me broaden my tea horizons!

I spend a lot of time here reading this forum and watching the chat. I love learning as much as I can about subjects that interest me.

I hope you comment on my blog and let me know if you think of anything I might try or enjoy. I welcome comments. I'd like to get to know you and hopefully become friends. I don't know anybody other than 2 family members who drink tea. And they only drink Lipton or Nestea or something along those lines.. Coming here I know I can make many friends, everyone here is nice and helpful. I really enjoy being here. Thanks, all! See you soon!

Brittany
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Re: xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby BioHorn » Oct 31st, '12, 17:50

Thanks for sharing. Sounds like your motivation will serve you well in discovering new tea experiences. And judging by your response, we will be lucky to hear your feedback.

So. Stay on and read up. There are some great resources here on TeaChat.
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Re: xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby xdunlapx » Nov 1st, '12, 00:52

Thanks, Bio. :) I'm totally excited about tea. This is something I can indulge in without gaining weight! LOL For years now I've had an overeating/compuslion to eat constantly. I started on a diabetes medication (Victoza, which is a once a day shot which isn't insulin) and my life has changed!) and my eating is now NORMAL. I eat every 4-6 hours. I usually stop before I'm stuffed because the medicine makes me feel fuller quicker I think. So all these years of bad habits (and massive weight gain which wasn't helped by my other medications) I've finally found relief.

I love food and now that I've found tea I can focus on that instead. I'm quit obese (technically severely morbidly obese) at 368 pounds on my 5'2" frame. I'm working on losing weight but it's a struggle. I have a slow metabolism, always have.

So tea for me now is something I can focus on and enjoy without feeling guilty about it. I'm so happy! I am so glad I found teachat and am making friends here. I don't have a life outside of my home since walking due to my severely incorrectly curved lumbar spine makes walking, standing, etc very painful. So exercise is out of the question. Plus I've got fibromyalgia among other issues causes daily chronic pain. Exercising with fibro is pure heck. So I simply avoid it. Even using 3lb hand weights and working my arms is painful. But long boring story short, I have something to focus on now. New friends and a hobby.

Tea!

I found out my tea order from Harney & Sons is going to be a day late. I guess it shipped from NY. So I'm not upset considering the hurricane issue.

I hope those people can get helped in a timely fashion and we can start rebuilding those areas that were devastated. It's so sad.

One extra day in shipping is nothing.

The tea I'll try first is the nilgiri tea I ordered. Then the tippy yunnan and then the Irish Breakfast tea.

I'll have to order more chai from The Tea Table since I'm running out fast! I only had 3 oz of it to begin with. I think I've used half of it so far just in less than a week. I hope to find single estate teas or blends of estate teas that I can enjoy without adding cream (or splenda). But I will probably have to wean myself off of using the splenda. The tea's I've tried so far have been bitter. But 2 years ago I was infusing the tea for 5 minutes. I think 3 to 4 minutes might help the bitterness. What do you think?
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Re: xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby BioHorn » Nov 1st, '12, 16:10

The topic of tea amount and infusion time has been covered many time on the forum. A simple search will get you started.

To be brief, I suggest you buy a gaiwan or two in which to brew your tea.

Recently discussed here:
http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?f=36&t=17888&p=230842&hilit=Gaiwan#p230842

Then buy very small amounts of many different kinds of loose leaf tea. Generally 25-50 grams (1-2 ounces) should give you a good idea. Try 4-7 grams of tea in a 100-150 ml gaiwan. Begin brewing short, like a 15 second rinse, throw that out, then maybe a seconds long flash rinse. After that you can keep adding around 5-10 seconds for each subsequent brew. This is just a very, very vague beginning point. With time you will develop your own preferences.

If you want to be more casual about it, you could just use your mug and throw a bit of leaf in and leave the water as long as you like. If you are careful, the leaf will just stay at the bottom.

Tea, to me, is a bit like a rainbow. By trying different samples, one can easily go from fresh vegetable profile to floral to heavy dense smoke and oil essence.

If you do not have an electric kettle you might want to get one. It will make things much simpler.

Tea sure has a clear imapact on my appetite. As with many, I have to be careful when I drink serious amounts of tea to avoid a steep sugar low!

Best of luck. Chime in!
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Re: xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby xdunlapx » Nov 1st, '12, 21:06

sugar low? I haven't noticed tea affecting my appetite or causing low blood sugar. I do test my sugar regularly though.

Hmm giawan style. I hadn't thought of it. The only tea I would have that would be able to be re-steeped is the one that is coming soon which is Chamraj Nilgiri which I think can be re-steeped multiple times (?)

Yes for now I am buying small amounts. I did buy 3 or 4oz of Irish Breakfast which I know I like. Everything else I am buying is sample sized for now.

I feel overwhelmed with so many choices of tea to choose from. I read the descriptions of some of them and have no idea if it is something I would like. Like the nilgiri, it has citrus notes. I know I don't like bergamot. But I tried a bagged tea that was some citrusy tea and it wasn't horrible but not one I'd drink regularly.

I have a lot to learn. I was looking for a teapot but I don't know what to look for in one. I thought I wanted a cast iron teapot but that was quickly shot down. Seems it may not be for me.

So I'm trying to learn all I can. I'll check into gaiwans and how to use them. Thanks!
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Re: xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby MIKE_B » Nov 1st, '12, 22:07

Hey xdunlapx,

Here is a little teapot I came across. I think this would make a nice little starter pot. Small and glazed. Good for sampling just about any type of tea. This would be an alternative to a gaiwan if you didn't want to make that leap yet.

http://www.teatrekker.com/teawares/bone-china-teapot
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Re: xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby xdunlapx » Nov 1st, '12, 22:16

Thanks, Mike. That is so cute! I just wish I knew how many ounces that holds. It's only 2.75 inches in height?? Wow. That's tiny! I use 2 teaspoons of tea for about 10 ounces though I haven't measured my large mug that I use so I'd have to figure out my ratio LOL

I'd be afraid of using too many leaves.
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Re: xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby MIKE_B » Nov 1st, '12, 22:37

It is 4oz. It will seem tiny to you now. But if you start sampling lots of tea, especially better tea, you'll find this size handy.
A lot of people here would consider this pot to be too large for them.
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Re: xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby xdunlapx » Nov 1st, '12, 22:41

Hmm, okay. Since I use 1 tsp for black tea for an 8 or 9oz cup I would use about 1/2 tsp for that 4oz teapot? Or would I use more than that and steep shorter times? I usually steep my black tea for 4 minutes. To try a new tea would I use more and steep briefly? I have so many questions that I didn't even know I had. :)
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Re: xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby MIKE_B » Nov 1st, '12, 22:59

less tea, longer steep.
more tea, shorter steep.
Depends on the tea. Depends on what you like.
I almost always like more leaf, shorter times. Fuller flavor without being too bitter.
This is the fun that is tea sampling. Not just trying different styles of tea, but different styles of brewing. Experiment.
General rule of thumb, the finer the tea, the more leaf you can use.
There are tons of threads here covering brewing styles. Western style vs gong fu style and everything in between. Read up and have fun.
But without a tiny pot, gong fu brewing for one is not really possible.
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Re: xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby xdunlapx » Nov 1st, '12, 23:11

I bet more tea, less steep time means you can resteep the tea multiple times. I've never tried that. I always feel like i'm wasting tea when I do that. But I think I'll talk myself into trying it. Maybe the flavored tea I have will taste more flavored if I did that.
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Chamraj Nilgiri tea from Harney.com

Postby xdunlapx » Nov 2nd, '12, 13:27

First impressions... The dry leaf has a slight fragrance of citrus and spice just as the website described. I brewed it just like I do any other black tea with boiling water for 4 minutes with one teaspoon of tea per cup using my IngenuiTEA teapot.

Since I am so new to trying to differentiate between tea flavors I'll give it a go as best as I can. I just finished my first cup of it. It has a bright and moderately bold flavor. Not too bright like Lipton and it definitely has depth of flavor. My first few sips were without any splenda. I did add one packet of splenda since I am so used to adding splenda to tea or coffee since it all seems bitter to me. But I grew up drinking diet soda so I am used to always drinking liquid with sweetener in it.

My guess is it has mild to moderate astringency (I think that means it has the dry kind of after effect on the tongue/mouth).. The first sips seemed a little earthy to me, like assam tasted to me. Though the splenda helped the earthiness be less bothersome to me I think.

I enjoyed this tea. I do not regret buying 3oz of it. I'm sure I'll go through this amount in no time since I'm not enjoying my flavored tea as much. Though I still do love a good masala chai.

As Mike_B suggested I'll try brewing it lighter, I'll do 3 minutes next time to see if it is less "bitter" to my taste buds. Who knows, I've never tried tea at 3 minutes. 2 years ago when I first got into drinking tea I would always steep them for 5 minutes. :) This time around I've started doing 4 minutes each. So I'll try 3 minutes.

Has anyone reading this blog post tried any tea from Harney.com? Have you tried Chamraj Nilgiri? I'd like to know what you thought of this tea.
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Chamraj Nilgiri tea from Harney.com: review

Postby xdunlapx » Nov 2nd, '12, 21:13

I just made a cup of this tea again. I did not put sweetener in it. I steeped one teaspoon with boiling water for 3 minutes. It still tastes bitter to me, yet the flavor isn't as pronounced as when it was steeped for 4 minutes, which is to be expected.

I taste some earthiness which I think may be similar to assam teas (with my taste buds anyway) and there is little to no sweetness on it's own that I detect. It is a mellow but bitey tea. I think it is a little bitter tasteing to me because of the hint of citrus. I'm not sure. I taste a bitterness on the back of my tongue. The after taste is pleasant and mellow.

The color of the liquid is a dark brown, no redness in it.

I might continue putting splenda in it or a dash of milk or cream. I hadn't tried that yet. I think it would go well with it.
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Re: xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby jayinhk » Nov 3rd, '12, 12:28

If you use water a little cooler than boiling, that may significantly reduce the bitterness.

Indian tea is usually boiled directly on the stove/fire and then milk is added to it (and sugar if you're using it). In India they use fresh milk and really load up on the sugar, but they tend to drink small cups most places and even split them between two people.
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Re: xdunlapx's Tea Blog

Postby xdunlapx » Nov 3rd, '12, 15:37

Well I made the best cup of tea I've ever had, it was the Chamraj Nilgiri. The cup I used was a larger (maybe 12oz mug). I thought I had enough water in the kettle for it but I didn't. I used 2 teaspoons of tea, with boiling water, for 3 minutes steep time. I decided since the tea was brewed stronger to try it with milk. I added splenda as I normally do. Wowee what a great cup of tea! I loved the deep rich flavor it provided. So I'll be using 2 teaspoons of tea, not quite a full cup's worth of water and milk and splenda with this tea from now on. I had never had such a great cup of tea before, even though I LOVE masala chai with cream. This easily beat the masala I've made before.

Now I just have to try to remember how much water it was that I used.

I've never tried making it the way Indians make it. But I've not expanded my techniques yet since I'm still learning what I like or don't like. But I might give it a shot. I'll look into how to do it properly.
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