If you'd like to visit my new site, you can check it out on hannahruthtea.wordpress.com
So I should have done this earlier but I have moved my website! I've moved to Wordpress as it allows me a bit more flexibility with branding. I also have done a rebrand too calling my tea blogging brand 'Hannah Ruth Tea' rather than 'Tea In My Wardrobe' as I'm not actually going to talk about fashion. I want to just focus on tea!
If you'd like to visit my new site, you can check it out on hannahruthtea.wordpress.com
So if you happen to follow me on social media you would have seen last week that I was in London. I was there attending a Tea Sommelier course hosted by the UK Tea Academy. Last year I attended the Tea Masterclass which was hosted by Jane Pettigrew who is the Tea Queen & so knowledgable on all things tea. The one last year was a day course & went over the basics of tea. It was a great start to me wanting to learn much more about tea. When I found out that the UKTA had started & were doing more courses, I had to sign up to them. They do a Tea Champion (Beginners), Tea Sommelier (Intermediate) & Tea Master (Advanced) & I had spoken to Jane who said that I should be ok going to straight to the intermediate one.
So I booked my place & before long I was heading up to London for the course! It was held at an adult education centre so we were in a proper education kitchen which was great for their logistics in making lots of tea. There were 7 of us students which allowed for great discussion but also meant we got some individual time with the tutors. We briefly went over the basics of tea including tea cultivation & identities of the different types of tea which was a great recap & just reaffirms my own personal learning. We then were taught the major areas of tea production & what the teas are like from each of them.
Now obviously I love tea. Like seriously love tea. But I understand that a lot of people I speak to day to day aren't so excited about it as I am. However it was great to spend a few days with a group of people who are of a similar mind as I am. And whilst I thought I knew quite a bit, I learnt so much! Like I was fairly switched on about the plants especially considerring my recent employment activities. But did you know that in Yunnan Province there are two whites teas that are made in exactly the same way for their processing using plants from the same region & same varietal. However one is using young plants of around 50 years old & the other is using old plants of several hundred years old & the difference between the two teas was staggering. One was a nutty, more mellow flavour with creamy liquor & the other had a slight smokey last with pepper notes. But both beautiful & delicious. It really shows that there is such a huge variety in the tea flavours of all types & varieties.
When going through the regions that grow tea, it was done at a fairly speedy pace because we had so much to get through but actually looking back I think it helped in being able to compare the differences between the teas. Like the Sri Lankan high grown versus low grown, really obvious flavour differences which I probably wouldn't be so clear picking up on when comparing them if I was trying each a few weeks apart.
We had a little Chinese Tea Ceremony performed by Juyan from The Chinese Tea Company. It was amazing & beautiful to see such care & attention taken when making a cup of tea. GENERALLY speaking in Britain we are of the mind when it comes to tea of 'just chuck a Tetley bag in the mug' & all the awful things people do when making tea like that (milk in with the dry bag before the water has gone in, squeezing the bag etc) which is one of the major reasons I started this blog to help educate people in the wonders of tea. However this tea ceremony was like a dance & Juyan had such fluidity in her movements I could have watched her all day. It was great to try tea brewed in a different way to with the Gaiwan (a traditional Chinese lidded bowl used for brewing tea) & the small teapot where the leaves were brewed for matter of seconds rather than minutes.
We also did a lot of practise with cupping which is the method of tea tasting that you see in factories. In the factories or the blenders they will make & then try hundreds of different teas over a day. Whilst we didn't do hundreds in a day as we were very slow in cupping just one, it was great to do it in the proper way. I am hoping to buy some of my own cups that are proper international standard ones so I'll do a full post on that & the whole process of it.
In the last afternoon we looked at business opportunities within the tea industry such as running a tea shop/tea room or such & how to best utilise the varieties of options that are available. We also did tea pairing, trying a few different teas & compared the matching between different foods so we had lemon cake, salmon on bread, dark chocolate & cheddar cheese. It was really interesting how we picked out the elements in the drink or the food & identified if they actually tasted good together. Normally people wouldn't really consider what pudding would be better with an Earl Grey or a Ceylon or if a Sencha would be more suitable with a savoury but then what type? People put so much care matching wines or ales or pairing cheeses or chocolates, why shouldn't we consider tea pairing?
It was great to get to know the other people taking the course & finding out why they were doing it. Though we all came from different backgrounds we all had a passion for tea & were keen to take it further. One lady is opening a tea shop & another ( from Germany!) wanted to run courses on tea so it was great to share ideas & recommendations of our favourite blends.
After the course, I had time on my walk to Victoria coach station to pop past some shops & obviously had to visit Fortnum & Mason. It was great to see visit it whilst it still had some of the Alice in Wonderland display on. It does contain plenty of talk about tea in the book so I had to take a picture of this window. I love the giant tea cup! But I went in quite over excited & bought some Ceylon OP as that had been a favourite to try over the week. I also stopped off at Postcard Teas where I couldn't decide what I wanted but went for Lapsang Souchong, a fairly well known flavour (the 'smokey tea') but I have been keen to find a proper nice one for when the winter comes along & smoked things are more in season. But I now have some more teas to talk about so will be doing more reviews very soon!
Hopefully this gives you a bit of an idea into what I did at the Tea Sommelier course. Sorry I didn't take more photos of actually stuff we did, it was a bit tricky to learn, make notes & properly document in photographs. But it was a really brilliant week & I'm looking forward to telling you all more about what I learnt. But I think this post is long enough as it is so I'll leave it here for the moment.
I think I need a cup of tea now!
Now for a blend completely different. Have you ever heard of Oolong? Have you ever tried Oolong? Honestly until recently I hadn't. Its not something easily accessible & didn't really know how to find a decent one to buy online. My plan for this blog is that I will be adventurous & try as many new & different teas as possible so Oolong has been on the top of my list for a while. I wasn't sure what one I was going to go for but just did a search on Amazon & found one that I liked the look of & I actually know the business slightly so trusted their quality.
So alongside the three standard types of tea - White, Green & Black, Oolong is one that often gets forgotten. Its between green & black teas but within that space the differences between different Oolongs are vast. The tea is semi oxidised, anything between 10-70+% which results in a real diversity between the characteristics & flavours of each & everyone of the teas.
The tea comes from China with key areas of production being either Guangdong Province or the Fujian in the Wuyi Mountain Region or Anxi County. Both of these provinces are on the South East of China & the closest main land areas to the island of Taiwan which also is known for its oolong production. In the 18th century some of the chinese tea plants were taken to Taiwan to trial growing as the commercial demand for tea around the world was starting to build. This turned out to be a great success & though Oolong already existed in China, the Taiwanese growers excelled in production & processing of that tea in particular was something they have becoming well known for.the tea was often called Formosa Oolong as that was the Colonial Dutch name for the island.
I chose a ‘Formosa Oolong’ (hence the explanation of the history behind it) & the description sounded lovely ‘pale amber liquor with a sooth, fruity sweet flavour’ so expected it to be a fairly standard flavour. The instructions on the packet say to start with 1 heaped teaspoon & water heated to 85 degrees to be brewed for 2-4 minutes.
The dry leaves look almost like a black leaf tea but they aren’t all completely black with hints of reddish brown & dark green leaves in it. They are not completely whole leaves, but are broken leaves which for a darker leaf, I’d expect should help infusing a quicker richer flavour. There are some stems in the dry leaves as well.
The smell is really nice, buttery biscuits almost like digestives with hints of roasted walnuts. It definitely smells sweet & also with very slight hints of roasted fruit possibly roasted apples. It all kind of reminds me of the roasted apples with nuts & raisins spindled over the top that my mum used to bake when we were younger.
After brewing for about 2 minutes in 80 degree water (my kettle only does units of 10), the liquor is a bright orange colour, similar to that of one of the lighter black leafs I enjoy such as my Darjeeling. The smell of the liquor is still a buttery nuttiness, with a hint here & there of a slightly smoked note. Its like the lovely ‘tea’ smell of a typically breakfast tea but without the bitterness & with a bit more complexity. The flavour is divine! The notes from the smell of the dry leaves & liquor are there. It is deliciously smooth & thick like velvet with a full mouthfeel of butter & roasted nuts, almost like a praline without the chocolate. due to brewing on the shorter end of 2 minutes rather than 4 minutes, there is not bitter or have any astringency leaving the mouth dry. The flavour stays in the mouth quite a while after the mouthful is swallowed, its quite moreish
The wet leaves are quite bright with the reddiness enhanced from being in water. The nuttiness is also grown in scent, more of the walnuts & almost a woody smell has developed. The hints of the very very mild smokiness come through slightly more as well. Its not unpleasant, actually quite nice, like autumn as the leaves start to become golden & bonfires start to be lit.
I really don't understand why this isn't a blend that we have more available?! It's a great rich full flavoured tea without the bitterness or requirement of milk. Ive been really enjoying it in the evenings as the sweetness in the tea is nice after dinner. It will be interesting to try some other blends especially those that are different in their oxidisation. I would really recommend this blend to anyone who does like more of breakfast style blend but doesn't like them too strong. Oolongs should be more available in shops, cafes & tearooms, its something completely different & so delicious everyone should be able to try it!
For further reading about Oolong, check out these pages.
So during my time off recently, we were back in Dorset & I desperately needed to go to the Gilded Teapot again. Its probably a good thing that we don’t go in there too often, its all so good & there is such a range, it was hard to choose what to buy. However I walked in & said I’d get two & that was it. We smelt a lot of the samples they had & spoke to the sales assistant who gave me some recommendations. I went with a Milk Oolong ( review to come soon) & a Sencha Superior which I am currently drinking now. I do love my Japanese Uchiyama so its great to find another beautiful Japanese green tea.
This Sencha Superior comes from a small family run organic tea garden harvested in late April to create a first flush steamed Toku Jô which means extra superior. The description on the packet says ‘the leaves are fine & silky with full bodied sweet, grassy infusion with notes of wilted greens & fresh citrus’. Instructions say that 1 teaspoon per serving with 60 degree water to brew for one minute. I’m excited for to try it!
The dried leaves are a deep rich green with a bit of a shine on them. It does look a bit like cut grass in short tight rolls. The smell is wonderful rich & almost heavy. It has a hint of fruit almost like baked apricots. I know I do say it about most teas I try but I could happily just smell the the dry leaves all day.
The liquor is a really pale light greeny yellow colour. It has the steamed green tea notes, of the seaweed & grass but its almost sweet. As in the description there are hints of fresh citrus, its lovely & the fruity smells that you get in the dry leaves such as the apricot, I get in the taste of the liquor as well. There some slight aftertastes on the tongue tasting of hints of hazelnuts
The wet leaves have expanded slightly but still have kept their STRAIGHT shape whilst almost packing together whereas other teas I’ve had, come apart. The seaweed, grassy smell is a lot stronger but its nice & fresh not muggy. (Side note. since starting this blog post I’ve done a second infusion & the leaves unfurl a bit more in that which is the image I've put in here)
This definitely is going in my favourite green teas & is definitely supporting my love of Japanese greens. Its a lovely fresh & beautiful flavour without being too strong & the seaweed flavours leave a whole mouthfeel which is really nice & different. Its just a very beautiful tea. My cup has started to cool as I am writing this & actually its quite nice a little cooler (some teas I’ve had are not great just left cold). A brilliant Japanese Sencha to enjoy on a Sunday morning!
Now lets go & make another pot........
I have a genuine excuse to why I haven't blogged in a month. Just over a month ago I was told that I needed to stop blogging because it wasn't good that I didn't exclusively talk about the tea I sold ( even though I did talk about those as well). So I was taking a bit of sudden pause until I could work out what to do. Then two weeks after that I lost my job. Well not even lost my job, that makes it sound as if I might get it back. It was taken from me. Very unexpected & unfortunately I don't really know what I did wrong. So because of that I've been a bit down & needed to extend the time out just to get my head around everything. But now I am back & I can blog to my hearts content! Happy days!
I've bought quite a few new teas to try & tell you about & I've got lots of exciting things coming up! I want to talk about high quality loose leaf tea, tea equipment & all sorts of other tea related things. If there's anything particular you'd like to know about please let me know!
Now lets put the kettle on…..
Sorry for not having posted for a while, it's been a busy few weeks! Also I needed to get some new teas so having been hunting for some quality loose leaf artisan blends. But all is sorted now so should be back to normal!
A fortnight or so ago I put a shout out on Tea Hour (#teahour 7pm on a Tuesday) a few weeks ago asking for some good recommendations for artisan loose leaf tea & got a message from MDTea saying they'd like me to try some of their blends. I obviously was keen to say yes as their branding looked pretty, very 20's style & their blends are very different from others I've tried before. When a selection of blends got sent to me I was very excited to try the one called 'Pink Pride' & the ingredients sounded delicious 'Chinese jasmine silver needle white tea, rose petals & hibiscus' TASTY! I don't think there is any history of this blend so I can't give a background on it but its definitely an interesting combination.
The leaves are long with the little white hairs on them so look quite dusty but clean & very delicate as if they'd just been left to dry out as white tea should be. There are also little pink rose buds as well as dried hibiscus. The dried leaves smell light & delicate of jasmine with hints of the rose & hibiscus. I can't smell the white tea distinctly but there aren't any chemically smells or off tea which sometimes happens when you get teas with additional flavours.
I brewed my water at 70 degrees though the instructions say it can be up to 75 & let the tea brew for 3 minutes. I put two teaspoons in my small glass teapot which made just over a medium sized teacup. It smells lovely & floral, you can really get the notes of the flowers & it has a lovely pale pink colour. The taste is quite 'pink' for want of another word- its florally, light, hints of fruit & subtly sweet. Delightful. The wet leaves look a lovely pale but bright & clean that does look quite wonderful with the pink flower petals. It's got the divine jasmine smell with a little hint of almost fruits of forest & red berries. I can't really get the flavour of the white tea but its such a delicate one that its not surprising you can't taste the tea on its own. I'm pleasantly surprised that there isn't any bitterness or harsh tastes on the tongue from the additional flavours. I'm not a massive fan of teas with lots of additives as I've had bad ones in the past that smell nice but taste very plastic. This blend smells delightful taste very naturally sweet.
The wet leaves are still just a pretty colour, with the leaves deepening in colour so they are more of a light mossy green rather than the silver & the petals have gone a deep pink. The jasmine smell seems to have come out even more & is such a beautiful scent with the silver needle & the rose which you can pick out at points. I've dried the leaves out so we'll see how a second infusion goes.
Part of the reason for the title of this post of this that I kept misreading the blend name as 'Pink Bride' but its such a pretty blend to both look at & drink I do think it would be great to have for a hen do or a wedding day drink. Its not overly sweet but whilst drinking it, I didn't feel I needed anything to go with it which is great as I so often want to have a slice of cake or biscuit with a pot of tea. I don't think I could drink this all the time but I think its definitely one for a special occasion or when I'm feeling particularly girly.
Hope you are all having a great week & come back towards the end of the week for another post about another MDTea!
So within my job selling tea at Plymouth Tea, I do often get asked by individual customers (those buying one or two boxes at food markets) 'how do I actually use these' whilst holding up a loose leaf packet. As I have been slowly advancing in my love of loose leaf, I have also been developing a keen interest in the different ways you can actually use loose leaf tea & how technology can assist with the equipment. Now I won't go into ALL the different methods otherwise this will be an incredibly long blog post & honestly I haven't tried every way (YET) , so I will do the basics & most affordable ways.
DIY TEABAG/TEA FILTERS
Now this method, is one that most people might find not too complicated to do & doesn't require any other accessories such as teapots. These bags essetianlly open with either a string tie or are long enough to stand up in your cup or mug giving you the ease of a teabag but gives you the better drink as you can use proper loose leaves. These ones I have in the photo are ok, not my favourite I've used but definitely are convenient. What I've been using in the office at the moment have been these. They are long enough to stand up in the cup & allow movement of the leaves. The tea filters can come in various sizes so you can use in cups, mugs or pots.
Now these I am not too keen on. Again they are great for convenience BUT they really don't allow for any movement for the leaves. If your using a broken leaf blend & really aren't using a lot then I suppose they should be ok but I wouldn't want to use these for something like a Silver Needle where the leaves are full length. If your keen to try using loose leaf teas but don't have a teapot, these are a great beginners tool.
Now these do make me confused. It certainly makes your tea drinking experience feel like more of an occasion & I do feel terribly posh using my Fortnum & Masons one. But but BUT as I don't like my tea too strong & I don't drink it too fast, I like to be able to control my brew & when the leaves are just loose my second cup is often far stronger that I'd like & I often feel I've wasted the latter part of the pot. However if your a quick drinker or will be emptying the pot immediately at brewing time for a group or the pot is small, they are great! It means that you re-infuse the leaves again if your after a second cup. Though its a bit of a miscellaneous one, I think my glass teapot would fit in here. It doesn't allow you to take the leaves out but strains it as you pour. As its such a small pot, I tend to empty the whole pot for one cup, plus with it being glass your able to see the leaves & the water change colour so its not one that you use in a rush. It's detachable so means that I can wash it out properly or not use it if I done need to.
TEAPOTS WITH INFUSER BASKETS
Now this is my favourite method! I get the best of both worlds, the leaves are allowed to move, creating a better drink but when its infused, I take the basket out & can put it to one side to re-brew later. Then I am not rushed to drink the pot & can actually enjoy the drink. There are a hundred & one different types of teapots that you can buy that have infusers in them, you can buy some infusers on their own to put in a pot you own already. There are also infusers that you can use just for your mug but I don't have one of those as I tend to use the tea filters if I'm just going for a mug. At the moment I am using my cast iron Asian style teapot (amazing bargain of something like 8.99) but I have my eye on a STUMP one, as they are so smart looking & come in a range of colours so that will probably be purchased soon.
I'm looking at some other accessories such as travel mugs with infusers inside them, the mug strainers I mentioned earlier, so perhaps I'll do an 'accessories part 2' post when I've bought & tried them out. How do you like drinking your loose leaf tea? Do you have any recommendations for anything fun & interesting I can try?!
So I'm a terrible tea lover! Apparently there is a 'National Tea Day' & I didn't know about it! I only found out this morning on Twitter. But it works perfectly with the post I planned to put up today in honour of Her Majesty the Queens birthday.
So I can't quite remember when I got my Fortnum & Mason Jubilee Blend but I've had it for the past year or so. I honestly don't drink it that often as it quite strong & i try to only occasionally drink those with milk but I guess my palette has changed recently as I've changed my mind after retrying it today.
It does come in the familiar F&M duck egg / Tiffany coloured caddy, which I am a sucker for. The leaves are smallish broken sizes but have a great aroma of rich black tea, it smells like a wonderful woody forest but not too overpowering. I also got notes of roasted nuts as well. The description on the side of the tin say 'Blending teas from India, Ceylon and China, with mellow sweetness & golden brightness.' I can definitely smell a brightness in it, I think that it has notes of woodiness but its not deep & malty like you get with single Assams but its fresh.
Again I was cautious with it being a black leaf tea so I used one & half teaspoons for my small pot & used 90 degree water to brew for just under 3 minutes. As expected it was a lovely rich clear reddy colour with the smell of the roasted nuts coming through more. The colour of the liquor is clear & bright with a lovely amber hue.
I thought I'd try it without milk to start with but maybe add some for my second cup. But I was completely surprised & didn't find it at all bitter or drying on the tongue. I think perhaps I over brewed last time which made it so strong. The smell of the liquor definitely brings out the nuttiness, almost like sweet roasted hazelnuts. Its wonderful! On the tongue its a lovely mix of flavours, a bit sweet on the tip of the tongue but that woodiness in the dried leaves comes through as well so that its has that richness but its not too over powering that makes it bitter.
The wet leaves are a dark brown, you can see that they are quite broken leaves but that is what makes a quicker stronger infusion. The smell has actually changed from nutty & woody to more of a vegetable smell, with almost hints of asparagus & spinach. Just a hint but the smell has certainly changed.
I have to say I am delighted that I've rediscovered a love for traditional English style black tea. I don't think I could drink it all day every day but there definitely is the time & the place for this style of blend. A true classic, fit for a Queen! I wish the very happiest of birthdays to her, a true inspiration for tea drinkers, women & the British! And happy National Tea Day to everyone!
I think Earl Grey is a bit of a funny blend. Everyone claims that it is extremely British & a national but I seem to find waves of popularity of it, where sometimes people do like it & then there are times when it not! I won't do a big history on the blend but briefly the blend has been about since 1820 & legend has it, that it came from Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey & Prime Minister of England. The rumours of the blend come from his apparent diplomatic relations with China, though there is some issue with all the dates lining up.
It is basically a blend of black tea with the addition of oil of bergamot (a citrus tree from Italy). Due to it being a 'type' of tea & not a trademarked blend, everyone will do the blend slightly different.
I've had a couple of less that pleasant bagged versions when I've been out so have been keen to get a quality loose leaf blend to have at home. I think its a perfect blend for all year around, the addition of the citrus flavouring & that it is a hot drink works well in the winter but also its quite a refreshing blend as the days are getting warmer. I just found this blend online by a company called 'Simpli-Special' & though I'd try them for £4.70 plus £2 delivery for 100g didn't seem too bad, I also received a free sample of their 'Supreme Earl Grey' blend. It came quite quickly as well so all in all, I have been quite happy with their service.
Now I'm not sure why but quite a few Earl Grey blends have cornflower petals in but I think its just for decorative purposes & it does add a little some thing pretty to it.
The smell of the dry leaves is so good. This is going to sound crass but I could huff Earl Grey all day if I could. Is there an Earl Grey perfume?! I'd happily wear one if there is. (Just googled it & there is a Jo Malone Earl Grey & Cucumber Cologne!!) I think it must be the bergamot. Most teabags have chemical additivies used to add the flavour so they don't smell true which this blend does. It's a wonderfully refreshing scent. You get the musky base of the black tea but its perfectly balanced withe citrus notes. The dry leaves are quite pretty as I knew it would be, the leaves are almost black but with the flecks of bright blue & white from the cornflower petals.
I brewed it for about 2 and half minutes, as the last Earl Grey I made I over brewed it. The smell of the liquor was a great lovely fresh citrusy. It wasn't thick or claggy, The colour of it was bright & reddy. The taste was fresh like the scent & it didn't give a dryness in the mouth. The mouthfeel was good, it had a full flavour and didn't give any bitterness on the tongue.
The wet leaves had opened up but you could see they were broken leaves. there had lightened after brewing & were brown with hints of green in leaves. The cornflowers had gone which was a shame but I sort of knew it probably wouldn't still have the bright blue in it.
Second cup is a bit stronger though I had taken the infused basket out so quickly but it still wasn't bitter. Actually left a nice aftertaste & had the bergamot flavour on my tongue for a while after.
Couldn't finish this on the Sunday or Monday so I am finishing this post on Tuesday. I had another cup yesterday & it was just as delicious (if not more). It was very more-ish & you could definitely taste a brightness in the bergamot. I really would recommend this loose leaf tea if your looking for an decent Earl Grey. Its not overpowering but has a really good flavour that makes me want to drink lots of it. After having tried lots of Earl Greys, its finally one I'm not disappointed with & I will surely buy again! Its definitely one for as things start to feel more summery & the citrus makes me feel like the sun is that little bit brighter!
So in my last post I mentioned the Gilded Teapot Silver Needle tea sample so thought it would be good to do a quick ( and I mean it this time) review on the tea.
Silver Needle is quite a special tea as it is the least processed of the teas & with some arguments in the industry that the leaves should only be the very very freshest bud so that they have the white almost like hair on them (sorry i don’t know the botanical name for them). This is why they are called silver needle as they are very thin fine leaves that look silver. The resulting taste is a very delicate & almost sweet flavour to the leaves. The website says it’s an organic tea from the Funding Dabaicha varietal from Funding, China where the leaves are picked at the end of March.
The dried leaves are amazing! They are completely long full leaves with very tiny white hairs on it so look quite grey. It smells quite light with a hint of almost sweet nuttiness. The instructions say to use 90 degrees but I was a bit cautious & put my kettle to 70 as I didn’t want to burn the leaves. The smell of the liquor is again quite sweet & warming like brown sugar & the taste is very similar. The wet leaves have gone a really lovely light yellowy green & smell very fresh. I get an almost light spinach & vegetable scent from it. The notes from the website says there are notes of ripe honeydew melon & cucumber which I can definitely get.
It’s a very delicate flavour, but so delicious. I don’t really like chemically sweet teas (like my Twinings Salted Caramel Green Tea) as they just taste so false & its almost sickly. But this is so wonderful & I was going to have a slice of cake when I finish the rest of the pot but I really don’t feel like I need anything else now. I will try using the leaves to see how they work in a second infusion as I only have the small sample packet of the tea so I want to get as much out of it as I can. Definitely going to have to plan another trip to Dorchester!