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Tea - You'd think I'd get tired of it... :P

December 1st, 2005 (01:30 pm)

current mood: cheerful

A couple of night ago, the female sibling unit was telling me that a couple of the first mug strainers we'd gotten were starting to really show their age (Bodum's tea mug with filter bought maybe 10 months ago now). Since I've been having some issues with the plastic filters having some residual flavour carry-over (especially with strong flavours like chai or the tisanes), I'm finding that I really like the stainless steel filters. The only problem is that the steel filters I ordered from Compleat Cook here doesn't have as fine a mesh as the plastic ones and aren't very deep. So... using good ol' trusty TeaMail (Yahoo ML), I started hunting for messages on the Swiss Gold filters which are supposed to be really good and not have the flavour carry-over like plastics.

Apparently, rather than the Swiss Gold, some people had commented that they prefer a different stainless steel filter because it has a finer mesh so... ^^; I popped over to Specialteas and took a look. I've never ordered from them although I've seen them mentioned on the ML, so I decided to put together a smallish test order plus the filters. :P Should prove interesting. ^^; The sad thing is, I also found a stainless filter over at Harney's, and I'm *really* tempted to try ordering from them since I've heard really good things about them but... They don't list shipping fees to Canada and some shops have horrendous shipping fees... >_< (Although, to be fair, Harney's states that for Canadian orders, they'll contact you with shipping prices and okay the order first before processing). Specialteas however, like Upton, has a flat rate shipping fee which I really like. Upton's is extremely reasonable ($4? $7?) and Specialteas was also very reasonable at $7-8 ($8-9?) per order. Most other places will charge according to weight, which is fine.

Harney's though has intrigued me for quite some time since they have some really nice teas, they have the really good satchets for their teabags (the pyramidal type that allows for better infusion and whole leaf tea). Moreover, they have some interesting blends and *foodstuffs.* *_* Peppermint crunch chocolates and a simple all-in-one scone mix. *drool* Great if you consider we never have dairy in this household unless something is specifically planned for. *sigh* I suspect ordering from them will be another couple of months. >_< A shame that, while Williams Sonoma does carry some of their items, they vastly overprice and only carry satchets and not loose. (Not to mention they don't carry much of what I'm currently interested in trying). :P

Oh well, I'm out of chai (Adagio's Assam Melody + Totalitea's Chai Spice Mix), so it's off to the kitchen to hunt down something curl up-able. Creme Caramel, or maybe I'll try the Melange Aux Chamonix that I picked up a while ago from Upton. I still haven't opened that one. ^^;


Posted by: wombat1138 (wombat1138)
Posted at: December 1st, 2005 09:50 pm (UTC)

Stash Tea also has some very nice brewing gadgets, as well as a whole lot of tea-- I especially like their loose "Ruby Mist", though imho "Double Bergamot Earl Grey" is just too bloody much bergamot. Their delivery surcharge to Canada seems to be $7.00 added to a sliding scale, based on the merchandise (price) subtotal; I find their paper catalog much easier to browse than their online one, though they do have Internet-only sale items and weekly specials to counterbalance that.

Posted by: Shadow (kagedreams)
Posted at: December 2nd, 2005 02:31 pm (UTC)

Hmm, I think for filter buying, I'd rather stay away from price based shipping. From Stash, picking up 3 filters would've cost $15-16 for shipping alone! 0_0; Oddly enough, I don't think I've ever looked at Stash's catalogue. Since they're commercially available (I like their Chai and used to even go for their double spice chai(?) tea too) it never really occurred to me. ^^;

Bergamot... >_< My first tea love was Twinings' Earl Grey but I started reacting to what I suspect was bergamot products so I've since dropped all bergamot from my life. T_T

So far, ordering from Specialteas has been a hint off the usual. I didn't get immediate confirmation of the order (some places don't), but did get an order received titled e-mail a few hours later. Oddly enough, the e-mail was empty?? Got a second such e-mail hust a short while ago and am wondering if that's from signing up for their newsletter? Checking my account and all seems to be fine and the order is being processed. ^_^

Posted by: wombat1138 (wombat1138)
Posted at: December 8th, 2005 10:03 am (UTC)

Looks like a specialty tea chain called "Teavana" is about to open up an outpost nearby; they also have an online storefront, but very little information about shipping charges, domestic or otherwise. However, they do have a toll-free line for queries thereof.

I've been making my own chai concentrate from scratch, though I think my latest batch turned out too weak-- probably didn't let it boil long enough. Normally about 2 oz. into a glass of milk is enough to produce a definite result of !!!CHAI!!!, but this time I'm needing nearly a 1:1 ratio and even then it's still "...meh, chai" :b maybe I should tart it up with my dry mix, if I can chip out serving-sized chunks of it after having forgotten about it since spring.

(Vague recipe-like guidelines here; since the initial trial for the liquid concentrate, I've streamlined the procedure to add the tea leaves at the beginning, boil everything once, and leave out the sugar entirely.)

Posted by: Shadow (kagedreams)
Posted at: December 8th, 2005 05:02 pm (UTC)

Wow! I've never thought of making my own chai concentrate before! 0_0 Will have to give that a try. Although I need to figure out a spice mix that I like first. ^^; I know what I like, I just don't know what's in it! :P

As for Teavana, I've heard the name but that's mostly it. One of the folks on Yahoo's Teamail wrote a review in their blog about it at:


Posted by: wombat1138 (wombat1138)
Posted at: December 8th, 2005 05:22 pm (UTC)

(reading the blog entry) Dang. Pu-erh as "the most royal of all teas"? Never heard that, maybe because my folks' ancestry isn't from Yunnan province :b I've been using a box of loose pu-erh leaves for the chai concentrate because the earthiness goes nicely with the spices and because, well, it was the cheapest thing at the Asian megamart. (Lapsang Souchong might also taste nice in chai, if I ever find it in the back of my cupboard again.)

The Wikipedia entry on pu-erh has the following bloodcurdling sentence: "One of the most expensive and rare Pu'erh teas is made from the droppings of worms that eat stored Pu'erh bricks." OMG-- it's the tea equivalent of kopi luwak!

Posted by: Shadow (kagedreams)
Posted at: December 9th, 2005 05:22 am (UTC)

Pu-erh or lapsang souchong for chai?? :o I have to admit, I've never thought about those teas for it. I was very much in the mundane assam or similar idea camp, but I've been shying away from a lot of the (pure) Chinese teas because there are so many(!) and I have little concept of how to brew some of them, assuming it's different from how you make either standard black teas or Japanese greens. ^^;

>>The Wikipedia entry on pu-erh has the following bloodcurdling sentence: "One of the most expensive and rare Pu'erh teas is made from the droppings of worms that eat stored Pu'erh bricks." OMG-- it's the tea equivalent of kopi luwak!<<

...... O_O That's not particularly enticing to want to try pu-erh you know! LOL!

Posted by: wombat1138 (wombat1138)
Posted at: December 9th, 2005 06:00 am (UTC)

I dunno, I'm probably terrible at brewing tea from the perspective of a True Tea Purist-- to give an idea, if I've got a cup-with-teabag, I leave the teabag in there until the cup is (otherwise) empty, then pick up the bag by the string and pop it into my mouth like a dead mousie to suck out the remaining caffeine. Just ask if I care whether the water actually boils :b My default tea for drinking "plain" is actually loose-leaf jasmine, though lately I've been regarding it more as a vehicle for consuming honey. Curses on eBay for enabling me to buy 15-kg buckets of raw Ontario wildflower honey!

But back to Wikipedia and chai spices, "cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, peppercorn, and cloves are some of the most common elements, though chai masala can be made with such varied ingredients as nutmeg, chocolate or licorice." I don't think the chocolate would combine properly without milk, unless it's being added as cocoa nibs (mmmm, cocoa nibs...), but all the others are probably experimentable on cup scale in a teaball? Or in more roundabout fashion, as individually spiced cookies/toast consumed with tea?

(...and then there's the recipe in the Larousse Gastronomique for roasting Bordeaux wine-cellar rats over broken barrel staves, but I digress....)

Posted by: Shadow (kagedreams)
Posted at: December 9th, 2005 03:35 pm (UTC)

*laughs* I had two of my friends break me of the habit of squeezing the teabag when I was in uni, but I have been known to leave the bag in the cup... ^^; (Less so these days since lots of teas get too bitter if I do that). The main thing I watch currently is water temp. for J green tea. I've learned all too clearly the lesson of the very bitter cup. >_<;;

15kg buckets of honey?? For your jasmine tea alone or do you do something else with honey like make mead as well?!? (Yikes!) Mind you, I've heard of being able to buy 4 gallons of Quebec maple syrup for very reasonable prices as well so... (Although I never caved in on buying. I couldn't figure out how I'd get the stuff home). :P

Thanks for the list of chai spices! Hmm... from the list, allspice might also be a possible player. Once I get some cardamom, I'll have to think about amounts and such. Ginger might be the biggest headache unless I go fresh, but fresh would stay nicely in the infuser.

>>(...and then there's the recipe in the Larousse Gastronomique for roasting Bordeaux wine-cellar rats over broken barrel staves, but I digress....)<<

......o_O Where *do* you find these things??

Posted by: wombat1138 (wombat1138)
Posted at: December 10th, 2005 08:46 am (UTC)

If you really want scary recipes, read Calvin Schwabe's Unmentionable Cuisine-- mostly about various organ meats, but also some strange and unusual critterbeasts like the Bordeaux rats. I don't think he mentioned kopi luwak, though.

So far, I've just been whomping through my honey supply via tea or the occasional spoonful eaten straight; haven't tried fermenting anything since my sourdough culture died, but before that, managed a few experimental beverages with it-- bread yeast dies at a fairly low alcohol concentration, which was fine with me, but the results were still frighteningly foamy at times. Ginger beer worked pretty well, but I never got the hang of koumiss, or at least whatever approximation could be managed without actual mares to milk. Or maybe the characteristics of my quasi-koumiss were just authentic to the genre-- tasted okay, but smelled like old gym socks.

But since the wombat-consort and I don't drink much grog, and the pantry still has four or five full bottles of Meyer lemon limoncello from a a spasm of beverage production several years ago, mead may be... impractical. It's a pity, actually, since now I find myself wondering about maple mead-- apparently there are recipes for the stuff, but no, I get myself into enough trouble in the kitchen as it is :b

Posted by: Too cute for evil (ginny_t)
Posted at: December 2nd, 2005 02:58 pm (UTC)
she is too fond of books

mmmmm… tea. There's no getting tired of it! ^_^

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