Friday, June 19, 2009

Teavana Giveaway by Make Life Delicious blog

I stumbled on this Teavana giveawya on the following blog. Feel free!

BBQ Ribs

My mom makes these very well with baked potatoes. So now I've made some the way she does it.



Pork side ribs
BBQ Sauce

Brush both sides of ribs with BBQ sauce, put potatoes underneath, cover potatoes with water.
Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 80 minutes, flip ribs every 20 minutes and brush with BBQ sauce again.
Drained and baked Potatoes alone for another 40 minutes.



First try at making ratatouille. It was amazing.

Equal amount of tomatoes, orange bell peppers, zuchini, and eggplant
Mixed herbs
Chicken stock
Topped with cornmeal-marinated goat cheese

Cut veggies into chunks.
Layer them in the pot: eggplant, zuchini, bell peppers, tomatoes.
Add some chicken stock.
Cook on low heat for 90 minutes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Teavana's Peach Tranquility

A fruit tisane. Sadly enough, I'm a sucker for fruiTea things like this that pretend to be tea but isn't. It's just so yummy! :)

Vendor Description:
A delightfully harmonious blend of candied peach pieces, pineapple, lemon myrtle, Roman chamomile, sunflower petals and rosehips create a most peaceful blend. Use 1.5 teaspoons of tea per 8oz of water. Heat water to 208 degrees and steep for 5-6 minutes. 2oz of tea equals 25-30 teaspoons. Apples, candied pineapple, candied peach pieces, sunflower petals, lemon myrtle leaves, roman chamomile, and rosehips.

Fruit bits.

One of my friends gave me this teacup and saucer set as a belated holiday present! It's from Teaopia. So cute!~

Parameters: 1 tsp of dried up fruits and stuff, 6 oz boiling water, steeped forever!

Really yummy, probably a little bit artificially sweetened, but owell, still yum! :) Smells like peaches, taste like peaches! I can't say much about Teaopia's business tactics, as I've notices it's quite lacking in proper administration, but this tea is pretty yum! (A bit overpriced though, as it is only 2oz of dried fruits....)

Teavana's Assam Gold Rain

Vendor description:
Comes from one of the finest estates of the Assam region of India. Famous for its fruity yet malty flavor with a tannic red-wine aftertaste. (FTGFOP-1)(Special)

FTGFOP-1. So imressive.... My first exposure to a higher class assam. Far Too Good For Ordinary People, indeed.

The leaves are full, and in good condition it seems.

The music note tea stainer is cute, no? I got it from :) Either the top or bottom half is a perfect teaspoon!

Teacups were supposed to be part of a set from Teavana, but many items of the set broke, so they gave me a refund, and I managed to salvage these :)

First and second infusions.

Spent leaves.
1tsp tea, 5oz boiling water, 35 seconds, 50 seconds.

The instructions are:
Use 1 teaspoon tea per 8oz of water. Heat water to 195-205 degrees and steep for 2-3 minutes. 2oz of tea equals 25-30 teaspoons.
Maybe I'll try that again next time.....

I really enjoyed this tea. The Maltiness is delish! Quite complex a flavour with mostly heavy fruit and some floral notes. Not sure about the red wine aftertaste though, as I know almost nothing about red wine.... :|

First and second infusions are very consistent, but I can tell that the temperature is too high and leaf/water ratio is too high as well. Great tea! But perhaps even better next time.

Love it!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ippodo's Matcha: Wakamatsu-no-Mukashi

It's been a while since I received this matcha, and now's as good a time to post a review as any.

Vendor description:
Ground from shade-cultivated tea leaves, matcha is rich in theanine - an amino acid responsible for matcha's full-bodied mellow sweetness. In Japan, there is a special name for this taste: umami. Generally, the higher the grade, the richer the umami taste.

Characterized by its rich aroma, full-bodied mellow sweetness, and vivid green color,
matcha is a favorite among tea lovers in Japan. Invigorating and full of nutrients, matcha is the perfect drink to rejuvenate your mind and body. It tastes best when served with sweets.

For the
matcha connoisseur with a discerning taste, Wakamatsu-no-mukashi is an excellent choice. Rich in umami, it has a distinct fragrance and aftertaste that linger pleasantly in the throat. Wakamatsu-no-mukashi is also an excellent choice as a koicha.

matcha was named by Jimyosai-sosho XIV, the grand master of the Omote-Senke family of tea masters.

This grade of
matcha is the same as that used for Seiun, which was named by the Ura-Senke family of tea masters.

Size of Package: H46mm x D53mm
Net Weight: 20 grams
Per Serving: 2 grams
(usucha) 4 grams (koicha)
Shelf Life: 120 days

Sifted matcha.

Et, voila!

The parameters are: 4 chashaku, 20ml water at 70 degrees Celcius.

I have to say, the koicha of Wakamatsu-no-Mukashi is the best koicha I have ever had, even better than my beloved Matcha Pinnacle from Teaopia (which now all finished, by the way :( ...). The umami taste is so bold and fresh it really kicks in and grabs your attention from everything. No astringency or bitterness whatsoever, even if you try to nitpick at it. All in all, SO WONDERFUL, it makes me afraid to try the other ones which are supposedly even better than this. E.g. the Ummon-no-Mukashi and Seiun from Ippodo, and of course, the Matcha Manten from O-cha.

One unfortunate thing about the Wakamatsu, compared to my Matcha Pinnacle, is that it would be a sacriledge to make it as an usucha. Since it has no astringency or other characteristic tastes, when made into an usucha, it tastes extremely bland and dissappointing, whereas Matcha Pinnacle is great as either usucha or koicha with a balanced taste.

At 1500 yen for 20gs, I have to say, this is the best koicha at the best value I have ever tried. Absolutely marvelous. <3

First exposure to Pu-er

Haven't posted in a while because of busyness from school and everything else. But now I'm back!

I did a little tea swap with one of my friends, I gave her some matcha, and she gave me some pu-er. Not sure about the terroir and vintage, but I was told that this is a very high quality shu bingcha.

Very very densely stuck together :|

Rinsed 10s, dumped out. Then first infusion on the left, second on the right.

Third infusion on left, fourth on right.

The teacups are lovely, no? :) They are doublewalled cups I got from Teavana. They called it Petite Fleur Suspendus, and are now completely sold out I think. :|

Feeling lazy, so just gonna write this way, still understandable.

3.5g, 5oz boiling water, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, 63 seconds, 76 seconds. Can probably make more infusions as the taste has not waned at all.......

Spent leaves.

I'm actually pretty amazed. This is my very first exposure to pu-er, and the first time I made it, I was actually a little grossed out by the fungus-y scent and the metalicky strange taste. But after that, I'm actually starting to truly appreciate it for its complexity. Each infusion is more complex and multifaceted than the one before it. It makes me really want to get into learning more about the marvelous world of pu-er..... But I'm poor now, need to finish all my shincha before I dwelve into all that....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reviews to come

Things I need to review next:

> Hashiri Shincha from Den's (and shincha tokoname kyusu)

> Gyokuro Suimei from Den's

> Pom-a-Berry Rooibos from Sweet Dreams

> Boysenberry Black Tea from Sweet Dreams (Assam-based, I think)

> Fuji the Ultimate, a Fukamushi Shincha from Zencha
> The rest of the matcha from Ippodo

(and more.... as they get here)

People tell me I'm crazy :(..... I'm just a LEETLE fanatic, is all.

Sweet Dream's Belgian Choclate Rooibos

I shouldn't have, but I couldn't resist. They looked so cute (to be honest, its the cute little glass jars and the packaging that got to me), so here it is. Belgian chocolate rooibos, pom-a-berry rooibos, and boysenberry black tea (Assam based, I believe).

This post will just be about the chocolate rooibos. But before that I wanna say, I've never been the biggest fan of rooibos, some thing about the flavour and the smell turns me off. And the fact that there's the lack of caffeine punch.

Typical rooibos leaves. Apparently it contains rooibos, calendula petals, cacao bean pieces and natural chocolate flavour.
It has a very distinct rooibos scent with a pungent chocolatey smell, a bit sweet as well, in the rooibos sort of way.

First Infusion:

Tea: 1.5 tsps
Water: 1 cup
Water Temperature: boiling.
Brew Time: 3.5 minutes
Review. It has a fairly rich chocolate aroma, that's for sure. But can't say much about the taste. Just bland rooibos, I guess, nothing special. It does have a full, rich mouth feel, but I can't tell if that's from the cocao beans or the flavouring. Nyeh.

Water Temperature: boiling.
Brew Time: 5 minutes
Review. EVERYTHING IS GONE! =_= Bland Yucky Gross. EW. Pretty color though, but that's all the good I can say about it.

Overall, I still don't like rooibos, and this tea hasn't turned me around yet. I will try it with milk next time, and just one infusion. After all, I can still store cute little teas in that cute little tea jar, so my money's not that wasted after all! :)

2009 Shincha: Zencha's Sencha the Ultimate, from Yame

Received this last week, and finally perfected it.

Vendor Description
Estimated date of shipment: April 30, 2009
Please note that shipping date might be slightly changed according to the weather conditions.
This is the tea specially produced for exhibition and in limited supply. 
Only first two leaves and buds are carefully picked by hands. 
Rich in natural sweet aroma and fresh scent with excellent astringent taste.

The tea itself has a very sweet aroma, less vegetal than the previous shincha, the Yukata Midori, likely because this is an asamushi rather than fukamushi.

The leaves are also less broken up from the steaming process. Some leaves are quite long and rolled up.

First Infusion:

Tea: 4g
Water: 1 cup
Water Temperature: 70 degrees Celcius
Brew Time: 75 seconds
Review: Beautiful clear green colour. Very creamy and clean tasting, smells sweet, not astringent at all. Sweet aftertaste. Very little residue compared to the fukamushi.

Second Infusion:
Water Temperature: 75 degrees Celcius
Brew Time: 40 seconds
Review: OH THE PRETTY MURKY GREEN! Extremely grassy and vegetal, more body and the after taste is quite sweet, and a slight slight astringent feeling hanging in my throat.

Third Infusion:

Water Temperature: 75 degrees Celcius
Brew Time: 40 seconds
Review: Similar colour to the first infusion, not much punch left, but still yummy, sweet after taste. 

Overall: Excellent tea, but comparatively too expensive. It was $22USD for 50g including shipping. O-cha's Yutaka Midori is much more worth it at $27.20USD for 100g including shipping. I think the fukamushi taste suits my palate more as well (more punch). 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ippodo matcha!

I placed the order on Ippodo's website last Thursday, it was shipped on Friday, and arrived on Tuesday. Essentially 2 business days from Japan. Even though the shipping cost is a bit expensive, but this makes me amazed at the efficiency of these people. 

The neatly packaged matcha cans/boxes from Ippodo, all wrapped in paper printed with the beginning part of Cha-Jing by ancient Chinese tea expert Lu Yu from the Tang Dynasty. I ordered almost all of their matcha except for the Ummon-no Mukashi and the Seiun (the two most expensive ones).

Kaishi that I ordered from Ippodo as well. SO NICE. Printed with flowers and stuff too! :)

A few of the guides and catalog from Ippodo. Great business skills! And great packaging and fast delivery. They really do have the 4Ps of marketing down.

So I couldn't wait. I needed to test them all. Ended up trying only the 4 lowest grades, 2 chashaku each. I wanted to try more, but my head started going swooooozy over the amount of caffeine, so I stopped.

First I started off with the cheapest one. The Hatsu-Mukashi. SO GROSS, as either koicha or usucha. Maybe I'm just used to my nice pinnacle grade from Teaopia and the contrast is making it feel worse than it actually is, but i really felt very disgusted by it. The flavour is so bitter and sharp and astringent, especially as a koicha, I wanted to throw up. Sadly I read that it was good somewhere, so I ordered 3 boxes of 40g. Guess I will only use it as a food grade in the future. Thank goodness they were only 500yen each.

Next is the Fuku-Mukashi. At 1000yen for 40g box, I think this is actually not too bad of a deal. I wouldn't mind using it as an usucha when I'm really desperate for matcha. Most likely though, it will end up as ice cream topping just like the Hatsu-Mukashi.

Now we have the Kimmo-no-Mukashi, 600yen for 20g, which Ippodo recommends as beginner's matcha. I can see why they recommend it: it frothes well, nice colour, a degree of sweetness, but still enough astringency and enough bitterness to make a statement. Still can't compare to my Teaopia Matcha Pinnacle though. (But that was $35CAD for 30g, so, although not saying price equals quality, but these are totally not on the same level. DUH)

Lastly, the Ikuyo-no-Mukashi, 1200yen for 40g, was not too bad either. I would say it is even more bold and astringent than the Kimmo, with much less sweetness. My terrible attempt at making a koicha out of it made me wanna cry. Expensive matcha cheesecake filler is what I guess this tin will turn out to be.

Although I have yet to try the other matcha, Ippodo's business methods are seriously impressive to me, as a business student. The way they conduct themselves, the professionalism and dedication, the attention to detail, and everything about the way they've handled each transaction scream out how wonderful the minds of these business people are. Very admirable.

2009 Shincha from Zencha

Received two items from Zencha: Fuji the Ultimate and Sencha the Ultimate. They also sent a little packet of sample tea with it, not sure what it is, but it's pretty good.

Fuji the Ultimate:
Vendor Description: Our best "Fukamushi" green tea, taste so rich and flavorful.
Produced with experienced and fine craftsmanship using only hand picked first flush tealeaves. Excellent balance of natural sweet aroma and astringent taste. First flush: A flush is a picking of the leaves. The first flush is the first picking of the season.

Sencha the Ultimate:
Vendor Description: This is the tea specially produced for exhibition and in limited supply. 
Only first two leaves and buds are carefully picked by hands. 
Rich in natural sweet aroma and fresh scent with excellent astringent taste.

Tried them both, both quite good, will post reviews later when I perfect the brewing techniques specific to each tea.

The tea canisters I got from Yuuki-Cha. Very cute, eh?

Sencha the Ultimate, Yukata Midori, and Fuji the Ultimate. Respectively.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Japanese chopsticks

This is pretty random, but I got a few pairs of Japanese chopsticks that are pretty neat looking, so will now share!

Neat, Eh?

The art is really cool :|

2009 SHINCHA! The Famous Yutaka Midori!~

Wow, I was so excited when I got to university residence and discovered this package from o-cha. Couldn't wait to take a picture before I opened it. 

Inside, there is the cutest little package.

The packaging is so nice and pretty, with a sticker that says Shincha on top.

The Big Moment! The bag has been opened!~ The incredible creamy, vegetal, and chestnut-like scent just jumps into your face, and yells "I AM SHINCHA! DRINK ME NOW!" The leaves are broken up but does not seem as broken as a fukamushi-sencha like the Yutaka Midori should be.

The real colour is actually a bit greener than this, but not as green as many pictures I've seen of previous years' Yutaka Midori Shincha. I was actually slightly disappointed, to be honest, but the taste made up for it. Maybe I didnt brew it properly?

First Infusion:
Tea: 0.75 tsp
Water: 1 cup
Water temperature: 75 degrees Celcius
Brew time: 1 minute
Review: SO FRESH! SO CREAMY and YUMMY! A bit on the lighter side for a shincha, but maybe I just need to vary up the techniques a bit?

Second Infusion:
Tea: 0.75 tsp
Water: 1 cup
Water temperature: 75 degrees Celcius
Brew time: 1 minute 20 seconds
Review: Even lighter than first infusion, a bit disappointing. But I'm sure it's just me that havn't gotten the gist of it yet. No worries, I will experiment lots :)

Need to play around with it some more and perfect the brew. As it is, it seems a little difficult to perfect, but the wonderful smell tells me that it's not the shincha's fault, it's my fault. :(

Saturday, May 2, 2009

2009 First Flush Qing Dao Lao Shan Green Tea

A friend of mine brought me back a 2009 first flush Qing Dao Lao Shan on his visit to China recently. To be absolutely honest, I didn't expect too much from this tea, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The bag is very nice too, with different caligraphy writings of "cha" on it.

The leaves are curled, but are still whole. Has a smell similar to sencha, fresh and vegetal, but with a hint of nuts, more to the pistacios variety.

First infusion:
Tea: 1 tsp
Water: 1 cup
Water temperature: boiling. I don't know why, but that was the instructions on the box. Strange though for a chinese green.
Steep time: 30 seconds
Review: Quite suprisingly good. The nutty, creamy, vegetal taste is very obvious. And smells heavenly. Not astringent or yucky like other Chinese greens first infusion.

Second infusion:
Tea: 1 tsp
Water: 1 cup
Water temperature: boiling. 
Steep time: 40 seconds
Review: Still not bad, but strange for a Chinese green, not as good as the first infusion.  Not nearly as fragrant and slightly astringent, may be because I left it in for too long. 

Third infusion:
Tea: 1 tsp
Water: 1 cup
Water temperature: boiling. 
Steep time: 45 seconds
Review: Flavour is lighter, but pretty consistent with the second infusion.

Kinda hard to imagine that I just made Chinese green with boiling water. But since those were the instructions, I had to try it this way. Next time, I shall make it normally =_=