Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Tea Cupboard

So, caught up in the spirit of spring cleaning, today I cleaned out, organized, and cataloged my tea cupboard. I don't think it's much of a secret to anyone who knows me that I like tea, and that I drink a lot of it. I used to drink mainly iced tea, but over time I've slowly made the switch to where it's now almost always hot tea instead. When I was in graduate school I used to make up huge pans of very sweet (iced) tea (Lipton, which at that point I considered "the good stuff"), boiled on the stove till it was good and strong and, after the addition of a cup of sugar, when cooled down stored in the refrigerator in old Ragu jars (one batch filled about three and a half jars, as I remember). I remember that when Taum dropped by to talk Tolkien, we'd sometimes go through an entire batch. Nowadays I make up two thermosfuls each morning, almost always from loose tea rather than teabags, and anywhere from three to five pots total over the course of the day, most of it sweetened with Tupelo honey, since I gave up sugar six years ago. As I said, a lot of tea.

And, since I make a lot of tea, I have a lot of different kinds of tea to make. Mostly I've come to favor strong China black teas like Keemun and Yunnan rather than the weaker India teas like Darjeeling and Assam (those we used to buy at the Coffee Trader in Milwaukee were great, but the ones out here are anemic by comparison). Some flavored teas are v. nice (vanilla, licorice, mint), but most seem a bit beside the point (who'd want a tea that tastes like cornflowers, or grapefruit?). Green teas are another kind of drink entirely, and while I love the concept so far as taste is concerned for me they're all just lightly colored warm water. The same applies to "teas" that don't actually contain any tea, like a lot of the herbal teas offered in health food stores -- with the notable exception of sassafras tea, always a delight though v. hard to get in these parts (and usually of poor quality when you do).

Anyway, between having lots of different kinds on hand, from different tea shops and online tea merchants, plus samples and bits I tried and didn't take to but hated to just throw away, the shelves have become rather cluttered over the years. There are actually a few teas in there that I don't remember what they are, nor where they've come from. The past few days I've made a concerted effort to make up and drink some of the little odds and ends (sometimes just enough left for a pot, sometimes for a single cup). Now that I've finally gotten them all listed, it'll be easier when I find a trial tea I like to remember it and where it came from, while those that failed to make an impression won't get replaced; eventually my tea shelves will probably settle down at about half as many teas as it has right now.

In any case, thinking it might amuse folks, here's the Tea List as it stood as of Sunday March 29th. I might mention that I'd already used up a few teas in the last few days: Cameronian [TeaCup; definitely a keeper], Connoisseur's Blend [TeaCup], and Irish Breakfast [MarketSpice]; "Gong Full Black Tea" and something marked "Very Old" [both from the Great Wall Mall], and several single teabags. I've marked my favorites in bold: these are teas I try to always keep a good supply of; a few duplicates among the teabags are marked with asterisks.

Tea List

Keemun [TeaCup]
Yunnan [TeaCup]
Richmond Park Blend [Upton]
Keemun Hao Ya A [TeaCup]
Golden Dianhong [TeaCup]

unidentified tea [gift]
?spiced herbal blend from Wotc [thyme bottle]
Sassafras Tea [gingerpeach teajam jar]
lemon mint tea [small apothocary jar]
sampler: Lapsang Souchong Black Dragon [Upton]
sampler: Yellow Tea jun shan yin zhen [Upton]
sampler: Queen Anne cinnamon spice [TeaCup]
sampler: Ed's energy tea [old TeaCup]
sampler: superSencha Kamakura [Upton]
cinnamon twist Rooibos [Pacific Mist, Kent]
Silk Road [TeaCup]
Melange Noel Christmas Tea [Upton tin]
New England Harvest Blend [Upton red]

East Frisian Blend Sunday Tea (vanilla) [Upton apoth. jar]
vanilla tea, single bag [last remaining remnant from Suburbia]
Organic Ethiopian Spiced Tea [Seattle Centre]
Licorice Spice [Perennial Tea Room, Post Alley]
Bag of Billings Teas [Boston Harbor, bulk teas & accessories]
Namaste x2
Keemun x2.1/4
Irish Breakfast
Lapsang Souchang
Vanilla Cream
Yunnan Supreme

Monk's Temple Tea [old TeaCup]
Classic Oolong [old TeaCup]
Poet's Tea [old TeaCup]

Baker Street Blend [old Upton]

China Tarry: Lapsang Souchong [Victoria Tea Shop]
China Keemun Mao Fang [Victoria Tea Shop]
Assam, decaffeinated [Victoria Tea Shop]
Ceylon, decaffeinated [Victoria Tea Shop]

Williamsburg Fine Tea Darjeeling [really good Darjeeling; gift from Sue Cook]
first row: thirty-seven teas

Hong Tao [Upton]
China Flowery Black (organic) [Upton]
Vietnam Black pekoe [Upton]

Lapsang Souchong [new Upton]

Supreme Woodbridge Puer, pestle-ground [Vital Teas]
Yellow Sweet [Vital Teas]
[Note: far better than either of these was their Canton Red, which I only got a little of, all now gone]

NorthWest Breakfast blend [Market Spice]
Darjeeling [Herbal Tea, Portland]
Prince of Wales Tea [Twinings mini-tin]
Black Dragon Pearl [Teavana]
Cloud of Black Tea [Great Wall Mall]
Keemun Black Tea [Great Wall Mall]
xx [xx]
Southern Style Mint [Market Spice]
Darjeeling [Market Spice]
*sassafras [tin of leftover sassafras clips-- a bit stale now]

Ahmad Tea Set
English Tea Noi (No.1) x1 [Ahmad]
English Breakfast x1 [Amhad]
English Afternoon x1 [Amhad]
Ceylon Tea x2 [Ahmad]
Darjeeling Tea x1 [Ahmad]
Earl Grey Tea x8 [Ahmad]

Constant Comment x5 [Bigelow]

teabags: English Breakfast Tea x6 [Trader Joe's], Lipton x2, Plantation Mint [Bigelow], Earl Grey [Bigelow], Lapsang Souchong Tea [Twinings], Organic Darjeeling [TeaCup mini-sampler], Kenya Mountain [TeaCup mini-sampler], Wallingford Decaffeinated Tea x2

second row: sixteen teas plus fifteen different teabags

teabags: Organic Chai [Tazo], Egyptian Camomile [Fairmont], Orange Jasmine [Mighty Leaf], *English Breakfast Tea [Trader Joe's], pekoe [Royal Cup Tea], *Lapsang Souchong x2 [Twinings], Jardin Bleu [TeaCup mini-sampler], *Lipton x2, Lady Grey x2 [Twinings], Earl Grey x4 [Twinings], Golden Monkey [Upton mini-sampler], *Melange Noel Xmas Tea [Upton mini-sampler], *Awake x2 [Tazo], Simply Mint moroccan herbal teasan [Numi]

box of teabags: Awake x8 [Tazo]
third row: lots of (fifteen different) teabags

Decaf English Breakfast [Market Spice]
Decaffeinated Ceylon English Breakfast [Upton]

total: fifty-two teas plus thirty-two different tea bags

1 comment:

Jason Fisher said...

I’m a big tea drinker too — hot, with nothing added (no sweeteners, no milk, nothing). I hear the “lightly colored warm water” complaint about green tea a lot. But if you find a quality green tea and brew it properly, this doesn’t have to be the case at all. My favorite is a Vietnamese tea called Ché Xanh. If you want to try it, you can order it from Dobrá Tea (Burlington, VT and Madison, WI) @ $6.20/2oz. (loose). Dobrá also has a superb selection of Chinese teas (and plenty of others you won’t see everyday).

Also, have you tried white tea?