Tag Archives: Milk oolong

An Ashland, Oregon Moment

It’s something that occurs every two years, and while some might think of it as a reunion of sorts, I tend to view it more as a pilgrimage. Whatever you want to call it, it is a four-day event that I do whatever I can to attend. It started with my Mom and her sisters and sister-in-law getting together in Ashland, Oregon to enjoy each other’s company and catch up on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Over time, the daughters have joined in the event, and then daughters-in-law.

Aunt D (who serves as the glue for this ever-growing melange) reserves the biggest rental home she can find, and we all descend from various parts of the country to get together and cook, eat, sing, play music (for those with that talent), hand-sew beautiful baby quilts, knit, crochet adorable play food and animals (again, for those with talent in those areas), attend the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare festival, go on walks, explore the cute shops (and wine bars) of the picturesque downtown, talk as though it’s going out of style, and this year… enjoy afternoon tea.

At the last Ashland event, I was a brand-new mom there with my tiny baby Edie, and I was in nothing more than survival mode. Being among the most loving, nurturing, encouraging, hilarious women for a few days was the greatest blessing I could have received at that time. So now, being able to leave my ‘big-girl’ Edie to have a father-daughter weekend while I made the journey back to this oasis, I was delighted to be able to bring something fun to the table. (Literally).

With Aunt D providing the perfect mix and match of thrift store tea cups, and Aunt M and new cousin-in-law C as my sous chefs, we whipped up some tasty treats and had quite the table spread. Sandwiches: cucumber and cream cheese with dill; pear and brie; a modified Waldorf salad sandwich; puff pastry with savory salami and goat cheese. Cranberry-orange scones with local raspberry preserves, lemon curd and mock Devonshire cream on the side.  An assortment of berries. And for a little sweetness, shortbread and chocolate cookies. 

 The decision of what teas to present was a snap, thanks to the kindred spirits of American Tea Room. David provided the as-always perfect recommendations.

The table was set, the food laid out, and I carefully brewed each pot according to suggested instructions. The first pot was presented: Ruby Black.  I first experienced this lovely brew on Mother’s Day at the first ever American Tea Room High Tea. In only its 3rd year of re-introduction and production in Taiwan, American Tea Room is the sole purveyor of this tea in the entire United States. You haven’t had amazing black tea until you’ve had this black tea. It is rich and fulfilling, and has a maltiness to it. And as my sister-in-law, S, kept saying after each sip, “It’s so smooth! It’s just so smooth!” Yes. Yes it is.

The second pot: Milk Oolong. I’ve been telling my cousin, H, about this one for nearly a year. Unable to have any dairy, she has been missing cream in her tea, and this, in my opinion, is the best possible solution. Not only is this a most heavenly Oolong with a gentle floral perfume and the subtlest natural sweetness, it is also infused with an inexplicable creaminess though no cream nor anything else is added to this tea. The tea is hand-processed using multiple unique methods, and the result is this magnificent sensation. H, and the rest of the table, was delighted.

The third pot: Immortal Green. Mindful of my measured journey into greens this summer, David suggested this fan favorite. A Japanese sencha with peach and passion fruit infused throughout, this green tea is not only approachable, it is the life of the party! I watched as woman after woman around the table cautiously brought their cup to their lips, bracing themselves for that greenness or grassiness or earthiness or whatever it is that is coming to meet them. And then, with that first, glorious sip, the eyes widen, the face lights up the tinest bit, and they go in for that second sip – which is now no longer just a sip, but a slurp! Success!

And even when the tea party was over, it wasn’t over, as each guest oohed and ahhed over receiving tea to take home. David had sent samples of Choco – Late (cacao husk, vanilla bean and rooibos) and Marrakesh (a Morraccan mint green tea).

The teas and treats were lovingly received, as were each of us around the table. This is what it is all about. As we talk and laugh and share stories or ideas or memories, we weave each other more deeply, more securely into each other’s lives. This is what first made me fall in love with the idea of tea. It is something that gives us a perfect excuse to be together and create these moments that feel so precious and so critical at the same time.

The countdown to Ashland 2012 begins…

Waldorf Salad Sandwich (As requested by the Ashland Gals)

Salad:
3/4 cups walnuts (or pecans) coarsely chopped
3/4 cup Granny Smith apple, diced
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
2 scallions finely sliced
Salt to taste

Dressing:
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey

Prepare dressing in small bowl and put in refrigerator to chill. Prepare remaining ingredients and place in larger bowl. When ready to assemble sandwiches, pour salad dressing over other ingredients and combine well. Butter 8 slices of whole wheat bread. Spread salad in a quarter-inch even layer between 2 buttered slices. Cut into quarters.

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A Hamburg – Shanghai Milk Oolong Moment

One of my greatest joys is when someone shares their own international tea moment, and when I received this one, it was especially lovely. Abadia has been a long-time reader and provides some of the greatest tips when I’m on the lookout for something in particular. So, please enjoy this tea moment, provided by Abadia and her daughters, Sara (13), Maren (10) and Isabel (8). All photos are courtesy of Sara (well done!)

Dear Jen,

I found it! Milk Oolong!
And it’s wonderful!

I was in Hamburg with my girls and we visited a tea house, Shanghai Yu Garden, that’s a replica of a famous tea house in Shanghai. This house is also a cultural centre and a bridge between both cities (Hambug and Shanghai). 
The tea house has a website, but unfortunately not in English. www.yugarden.de

We had there “Yum Cha”, that’s the chinese tea time, and they served us incredible “Dim Sum” with the tea.

I tasted their Milk Oolong.

The nice woman (all the employees come from Shanghai) gave me a little bag with some Milk Oolong, and I’m wating for a special moment to drink it.

Next time I will try their the “Dragonwell”!

Greetings from hot (really hot) Germany!

Abadía

To Visit:

Shanghai Yu Garden
“Hamburg-Shanghai Europa Tourismuszentrum”
Feldbrunnenstraße 67
20148 Hamburg
Germany

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A Golden Lily Moment

It’s been a busy week. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I hopped in a rental car and made a not-unpleasant journey to Fresno for a speaking engagement. Because of all the rain we’ve had, the hills and valleys were green, green, green, and there were explosions of purple and yellow wildflowers everywhere. At one point, I came over a pass and as I descended into the valley, I saw a literal sea of purple lupine on both sides of the highway. It was breathtaking!  Fresno, itself, was not so breathtaking, but my contacts were nice, the event, successful. After that 3-hour engagement, I hopped back in the car and made my way to Concord, where I was comfortably installed in a Hilton. 8 hours of driving and 3 hours of speaking would wipe anyone out, and I was down for the count by 9 pm.

The next day, another speaking engagement, another hour of driving, and then a flight home with approximately 100 high school cheerleaders. I watched the parents chaperoning these girls and pondered my future in their shoes. Hmm…

This morning was a scramble of wrap-up emails, follow-ups to those who gave me business cards, and finally I decided…

ENOUGH

Time for tea. But not just any tea. Something special.And I knew just the thing.

After learning of my new love affair with milk oolong, Lawrence of Naivetea introduced me to their premium oolong, Golden Lily. This milk oolong was purported to have a hint of pineapple. Intriguing.

After a good steeping, the resulting liquid was a bright sunny yellow. The fragrance is the floral oolong scent that I am getting more familiar with, a creamy undercurrent, and just the slightest hint of something sweet. Yes, it is a bit pineapple-y.

The first sip. Ahhh. Just what I needed. A full mouth feel, a subtle creaminess, there is nothing thin or weak about this tea. I had wondered how much of the pineapple sweetness would appear here, but the sweetness carried by this tea is played in light notes. They appear and then fade gently into the background. I sense an essence of pineapple, but not an actual pineapple taste, much to my relief. Nicely balanced, refreshing and peaceful. I down one cup, then another. A third? Yes, please.

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An American Tea Room Moment

I’ve lived in Southern California for 10 years: 3 months after Gene and I got married in our home town of Boise, Idaho, packed up both our cars and headed to the land of perpetual sunshine. People often ask, don’t you miss having four seasons? What are they talking about? We have four seasons: Nice, really nice, beautiful, and gorgeous! And right now, we’re experiencing the 5th Season – El Nino – just to mix things up a bit.

So, it was great fun to take a drive up to Beverly Hills on a really nice January day, where the thermometer rose just above 70, and stop in to meet the masterminds behind the American Tea Room. Randy, co-mastermind, greeted me as Gene and I entered the tea room. His warm, high energy enthusiasm is contagious! He immediately provided our choice of samples: their Earl Grey Sterling (which they should just call Earl Great), and Extreme Vanilla Organic Green Tea, which was 3 years in the making and incorporates three types of hand cut vanilla beans.

Then, I was introduced to David, who has been a key figure in my tea exploration this year. His suggestions, along with accompanying samples, have opened my mind and palate to worlds of black tea I have never even known to exist! What a pleasure to finally meet him live and in person!

Just seconds before my introduction to Milk Oolong

David ushered us to the tea bar, where he offered to brew a pot of tea for us to share. I have been hearing great things about their Milk Oolong, so it was an obvious choice.  As the tea was prepared, David began explaining how this oolong was processed. He presented the large tin of the Milk Oolong and pointed out its creamy aroma – a result of the processing, not anything that is added. The tea was steeped in a most beautiful tea pot – designed specifically for American Tea Room. (It has sold out of both colors (black and white), and has been a smash-hit  among the Hollywood elite.)

Once the tea had steeped, we were shown how large the bright green tea leaves were once they unfurled from their tight twists. Then the first sip. Tasting Milk Oolong for the first time was exquisite! The creaminess translates nicely into the flavor of this tea. It is light, but full, and hits every point on your palate. To accompany this marvelous discovery, we were provided with some small and delicate tea cookies. One, covered in matcha, and the other harmless looking cookies were described as “crack cookies” because of their tendency to leave consumers wanting more and more. (I found this to be disturbingly true. How can I get my hands on more?!?!)

And this was just the first course. The second course was the visual feast of the space itself. Gene and I wandered around, examining the large and beautiful selection of unique teapots in both cast iron and Japanese porcelain. There were walls of tea to be explored, each tea with a small pot of leaves to be sniffed and examined. Gift boxes, tea cups, so many amazing things, and all displayed with an artist’s touch.

The third course was trying to decide what to take home with me. I had asked David what his favorite tea for the moment was and he talked about various green teas, particularly those from Japan. While I shy away from the grassiness of many green teas, that is what he most enjoys. Feeling brave and also inspired by his passion, I asked for his recommendation on where I should start in my green exploration. He walked me through some Chinese greens (less “grassy” than Japanese greens) and brought down tin after tin from his wall of tea. I was thrilled to end my adventure with a parcel filled with a couple of old favorites, my new-found treat of Milk Oolong, and some Long Jing (also known as Dragonwell) as a re-introduction to green tea.

The cherry on top was getting to know David and how the idea of this tea room came about, his travels, his knowledge, recommendations, commentary, and even an inside scoop to some exciting changes coming very soon to their beautiful space. Randy and David have a perfectly balanced partnership with each filling in the blanks for the other when it comes to operations, tea tasting and testing, organization, displays… the list goes on and on. It even goes as far as David keeping Twitter updated (@AmericanTeaRoom), and Randy focusing on Facebook (Become a Fan).

I look forward to my next trip to this Tea Destination and my continued tea adventures encouraged by David and Randy.

American Tea Room
401 N Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 271-7922

Monday – Saturday 10 AM – 6 PM and Sunday 12 PM – 5PM

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A New Tea Cupboard Moment

A Cupboard Full of Tea. Happy Thought.

It’s a New Year. All right, it’s a few weeks into a New Year, and my tea cupboard was calling. As new and exciting teas have been introduced to me, I had found myself lining them all up on the kitchen counter top to have them all within easy reach each morning. I found myself looking less and less often into my actual designated tea cupboard, and it was time to evaluate why.

I’ve preferred loose leaf tea to bagged tea for quite a number of years now, but laziness and ease had allowed for several boxes of bagged tea to sit amongst ‘the good stuff.’ What was lounging in the cupboard were those old tea bags – forlorn, forgotten and ultimately snubbed. And so, out with the old, in with the new. I purged, sorted, and reconfigured. I am tickled to no end to see how far I’ve come since beginning this tea blog last April, and also to see the myriad choices my tea cupboard now has to offer. I confess, I did keep a few stray bags of lemon infusion – something my husband and I both tend toward at night, during bad colds, but they have been relegated to an ‘other’ shelf.

So, what is your pleasure? A strong breakfast blend? A fabulous Darjeeling? A premium white blend? Milk oolong, perhaps, or an exotic blend with floral or subtle fruit notes? I can even find some interesting greens in there (yes, plural). Whatever strikes your fancy, or mine, I certainly have options. And not one stinker (my opinion) in the lot! I’m ready for this year. Bring it on!

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