Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Roast levels

Dear Reader- I have not relapsed with coffee although I almost did yesterday but was saved by an intervention of a friend. This is just a months old coffee post languishing in the drafts pile...

One morning I had a spectacular fail as a home barista- my one and only regular customer dumped his lovingly hand crafted cup of high end Ethiopean Yirgacheffe straight down the drain.  My husband hates - hates "blond" roasts as an abomination perpetuated by millennial roasters and I had conveniently forgotten all about it. I reckon you could not serve a blond roast to a civil war union soldier or an old time cowboy neither without them spitting out such weak brown stuffs.

The current trend among specialty roasters is a lighter roast as dark roasting ruins the delicate aromatics of the original bean.  When you add milk to a light roast- it just kills the flavor and the cup becomes dish rag water.  I even contemplated re-roasting or giving the beans away. In the same way you would not defile a high end tea with cow juice, these blond roasts only show their best unadorned. It was the third time I drank this Ethiopian black that I totally understood the beauty of a blond roast. Since the citrus aromatics with the lingering sweetness is not what I traditionally consider "coffee",  my prior expectations had ruined the experience. If someone had served me this brew as "tea" instead of coffee,  I would have simply appreciated the cup without hangups.

A local roaster "paid" my husband in suitably dark beans for a quickie metal job. When I tasted the crowd pleasing rich full bodied nutty taste of this dark roasted Sumatra, I quickly realized fruity high noted complexity in the morning is not an appropriate start for a working man like my husband.  Even I who only moves brain cells and a few fingers for a living prefer a dark cup in the morning- coffee or tea.   I take my light roasted Ethiopians as an early afternoon treat and have given up convincing my man that floral and fruity aromatics belong in coffee.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Rebooting with Hongchas

The Northern California weather gets nippier every morning demanding a dark vigorous brew.  I have almost pried myself away from the seductions of coffee having my last hurrah at Yosemite.  It was really the full cream and the airy microfoam on cappucino that sustained my addiction and so I must cut this inflammatory dairy cord and return back to tealand.  Most importantly, sustaining such high dosages of caffeine in the blood stream has knocked down my deep sleep so I've amassed more than a few health reasons to cut the bean.

I need a morning replacement that is dark, robust and NOT shu. (Well I shu on weekend mornings but work weekdays require something more mediated than the raw power of shu. Otherwise I get aggro and forget to be diplomatic during technical reviews.) My morning habit was hongcha for decades before this coffee detour and so I return to this familiar ritual of swishing hot water around dark leaves.

Where to procure decent quality hongcha (Indian, Chinese or otherwise) for daily use that is not too fancy but better than average?  My last 2 orders of darjeelings direct from India was a slight flop as the first flushes were just too light/white and delicate for morning use.  I use a pinch here and there in my afternoon blends but my kitchen cabinet is still overflowing with those sample bags.   The solution to too much tea is of course more tea.

15 years ago, I remember my brother in law had gifted me some pretty good tins from Upton Tea. But since I had moved onto puerh and ordering direct from China, I never ordered from them.  For the price less than my last parking ticket, I happily sent out for dozens of samples.  My husband wryly commented, "There is something so deja vu about mylar bags stuffed in a box."   In reality, I could have held out the year comfortably with my home supply of Yunnan dianhong and Lapsang Souchong but I wanted to give myself some more encouragement to choose tea over coffee in the mornings.

No disrespect to hongcha, but novelty in hongchas for the long time tea drinker does not stray far from a narrow band of familiarity. Nothing explosive or life changing, just pleasant diversions in more of the almost same. But that's exactly what I need in the mornings- one can't overstimulate the brain so early without consequences. Their Earl Greys are very respectable and I can see ordering from them regularly for hongcha.  Truth be told, I thought I would be drinking my own aged shengs by now but I am to wait out a few more decades.  In the meanwhile I quietly imbibe some juicy keemuns and assam blends without any second thoughts of coffee.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor Day Tea Reflections

Dear reader I hope you are resting and effortlessly drinking good tea on this Labor Day.

My hubs is away on a rafting trip which in previous years meant days of serious weekend brewing from dawn to dusk.  These days I continuously brew leaf and bean but without quite the analytic fervor that made for years of enthusiastic tea blogging.  Now days, I mostly wanna have just a good time but today I hunker down to capture a few observations on the impact of dietary changes on tea taste. Good times!

In the tea enjoyment equation, the tea can change, your brewing method can change or you can change.  I am exploring the very last option as I've put my body in a unique opportunity to do so. For the fun of experimentation,  I've severely cranked down sugar and carb consumption. Why you ask? Why deprive oneself of the sweet sweet joys of life from luscious fruits to buttery baked wonders?  I'm sheepish to admit that I've gone keto to achieve higher brain function. (tldr; changing primary fuel of glucose to burning fats.) 

Is a brain fueled by fats any better for tea enjoyment? When you severely restrict food types subtracting the very edibles that make life so worth living, tea becomes one of the few remaining sources of gustatory pleasure.  On the upside, my palate is hyper sensitive to sugar.  Oolong has become my dessert of choice and I'm exceedingly grateful I even have oolongs as a worthy substitute. Life without fruits once unthinkable  (those plump juicy orbs how I miss you) has been endured with cups of oolong. But unexpectedly, the sweetness in shus I used to taste has been overwhelmed by a more mineral and umami profile. A baseline brick shu I've drunk a lot now tastes pleasantly of the sea.  If I were to compare taste memories,  this single tea has become almost two different teas.  On the downside- teas also taste dryer in the mouth so astringent shengs are decidedly out but I've been in keto adaptation for only two weeks so I need to give shengs a more thorough sampling.

From the decades of tea drinking, I've found my own physical apparatus to be the least reliable and most variable part of the equation.  There are many easy and not so easy ways you can manipulate your palate at a physical level from inducing hunger to increase olfactory sensitivity to the more extreme method of carb deprivation. (Mental tamperings I leave for another post.)  Rather than trying yet more new teas,  I find altering myself to experience different dimensions of the same teas deeply more satisfying and worthy of further investigation.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Joy of Brewing In Situ

The Northern California seaside tends to be a blustery chilly affair even at the height of summer- you need something dark and strong like shu or lapsang souchong to hold up. But this summer I must submit to my coffee craze. I hand grind and brew low end Gesha for myself and a dark Sumatra for husband all the while feeling pure unadulterated joy of making coffee in the great outdoors.  I must sheepishly admit I never felt this giddy while brewing tea outdoors. Why?

With strong wind and fire restrictions, the powerful controlled flame of this portable Thunder Range is exactly what does the job.  I had forgotten my teapot back at the camp and so had to make do with a shallow pan.  I vow to keep coffee making tools in the trunk of the car and a bag of beans in my purse at the ready from now on.  While sipping my Gesha- I now totally get why people lurvve their coffee.  Coffee does not take energy to love and now I feel a teensy twinge of guilt for my neglected puerh cakes but they will continue to dry age poorly without me snooping on them.

 The rocky wonderland of Gerstle Cove at Salt Point is one of my absolute favorite play spots in California.  California is chock full of state and national parks where one can goggle at spectacular natural wonders and pitch a tent later. 

Brewing coffee early morning at the camp site is yet another new pleasure that I am glad I waited so long to appreciate.  My Berkeley backyard is too tiny to recreate this cosy woodsy campsite feel but I have hatched new plans to inject more outdoors into my daily living.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Drinking Oolong Whilst Reading about Coffee

Recently I've been trying hard to return to India black teas in the morning and it feels all wrong- way way too wimpy.  Had I really relied on this weak brown water for decades to start my day? I regret boarding the coffee train only for the way my old drugs have lost their powers.  But I am baselessly confident this coffee fling will blow over by end of summer and I'll be happily slugging hong cha by the gallon come winter.

The one tea which still solidly holds it's own is oolong.  After dinner, I often brew up an oolong to share with my husband.  They behold a delicious succulent loveliness that has no comparison to coffee and can do respectable double duty as dessert.

I've been drinking my way through a box from Taiwan Sourcing last year-  I had to replenish the home supply last week.  This here box of oolongs is my only serious tea purchase this year.  Their small curated inventory tends to be much above average with some fantastic gems. I chose the 2016 bug bitten honey aroma oolong last year as my gift tea selection- the honey aroma is almost too decadent.  Most importantly, their oolongs have been gently agreeable to the body which makes me wonder why I've ever been game to take on combative stomach kickers.   Just like California living, oolongs make you soft but I no longer mind.