Saturday, August 31, 2013

Who Killed My Kamjove

A mere two days before the 6 month manufacturer's warranty ended, my Kamjove decided to join the mountain of broken cheap Chinese made electronic goods. Who knows how many millions of disposable broken Kamjoves litter the waste dumps of this world. 

Although the light goes on, the teapot refuses to heat.  All the wires and connections appeared to be fine. The heating coil had probably burnt out. I had smelled a slight burning odor prior to the malfunction. I guess I should be grateful it didn't burn the office down.

Instead of writing to the original web vendor , I just put it in it's original box with a note "BROKEN..." on the side walk in case someone else can fix it.  Someone took it away within hours.  I was just too demoralized to demand a refund or an exchange and plus I never want to buy a Kamjove ever again.   

This is about the last straw in my work tea drinking. My Hario Buono still makes terrible water. I need to send away for yet another replacement but the available new options look unpromising.

I just went for vintage and found this Japanese ceramic kettle on eBay.   The copper tea cozy has a weird white lining. I hope it's not abestos. I guess we'll see if vintage is the way to go.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Genetics of a Tea Drinker

I finally received my genetic results from 23andme- a personal genome service that will scan a million spots on your DNA for a mere $100.  My neuroscientist friend says she pays $10 a sequence even with bulk university rates so $100 is a great deal for sampling all 26 chromosomes plus your mitochondrial DNA.  For those prone to anxiety, too much information can be a burden.  Even I fell into quite a slump when shown risks that I already knew about given my family history.

Amongst all the health and ancestry reveals, I found the following genes of particular interest to tea drinking. I would be fascinated to know if any other tea drinkers out there have data to confirm or refute my assumptions.

  • perception of bitter tastes - My TAS2R38 gene makes me 80% likely not to taste certain bitter compounds.  I always thought bitterness was a matter of preference but it's more likely I don't taste the full strength of bitterness that others do.  To drink sheng, one has to enjoy bitterness and who knows if people do overcome a genetically predisposed sensitivity to bitterness.  (A digression-  I was tickled by this article claiming that drinking bitter things makes you more judgemental. The scientific experiment revolves around participants being asked to rate morally questionable acts such as "man eating his already-dead dog, and second cousins engaging in consensual sex".  Those fed bitter drinks were much harsher(28% more) in their judgement.  Following this line of thinking- are puerh bloggers harsher than soda bloggers?)
  • caffeine metabolism - genetic marker rs762551 determines how quickly your liver will metabolize caffeine.  Do those who can absorb quickly have an advantage for copious tea swilling? It's not clear if fast metabolizers are more or less sensitive to the effects of caffeine as the forum on this topic showed a great many fast metabolizers like me that were hyper-sensitive to stimulants in general.
  • addiction - various genes such as the dopamine DRD2 gene has been correlated to addictive behavior.  It's probably not accurate nor useful to project genetic results from heroin/alcohol addiction to puerh addiction.  I wasn't planning ever to take heroin but now that I see I have "substantially higher odds of heroin addiction", I am doubly determined to avoid it now...
What to make of such a glut of genetic data? There is the best one can do- exercise, eat healthy, sleep well, and reduce stress. But such virtuous living is never all that fun. I've heard that people who see that they are more genetically susceptible to certain conditions like Type 2 diabetes do clean up their act.

I decided to take a snapshot of a week's groceries just to compare how I'm fueling myself through the seasons.  Despite the continual photos of pastries and cheese I plaster on this blog, I'm really munching on a lot of fruit and veg. This photo of course is as misleading as it is only half the picture.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

End of the Road with a Brebisrousse D'Argental

Yesterday ten blocks away from home was a tea event at Teance - a tea shop firmly on my vendor black list.  Overpriced bougie douchie tea vendors are dime a dozen in the Bay Area and this one is a particularly excellent example of that genre. They ripped me off with my first major beeng purchase back in 2005 and I have vowed never again to be so gullible.  Among other inflated goodies, they sell chamomile $12 for 2oz and "exceptional" mini-tuocha for $31 per 2oz.  Just imagine paying $248 a pound for shu mini-tuocha. So it follows that most of their puerh offerings are madly overpriced.  But there are no shortage of willing rich patrons in the Fourth Street shopping district.

On Saturday, for the mere pocket change of $25, you could have stood and watched wine sommeliers drink tea and wax on about the palate and food pairings. I of course wanted to go if only for entertainment purposes but due to August Austerity measures, I could not justify throwing money away.  If you read this blog and happened to attended this session yesterday-  please do give us a report.

Teance also holds a 3 day tea training course for professionals at a sum of $975 for early registration and $1275 otherwise.   As a person who's mostly self taught in tea matters- the idea of formal training is hugely appealing.  But forking over $975 for a three day or 21 hour course seems foolish. It takes the flow of time for your palate to really understand and appreciate tea.  How far can cramming get you?

I drank good teas all week but I can't seem to rub two sentences together for a review these days. Many tea bloggers come to the end of that road and it appears I also have lost interest to continue on as a tea blogger.  I may eke out with other topics at least for a while as I eat a great many delicious things which should be shared.

My current favorite edible this month is the Brebisrousse - a sheep cheese from Lyon.  The orangeness of the rind comes not from a mold bloom but from  annatto but the briney umami flavor combined with the creamy mouthfeel makes it one of the best cheese experiences I've had all year.   I couldn't be a cheese blogger because I can't excite myself to write more than two sentences on the topic. To think I persisted in 200+ posts on tea makes me think I have greatly impinged on the poor reader.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Craftsman and Wolves

One of my favorite food podcasts is BBC's Food Programme and the recent episode on frugal eating struck a cord in me. The host Sheila Dillon covered bloggers who through various misfortunes were forced to scrape by on public assistance but found creative ways to eat better and share generously through their writings.  I've been enjoying the wit of the skint foodie and learning about spatchcocking. But after listening to the BBC podcast, my current food habits seemed shamefully profligate to me and I should do something about it.

Just like a medieval monk, eating and imbibing are the two principal pleasures in my life. The thought of any self-induced deprivation fills me with equal parts woe and determination.  It's not about denying yourself all the time but limiting yourself so you really do appreciate the special occasion treats.  The idea to eat simpler has great appeal to me as I've been grossly overdoing the bakery rounds.

Before I attempt a month of August austerity, I just wanted one last hurrah (or two). As my husband is away up the mountains, I went for dim sum with friends and then ran off in search of desserts. I had been meaning to give Craftsman and Wolves in the Mission district a go. I'd avoided them precisely because their best specialties are flour based. Despite grumpy yelp reviews and the fact they were all out of their signature Rebel Within- a savory muffin with a soft cooked egg inside, I was pleasantly impressed by the alternative twist they've put on the two selections I had.  

This button sized raspberry puff was filled with fresh raspberries inside. It was by far the loveliest raspberry pastry I've encountered.  The Devil- a chocolate mini-cake which used to have fois gras inside before the California ban now only holds the toffee ganache is still an interesting salty sweet combination. The Devil is a strangely meaty tasting treat. Even though the flour bothered me all day, it was worth it.  A total of $11.50, these are steep prices to be sure.

Last week I was hypnotized by this meringue cream puff concoction in the display case where I got a friend's birthday cake. It was not worth it.  But such follies have come to an end this month.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Two Pasadena Bakeries

I greedily munched my way through Southern California with the help of my loyal friend Sof.   Unfortunately we had to limit ourselves to about five establishments a day due to the exertion to our stretched gullet.  As a Northern Californian, I'm loathe to admit that there are culinary offerings in SoCal that are better than what's offered the Bay Area but so it is.

 The most precious of these bakeries is D'odici in Pasadena specializing in made-to-order souffles and souffle cheese cakes. I went thrice as I was so keen on their pillowy soft offerings. They serve the chocolate souffle with a scoop of cocoa dusted vanilla ice cream on top of chocolate mousse.  It takes thirty minutes but it's utterly fabulous and worth the wait.

I struck out a bit at Flour+Tea also in Pasadena. The space was open and welcoming but their specialty- a mochi baked inside a bun was just so-so. Actually I'm not convinced such a match is even a good idea as the two different textures of chewiness did not complement each other.  But their curry chicken bun was decent.

They also sold bulk green and black teas as well as some token puerh.  While I was inspecting the shu bricks- the server behind the counter perked up and told me how good they were. Apparently the shu brick is going for $65 (?) a pop.  I was about to find out what the street price of it was on taobao when I realized I was on vacation and should try to spend quality time with my dear friend. Brick and mortar shops usually have more than a 100%+ upcharge and it's not like I need any more mediocre shu.

The highlight of Flour + Tea is their enticing case of macarons. We tried the Earl Grey and Blueberry Lavender  which had a pleasingly intensity- definitely superior to San Francisco's Miette's versions which come in decidedly safe flavors.  All in all, Pasadena residents are lucky to have two such bakeries.