Friday, October 15, 2021

Coffee Drinking PSA for Teaheads

I've been struggling to push off coffee yet again and dear readers, I no longer have the will.  When I last kicked the habit with double strength assams, I perhaps could have stayed clean permanently had I lived alone. Yet I live with another coffee drinker and seeing a loved one constantly and enthusiastically extoll the delicious virtues of coffee every morning makes my abstinence nigh impossible.

It's not that tea vs coffee is some analog to weed vs cocaine. But the higher levels of caffeine combined with the easy delicious taste entices you in such a warm embrace.  I'm a mere mortal buffeted by various whims and desires and I have to utilize my precious and limited will-power on things that are life critical.

I can't seem to resist the bean especially if I have not had proper sleep which is a lot these days.  Why would somebody like me consistently stay up all night for? Well, mostly gaming  but yesterday I tried my hand at choreographing a machinima music dance video.  Making modded characters dance was definitely worth the relapse in coffee.  Enjoy the 3 minutes of pure entertainment!

If you love Skyrim and the Witcher...

Friday, September 17, 2021

Taboo of Reroasting Coffee Beans

Early this year I chanced upon two pounds of "artisanal" coffee beans that my husband had completely forgotten about under his desk.  Often he will be gifted coffee at work which he promptly deposits at my bean bank. But this one being an undesirable light roast somehow languished hidden for about a year.

To a puerh drinker, a year really is a blip in time and the beans grind up to a better than expected highly drinkable brew.  But these Honduran beans are exceedingly lightly roasted barely past first crack giving me the jitters.  It's too old to giveaway to anyone and I can't drink anything this light so I had the notion to just re-roast it to a darker level.

Anytime anybody asks about re-roasting on a forum,  roasting snobs come out of the woodwork to naysay re-roasting, a technique they haven't ever tried.  Given there is precedent for re-roasting in oolongs, a far more delicate brew than coffee, I could see a re-roasting home experiment was in order.  I found mention of a Swiss technique of double roasting for a more low acid smoother brew. Lo and behold a cafe chain in Hong Kong serves double roasted beans:

"the new blend Double Roast are roasted until its first crack, then left to cool down for 48 hours, and thereafter roasted again until the desired roasting level is achieved. The cooling phase in between the 2 roasts causes the sugar in the beans to caramelise without burning, allowing the transformation of the beans to evolve into a sweet, deeply rich finish with low acidity."

I know there is a wide gap between 48 hours and a whole year of resting but where is the fun in life if you don't try.  In the end, it's me and my husband that will be quaffing this suboptimally roasted coffee and only the results down our throats will confirm whether it's a viable technique.  At worst, it would still be leaps better than coffee on an airplane and superior to anything a field solider would have gotten during the Civil War. 

Not having my hands on a more convenient popcorn popper,  I  first opted for the simplest frying pan method, not really ideal with surface heat. I've since tried a closed pot that I shake vigorously at higher heat every 5 seconds that works much better.  In my first attempt with the fry pan, I was timid with the heat and was whisking these beans for over half an hour. Even with the vigorous shakes and thorough whisking, it was an uneven roast with a few burnt beans.
Nobody will lend me their popcorn popper...

How was the end result? Pleasing. The coffee is smooth and drinkable with the taste even nuttier after a few days of curing. I guess it might be an affront to coffee snobs as the more delicate flavors of this Honduran has been burnt out.  The single roasted brew had fruity notes and a light sweetness on the tongue.  Honduran coffee tends to be mild, sweet, and offends no one so it's hard to say what of the unique characteristic it lost during it's year of sleep.  The bag did not specify the varietal and I'm not one to notice the taste difference in taste between the arabica varieties. 

I'm not going to serve this to guests and enjoy it as a breakfast brew.    Given the dramatic price inflation of boutique beans (these would have been $20 for 12 oz which seems steep for a Honduran),  I'm happy at this fortuitous experimentation.  Before when the roast in the bag is lighter than expected. I've often given them away but now I'll just re-roast. 

*Yes, from this post you may garner that I am back on the coffee train after weaning off.  I was drinking Assams daily and puerh occasionally during 2020 but it was the fraught elections that sent me seeking something more robust and non-complicated to carry me through. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Garden Tea Party, agedness of '04 Yiwu Purple Changtai

For the first time in a long while, I invited a tea guest to my back yard, a dear friend I had not seen face to face for more than a year. Being way past mandated isolations, vaccinations should have ushered in a more joyous return to gatherings. However I find it harder to loosen my grip on my hermit ways.  

I brought out a '04 Changtai Hao Yiwu Purple remembering it to be a pretty tea worthy to serve.   Whether it's purple leaf that doesn't age well or bad aging in the arid confines of my Berkeley home even with a decade in Guangdong, I'd wager it's a combination of both.  August is Fogust in the bay area but somehow the dry zone inside my tea closet doesn't relent holding tight to 45% humidity. I didn't have the foresight to condition the leaves beforehand in a ceramic jar.  But the occasion being friendship and company, any tea might have done.

After party for 1
Even though the teapot was crammed full of leaves, the taste was indistinctly mild with a huigan so imperceptible to declare this brew was definitely not to pleasure our senses.   Yet the brew exerted enough potency to knock down my coffee loving husband.   

It didn't seem right to take pictures during our tea session so the above photo is  after the party, I soldier on past the 8th brew trying to recapture some of my earlier fonder memories of this cake from 6 years past but my mind is too preoccupied by my first tea party of the decade and news of friends.

I brew up this Yiwu again this afternoon having left a chunk in a ceramic jar for a few days.  Due to the caution of the times, I had refrained myself at the party from sniffing deeply the leaves and the teapot lid which is one of the great pleasures of a good Yiwu. So brewing solo now, my nose happily sniffed away at the brown sugar scent.  The signature Yiwu huigan is definitely there, light and pretty but... but accompanied by a mouth drying astringency which wasn't so prominent before.  

I half-heartedly vow never to waste money on aging purple cakes again and to serve purple teas young and lively.   For the curious, I sent away an entire hundo for a 200g mini beeng 7 years ago for the vain hope that purples age well enough to justify the steep cost.  The personal answer for me in Berkeley is sadly nay nay. I wish I had spent that sum for a terabyte of SSD instead.  Sigh.  How have I gotten so sensible to prefer NAND disk over leaf disk but one really can never have enough solid state storage even if one's m.2 slots are full up.  

But an hour past my first sip, a pretty lingering sweetness gets stronger in my tongue and left throat making me smile, but not enough to reverse my last sentiment. The best Yiwus can tingle obscure parts of the mouth. I've had dormant tastebuds in the undersides of my tongue sparkle. I should have listened to Jakub and gotten that 2010 Hai Lang Hao Chawang Yiwu. 

Did the conditioning of the tea chunk in a ceramic canister improve this tea or is this Yiwu too delicate to be appreciated as a back seat tea where there is too much other stimulation? I'll put this Changtai Yiwu down as being a finicky shy tea needing full attention to enjoy.  More than half the Changtai beengs and bricks I have tend to be a rugged lot asserting their shengness in mouth punching ways although no where near as brawny as the mouth kicking Menghai newborns.  

It's been almost a year since I've brewed a Yiwu.  Truth be told, I've fallen back to drinking coffee midway through as the pandemic which demanded something more robust and less complicated.  But now as I'm sipping this Yiwu, I feel entirely ready for a change back to checking out aging of my other beengs.