Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Jasmine Tea Poached Pears

My entry for this month's TeaChef challenge came out quite nicely. I didn't do anything crazy like last month with the pizza. It happened to be my birthday on Monday and since my girlfriend was going to make me some angel food cake I was charged with making something spectacular to go with it. The result:

Jasmine Tea Poached Pears

I just love poached pears, if you haven't tried these yet, really you must. If you don't happen to like amaretto or are afraid of balsamic vinegar don't use them. I've made poached pears about two dozen times, each a little different than the last and the one thing I can assure you is that no matter what recipe you follow it will taste great. I've made it with white wine, red wine, amaretto, oolong tea, and now jasmine oolong tea. Every time it was awesome. I even tried to mess it up, that's how the balsamic vinegar got invited to the party. No luck, still great!

This particular version really surprised me. As it was cooking I could still make out a very faint vinegar smell and was a bit worried. Once it had cooked long enough to give it a little taste the only word that I could think of to describe it was "delicate". That's not really a word that frequents my vocabulary unless I happen to have destroyed something. I wasn't sure if the tea would be even the slightest bit noticeable but there it was tickling the tip of my tongue the way jasmine tends to do. After my senses returned I took another sampling to get an overall taste and another word came to my mind "delicious." I was tempted to continue sampling but I've been known to finish desert before I've finished adding ingredients.

This recipe comes in two flavors. Blue plate and red plate:

Nothing special to say about the ice cream. I think vanilla is the way to go. Feel free to argue.

As for the cake. Mmmmm, angel food. I've always been a fan of this particular treat as well, and once my girlfriend made it for me from scratch there was no going back. Sinning was over for me, I was a' heaven bound. We both agreed that it would be interesting to try to mix a little tea into the recipe but it tasted so go already that I didn't want to sour the experience by having to type out the recipe. It takes a bit of the fun out of it. But don't worry, the next time a tea looks like it might go well in angel food cake we're going for it anyway, you'll just have to wait a bit longer for that part.

I would usually have made all the links to the TeaChef page go directly to my recipe, but this month there are so many amazing treats you really have to look at them all. This is one time I certainly don't mind if you vote for one of the other creations. My hats off to everyone.

"Jasmine Tea Poached Pears
Jasmine Tea takes a trip down Pear lane with this delicate amaretto and balsamic vinegar treatment to poaching pears."

It really is a very easy thing to make and it's such a classy dessert that it fits in well for any "special" nights you may have planned. Come to think of it, the first time I tried this treat it was actually for breakfast...

Now go have a cup...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

This Really Tee's Me Off!

Ever since I came across the whole smoking tea bags things I've been keeping my eyes on Canada. I learned long ago to trust a hunch as they usually pay off. It would seem that the revolution is coming and Canada is leading the charge.

I've been planning to post on this for a few days now but was having a bit of a hard time finding the Teasire angle on the story. Should I go with the "Canadians are sooo crazy?" How about "What's next, fertilize your wife with tea?" Well actually that's not too far from it since it would seem a lot of men are practically married to their local golf course. I've probably got your attention by now so I'd better get on with it.

It would seem that companies using tea as compost are popping up all over. And it's not just for nuts like me who will put tea on anything just to see what happens. A company called Earth Elixer Quality Compost Teas is one of them. One of their customers happens to be the Cordova Bay Golf Course in Victoria, British Columbia.

In March they started spraying their 16th and 17th fairways and greens with this brew and are having good results so far. Apparently their motivation was to find a better way to fight the harmful fungal growth that can plague any golf course by encouraging the growth of beneficial aerobic bacteria and fungi.

It sounds perfectly reasonable to me, and obviously to many other people. I did a quick search on Google for Compost Tea and it returned 736,000 results. I think this may just be a sign of the garden to come.

The first question I had about this was, "What kind of tea do they use?" followed very closely by, "How does it taste?" Unfortunately this tea is not for drinking. Somehow my mind just kind of skipped over the word "compost" and was focusing solely on the word "tea." It tends to do that. I must therefore thank Earth Elixer for having the warning "Earth Elixir Compost Tea is NOT for human consumption." posted at the bottom of every page on their site. I might very well have considered tasting some were it not for this stern warning. So:


This important piece of information came to me from the Oak Bay News in an article titled "Fertilizer tea splashes into town."

Now go have a cup,

but remember...
Earth Elixer Compost Tea is NOT for human consumption. (!)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Adventures of a Tea Lover In Wine World.

Well maybe not plural but it does kind of roll off the tongue a bit better.

This last week has been spent working at a wine shop and while I was there I got to listen in while the owner was trying out some wines that various vendors brought in through out the day. Most of the conversation was of the typical sort when people taste wine with a sprinkling of insider gossip about other vendors and wineries. Lots of talk about three a legged dog as well for some reason.

The most entertaining part of the tasting was when they came across a wine that they didn't like. I had listened to them drink several good tasting wines while I was there and didn't really have any interest in trying any until they started to rip into one. I realized then that the way one really develops an experienced tasting palate is not by tasting good versions but rather tasting bad versions.

I've had lots of tea in my time but I still don't quite consider myself an expert. The first tea I liked was Earl Grey but at the time I didn't know anything about bergamot, it could have been a preservative for all I knew. I was never all that fond of straight black teas like orange pekoe and ironically thought at the time that Earl Grey tasted a bit more orange to me. Which was for a good reason once I found out what bergamot was and that Earl Grey was flavored with it. The point at which I started to develop a palate for tea was when I tried a Double Bergamot Earl Grey. Sounded good, I like the tea with it better than without so more of it must be even nicer tasting. Nope, I hated it, but came away from the experience with a much better understanding of what makes a good Earl Grey. For me it's a brisk black tea with very little of the bergamot flavoring.

All right, back to the wine. I had that whole internal conversation about Earl Grey while they tasted this uncouth specimen and was pleased to hear that I hadn't missed anything. The vendor left the bottle for her to try again after it had mellowed for a day or so. I guess you really have to make sure you hate something in the wine industry. They seemed to think that it was getting less disgusting as time went on so perhaps this wasn't too far fetched an idea. My first though was that they were suffering from wine goggles, but perhaps they knew better and by the next day it would merely rate an "eh" in taste. Unfortunately by the way they were talking about it I didn't think it was the type of wine you'd want to wake up next to in the morning.

My reason for being there was some data entry so I felt I would probably work faster if I listened in to help me stay awake. I do get board rather easily I must admit. For the last few months I've been working the temp scene and as a result I get to work in many places that I wouldn't normally have. This was one of them. I would probably never get hired to work in a place like this outside of temping but it was an experience I'd rather not have missed. Towards the end of the day I was invited over to join them in their tasting. Probably the nicest break I've ever had and well timed too. I wasn't quite at head bobbing yet but at least slightly cross eyed. Strange that a glass or so of wine would clear crossed eyes now that I think about it. I didn't get to try the foul wine and I though it might offend them if I asked, since the wines I did try were very good.

The next day the owner announced that when a day goes by without any sampling five o'clock signifies time to open up a bottle. It was five and she did. Guess what the first one was. That's right the one that was sitting in time out. She said that it smelled nicer. That was frightening, as I could smell a distinct nail polish scent coming off of mine and to hear that it was worse the day before, ouch. I had to agree that it was not a very nice wine but I enjoyed not liking it much more than I would have enjoyed tasting a good wine. I know that because a very nice wine followed it.

The knowledge that I didn't like a bad wine was very comforting and it reminded me of a wine tasting experience that my girlfriend brings up every time she tries a new wine that she likes.

We were still rather new at tasting and really didn't know what kind we liked. Our best way of describing the wines we liked was "kind of sweet." Poison to this particular winery representatives ears and it was visible on every pore of his face. We tried his wines enthusiastically expecting to have our knowledge expanded by this exposure to what "good wine" should taste like. His rudeness only added to our enthusiasm since there was no way I was going to put a penny is his pocket and thus would have no feelings of guilt at not buying any from him.

Did we like his wine? Let's just say there's probably a reason this particular memory just came back to me. This time when thinking back upon it I was armed with the knowledge that I don't like bad wine. How about that, bucko?

This is a place of tea though so I'd better finish on a tea note. A few weeks ago a fellow tea blogger friend of mine did a post called "Tea...It's the New Wine" where she was comparing the worlds of tea tasters and wine tasters. I couldn't help but think about that post this week and it would be a shame if I finished this one without mentioning it. Unfortunately it seems that the Pu-erh teas are the closest to a wine like product and I have yet to really enjoy one. I can't seem to get past the smell to actually taste one. I even have some sitting on my counter that a nice salesman gave me for free. What's wrong with me? Free!

How about you, do you have any tea snobbery stories? How about "bad tea" stories that helped you to find out what kind of tea you actually liked? Perhaps you'd like to share an epiphany you experienced while tasting tea, or wine, or even dirt when you fell off your bike in 2nd grade. Feel free. Free!

Now go have a cup.

Friday, October 07, 2005

In Japan: Thirst Quenching Tea

In my daily search for interesting tea things I came across a rather entertaining post about drinking tea in Japan from an outsiders perspective.

In Japan: Thirst Quenching Tea

The thing that caught my eye first was not the word anti-diuretic in quotation marks (I noticed that on the second read through.) It was that it seemed to contradict my last post about tea not growing in England with this statement:
"England, as everyone knows starting cultivating wild tea some time during the bronze age and the domesticated tea has been growing on the dales of Yorkshire from time immemorial."
At which point I was hooked. Was it possible that I was wrong and in fact tea had been growing there, wild no less, for a very long time? Perhaps it's one of those secrets "For British eyes only." I assure you that you would have found that last part funny if you had been watching Arrested Development. If not shame on you.

I was glad I had continued reading when I was rewarded with this gem of a description:
"...it tasted like sawdust and burning. Like water from a muddy puddle in small forest where all the inhabitants died of botulism."
I must admit I may have enjoyed reading that a bit too much. If you like the stuff I tend to have around here then you'll like this post. I've only had the briefest of looks around but it would appear that this post is not the only gem in the batch. I for one am looking forward to his further adventures "In Japan."

Now go have a cup.


The post this links to had a sudden name change from First Quenching Tea to Thirst Quenching Tea so I have adjusted the links and the title of this post. It makes a little more sense now. I was wondering what he meant by that.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

You Can Grow Tea In Britain?

After years of being know as a place full of tea drinkers England now has it's very own domestic supply.

Tregothnan estates.

This is puzzling, as I know it's been tried several times before with very little success. Mostly due to tea being rather fickle. Sure it'll grow in lots of places but a drinking quality tea has been an entirely different story all together.

I wonder how they plan to go about the picking and processing while conforming to labor laws and yet still make a profit. I imagine this will be a really expensive brew. Actually I don't have to imagine, it is.

I'd rather not get too deep into the conversation tea being growable in England leads us down. With questions along the line of "What was with all that Opium crap?" or "Jewel of the Crown, Eh?" it's probably best to just think that some clever gardeners have found a way to use modern technology to overcome the impossible and grow tea in England.

This particular piece of news can be found in an article called "Britain brews up its own tea" at The Australian among many other places no doubt.

Now go have a cup.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A Tea Pizza Is A Happy Pizza

A while ago I mentioned that I would be trying to use tea in some rather odd ways in an ongoing attempt to fight my growing bald spot. One of the challenges I gave myself was to use tea in pizza and make it good. Coincidentally TeaChef, a page dedicated to using tea in cooking went live this month with the challenge of using tea in new and exciting ways in food. Tea Pizza fit that bill. I expected most of the entries to have a strong Asian influence since tea is complimentary to that style of cooking and already used often. My many skills honed during years of Iron Chef fandom were awakened and I could hear Masahiko Kobe's words in my ear as I was preparing. Unfortunately I don't understand Japanese so his advice could not be heeded, that seemed to anger him and I was on my own. Here is what became of it.

Making pizza is really quite easy but it does involve many steps. After you've done it a few times it's a breeze to make but trying explain it can become quite long winded. As a result the recipe became rather large. It can be found at the TeaChef web page under Tea Pizza With Shitake Mushrooms and Steak.

I took lots of photo's not really knowing where this would go and when I saw what the yeast looked like with the tea in it I must admit I was a little worried. The water used in this is actually tea with the spent leaves put in the blender and added as well.

Then I realized what shirt I was wearing. Was this a premonition?

No, it just one of my favorite bands with an unfortunate name: Failure. Before you ask musically no they didn't, as a continuing band yes they did. But the members all went on to other great things that I'm sure I'll sneak into another post someday.

After the mixing and kneading you always have to double check that the tea hasn't all fallen out.

OK it's still in there we can continue.

I was worried about the dough rising normally since tea has caffeine in it I though it might go crazy. On the other side I worried about the tea killing the yeast. It rose a little faster than expected but quite wonderfully. You could see the tea pieces in the dough a lot easier after it had risen.

Not too much to say about putting sauce on a pizza but boy does it look good. Sorry there's no tea in that sauce. I consider it to be perfect and so far cannot find a way to make it better. Even the addition of tea cannot improve it!

I used some dehydrated shitake mushrooms and steak for toppings. Care to guess what they were re-hydrated in? They were all cooked in tea as well, about two cups worth. They were juice-tacular.

Once I started to put it all together I realized that I would want some cheese pizza to really compare it to regular pizza since I don't usually have shitake mushrooms and steak on my pizza, in fact I never have. I had some vague idea of calling the pizza something along the lines of "It's 4 O'clock: Pizza Time" but it just sounded kind of dumb so I just let the photo say it for itself.

Almost done.

The finished Product looked a little like this. Too bad we don't have smell-o-vision on the web yet.

You can see that I made two dipping sauces in this picture. The one on the left was quite good, you can find the recipe for it over at the TeaChef page at the very bottom of the pizza recipe. If you make the sauce you'll find you have plenty of it left so you might as well try it. The one on the right is best left unexplained, it looks better than it tastes, and I don't really think it looks all that good to begin with.

If you'd prefer your pizza without tea, the recipe will work fine with just boring old water just as well. The tea dough tastes somewhere between rye and wheat. Without tea it's closer to sourdough. Enjoy.

Now go have a cup.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Can't Stop the Broadcast.

Put down that cup of tea and go see Serenity!

If you can't bear to be without for a full two hours, sneak some in hidden in a flask, do whatever you gotta' do but do it now!

When you are done doing that you'll need the DVD for the rest of the story. It's not at all required to understand the movie but you will need it like a fool. I expect a shortage the likes of gasoline so go get a copy soon. It's that good!

Oh, and they drink tea in the TV show so that's how I justify mentioning it here on a page about tea. Serenity rhymes with tea as well so how could I not mention it? Sadly the movie only made reference to tea, but hey I'll take it.

If you're not familiar with the show yet you will be soon whether you want to or not so I'll be merciful. The fastest way to sum it up is "Imagine Star Wars with everyone as cool as Han Solo." Everyone is awesome, the good guys, the bad guys, the ugly and the pretty. It's the funniest movie I've seen in a very long time. Not because it's a comedy but because when something screwed up happens the characters recognize the absurdity and react appropriately.

If you already have the DVD excellent. I'll add some eggs to the comments when I remember where they are. There is one of Jayne singing "The Hero of Canton." that's a can't miss.

Feel free to skip $7.00 worth of tea to see this movie.

Now go...

see this movie!