Friday, February 24, 2012
So I love tea. I won't have anything to do with coffee but tea? I have a special cabinet crammed with dozens of boxes and I never pass up a chance to sample a new flavor. When the opportunity to explore a tea tasting trip arrived, you know I was there. A handful of countries are noted for excellent tea. No, I didn't visit India, China or Japan, this trip unfolded on a frosty winter day in Chicago, at the Loose Leaf Lounge.
I've experienced all sorts of tastings, from chocolate to conch but I never tried a tea tasting. There were many categories to choose from, including tea for health, unusual teas and intro to teas but I couldn't pass up dessert teas. Just look at the teas we sampled above. I don't know about you but names like Chocolate Indulgence and Almond joi are tempting just from the names alone.
Our guide was the genial Lester, owner of the Loose Leaf Lounge. He informed us that his original idea was for a Kool Aid Cafe but I'm glad he got over that. He started us off by letting us smell the tea and savor the aroma of the different leaves and fruits. Lester told us a Japanese legend about a monk discovering tea after tearing his eyeballs out but I suspect that's a story that developed from over caffeinated tea masters.
Lester brewed our teas in a see- through kettle and I learned that 90% of tea flavor comes from the water, which is why steeping is important. 205 degrees is the temperature water boils at but you're not supposed to let the kettle start whistling. That's definitely news to me, I'm afraid that I've burned up quite a few kettles by letting the water over boil and dry up.
Lester displayed a chart illustrating the drying process for black, white and green teas. I only drink white, green and herbal teas because I'm sensitive to caffeine but it was fun sipping a range of tea flavors. Can you guess which one I picked as my sample to take home?
Gaze at that gorgeous rose color above, the flavor was just as vivid. That's Almond Joi, it tastes sweet and coconutty and I'm sipping a cup of it right now. I also bought a canister of Pina Colada tea because you can never have too much coconut anything. Do you have any favorite flavors ?