Friday, February 24, 2012

A Tea Tasting Trip


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 ?

8 comments:

Catherine said...

Wow this looks like a heavenly experience - I am an avid tea drinker too and dislike coffee intensely so it is alwaysgreat to find places which cater to tea drinkers....fortunately in France there are endless salons du the accompanied by self indulgent patisserie....

Fly Girl said...

Catherine, Oh a patisserie in France! What I wouldn't do for a macaroon and a nice cup of tea!

A Cuban In London said...

As a "mate" drinker (although I'm currently out of it) I like the loose leaf variety in tea better than the tea bag one. However, I do have peppermint, green tea and camomile tea bags. I'd heard of tea-tasting before. In fact, there was a documentary some years ago about tea-tasting in India, or China, can't remember the country. My question is: did you have milk in it? :-) That's how they have it here in the UK.

Re your question, there are white African women, the South African writer Nadine Gordimer being one of them. :-) I met a white guitarist, singer songwriter some years ago who identified himself as Zimbawean because that's where he was born.

Greetings from London.

Fly Girl said...

Cubano, no milk in my tea although I do love the English scones and Devonshire cream to go with it. Yes, I know about white women who identify as African but the majority of women in Africa are black so I always think of that point as an exception.

Angela said...

Very nice, I've had tea tasting experience in China and it's wonderful, they are very traditional in this, they are so proud of their rituals and teas!

Fly Girl said...

Angela, I think China would be the place I'd want to experience a traditional tea tasting, the rituals are intriguing.

Edinburgh Nightlife said...

I love tea too, and since I haven't managed yet to visit China, India, Japan or Sri Lanka, I haunt loose-leaf tea shops in my city. I'm not a huge fan of flavored tea, but there's one I love - rose tea, basically a goo strong Darjeeling or Ceylon with rose petals. You should try it, it's amazing!

Fly Girl said...

Edinburgh, I like rose tea too, although black teas are typically too strong for me, I sip it occasionally. Thanks for visiting.