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The Tea Plant Blog

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Skidmore Sips


We at Sip Tea Lounge would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Halloween.  The Fall chill is in the air.  It's an eventful time of year and we have started the season with some wonderful pairing events.

On October 6th we had the pleasure of hosting a pairing for some amazing Skidmore Alumni who live in our area.   During this pairing, five teas were matched with five baked goods from the Sip Tea Lounge kitchen.


The already wonderful pairings were made even better by the company of an amazing group of Skidmore graduates from a wide range of graduating classes.  Sip Tea Lounge is honored to have shared tea with this group.  Thank you for being our guests for this very special event.  We enjoyed sharing tea and stories together.



For those of you who missed it, here is a recap of the menu:


Pairing 1: Genmaicha with Musubi
Originally enjoyed by Japanese peasants because the addition of rice made the tea more affordable, Genmaicha is now a favorite of all tea drinkers. This Genmaicha tea is made from a combination of steamed green Sencha, roasted brown Japanese rice and sorghum which, when popped, resembles popcorn. Brewed, this tea has a comforting aroma with hints of spinach and popped corn. It brews a bright green-yellow liquor.
Musubi (known also as Onigiri) is a delicious Japanese comfort food. Made with sushi rice filled with pickled Umeboshi plum, coated with toasted sesame seeds and wrapped in Nori, Musubi is the perfect partner for Genmaicha tea. Two comforting tastes that pair great together.



Pairing 2: Matcha Tea with Vegan Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cup
Originating in China, this tea was brought to Japan first by Japanese Zen monks who shared it with aristocracy. Made from Tencha leaves of shade-grown tea plants, Matcha powder is whisked into a fluffy froth often used in Japanese tea ceremonies. Popular among the health conscious, Matcha encourages a focused and relaxed mind. Brewed, Matcha makes a thick green paste-like tea.

Sinfully Delicious Vegan Peanut Butter Cups pair well with

Matcha. The creamy texture and sweet taste of the peanut butter cup combines nicely with the bitter Matcha to form a bittersweet symphony of flavors.




Pairing 3: House Spiced Black Chai with Toasted Coconut Brownie
In India,“Chai” means “tea.” A cup of “chai” typically consists of a black tea with milk and sugar. We invite you to share our own artisanal-spiced chai blend. Made with black tea and organic dried ginger, black and white peppercorns, star anise, fennel, cardamom, Ceylon cinnamon, cloves and allspice, this tea will rock your world.
The rich chocolate taste and coconut texture pair well with the big and spicy black chai blend featured here. The strong, yet slight sweetness of the tea brings out the best in the brownie.


Pairing 4: Russian Caravan Tea with Russian Tea Cookie
Russian Caravan is a black tea blend from China with a distinct smoky aroma and flavor. Rising in popularity in the 1700’s, when black tea from Wuyi Mountain in Fujian Province was exported by caravan to the north, this tea became a popular item in Russia. The tea, which picks up aromas very easily, was carried via caravan along the trading routes. Repeatedly exposed to campfires in transit, the tea developed a smoky flavor. Those who tasted it liked the smoky notes and started ordering “smoky tea” from the producers. As a result, the tea was named “Russian Caravan.”
It’s hard to believe such a tiny cookie can have such a big impact. The creamy, nuttiness of this powdered sugar coated Russian Tea Cookie can really pack a punch. That is probably why it pairs so well with the smoky, slightly bitter Russian Caravan Tea. This combination proves the saying that “good things come in small packages.”


Pairing 5: Chamomile Lavender Herbal Tisane with Maple Walnut Bar
Chamomile blended with lavender come together to make a soothing, calming herbal tisane.
Sip Tea Lounge’s Maple Walnut Bar pairs nicely with Chamomile Lavender. The sweet, yet light maple flavor of the bar is enhanced by the elegant Chamomile Lavender Herbal Tisane with its characteristic apple notes.


LOCATION:
SipTea Lounge
286C New york Avenue 
Huntington NY  11743
631-683-5777

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Organic Eats: The Basics

- by Christina Frangione

When you walk into Sip Tea Lounge for the first time, you may hear a staff member proudly proclaim that everything is baked in our kitchen using local and organic ingredients whenever possible.  Some people are thrilled to hear that, while others may brush that information aside, unsure what’s so great about this buzzword “organic.” What makes organic food so special, and what does the word even mean?
Scones made fresh every morning at Sip!
“Organic” farming is nothing new and has been practiced since man first began cultivating the land.  The distinction between “organic” and “inorganic” did not have to be made until farming and food production involved practices so far from what early man did. Some people began to catch on that these practices were not healthy for humans, animals, or the environment as a whole and therefore had to define what “organic” should be.  Practices such as using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, ionizing radiation, sewage sludge, irradiation, or genetic engineering to ward off disease or promote growth are not allowed for organic products in the United States.  Additionally, meat, dairy, and egg products must come from animals that are not given antibiotics or growth hormones (http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/brochure.html).
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) website, the organic label indicates a product that has been produced according to their guidelines which are intended to “integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity” (http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop).

The USDA Organic Seal

What does organic mean for the consumer?  Will eating delicious treats such as scones, cinnamon buns, or pie made with organic ingredients help you lose weight, feel better, or save the polar bears?  Quite simply, just because something is labeled "organic" does not necessarily mean it is healthy.  Eating too many “organic” brownies can have some of the same effects on your body as eating too many non-organic brownies.  You may notice yourself physically feeling better eating organic, but it is not a miracle diet.  You will almost certainly feel better mentally, however, knowing that you have done a small thing to help both your own health, and the health of the environment.  Although the polar bears may not survive simply because of your choice to consume organic products, the collective efforts of those who choose to be conscious of these issues will continue to make a difference in the world. 

(Note: Sip Tea Lounge is not a certified organic facility, nor do we claim to be.)


Suggestions for Further Reading:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cool Down with Cold Tea: How Do You Brew?



As the temperature increases, folks stop by Sip Tea Lounge to cool down.  Some say that drinking hot tea will cool you.  Others like to drink only iced tea in the summer.

There are many ways to make iced tea.  Most people use one of the following methods:

1) Sun Brewing 
2) Brew hot tea first, then pour it over ice
3) Cold Brewing 

Each method has pros and cons.  

At Sip Tea Lounge, we do not brew sun tea.  While this method may be a good way to make delicious iced tea at home, it requires outdoor space and time during the day, when the sun is shining.  Additionally, placing something out in the sun, during such extremely hot weather, may promote the growth of microbes or bacteria so it is very important to be extra cautious when using this method.

Brewing tea leaves hot first is a fast and easy way to make any tea iced.  When there is no time to plan ahead, this method makes the most sense.  The process is simple:

1) Fill a teapot with an infuser with loose tea leaves
2) Pour hot water over the loose tea 
3) Steep the tea for the desired amount of time 
4) Pour the tea over ice  
5) Refrigerate 
6) Serve

When using the above method, some like to use extra tea leaves during the brewing process to make the iced tea result in a stronger brew because the tea may become watered down when poured over ice.  The problem is that the tea can become bitter.  If you have a refined palette, the bitterness is apparent in the finished product.

The third method for making delicious, smooth and refreshing iced tea is to cold brew it:

1) Use a sterilized pitcher or jar (approximately 30 ounces)
2) Place 5-8 teaspoons of tea into the pitcher (the amount depends upon the tea used)
3) Pour cold water over the leaves
4) Refrigerate the brewing tea for somewhere between three and twelve hours (the brewing time depends upon the tea used)
5) Serve

The most difficult part about cold brewing is planning ahead and waiting for the finished product.  Then again, good things come to those who wait.

It is important to note that, the best result will depend upon the particular tea and how long it is brewed.  The best brews come with experience, experimentation and continual tasting.  For example, some tea, such as certain Japanese green teas, get better and sweeter with longer cold brew steep times.  Other teas may be at their best after only four hours.  Once brewed, the tea may also change as the time passes.  

When cold brewing herbal tisanes that do not come from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), it is best to give them a quick rinse in hot water before icing them, particularly if you are harvesting them from your own garden or if they are farm fresh.  The rinsing will help clean dust, dirt and other residue off of the herbs.  We also recommend using organic herbs wherever possible to prevent pesticide residue.  

The rules noted above for brewing iced teas are not hard and fast.  They are just suggestions.  After all, in the end, this is your cup of tea.  No tea is the same, but with anything, practice makes perfect. 
Happy brewing!

SIP TEA LOUNGE
286C New York Avenue
Huntington NY  11743
631-683-5777

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Grit: Who's Got It?

"A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop." 
Robert Hughes 



A few years ago a friend (insecure epicure) shared with me a New York Times Article about the qualities that have been found in successful individuals. More recently, a TED talk appeared on the same subject. The topic of how to be successful is popular. People will tell you that going to a good school and getting the best grades will help you land the perfect job.  Or they will say that finding the right job is all about who you know. Life is not that easy.  Connections are great, but if you do not step up to the plate, motivate yourself, take initiative and follow through on completing a task from start to finish, eventually you will come to a dead end and lose the opportunity for growth. It takes hard work to move ahead.

Whether the goal is to run one mile or 100 miles, find your dream job or lose five pounds, it can only be achieved with hard work, focus, tenacity and a plan. Ultimately, it is not the one college degree, the single connection or the "smartest" individual that achieves the most success.  One must stay on the entire journey and jump all the hurdles along the way.  The real question is: Do you have the grit to stick to the plan, stay focused and reach your goal?  Will you do whatever it takes.  Will you do it humbly?  Will you do it well, no matter the task?

It is easy to make excuses.  Articulating a goal is hard, but dealing with the hurdles on the road to achieving it is harder.  It is tempting to blame others when the going gets tough, but ask yourself, are you tough enough?  


Can you handle criticism?  Can you take advice?  Can you do something with the feedback you are given and become a better person?  Do you have grit?

In my own life, I am getting better at hearing advice I do not want to hear.  It means taking criticism that can be harsh.  It involves thinking until my brain hurts.  It is a lot like running a race or completing a physical activity. It is hard work, but it feels so good when it is done.   To be honest, I also like the process.  After all, the learning is in the doing.  

Luckily, at the beginning and end of the day, I have tea to help me slow down and reflect.  Tea allows me a moment to look at the big picture, stop and make a plan, refocus, reenergize and keep going strong.  

What is your goal?  What tools do you use to accomplish it?  Do you have grit?  

- Nicole Basso 







Friday, June 21, 2013

TEA...To Help Your Garden Grow


- By India Kushner 

As you know, we're all about being earth-friendly here at Sip, from our ceiling made from barn wood, the VOC-free paint we used to paint our walls, or using only organic products in our food. Did you know that, as a tea drinker, you can be earth-friendly too? When you're finished using your tea leaves, instead of just throwing them in the trash, compost them!
For those who don't know, composting is a completely natural process in which brown and green vegetable matter is kept moist and turned regularly until it starts to "rot" into a dark material full of bacteria, microbes, and fungi, which is loaded with nutrients for your plants!

Not only will composting help your plants grow but it's beneficial to you too. Most of the things in your trash can actually be composted, thus greatly reducing the amount of trash you throw out. You'll also save money on fertilizer.
To get started, you need a container for your scraps. You can make your own or buy one. There are many ways to make your own.  One way that Mother Earth News suggests is to use a 3-to-4 foot wide "cage" of chicken wire, welded wire or plastic garden fencing. Put the cage in a corner of your garden, where the rainwater will carry the compost nutrients to feed your plants. If you have a small garden, put it as close as possible to the garden.  

For more ideas on building your own compost bin, you can also check out Stopwaste.

If you don't want to make your own container, contact your local garden store or search for "compost bins" online to find one that you can order. 

What exactly goes in your compost? In order to fully "rot", compost should contain a good mixture of nitrogen, carbon, moisture and oxygen. This means a combination of green materials (nitrogen) and brown materials (hydrogen). Eartheasy has a good list of things that can go in the compost.
Examples of green materials include:
-vegetable scraps
-grass clippings
-lawn and garden weeds 
-green comfrey leaves
-flowers, cuttings
-coffee grounds
-tea leaves (and certain kinds of tea bags)

Examples of brown materials include:
-leaves
-shrub prunings
-straw or hay
-pine needles (but not evergreen tree needles)
-wood ash
-shredded up newspaper/paper
-corn cobs/stalks
-cut up cardboard
-dryer lint
-sawdust pellets
-wood chips/pellets
Other ingredients include: 
-eggshells 
-garden plants

Never add meat, oily or greasy food/paper (such as cheese), manure from meat-eating animals like dogs and cats, or herbicide-treated grass/clippings.

Some people like to use a ratio of 2 or 3 times as much browns as greens, while others prefer equal amounts of both. Whatever your formula, make sure your compost isn't too wet or too dry. If it's too wet, add more dry material like leaves. If it's too wet, water it a little with a watering can.

Put a lid on the mixture of materials and take time to turn the compost pile with a gardening fork regularly. To turn the compost, just stick the fork in and mix up the contents. It will take a couple of months to have mature compost, but turning more often will help to speed up the cycle.

It's that simple! 

To make it even easier, keep a small container in your kitchen for food scraps. Gardeners Edge has a ceramic pail with charcoal filters.  It looks nice and the filters help prevent odors in the kitchen. It also comes in stainless steel or bamboo.

To learn more about composting, also visit:
Mother Earth News (see the video for "The Perfect Compost Recipe.") 

What's that?  No room for a compost bin? Grab a friend who already has one and make a compost tea bag! No, this is not a tea that you drink.  This is a drink for your garden!  Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer made by soaking compost in water.  

This recipe for the perfect compost "brew" comes from "The Essential Gardening Encyclopedia" written by Bonnie Lee Appleton:

1) Put a shovelful of compost into a bag made of cheesecloth or burlap.

2)Tie the bag closed and suspend it into a garbage can, bucket, or watering can filled with water.

3) Keep it covered for a few days.

4) Once it has steeped, use the liquid to drench the soil at the base of plants you want to fertilize. It's a particularly good way to fertilize container-grown plants. Or, dilute the liquid with water until it is the color of weak tea, then spray it on plant leaves. Because the nutrients are dissolved in water, the plants can take them up immediately for a quick burst of energy.

5) Reuse the "tea bag" several times, then add the soaked compost to the garden.
Now that you have your very own compost, sit back, drink a big cup of REAL tea, and watch your garden flourish.

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Great Father's Day Gift Ideas!

Father's Day is Sunday, June 16th. Not sure what to get dad? Here are some suggestions from Sip Tea Lounge:


Assam. Dad likes to brew something, but it ain’t coffee?
Who Needs Coffee?
If dad is switching from coffee to tea, or if he’s been searching for a strong, smooth, full-bodied black tea with a rich flavor then Assam tea, from Northern India, is the the one.  Since this tea can really show its strength, it is a great choice for breakfast. A dash of honey or a splash of milk will make a nice complement.  But, since we’re purists, we suggest trying it black first.  Sip Tea Lounge has a few Assam Teas.  If you’re trying to do your best for dad, you’ll get an A+ for Assam.

If you’re bringing dad to Sip for this tea...
Assam pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s Cinnamon Buns and Maple Walnut Bars.

Darjeeling.  Is your dad a sharp cookie? 
So Distinguished.
The fine leaves of a top grade, smooth 1st Flush Darjeeling tea have hints of spice and fruit.  Sip Tea Lounge has several estate Darjeeling teas.  All are perfect for the dad who likes the best of everything.

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea:
Darjeeling pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s Crumpets, Scones and Ginger Bars.

Genmaicha. Give him breakfast in bed.
Get Comfortable.
A delicious Japanese tea made from a combination of steamed green Sencha, roasted brown Japanese rice and sorghum which, when popped, resembles popcorn.  This tea makes a wonderful breakfast beverage or the perfect addition to a savory rice dish.  Because this tea has a good amount of caffeine, it is also a great choice for a quick-pick-me-up.  When brewed, this tea has a comforting aroma with hints of spinach and popped corn.  It brews a bright green-yellow liquor.  Originally enjoyed by Japanese peasants because the addition of rice made the tea more affordable, Genmaicha is now a favorite of so many tea drinkers. Could it be dad's favorite?

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea...
Genmaicha is delicious with Sip Tea Lounge’s savory Musubi.  It also goes well with the sweet, powdered sugar Russian Tea Cookies. Bring dad in to try some.

Gunpowder. Think all men like guns? What they really like is Gunpowder Tea.
Pack a Punch.
First time green tea drinkers and those looking for a tea that packs a punch should give this a try.  A full-bodied green tea from China, Gunpowder has slight hints of smoke.  Because some Gunpowder green tea is visually similar to English gunpowder pellets, some say that is how the tea got named.  The small, tightly rolled, shiny pellets are evidence of this Gunpowder Green Tea’s high quality.  This tea brews a light green liquor. Guys like Gunpowder.

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea...
Gunpowder pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s sweet or savory Scones.

Houjicha. Ground your dad.
Be Grounded.
Made from the twigs, stems and veins of the Camellia sinensis plant (the tea plant), this low caffeine green tea has a deliciously sweet, nutty aroma and earthy, comforting taste.  Houjicha is a unique green tea because the brown color and twig and stem appearance may make it seem like a black tea.  This tea is perfect for any time of day, but since it’s lower in caffeine, it is a good late afternoon and evening choice.  Houjicha brews a brown liquor. You'll have dad thanking you for grounding him. Go figure!

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea...
Houjicha pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s Apple Galettes.

Pu Er Tea: Make history with dad.
Travel the Tea Horse Road.
Whether bing, cubes, bricks, tuocha, gourds or other shapes, Pu Er tea is made from the broad leaf tea plants from China’s Yunnan Provence.  Pu Er can be either “Sheng” (“Raw”) or “Shu” (“Cooked”.)  The flavor profile will differ depending upon which one you select.  

Sip Tea Lounge serves both Sheng and Shu Pu Er.  

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea...
Sheng pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s Ginger Bars.  Shu Pu Er pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s sweet or savory Scones.

Russian Caravan: Dad likes camping? 
Light My Fire.
This black tea blend from China has a distinct smoky aroma and flavor.  Rising in popularity in the 1700’s when black tea from Wuyi Mountain in Fujian Province was exported by caravan to the north, this tea became a popular item in Russia.  The tea, which picks up aromas very easily, was carried via caravan along the trading routes.  Repeatedly exposed to campfires in transit, the tea developed a smoky flavor.  Those who tasted it liked the smoky notes and started ordering “smoky tea” from the producers.  As a result, the tea was named “Russian Caravan.” Bring the campfire to dad.

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea...
Russian Caravan pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s Turtle Cheesecake Bars, Cinnamon Buns and Lemon Bars.

Hawaii White Tea. For a dad who likes to ride the waves.
Hang 10.
This very special white tea from The Big Island of Hawaii is perfect hot or iced.  Long leaves mixed with downy buds produce a yellow-green liquor with hints of flowers and fruit.  Meant to be savored, this made-in-the-USA tea is lovely, beautiful and delicate. No man can say no to that!  It brews a light green-yellow cup. Let dad relax.

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea:
Hawaii White Tea pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s Maple Walnut Bars.


If you're not sure what dad likes, you can always purchase a Sip Tea Lounge Gift Card! Or, contact us and we'll help you make a great gift bag to surprise dad on Father's Day.  Oh yeah, the tea is also available to buy by the ounce.  To see more teas, visit our retail website too, www.theteaplant.com


Sip Tea Lounge
286C New york Avenue
Huntington NY  11743
631-683-5777

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fathers of Tea

In celebration of Father's Day on Sunday, June 16th (this coming weekend), we want to share some highlights about a few of the important men who helped to shape the history of tea.  Tea has a very long history.  Thousands of years long.  Many individuals have helped to build that history.  This post is only meant to highlight a few.  If you're interested in learning more, you can always take the Sip Tea Lounge Tea 101 Class, "Enjoying Tea."  In the meantime, enjoy this post, which is written in the spirit of Father's Day.

Shen Nung:
Legend has it that the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung is responsible for taking the first sip of tea in 2737 B.C. During Shen Nung's time, it was common to have spring water boiling outdoors, in a vessel, over a fire.  The story goes that Shen Nung was outside taking a nap while some water was boiling nearby. A breeze blew a few leaves from a tree into the hot water.  The Emperor smelled the brew that was created and tasted the liquid. As he drank, he decided that he wanted to gather additional leaves so that he could brew more tea.  The tree from which the leaves came was what is now known as the Camellia sinensis (the tea plant).

The above story is thought to be a legend because the Camellia sinensis was discovered much later (206-220 A.D.).  It is possible, however, that Shen Nung experimented with tea leaves given that he worked with medicinal plants, was knowledgeable about agriculture and agricultural tools, and helped educate others on the subject.

Lu Yu:
Lu Yu lived from the mid 8th to the early 9th Century A.D.  It is said that this very influential Chinese figure in the history of tea was abandoned by his parents and raised by monks.   One of the monks taught Lu Yu how to grow, pick and prepare tea.  Lu Yu became a literary scholar and eventually wrote Cha Jing (The Classic of Tea), which became the first book about tea.

Bodhidharma/Siddhartha:
There are several versions of the story of Siddhartha and the cultivation of tea.  This one is among the most colorful.  In the 6th Century A.D., Siddhartha, a prince from India who became a monk, embarked upon a journey from India to China to spread Buddhism.   Meditation was an integral part of Siddhartha's journey. Although Siddhartha promised never to fall asleep during his years of self-imposed meditation, legend has it that he couldn't stay awake.  Upon falling asleep he is said to have dreamt about all the women he ever loved.  Furious at himself for sleeping, he tore his eyelids off and buried them deep into the ground, next to the tree where he was resting.  He left again to preach Buddhism.  Upon his return to the tree months later, Siddhartha found that his eyelids had rooted and generated a bush.  He discovered that the leaves of this bush kept him aware and awake.  He told his followers about the plant.  They gathered seeds and cultivated the tree in other locations nearby.  As it turned out, the tree was the tea plant.

Esai:
Esai, a Japanese monk who went to China in 1187 to study Chan Buddhism (known as Zen Buddhism in Japan), is said to have returned to Japan with tea seeds to plant in Uji.  Esai is credited with writing the first book about tea in Japan.  A book about cultivating and using tea for medicinal purposes, Kitcha Yojoki  (also known as Maintaining Health by Drinking Tea and The Book of Tea Sanitation) was published in 1211.

Sen-no Rikyu:
Many important figures came before Sen-no Rikyu in Japan.  They paved the way for him to develop what is now called Chanoyu or The Way of Tea.  This tea master formalized the tea ceremony and created standards and traditions that are still followed today during the Japanese tea ceremony.

Sip Tea Lounge
286C New York Avenue
Huntington NY  11743
631-683-5777
www.siptealoungeny.com
www.theteaplant.com


Monday, April 29, 2013

Gyokuro Tasting Event at Sip Tea Lounge


We want to thank each of the participants who were at Sip Tea Lounge with us on Sunday, April 28, 2013, for our first Gyokuro Tasting Event. We would like to send a special thanks to Dr. Ralph Faerber, who joined us live from Japan via Skype.  

We discussed the cultivation and grading of Gyokuro.  Of course, we also tasted several infusions of three different grades of the tea.  A one word summation of the event: FUN!



For those of you who missed the tea tasting, don't be sad.  We missed you too, but we will have Gyokuro tastings again at Sip Tea Lounge.  Check the calendar at siptealoungeny.com to learn more about our upcoming events and tastings.  In the meantime, this post provides a quick Gyokuro brewing guide so that you can experiment at home.  




The cultivation of “Gyokuro” or "Jewel Dew” began in Kyotonabe. This precious, shade-grown, green tea from Japan is grown and picked with extreme care. Due to the growing method (the tea plants are grown under scaffolded tarps), the leaves of the plants used in Gyokuro production contain larger amounts of the amino acid L-theanine.  The result is a sweeter, softer tea leaf.

Tasting Gyokuro can be fun and interesting, especially if you have never tried it before.  Unlike other green teas, the resulting brew can have a thick, almost soupy mouthfeel with vegetal notes of spinach and asparagus.  Once brewed, the tea liquor is meant to be sipped in small amounts, but the flavor and aroma are quite big.  The higher the quality of the tea, the smoother and more delicate the taste. Despite the grade you are tasting, one thing is for sure with Gyokuro, the flavor will grab each part of your tongue to produce a very memorable experience that will tickle all of your senses.

At Sip Tea Lounge, we tasted three grades of Gyokuro tea: High, Extra High and Premium.  The "high" grade was scissor cut.  The "Extra High" and "Premium" grades were hand picked.  There is an obvious difference in the smell, taste and appearance of the leaves of each of the teas.

As mentioned above, the best way to enjoy Gyokuro is to sip it slowly to savor the aroma, flavor and color in the cup.  Though you do not need to have a special brewing set, using one can help you slow down and enjoy the moment, making the experience more memorable and authentic.



The Gyokuro brewing accessories include the following:
Houhin or Kyusu - tea pot
Yuzamashi - hot water cool off vessel
Yunomi - cup/vessel




Should you like to conduct your own tasting, here are some Gyokuro brewing steps to follow: 

1. Cool off the temperature of the hot water 

This step is very important.  If the water is not cooled to the correct temperature, the tea will lose its refined flavor and develop a bitter taste.  The initial temperature of the water is approximately 90 degrees celsius or 194 degrees Fahrenheit.  Decanting the water into the empty teapot first will allow the temperature to decline more rapidly.  
2. Cool off the temperature of the hot water 
To further reduce the water temperature by about 10 degrees, pour the water from the tea pot into the yuzamashi (the vessel used to continue the cooling process during brewing). Following this step will reduce the temperature of the water by about 10 degrees. Your water will now measure around 70-80 degrees celsius or 158-176 degrees Fahrenheit
3. Cool off the temperature of the hot water 

From the yuzamashi, the water is poured into the three small cups. The temperature of the water should reduce by about 10 degrees during this step, resulting in water that is around 60-70 degrees celsius or 140-158 degrees Fahrenheit. Discard any excess hot water from your yuzamashi at this point in the brewing process.

NOTE: At this point you should notice that cooling the temperature of the water is very important.

4. Place Gyokuro leaves into the tea pot

Use approximately 8 grams of tea. It is best to weigh the amount out.  If you don't have a scale, this may be about two tablespoons.  This amount seems large, especially once it is in the tiny tea pot, but if you use high quality tea leaves, even a larger amount will produce a wonderful brew!  

5. Pour hot water on the leaves

When the temperature of the hot water in the cups has declined to about 50 degrees celsius or 122 degrees Fahrenheit, pour the water on to the tea leaves in the tea pot.  Do this in a circular motion, working from the perimeter of the tea pot first.  Leave the center of the mound of leaves dry.  The amount of water should be just enough to cover the outer leaves.  If you are not used to brewing Gyokuro, the amount of water may seem too small, but do not be tempted to add more.  Even if the water looks like too little, it will be just the right amount. Discard all excessive warm water.

6. Let the tea infuse for about 2 minutes and pour to the last drop


When tea leaves have just begun to open, it is ready to be served.  After 2 minutes of steeping time, pour the tea into the cups. When serving several cups of tea, pour a little into each cup alternately, so the richer tea at the bottom of the pot will be distributed evenly between all cups.  For example, if you are using three cups, pour in the sequence of 1-2-3, then 3-2-1. Do not fill a whole cup at once.  Be sure to pour until no water is left in the pot. The leaves should be as dry as possible once the brew has been decanted into the tasting cups. Shaking the last bit of water out can help the leaves to make better tea the next infusion(s).

7. Sip slowly and enjoy the moment.

We hope you have fun and look forward to seeing you at Sip Tea Lounge soon!
Sip Tea Lounge
286C New york Avenue
Huntington NY  11743
631-683-5777
siptealoungeny.com







Sunday, March 31, 2013

Teas with Cheese


On Sunday, March 24th, Sip Tea Lounge hosted an event with Mark Cassin from The Big Cheese.  We paired five teas with five local cheeses.  The result: AMAZING!

The fifth pairing was a surprise that included Red Rooibos, a delicious, homemade ginger bar from Sip Tea Lounge and fresh Chevre from New York State.  A trio of goodness.



For those of you who missed the event, here's a breakdown of how things went down:


Pairing 1: Makaibari Darjeeling Tea with Berleberg Cheese
It is estimated that Darjeeling produces about 9 million kilograms of tea annually, yet it is said that 40 million kilograms of tea end up at the market each year. The good news is that there’s nothing fake about this organic 1st Flush 2012 Darjeeling from Makaibari Estate. The sweet and spicy scent and fruity notes of this SFTGFOP 1 SPL grade tea are signs that it is the real deal.
The tea is paired with Berleberg cheese from Hoosick, NY. One of the few certified organic cheeses, this cow’s milk cheese is delicate with floral notes, and has a finish like buttered popcorn. When combined, the Makaibari and Berleberg create a symphony in your mouth.

Pairing 2: Japanese Sencha Tea with Dulcinea Cheese
This clean, vegetal premium grade Sencha green tea from Southern Japan is deep steamed after plucking, giving the leaves their emerald green color. With hints of seaweed and ocean, this delicious brew will transport you.
This tea is paired with Dulcinea, a raw sheep’s milk cheese from Danascara’s Cheese of Fonda, NY. The cheese is made in the “Manchego” style, yet it has some cheddar notes. A rare find in New York State, a cheese like Dulcinea is a treat. The light sharpness of this cheese pairs well with the seaweedy Sencha.

Pairing 3: Chinese Pu Er Tea with Redfield Cheese
This mini “Shu” or “Cooked” Pu Er Tea cube from Yunnan, China is a fermented, compressed tea. To make Shu Pu Er, the fermentation process is accelerated by mixing new leaves (almost compost style) with the previous batch. Once the tea leaves have completed their rotation from the bottom to the top of the covered pile, they are baked, steamed, compressed and packed. This earthy Pu Er will continue to get darker with each brew, making it a long-lasting tea to savor and share.
This tea is paired with Redfield, a raw goat’s milk cheese from Cranberry Ridge Farm in Williamstown, NY. A semi-firm, light and almost lemony cheese, Redfield is a nice combination with the barny, hay-like Pu Er tea.

Pairing 4: Chrysanthemum Tea with Alpage Cheese
According to traditional Chinese medicine, Chrysanthemum flower is known for its internal cooling properties, and its ability to clear the liver and help the eyes. This decaffeinated herbal infusion is flowery with a unique and appealing bitterness.
This tea is paired with Alpage, from Amazing Real Live Food Co. in Pine Plains, NY. Alpage is a raw, aged cow’s milk cheese made in the classic Swiss tradition of Gruyere. The cheese hints of grass and stout by itself. When combined, the Alpage and Chrysanthemum bring out the best in each other. 



Pairing 5: Rooibos Tea with Painted Goat Cheese
Rooibos is an herb that is grown in a small area in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Not technically a tea because it is not produced from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis, Red Rooibos goes through a process of oxidation that is somewhat similar to a single garden tea.  As a result, the leaves become reddish-brown in color. The decaffeinated Rooibos herbal tisane has a distinct mellow yet earthy sweetness that makes it a lovely choice for the end of a meal.
This tea is paired with the season's first batch of fresh Chevre from Painted Goat Farm in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. 
The combination of the Chevre spread on top of a delicious, homemade ginger bar, and the Rooibos herbal Tisane, make this final pairing an unforgettable surprise.  



Don't be sad if you missed this pairing.  We will do another tea and cheese event.  In the meantime, check out the siptealoungeny.com "Events" section to learn more about our upcoming Gyokuro Session.

See you at Sip Tea Lounge soon!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dark Teas and Smoky Scents

If you enjoy a tea with more of a smoky or woody flavor, Russian Caravan might be the drink for you.  It first became popular around the 1700s, when black tea from Wuyi Mt. in Fujian Province, China was exported by caravan to the north. The entire trip could take up to six months. When the caravans stopped for the night and built their campfires, the tea, which picks up aromas easily, was repeatedly exposed to the campfire smoke. When the tea arrived, it had a smoky aroma and flavor. Those who tried it enjoyed its earthy and unique qualities. "The smoky tea" became more in demand and this is how Russian Caravan got its name. 

Tea first arrived in Russia in the mid-1600s. The ritual of tea suited the Russian lifestyle because of its warm and hearty brew. Since then, Russians have developed their own traditions. The preferred tea is a strong, dark brew that's sweetened with sugar, honey or jam. Russia even created their own teapot called the Samovar, which was adapted by the Tibetan hot pot. This pot is both a heater and a way to boil water. The first Samovars looked like an English teapot but instead of a tap, had a spout and handle. They were also made out of different types of metal including copper, bronze and silver. Due to the high cost of tea, a Samovar was functional and represented affluence. 

A typical tea is made up of two or three different types or flavors that are mixed together. Each is brewed very dark in separate pots and then combined. Hot water is added to dilute the mixture. When being served, the tea is actually stacked in different pots designed to be stacked. The bottom pot would hold the hot water, then the dark tea, followed by an herbal tea on top. Stacking the pots not only saved room, but kept each pot warm. 

Whether you prefer to drink it Russian-style or simply enjoy the namesake, enjoy. 

Thanks to Dan Robertson and Russianlife.com for this information. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

It's Not About The Tea...Or Is It?

I heard two quotes repeated frequently from Sheryl Sandberg who I had the wonderful fortune to meet.  While I don't know who said them to her, I am happy that she shared them with her teams. They are:

"Solve more problems than you cause." and "This is a marathon, not a sprint."

In life I have thought of these often.  More recently, I have used them for inspiration to run my own business.

Is it possible that I'm just jumping on the Sheryl Sandberg bandwagon?  Maybe, but I have always admired her smarts and her ability.  And, even if I am caught up in the Lean In frenzy, I say "So what?"   It's exciting.  It's inspiring.  It's empowering.  Especially for women!

Sheryl is smart.  Sheryl is a problem solver.  She takes on tough questions and finds ways to handle difficult situations.  She doesn't complain.  She just does.  I admire these qualities.  I look for role models who exemplify them.  I strive to incorporate them into my life, my marriage and my work.  Sheryl gets things done, big things.  She shows us that we need to stop dancing around the issues.  We all need to focus on solving problems and remember that it doesn't happen over night.  It takes drive.  It takes hard work.  It takes curiosity.  It takes compassion.  It takes passion.  It takes many things.

So, as I sat down to write this blog post knowing that Sheryl Sandberg has been solving problems (big problems) for a while and doing it very well, I wondered why anyone would want to hear about notes from a fledgling business owner like me.  I also wondered why I felt the need to write this post in the first place.

And then, I came up with this:

Maybe you can solve the big things when you start with the small ones.  Over the last eight weeks I've learned so much.  These are the things that help me get through my day and make things better.  Here's my short list:

- Listen to people.  Everyone has something important to say.
- Accept feedback gracefully.  All advice is worth listening to.
- Everyone has their own opinion.  Like it.  We're lucky we live where opinions can be shared.
- Don't procrastinate.  Procrastination is a waste of time.
- Over-thinking things will get you nowhere.  If you have important things to do, do them.  Don't think.
- Don't obsess.  Focus on contributing to society instead.  It's much more fulfilling.
- Make mistakes. Accept them.  Fix them.  Move on.
- Be decisive.  Waffling gets you nowhere and wastes other peoples' time in the process.
- Say what you mean.
- As the Avett Brothers say "Decide what to be and go be it."
- Surround yourself with the best people and appreciate them for making everything around you better.
- Tell people you appreciate them.  Tell them a lot.
- Working in teams is so much better than working alone.
- Live with integrity.
- Be honest always.  Everyone can spot a liar and nobody likes one.
- Exercise.
- Take deep breaths.
- Be curious.
- Help people.  Don't feel bad for them.
- Don't judge.  It's a waste of time.
- Don't gossip if you want to make the world a better place.

Having said all of that, have I mastered the list?  No. I keep trying though.  The learning curve in my new business is steep and I don't expect it to taper anytime soon.  I do know that everyone I meet teaches me something.  I suspect the above list will grow quite a bit over the next year.

Over the last eight weeks, I've learned that you really can learn a lot about life over tea.  It sounds romantic, but I can honestly say it's true for me.  It's not about the tea.  It's about the people you share it with.  I've got lot's of problems to solve.  So does everyone.  Let's take a lesson from Sheryl Sandberg and go do it.  Afterall, "This is a marathon, not a sprint."



Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spicy Sips



Many tea-drinkers enjoy their daily brew all by itself, but for you more adventurous tea tasters, did you know tea can be made with alcohol too? 

As winter slowly melts away, beat the blues with an old-fashioned hot toddy. You can use plain hot water or your favorite black or green tea, which work best with the honey and lemon. 

Here's a great recipe from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

2 tablespoons honey
1 cup hot water
6 tablespoons bourbon or Apple Bourbon (see below for recipe)
2 3x1/2" strips lemon peel  
2 cinnamon sticks

Stir honey and water in a 2-cup measuring cup until honey dissolves. Add bourbon (or better yet, Apple Bourbon, in which case you'll use 1 Tbsp. honey). Divide between two Toddy glasses (or two mugs). Twist a strip of lemon peel over each drink, then add to glass/mug. Stir each with a cinnamon stick and serve.

To make Apple Bourbon, combine a 750-ml bottle of bourbon, 4 cored, sliced Fuji apples, and 4 cinnamon sticks in a pitcher. Cover; chill for 3 days. Strain and sip of use in recipe above.

If you like a bit more spice to your drink, try this hot tea grog from About.com

Ingredients

1 oz cognac
1 oz dark rum
1 cup brewed tea
Several cloves
1/2 tsp honey
Pinch of nutmeg

Heat tea and other ingredients together in a saucepan. Serve hot with a cinnamon stick.

For a cold drink, try this alcoholic tea recipe from SheKnows.com

Ingredients

1 cup apple juice
1 cup cold tea
1/2 cup pineapple juice

Pour all of the ingredients over ice, stir well and serve immediately.

Although we don't make these drinks at Sip, we have lots of delicious tea to add to your cocktails. Come in and we'll suggest a few. 

Gyokuro Japanese Green tea-perfect hot or cold!
 

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