Saturday, September 3, 2011

Blending Teas

Recently, thanks to a colleague, I've rediscovered my penchant for drinking tea. Usually I eschew tea and coffee because of the caffeine - five years ago I absolutely needed it (coffee) because of two hour daily commutes each way followed by dance practice until midnight (I was competing in open ballroom dancing at the time - Standard and Latin - and therefore needed all the time I could get for practice). After doing that for a year or so, I stopped and had a saner commute and dance practice schedule. And today, I have a pretty sane commute schedule and dance only for fun now.

At times I've picked up the coffee habit again - when one of my economist friends in the government introduced me to the Bialetti stove-top espresso maker. Or when I briefly reconsidered competitive dancing again, and the household I stayed at in New York was one where french-press brewed coffee was a regular morning and afternoon ritual. I still use that Bialetti if I'm absolutely tired from the night before and have a long drive ahead of me, but that's maybe once every two weeks. Hardly much compared to once or twice a day as in the past.

As for tea, when my roommate, his girlfriend at the time, and I when to Hong Kong to visit a close friend from Georgetown and see the sights (and suffer hot weather and humidity that did not dissipate in the evening, mind you, making Hong Kong a place that I would probably not want to live in long term), we drank green tea with every meal. And my friend there introduced me to her tea habit, with a stunning variety of green and white teas. And some curious black tea blends, like a lychee black tea.

But like the coffee habit, I discovered I didn't care for the sleep disruption by drinking all the caffeine. Maybe five years ago I would not have noticed, but even in 2009 when I went to Hong Kong I had weaned myself off caffeine enough that it was quite a jolt. And I preferred, at the time, to keep it as a potential jolt for fatigued days.

So why the change now?

For one thing, I've recently been enjoying taking my afternoon Sunday tea at Leopold's in Georgetown, but using the rooibos chai blend from Harney and Sons for my tea while also enjoying the gruyère cheese and caramelized onion tea sandwich. And for another, my colleague introduced me to his portable tea steeper. So, for the past week, I've been on a kick, brewing loose leaf rooibos chai tea and enjoying it.

Incidentally, when it comes to tea, while I prefer loose leaf, I am not as much of a snob as some literary characters I know, such as Frank Randall in the Outlander series:

Frank made a face; an Englishman to the bone, he would rather lap water out of the toilet than drink tea made with teabags. The Lipton's had been left by Mrs. Grossman, the weekly cleaning woman, who thought tea made from loose leaves messy and disgusting.

And two other points in favour of loose leaf, in my opinion, are that 1) I can steep it two to four times, depending on the leaf, and still have good flavour; and 2) I seem to have more variety, and exotic ones at that, including exotic blends, than with tea bags.

Recently though, I've reintroduced green and white tea back into my tea mix, but in small quantities. I've decided that I want to acclimate myself to small quantities of caffeine (useful for whenever I am at my friend Roger's house, where we cap off the night's Italian dinner with espresso), and I also want to experiment with blending different tea varieties. Also, there's a fitness professional that I admire because I'm no longer running on the elliptical for five hours a week, and dancing for an hour to two every other day, but feel healthier than then thanks to his advice. One of his penchants is to make bespoke tea blends, so I figure, why not try that myself and see if I come across any flavour profiles that I like and which are not in stores. (Celebrity and scarcity bias, eh?)

Thus far, I've only mixed the rooibos chai with a green tea, and with a green tea and King Peony tea leaves. I prefer the latter blend. I think I may next try blending King Peony tea leaves with cinnamon and cardamom. Ditto the green tea leaves. And with all the mint and basil growing in my garden, I think an herbal tisane and green tea blend is on the list too.

Anyway, it's a fun little thing for me to do while I am bogged down in studying for the CFA and pursuing other one year goals.