Sunday, June 13, 2010

Perth County Week: A Cup of Tea…or Two…or Five

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After an eventful morning of walking and touring some fabulous food producers in and around Stratford, and a filling lunch courtesy of Chef Neil Baxter, we settled in with a slightly quieter but stimulating activity of tea tasting with Stratford’s own tea sommelier, Karen Hartwick. We already had a preview of Karen’s teas earlier in the day, having sampled the Earl of Monforte she specially blended for Monforte Dairy during breakfast, and the herbal tea that was served during lunch.

Karen is a certified tea sommelier, accredited by the Specialty Tea Institute in New York. Karen’s love of tea stemmed from her own childhood memories of enjoying tea with her grandmother. Much like a wine sommelier, Karen’s knowledge of teas is quite vast, being able to identify teas and know their tasting profiles, but can also match teas to an occasion, a meal, a menu or an ambiance.

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Karen brought along five different kinds of pure teas (not blended) for us to try that day: Organic white peony from China; genmaicha matcha-iri from Japan; jade oolong from Taiwan; Yunnana gold superior from China; and a 2-year old Pu-erh from China. Along with the tasting, she explained to us what we should be looking for in good tea leaves, how to observe unbrewed and brewed leaves, the picking and drying process of the leaves, and the correct brewing/steeping methods for each tea.

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I’m a huge fan of genmaicha, so the genmaicha matcha-iri we got to try totally tickled my tastebuds. The unbrewed leaves (matcha powder is very finely ground green tea leaves) are combined with toasted rice, which emits a lovely aroma and flavour to the tea. Along with the flavours of toasted rice, this Japanese genmaicha evoked undertones of seaweed and the salty ocean.

I also quite enjoyed the white tea and the oolong, a favourite tea of mine. Oolong is a semi-oxidized tea, which explains its darkish green hue in the unbrewed leaves. This particular oolong had lovely floral notes. Best of all, you’ll get the bang for your buck with oolong leaves, as this particular one can be infused up to 7 times!

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Other interesting things to note I learned from the tasting are that
1. Pu-erh tea makes for a great hangover tea.
2. Caffeine in tea is used more efficiently by the body than caffeine in coffee, so drink up!

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You too can enjoy Karen’s selection of fine teas and tea blends. Visit www.stratfordtealeaves.com and enter the code DEL522 upon checkout to receive 10% off your first online purchase! tea bar, or take 10% off your first online purchase. (The Tea Bar ships anywhere, world-wide!) Offer good until June 30, 2010.

Tomorrow’s post: The final post in my Perth County series, where we visit Stratford’s own Willy Wonka, Derek Barr and Chocolate Barr’s Candies and make yummy nutty pop!

Stratford Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar
433 Erie Street
Stratford, ON
Twitter: @teasommelier

2 comments:

Jing Loh June 13, 2010 at 3:14 PM  

I'm just curious, does Canada have the ability to grow its own teas? I'm just reflecting on my experience and trip to China where I had the lucky opportunity to visit a tea plantation near Nanjing. It's a site to visit and the way they roast the leaves is astonishing. They roast them in a coal-fired wok with their bare hands! Apparently you can tell how good a roaster they are when they're hands are callused and stained brown from the tea. Also went to one in the highlands of Malaysia where the weather seemed similar to here, though must more humid and obviously in rain-forest territory. Just curious!

Pu-erh tea also happens to be one of my favorites!

Bonita June 13, 2010 at 10:54 PM  

I don't believe we do. Not that I know if, but maybe someone can correct me on this. I do know that we do herbal infusion teas, but that's about it...I think!

I too got to visit an oolong tea plantation a few years ago in Fujian, and it was lovely. Tea is such a fascinating and complex process, much like wine. Makes you appreciate tea even more when you learn the whole process behind it.

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