Friday, March 6, 2009


From left to right, top to bottom: oolong, yunnan, genmaicha, lapsang souchong, keemun, and pu-erh

Okay, so I guess it's a beverage, not a food, but tea is something that my husband and I drink with a lot of different cuisines and desserts. We like to buy it loose and in bulk. We usually put an order in late in the Fall, when it is starting to get chilly. Our favorite mail-order place is
Holy Mountain Trading Company. We can also pick up the yunnan and the genmaicha at Sams Oriental Food Market in Little Rock.

We have a pretty large assortment of teas in our pantry, but I've picked out six that show some of the variety found in products from the leaf of the Camellia sinensis plant:

oolong -- A Chinese tea, somewhere in between a green and a black. I always think of it as a green, probably because of the color after it has been steeped. It has a slightly coppery, vegetal flavor. Oolong can be double-potted--in other words, the leafs can be re-used to make a second pot, in fact, the second pot is often better than the first. The oolong we ordered this winter was the Ti Kwan Yin (Iron Goddess), from Holy Mountain.

yunnan -- a black tea, from the Yunnan Province in China. It comes in compressed cakes. The one that comes in the box above is a large cake, but I have also found it at our local market in smaller, individually wrapped pellets to make a single cup of tea. It has a rich red color in the cup and a sweet, mellow aroma and taste.

genmaicha -- a Japanese green tea with roasted brown rice. Originally this was a tea for the peasant class, thus the filler of the roasted brown rice. Sometimes the rice pops, and there will be little bits of "popcorn" mixed in as well (if you look closely in the photo above, there is a piece of popcorn behind the pile of tea). This tea is yellow in the cup, and has a roasted vegetative flavor. One of my favorite everyday teas, we get it cheap at the local market.

lapsang souchong -- a Chinese black tea that is traditionally smoked over pine-wood fires. This stuff smells like smoking tobacco and is an acquired taste! I like it best in the bitterest of cold weather. Once Ric and I put it in a thermos and carried it out with us on a birdwatching trip to our favorite national wildlife refuge on a cold February day--very warming. It is red in the cup and has a strong (and I mean strong) flavor. One of my cook books uses it, ground, as a dry rub to mock a smoked flavor.

keemun -- Another Chinese black tea. It is red in the cup and has a sweet, almost floral taste. This is our everyday black tea.

pu-erh -- a Chinese green tea. Called a "cooked" tea, it actually undergoes a fermentation process, and is pressed and sold in cakes. It is a pale brownish color in the cup, and has an earthy, mushroomy flavor.

For more information on tea, visit the wikipedia article:
tea on Wikipedia

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