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Sandal Ale for Oktoberfest

Visit EauMG's section to discover quirky and unusual scents for fall, handpicked by Victoria Jent, including Sandal Ale to celebrate Oktoberfest! 
"This such an unusual fragrance but it’s so nifty. It’s like an Indian Pale Ale with sandalwood. It’s really interesting."
Sandal Ale was previously reviewed on EauMG.  If you wish to purchase it, visit my new online boutique!

Sandal Ale Featured in

Visit EauMG's section to discover quirky and unusual scents for fall, handpicked by Victoria Jent, including Sandal Ale to celebrate Oktoberfest! 
"This such an unusual fragrance but it’s so nifty. It’s like an Indian Pale Ale with sandalwood. It’s really interesting."
Sandal Ale was previously reviewed on EauMG.  If you wish to purchase it, visit my new online boutique!

Brewing Jasmine

Jasmine Tea

We had jasmine bushes growing in abundance in my village - almost in every household's garden. Even my frugal family - which had a strict policy about growing only useful things such as vegetables, medicinal herbs and and fruit trees - had one growing at our courtyard in front of the house. The poor little bush would release its intoxicating aroma even when it looked rather miserable. It never seems to give up on flowering, at any given season,  And at one point I was tempted to make a cup of homemade jasmine tea, simply by letting a single flower float on top of my cup of boiled water. It smelled like heaven, tasted as bitter as death, and left my tongue numb!

The technique of perfuming tea with flowers is an ancient art that was invented in China. During the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), J. sambac from Persia arrived in China. By the 5th Centruy, teas were already perfumed with jasmine flowers. But it wasn't until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) that jasmine tea because popular the world over due to its introduction to the West.

By nature's own divine wisdom, tea gardens fortunately grow in close proximity to where some fragrant flowers can also thrive. All shades of tea can be perfumed with jasmine, including silver needle, red tea and oolong - but the most popular of them is jasmine green tea.

The technique of perfuming tea was originally developed to enhance the aroma of lower quality leaf, but because of demand and growing appreciation for this particular flavour, there are now many different grades, forms and qualities available, especially for jasmine tea.

Jasmine Pearls

Green jasmine tea is mostly produced in Fujian province in China, and is harvested in September - the prime time for jasmine sambac flowers in the region. The tea leaves and flowers are harvested at dawn. The tea goes a partial process, up to the stage of "fixing" by heat. While the tea leaves are still humid they are layered alternately to form an inch-thick carpet with fresh jasmine flowers. These flowers are left there for about 24 hours so that the tea leaves can absorb their perfume. The tea leaves are then heated for an hour to set the fragrance in, and the flowers are then removed before they begin to decompose so that the scent does not deteriorate. This same process will be repeated with a new batch of flowers, between 2-6 times. Between 30-50 kg of flowers are required to perfume 100 kg of undried tea leaves.

The flowers themselves have a bitter taste when brewed, which is why they are removed. You'll rarely find a jasmine blossom in a high quality jasmine tea. Poor quality and aromatized teas will have plenty of those, as if to convince the naive buyer that they are the real deal. Originally, the process of perfuming teas was created to improve the taste and aroma of medium quality teas. It was only later on that mediocre or worse quality teas were aromatized - in other words, sprayed with a manmade flavouring to enhance their taste and mask their poor quality. Sometimes these are easy to recognize because they have some dried jasmine flowers added later on for decoration and marketing purposes.

IMG_4840

Jasmine tea is recommended for pairing with coconut desserts, and in general all mildly sweetened Asian desserts go fantastically well with it, which is possibly why you'll be served a pot of jasmine tea as soon as you sit down for dim-sum. It is also served to accompany the pho - the deliciously light Vietnamese noodle soups, where the jasmine's aroma beautifully complements the fresh cilantro and basil leaves. Jasmine Tea Mooncakes (pictured above) are a traditional food of the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated in mainland China, Taiwan, Vietnam and among Chinese communities the world over. It's a pastry that is filled a paste or a cream made of taro root or lotus-seed or a variety of other modern interpretations, to which other flavours (such as tea, fruits, nuts, and more recently also coffee and chocolate) can be added.

black dragon pearl tea

For Jade Jasmine Pearls, the choicest tea leaf is selected: a tiny twig with the entire bud and two leaves (similar to Bai Mu Dan, AKA White Peony), which are impregnated with jasmine's perfume and rolled into a pearl-sized ball.

Jasmine Silver Needle is a fine white tea in which the tender leaves are picked when they are still closed. They look like a needle, and their silvery fuzz in clear sight, which explains their name. In the brewing process, these tiny silver hairs separate form the leaves and float to the top of the cup, creating a beautiful light-reflecting shimmer that adds to the visual enjoyment of the tea. Some flowers may be found in these teas, but this is from a different variety that is not as bitter.

Jasmine Green Tea is the most popular, and the one that you will most likely find in an adulterated form. Watch out for tea blends that have many blossoms in them - these usually serve only a decorative purpose (most jasmine flowers do not retain their aroma after drying), and are a visual clue that the tea is, in fact, aromatized.

Black Dragon Pearls

Jasmine Black Tea is rare, and usually scented with a unique, fragrant variety of yellow jasmine, Jasminum odoratissimum is a Madeira (Portugal) variety but due to its quality of retaining its fragrance after drying, it is also grown in Formosa (Taiwan) where it is used to perfume tea. I've only encountered black jasmine tea in the form of hand-tied teas.

jasmine tea ball

Hand-Tied Teas come in a variety of flavours, colours and designs that open up only after the "tea bud" is steeped in water for a while. The flower unfolds like a slow-motion time-lapse of a blooming bud. For best visual effect, use a clear glass teapot to brew this tea. They can be re-steeped many times, provided they are fresh.

Jasmine Beer: I've had the pleasure to experience a Jasmine IPA (Indian Pale Ale) from Steamworks, a local craft brewery located near the Waterfront Station in Gastown. It is hoppy in the most refreshing, fruity-bitter manner, which only accentuates the subtle jasmine tea notes that are hidden within. I see that there are many other jasmine IPAs produced by craft breweries. But if you can't get your paws on one, you can brew your own Jasmine Kombucha (see recipe below).

Jasmine Kombucha: When I learned that you could, in fact, used flavoured teas for kombucha brewing, I thought that my mind was going to explode from happiness (and ideas). Sometimes the best things are the simplest ones. Taking a fine ingredient, and making it even finer by a traditional, tried-and-true process. The key here is to have a good, healthy kombucha, and use the finest jasmine tea you can get. Another important component of a successful flavoured kombucha-making is that if you are using flavours, only to make them occasionally. The oils in flavoured teas do not add to the health of the culture. So you must alternate between making flavoured ones to plain ones. Follow the recipe for kombucha provided on this blog, using high quality jasmine-scented tea. You may also use flowering (hand-tied) teas, though this may be a bit of a waste of a beautiful thing (visually speaking).


Sandalwood Beer

beers by uberculture
beers, a photo by uberculture on Flickr.
The last push for the holiday season just ended last night, and I'm thrilled to have all of this chaos behind me.

Looking forward to tying some loose ends on the business front before the end of the year, re-organizing my studio space, and getting more creative again. 2013 was a bizarre year, and I seem to barely be able to catch my breath before something else unexpected shows up demanding my attention.

Three weeks ago I got intrigued by hops and decided to go back into a project I've began working on long ago (with very little reporting on it here). My previous work around the theme mostly relied on the guy's fondness of beer (not that there is anything original or unique about it). I noticed how many guys like posting pics of themselves with giant beer mugs in a sports bar (portraying, I presume, how much fun they are), rivaled only by similarly alluring depiction of the giant fish they caught. If it were possible to gulp beer from a giant mug while wrestling with a gigantic catfish - I'm sure they would have snapped pics of that too. Good luck with that!

Anyway, back to beer: it seemed to be a rather befitting theme for how much of a jerk that guy sounded like. So I began with something that smelled rather dirty and boozy - hops, cepes, cognac and African stone tincture - all in one breath! - paired with Egyptian jasmine, Seville lavender and cacao. All around a very peculiar combination. And after allowing it to mature way more than absolutely necessary, it's not what I would imagine to garner mass public appeal. It's edgy, but probably too dirty and naughty that I would feel comfortable describing on a PG rated blog.

 Fast forward to three weeks ago: I visit the barn. I see hops. I'm reminded of my long neglected project. Aside from hops, which are the foundation of any beer and what I've decided to be the key ingredient for this project, I'm thinking of sandalwood. Why? Because.

A few years ago, my sister in law gave me a sandalwood and beer soap. It was lovely. Strange combination, but lovely. There was very little beer to be smelled there, but the idea was filed away somewhere only to be pulled out at the appropriate time. Now.

I take some sandalwood from Australia (organic, by the way). I add generous amounts of cognac absolute, hops, marigold (also an ancient beer ingredient) and anything else that renders yeasty, effervescent and beer-like in my mind. And voila! A sandalwood beer cologne is born. Three weeks later - it has only gotten better: smooth, fruity, fresh, complex, piquant and intriguing. Just like an apircot craft beer.

Beer & Chocolate Pairing

Day 723 - Paddle of beer by Clive C
Day 723 - Paddle of beer, a photo by Clive C on Flickr.
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to be able to attend a Craft Beer & Chocolate Pairing night at CocoaNymph, as part of BC Craft Beer Month. It just so happened to be on a Friday (October 25th, to be exact), and by the time I got home I was too tired to blog about it and had to prepare for my last tea party. But it was a memorable beer night and I took some tasting notes - which is how I am able to still write about what I tasted intelligibly. The event was co-hosted with Lundy from Pink Pints.

All the truffles served were delights no one ever tasted before - either seasonal truffles, or the ones that are part of the steady collection were actually the future-version of themsleves. And I got to tell you: if you liked CocoNymph’s truffles so far, brace yourself for the type of goodness that makes one wax poetic or just swoon on the spot.

Beer no. 1: Black Betty Blackberry Saison (Vancouver Island Brewery). It’s a fizzy light amber coloured brew with a raspberry aroma. The flavour is beer with raspberry notes, bitter, fresh-tart, sweet and leaves a stinging fizz afterwards.

Chocolate pairing: CocoaNymph’s new recipe for the Glinda truffle: blackberry sage. Tart, fruity, musky and earthy-herbaceous. Beautifully complemented the beer.

Beer no. 2: Sweet Punk Dunkelweizen (Longwood)
Dark brown beer that looks (and tastes) like thin drip coffee. If it does not sound appealing, it’s because it’s not my taste. At all. It also has a very strong coffee, roasted notes, and mocha notes (hints of cocoa).

Chocolate pairing: Melissa, CocoaNymph’s hazelnut crunch truffle, with a whole candied hazelnut in the centre. Nutty, sweet and a soothing honey aftertaste. Great redeeming point for the harsh coffee-beer prior experience. By the way - once this truffle’s recipe was modified, it completed the task of turning the entire CocoaNymph chocoaltes & confections gluten free.

Beer no. 3: Sap Sucker (Fernie Brewing Company)
This maple porter is frothy, even darker than the previous beer. Malty flavour.

Chocolate pairing: Barnabas the Tortoise, which is a milk chocolate filled with orange brandy ganache and caramel.

Beer no. 4: Pumpkin Pearzen (Moon Under Water)
Unclear, pale golden liquid, looks like unfiltered pear juice. Aroma is spicy and reminiscent of pears and pumpkins simultaneously, but also surprisingly sour and bitter in flavour. Very smooth mouthfeel with hints of spice.

Chocoalte pairing: Prancer, which is CocoaNymph’s first seasonal truffle - a pumpkin ganache that is just absolutely wonderful and gets better every year!

Beer no. 5: Spirit Chaser (R&B Brewing)
A porter made with Sumatra coffee from Salt Spring Coffee Co. Looks like a very dark coffee. Aroma of smooth coffee, roasted beans. Flavour is bitter and sour, just like a too strong coffee.

Chocolate pairing: Ultra Dark truffle, with cacao nibs on the outside. I believe this is a completely new truffle that is not part of the steady collection of truffles yet.

Beer no. 6: Lost Souls (Parallel 49)
Chocolate and pumpkin flavoured beer, which was apparently too much for me. I think by this point I had too much beer! But not too much to form the opinion, that I do not like coffee and beer together, and strangely enough, when it comes to craft beers, I probably lean towards the light and fruity ones. While with “normal” barley beers, I prefer the darker actually.

Chocolate pairing: Illa - the salted caramel truffle that started Rachel in her sweet chocolate path (very similar to the SeaNymph bar, which is what the chocolatiere is probably most known for). It practically goes with everything and enhances everything. Personally, I prefer it with a glass of dark red wine such as Shiraz or Zinfandel.
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