White Tea Tasting

White Tea Tasting by Ayala Moriel
White Tea Tasting, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

These days I'm mostly preoccupied with perfecting my tea blends, which I'm going to re-launch this fall, in new packaging, labels and formulae. Tea tasting is such a sensual experience, where sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. From the murmur of the tea leaves as they're measured into the cup and listening to the water boil and bubble; to the appearance of the leaves in their dry form, followed by their straining and their changed texture once they are wet and have given away some of their aromatic flavourful properties to the water... And last but not least comes the whiff of the hot steam from the tea leaves, teapot and cup, that merge with the taste and perceived texture into a unique flavour...

All of the senses work in harmony in the tranquil experience of tea tasting. The simple rituals of tea reconnect us to nature and the elements. And tasting a tea that I've blended myself is even more special, as I learn to refine my palate and explore new ways of putting my nosy nose to use...

Generally speaking, there is a hint of bitterness in tea, but it concludes with a sweet after taste. Which I find strange, because sweet taste is perceived by taste buds that are located on top of the front of the tongue, while bitterness is perceived in the very back of the tongue (as a precaution for poisons, many of which are poisonous, so as to make us gag or reject them if necessary).

White tea is the most delicate of all tea leaves. It is produced from the tea buds and the youngest leaves, and undergoes very little oxidation or fermentation, after the leaves are allowed to wither in natural sunlight. It is called white tea because of the fine white or silvery hairs that cover them like a peach fuzz; and the pale, nearly completely clear liquor they produce. But do not let the paleness fool you! There is a lot of flavour and aroma in white tea, albeit a subtle one. It evokes a pristine feeling, and is one of the most precious teas that not easy to prepare or store as it can lose its flavour very fast.

Silver needle tea (Bai Hao Yinzhen) is the finest white tea, made from the buds alone. It is brewed for longer time than most teas (up to 5 minutes) and some of the white hairs will float in the water and add a shimmery appearance to their surface as they reflect the light, contributing to the sense of purity and tranquility of the visual experience. I can't help but think of peach and apricot when sipping this tea, even though it does not quite taste like either - it's more about the texture of the liquor in the mouth, I guess.

White peony (Bai Mudan) is another type of white tea, which has a bud and two young leaves attached to it. It is more peppery in taste, and supposedly floral and reminiscent of peony flower.

I've been enjoying immensely the white tea blend that I'm still refining - and will be releasing along with my Zangvil perfume in November. This is going to be a very special perfumed white tea, with organic crystallized ginger and a few other delicious elements. What's really incredible about it though, is that it can be re-steeped for so many times - I've steeped it for 5 times and still feel there is more to it so will brew another pot of the same tea blend this afternoon.

If you stop by at the studio these days, you are sure to be put to use as a test bunny and be offered a sip of my recent tea concoctions. White tea is so delicate and special, I'm really looking forward to this winter release, when I can share it with you in a big tea party!

Mark your calendar, as the date is already set for 20.11.2011 (November 20th, 2011). It's going to be a white tea party and it's going to be so special... That I'm almost looking forward to the withdrawal of sun and decreased temperatures.

Roses et Chocolat Tea Blending

My Roses et Chocolat tea blending adventures continue with another pot of tea - or a gaiwan, actually... This time with different proportion of the same elements. It's going to take a lot of fine tuning to get the flavour balanced and full bodied yet have that spicy pizzazz of the Roses et Chocolat perfume.

I'm learning how tea blending is so similar to perfume composition - it's all about proportions and balance. I want the surprising elements (i.e.: the spices) to be present, but not jump at you. I think it's getting there... But might need an additional tea leaf to go with the rose congou.

Looking forward to another pot of tea tomorrow morning!

Reworking Roses et Chocolat Tea

Roses et Chocolat tea by Ayala Moriel
Roses et Chocolat tea, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

This morning, I brewed a trial version of my new Roses et Chocolat tea. The formula is going to be completely changed around, and have more of the perfume's spicy personality. So I'll be using piquiant spices such as pink peppercorns and mace blades in the blend.
Although the ingredients are few and simple in this tea, it will be a long journey before I learn how to reach the balance between the elements. How the tea smells in the dry state is only a small part of the experience. It must taste just right when brewed, and have the correct balance between roses, chocolate, spices and tannins.
I'm off to brewing another version this afternoon, as I really want to see it coming closer to where I want it to be.

Back to Tea

Tea tasting by nikosan.artwork
Tea tasting, a photo by nikosan.artwork on Flickr.

The end of this summer is dedicated to re-designing my tea collection, as well as adding a new tea for fall. I'm super excited about this new endeavor. My first collection of teas was designed in collaboration with Dawna Ehman, from whom I learned a lot about tea and she pretty much got me "hooked" on tea with her passion... A very good drug to be addicted to, if I may add! Teas have caffeine, but in so much lower quantities than coffee, so they are not nearly as addictive... In addition to caffeine, they are full of antioxidants and have an uplifting effect without the side-effects of caffeine withdrawal. Besides, the world of tea is so rich and beautiful with their subtle aroma and culture. Tea rituals exist around the world and are so simple and versatile. All you really need is some tea leaves (or herbs, if you rather), hot water and some vessels - not necessary fancy - and setting aside just a little bit of time on your own or shared with others - and there is your tea ceremony. Tea brings calm, serenity, energy, and has healing and rejuvenating properties.

So, these next couple of weeks will be dedicated to some tea tastings of a variety of teas I'm sampling, and experimenting with new recipes for my existing teas - namely Roses et Chocolat, Immortelle l'Amour (Charisma was a tea blend that I always served to studio guests, and I have already finalized the recipe for it). I'm also going to redo my packaging for the teas, as I'd like to have a larger tin again (instead of the current 1oz size). The tins I'm planning on using will be better on the functional level as far as sealing and maintaining freshness. But of course there has to be some sampling and testing to do first... And of course the labels will change as well.

Last but not least - there is a completely new tea that will come out this fall along with the new perfume I'll be launching on 20.11.2011. I've been experimenting with the recipe for quite some time, and am uber pleased with the initial results... So it's now a matter of fine tuning the formula, sourcing the leaves and all the finer details that follow a concept so it will become a reality.

Summer Tea Party

Moroccan petitfours of dried fruit, marzipan and halva - scented with floral water of course!

Here are some photos from the Summer Afternoon Tea Party yesterday at my studio.
Of course the whole purpose is to make you come to the next one, which I'm hoping to host in mid-July (exact date will be announced soon).

You've already read about the menu - now you can see the treats (my apologies for the poor quality of photos - I was trying to sneak in a camera-click between getting the door and the guest consuming this display):

You can't see it, but this is a 5-tier tea tray, the top two tiers covered in chocolate truffles, the rest with petitfours and pastries.

The teas served were many (I made no less than 8 pots of tea!) - my entire current tea collection of Charisma, Immortelle l'Amour and Roses et Chocolat. After the event there is not much tea left (the guests wiped me nearly clean of my Charisma tea - only one tin left) and just a handful of Roses et Chocolat and Immortelle l'Amour!

I also served Moroccan mint tea, both hot and chilled. It's especially good for dipping those fennel biscuits (see below).

View from the top:
Top tier: Blood truffles (dark chocolate, Turkish rose, saffron and chili) and Rose de Mai truffles (white chocolate with rose de mai, magnolia, bergamote & strawberry extract)

Second tier: Guilt truffles (orange blossom and wild orange) and Charisma truffles (white chocolate with matcha tea powder, sambac jasmine, spearmint and citrus)

Third tier: Dried apricots stuffed with neroli-water flavoured marzipan, dried figs stuffed with kewda water flavoured marzipan; and some more Charisma truffles.

Fourth tier: Crystallized rose wafers, Pistachio-Lime buttons, Apple cupcakes, Almond cupcakes

Fifth tier (nearly hidden): Moroccan Fennel biscuits, and my personal favourite - Basboosa made with Goat's milk yoghurt.

Some guests mingling to create an awesome tea party...

The guests received tea candle and samples before they left and also there was a draw for one person to go on a little olfactory journey with me and participate in the creation of their very own custom scent!
There was also a presentation about tea and perfumes - more about that in the next post...!
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