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.

Ginger & White Tea

White Teas, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Cold rainy morning, and so I'm shivering and cuddling by the fireplace with my morning tea, wishing I would have not taken off my flannel pyjamas and imagining that I'm still in it...

Working too many days a week and too many hours a day sure takes a toll - especially when it cuts into one's sleep. I'm making a pledge with myself to got to bed super early in the next few days if I can help it. And by early I mean 9pm. Yup. I think I must do this if I want to get well for the next weekend show, which is followed by a soiree on Tuesday, leading to the OOAK show on Thursday (and these would be 14 hour days - 8am-10pm), counting commute, prep and clean up at the beginning and end of each day.

So today I intend to stay in, but not just blog/brag/complain about how hard I work and how tough it is to be a one-woman-show, single mother and a business owner in today's economy - I actually wanted to share with you my cup of morning tea :-)

Last year I've been talking a lot abut my ginger and amber perfume , which I created especially for days like today, when you feel under the weather and wish you could stay in your flannel pyjamas and cashmere underwear (apparently, there is such a thing, and although I am not fortunate enough to own a pair, I imagine they would be quite wonderful). This tea is the equivalent of that feeling the tea gives you - sweet and warm and fuzzy but very delicate, with white tea and vanilla and ginger.

Next year I am planning to dedicate to studying teas and the art of tea blending, and would love to bring out a some new teas if I am ready to show them to the world. For now, I'm just sharing with you this morning tea. I think it's simple, elegant and balanced. And it makes me feel a little bit better yet without feeling like I'm drinking medicine.

P.s. This tea was originally designed for my spring-welcoming tea ceremony on March 21st 2010.

Japanese Cherry White Tea

WHEN YOU STEP into Michi, there is a particular scent in the air, like mimosa and leather and iris. It is yet to be established whether the scent is intentional ambiance or the result of the new leather furniture in this spanking new café: Michi Waffle and Espresso Bar is a Japanese dessert and beverages cafe that opened on Robson less than 3 months ago, in March 2010. Besides espresso and waffles, they also offer a nice selection of small desserts (Madeleines, tuiles, and the most amazing matcha shortbread I have ever tasted in my life), plus fascinating Japanese smoothies such as matcha with red bean, and fresh taro root. I only discovered it now and it instantly became a favourite spot for neither espresso nor waffles (which I am yet to try), but… tea!

And to be more precise, their organic Japanese cherry white tea. I picked that tea first for a reason - I thought it could serve as a good indicator of the quality of teas overall in that location. Cherry flavours (and cherry-flavoured teas are no exception) are usually very artificial-tasting with a fierce bitter-almond aroma that I’m not fond of at all. I was hoping the fact that it is labeled as “organic” makes for a high probability that there will be none of the artificial flavouring. Thankfully, I was not only spared the bitterness, but also pleasantly surprised: As it turns out, this particular tea is stunning!

The white tea leaves are lightly infused with the light aroma of cherry blossoms: a delicate floral aroma that is a little hard to describe, but has a transparent, floral-nutty and soft texture. There is no bitterness from either the tea leaf or the cherry blossoms. It’s exceptionally beautiful and I only wish I have discovered it earlier, as it would have made a wonderful way to celebrate the sakura season while it still lasted. Oh well, there is always next year!

The other teas at Michi all seem rather promising, or at least decent, including organic jasmine green tea, English Breakfast, Assam, Earl Gray, a few Rooibos flavours and a selection of herbal teas that includes the more obscure rose petals and osmanthus blossom. All teas are served in individual glass teapots that are re-steeped upon request up to several times (and must, because the tea becomes too strong after a while – so be sure to request for more water or remove the strainer before it gets to that point). In fact, I think that a teapot might be better for sharing with another person. Which is really how all teas should be served in, rather than a paper cup with a tea bag.

And there is something to be said about the atmosphere at this place –the décor is sleek and minimalist with dark leather furniture and hardwood floors, an whole spread of fashion magazine in English and Japanese, and a nice lounge by the front windows with couches that would make for a perfect spot for catching up with a few friends. And if you come here alone the staff is as friendly and helpful as you could ever hope for.

Michi is located on 1319 Robson Street, corner with Jervis. Tel. (604) 568-8750

P.s. this article was originally posted June 3rd but was accidentally deleted due to Blogger tech issues today. I have recovered it and posted it again.

Far East Candle

Far East Candle, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

This week clearly has the mark of tea - beginning with the High-Tea on Sunday and continuing on to today, where I am lighting Gabriel's Aunt new Far East Candle, scented with white tea, green tea and honey.

Just like a cup of green tea, this candle is subtle and gentle and probably "hard to get" at first. But once you get it - you're hooked to the serenity of a more neutral home scent that is not overpowering.

Note the candle's minimal packaging - label, candle cover (with instructions, printed on recycled paper embedded with wildflower seeds). You can further recycle the paper by burying it in soil and watching the wildflowers grow...

The glass container can be recycled as well - visit Gabriel's Aunt for ideas and tips as well as her recycling program.

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