On April 11th, I had the esteemed pleasure of entertaining a group of tea novices and a few ‘tea regulars’ with the simple delights of chocolate and tea. In a first of a myriad of pairings and other tea oriented events planned for this year, I must say, I am truly happy with the how things turned out.
Click to view slideshow for this event
It is always wonderful when you bring someone new into the space of tea and the wonderful world therein. I think I converted some newbies for sure. Here’s how the evening went.
Special note should taken for the venue itself. Nestled on E. 31st between Park Avenue South and Lexington Avenues in New York City, sits a beautiful structure that will give you the sense of China if only briefly……enchanting you with it’s charm. Chinese Garden and Buddhist Temple included. When I saw this space, I knew it would be the perfect venue.
The night would showcase 4 teas, 4 chocolates and a few extras. It would also include a special poetic presentation by Marella Eliza, a Columbus, Mississippi native who came to New York some years ago to pursue her aspirations as a Performance Artist. Marella has worked with me in the past (August 2012 - Tiffany’s Tea Party Honoring Flo Anthony) and I have worked with her on her event: Poetry and Tea (Nuyorican Poets Cafe 2012). It was also an unofficial send off gathering for fellow tea business associate, Joyce Gillens. Joyce will open and operate Joy’s Specialtea Cafe in Negril, JA West End.
Ok On to the teas…
I wanted to take my guests on a journey that would basically introduce them to the pleasures of unadulterated tea but from a non intimidating vantage point. To fulfill this goal 2 of the 4 teas were ‘blends’ one blended by me and the other a traditional Japanese Green Tea Blend (Gemiacha).
Before the guests entered the main area, I prepared the first pairing which was a new Tea by Tiffany blend: White Chocolate Lavender. I blended the ‘chocolate’ in with the tea… White Chocolate, White Peony from China, and Lavender Buds. Since white chocolate is actually the fat or butter (cocoa butter of the cocoa bean) it marries well with the tea, making certain not to overcome the delicate flavor of the tea. The lavender adds its exquisite bouquet to produce a lovely relaxing tea that can be enjoyed by most anyone.
Tiny coconut candies were added for this pairing.
While guest mingled in the front they had the pleasure of watching me brew tea for the nights festivities.
Upon entering our lovely tasting room space… calming music, beautiful scents and a lovely decorated scenery embraced guests. I was ready. This was show time… I vowed to wow them, delight them and educate them at the same time.
Now we go to Japan for Genmaicha (green tea). I love this tea because its light, with a stand out taste. The roasted nuttiness of the rice pairs nicely with Sencha (there was no Ma’cha in this blend) and the popped corn is an equalizer. I knew right away milk chocolate and a rice cake would go well. I also thought the slight spiciness of Washibi kernels would be great as the added treat.
Everyone loved this pairing. They remarked how each taste brought out the taste of the other. They contemplated providing this same treat to loved ones and friends.
Back to China for Shui Wuyi Oolong. This oolong was a medium roast with a slight floral undertone. I told my guests that oolongs are considered the connoisseurs tea and that it happens to be my favorite category of tea bar none. After they sampled the pairing they understood why.
For this pairing I decided to go with dried oranges dipped in blood orange chocolate. The crowd was going mad by this point. Ohs and ahhs, a few OMG’s were heard from the crowd, and I was happy.
My mission is being accomplished.
Finally the fourth and final pairing. For this I take my guests to Assam India where we find the single most largest tea region in the world. Producing more than 500 million kg per year covering a broad market of tea drinkers the world over. Known for its robust atmosphere, hard working and driven population, Assam’s tea is no different. This hard working tea yields a robust, strong, malty and deep chocolaty profile.
Of course we paired this with an exquisite dark chocolate over a strawberry. By this time as you can imagine the guests or aleast some of them were beginning to have “eh - hem” other thoughts (wink, wink) suited only for…… let’s just say, tea will do something to you. You can’t loose with black tea, dark chocolate and a strawberry.
For many the final pairing was the favorite, for others the oolong gave them something they never thought possible. Still for others the Gemaicha paired with milk chocolate and rice cake was the perfect snack and treat without any guilty residues. The all-in-oneness of the White Chocolate Lavender Blend was a great dessert tea.
Throughout the presentation I took questions from guests on the pairings as well as methods of steeping the teas. I forgot to mention before, I spoke about each pairing and prepared a small pot of each tea on-sight for guests. Those guests who sat in the bar stools in front of me got extra tea and extra treats. After I did this little exercise and gave my little talk, Marella and Joyce made sure each guests had their pairings to partake in. It was truly a magical night.
The evening of course could not have gone so smoothly without the assistance of a wonderful team of people from the venue, my co-hosts (Marella Eliza and Joyce) my brother the artist (Jaron) and to everyone who attended. I look forward to serving you again. It is indeed my pleasure.
The amazing chocolates were provided by FASO FOODS: Grafhoff Belgium Chocolates, and Chocolate Blocks from Trader Joes.
Stay tuned for the next pairing event as well as other updates from your favorite tea purveyor, Tea by Tiffany.
Tonight I had the pleasure with a number of other tea enthusiasts and novices alike to experience Japanese Tea Culture as presented by a Kyoto Tea Master, Kazuo Hayashiya
The presentation was presented by the Japan Foundation of New York. It was also sponsored by The Tea Association and STI (Specialty Tea Institute)The event was held at the Nippon Club in the Rose Room. There were about 100 guest in attendance. We received an email about a week ago that the event was overbooked so an early arrival was crucial. Thankfully myself and Jo Johnson (@agiftoftea) were serious about making sure we go there on time.
We arrived at 5:30. The event started a full hour later. (((laughs))) so we decided to have a cup of tea at a neighboring establishment (which shall remain nameless) until they were ready to let us in.
When we came back, the place was filling up. The set up was very nice. Each table seating 6 people.
Our presenter was visiting New York City for the first time. He was a very kind spirited man. The first thing he asked us was “how old did we think he was” clearly he was alluding to what we were about to experience. Japanese Green Tea, which has been touted for its health benefits especially as an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect against aging and our presenter was a young 70’s something who was proud to say he drinks Japanese green tea daily.
His daily regiment:
Morning / Breakfast: Sencha
Afternoon: Gyokuro and Matcha
With His dinner: Houjicha
Mr. Hayashiya preceded to to give us his welcome and brief introduction to Japanese Tea Production. Some key items that he pointed out: The powdering of tea originated first in China (Song Dynasty) and although it didn’t take hold in China, Japan adopted this form of tea and made it one of its signature tea preparation methods. Some Japanese teas are shaded to limit the amount of sunlight received by the plant. The shading causes the amino acids (Theanine) and caffeine content in the tea leaves to increase, while (the source of bitterness in tea (catechins), and caffeine content decreases.
Tonight’s tea tasting consisted of 4 Japanese Teas:
Matcha (which we actually made ourselves)
To me the Matcha was the most memorable of the all the teas tonight. It was smooth, not bitter, bold yet soft. Absolutely loved it. They allowed us to take home the Matcha wisk as a gift, we were pleased.
The Sencha, Gyokuro and Genmiacha were good, but not great. I tend to like stronger flavors. I’m not sure if this was due to brewing method or the tea itself.
Finally the Houjicha which is a roasted Sencha. I thought this was lovely. Full body, warm roast, I can see why Mr. Hayashiya drinks this with his evening meals.
The question and answer session after the tasting was even more intriguing. Questions ranged from pesticides and fertilizer used in farming to Matcha as a facial aid. Matcha as a facial aid didn’t make the aficionados happy. (((laughs)))
Well needless to say Tea Master Kazuo Hayashiya answered all the questions with grace and humility.
Yes the Japanese use fertilizers and pesticides in the tea farming process. According to Hayashiya the farms are regulated so that the least amount of pesticides are used yet still effective.
He let us know that although there are people who like to use green tea in cosmetics… drinking for beautiful skin is still his favorite method. (Mine too)
There was a bit a controversy when the subject of the best water to use for Japanese tea came up. Now, if you ask this question of most in the industry especially in the western world, we will say it’s an admonishment to use tap water for tea preparation and that the only thing that will due is a filtered water or spring water.
Mr. Hayashiya made some jaws drop when he suggested that New York is said to have soft water and like the soft water in Japan it could be used to prepare Japanese Green tea. Well I already know what most of you are saying….
I think it’s safe to conclude most tea drinkers (in the West) will continue to use a filtered or a spring water for tea preparation across the board.
All in all it was a great time to connect with other tea drinkers and those of us in the industry. I really appreciate the work that this foundation and others similar to it such as the Urasenke Tea Ceremony Society who are doing everything they can to educate the public about Japanese culture and its tea culture as well.
I’m not sure how often this event happens but if you are interested please go to their website and sign up for their newsletter.
That’s all for now. Until we tea again…..