Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Kettle's on, soup's on

Every now and then, I run into posted recipes for tea soup. The variations are myriad, but the best ones, in my experience, center on green tea and salmon.

This is the one that crossed my path recently, a quickie from Samovar which trims away some of the traditional Japanese ingredients in favor of a few extra steamed veggies. The one that's always worked for me is this one: blanching some veggies, poaching the salmon, then steeping the tea in the broth. A little matcha for presentation is a fine idea.

Of note: there's also an old meat-fish-and-potatoes soup colloquially referred to as Fisherman's Tea, though tea is not an ingredient.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

All you need is tea

John and Yoko met in May 1968, a spring romance. Lennon was a regular tea drinker. One of my favorite details of the film "Two of Us" features Jared Harris, as Lennon, making tea for Aidan Quinn, as Paul. (Superb, underappreciated film, a speculative narrative. Check it out.)

A few years ago, Yoko wrote a lovely remembrance of "John Lennon: The Teamaker," including this little turnabout:

“Yoko, Yoko, you’re supposed to first put the tea bags in, and then the hot water.” John took the role of the teamaker, for being English. So I gave up doing it. It was nice to be up in the middle of the night, when there’s no sound in the house, and sip the tea John would make.

One night, however, John came up with “I was talking to Aunt Mimi this afternoon and she says you are supposed to put the hot water in first. Then the tea bag. I could swear she taught me to put the tea bag in first, but…”

“So all this time, we were doing it wrong?”


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday tea TV: A very. Serious. Movie.

In what looks to be at least partially and unintentionally hilarious, yet another biopic of Rikyu has been made. Based on the 2008 novel Rikyu ni Tazuneyo by Kenichi Yamamoto, "Ask This of Rikyu" retells the tale of the teamaster from fish shop to the palace to ritual suicide.

Here's the trailer, which defies the basic tenets of teaism with exaggerated drama, a thundering symphonic score, and many furrowed brows ...

Monday, May 12, 2014

Crafty projects to dye for

Years ago, I monkeyed with tea-dying fabrics — with varying results. At first, I couldn't figure out what the attraction was to taking a nice, white piece of muslin and turning it, well, dingy brown. Then I learned how to get a little more creative.

Two things changed my outcomes: using a resist to make patterns, and using different liquids.

The resist: Dye the fabric, but beforehand apply a compound in words or patterns that will block the dye, leaving the pattern in the fabric's original color. Some instructions suggest using Elmer's glue; it's often not as easy to remove in the end as is suggested. I've used wax before — I used some beeswax I had on hand in a work bench, but you can buy wax sticks for this purpose, seen here. Crayons work, too, and look here for a nifty technique using bleach to white-out patterns.

As to the other liquids, nearly all tea-dying instructions you'll find discuss the practice in terms of black tea. (And use something inexpensive, of course. Don't waste your fine keemun on the drapes!) I suspect, however, that green tea would provide interesting, if subtle, results, too. I also suspect — having had the misfortune of spilling some on a carpet once — that strong herbals such as hibiscus would also work well. The trick: play around with different dyes on the same fabric. One project I enjoyed a while back: I dyed a set of white napkins with tea, but then I dyed their edges (an inch or two, by suspending them into the liquid with clothespins) with coffee, so there was a nice tea tint to the whole napkin plus ribbons of darker brown at the edges.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tea in the pot — in the garden

At long last, I'm growing tea.

Unable to find the special varietals created for San Diego's particular climate, I ordered a Sochi tea plant from Nichols Garden Nursery up in Oregon. It arrived in splendid condition, a small plant well-established (a foot tall) and moist.

This Camellia sinensis Sochi variety originates, yes, where the Winter Olympics just took place — and one of the northernmost, historic tea-growing regions of Russia. This strain was developed to be especially winter-hardy, which I won't require in southern California, but we'll see how it does.

I've planted her in a firm mound within a half wine barrel salvaged from some debris on this property. I mixed some sphagnum moss, hopefully to aid in holding moisture in the soil (crucial here, especially during last week's awful spell of hot, dry wind). I've rigged a watering system throughout the garden, and it'll feed a dripping irrigation spout at the base of the plant, as well as a fogger I hope to run in the mornings. She'll have dappled shade from a nearby Scotch pine, and some late afternoon sun.

This is a hobby venture, not necessarily a productive one. I can't imagine I'd actually harvest and process any leaves — perhaps on a one-cup basis! Given the opportunity of this wonderful garden, I simply had to try to grow the plant that, on the other end of its life cycle, is so instrumental to my daily life. We shall see.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Smoke and sweetness

Magazine recommendation: Imbibe. It's a well-made, well-edited bimonthly for discriminating lushes like myself, but it doesn't skimp on the coffee and tea features.

The latest March/April edition features two items of note. First, there's a great profile of Steven Smith, the founder of two of the country's most influential tea brands, Stash and Tazo. It's a smart profile of the entrepreneur and his latest, sourced-tea venture.

Second, with the issue's focus on the Pacific northwest, there's a crazy cocktail recipe tacked onto a short feature about Clear Creek Distillery's liqueur made from Douglas fir trees. The cocktail — which sounds insane, great, and insanely great — is called Smoke Signals: bourbon, lemon and orange juices, the fir liqueur, plus a "lapsang souchong tea syrup" (which is just a half cup of the tea, sweetened).

I've used lapsang souchong to add smoke to meats and stews. It's so much better and more effective than liquid smoke. An actual simple syrup made with the piney tea would open up new avenues for flavoring, say, ice cream, apple, anything with maple, maybe subbing for some of the Karo in a pecan pie...?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tuesday tea tune: Bein' green

Spotted this attractive embroidery on Twitter recently. The Green Man has always been a favorite totem — I used to have a clay Green Man hanging on a tree trunk in a previous garden — especially in spring and summer.

Reminds me of a favorite XTC album track, too. A stretch for the Tuesday tea theme; just pretend Green Man loves his sencha ...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hi, ho, Hario!

Hario is a nearly century-old glassware company in Japan, and they've generated excitement in recent years with new pour-over coffee makers. Now they've added teaware to their innovating.

Dig this Hario Chaor 4-Cup Tea Maker — a nice, big pot, with heat-resistant glass. The best part, though, is the roomy (important) strainer basket that retracts into the lid with a slide of the handle. Perfect.

Even better, if you're (understandably) averse to confining strainers, is the Hario Largo Tea Dripper, a twist on the coffee designs. The tea brews in the top glass bulb, floating free, then drains and strains into the glass pitcher below. Too bad there are no lids in sight.