Monday, June 26, 2017

More World Tea Expo 2017!

One of the many observations from my workshop "Pairing with Tea: the Science of Flavors and How to Enjoy Them:"

We enjoyed an exquisite English Breakfast Tea from The Tea Source.

Here's a picture of English Breakfast Tea from The Tea Source.

But drink the English Breakfast tea after a bite of a Walkers shortbread, and the tea disappears!

Here's the delicious shortbread that we used  — great by itself, but with black tea you need to add something!

Add some raspberry jam to the shortbread and bite again and sip the tea, and the tea magically comes back!

What is happening?  

The black teas in the blend activate TRPV3 and TRPV1, the warm and hot receptors, to give you a full comforting black tea flavor — remember, these receptors and the trigeminal nerves to which these receptors are attached act like a volume dial, upping the flavor experience.

The butter in the shortbread?  Turns off TRPV1, so you can't taste the tea.

But when you add some raspberry jam, raspberry ketone — a major chemical in raspberries, and in black tea, too — turns TRPV1 back on, and TRPV3 as well, so now you get the warm delicious tea flavor back again!

Strawberry and blueberry jams don't do this...

What does this mean for all of you who serve tea? 

Whenever someone asks for a black tea with a buttery pastry, make sure that the pastry contains some raspberry!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Day 1 of World Tea Expo 2017 — Talk, more talk, and a Dragon Dance!

Day 1 of World Tea Expo 2017 has been such a blast! Started the morning with my session on cold brew versus hot brew—what's in the cup and why you like it. There were two bottom lines to my talk: 1) in general people will tend to prefer teas that have a higher ratio of sweet amino acids to bitter catechins and polyphenols, and cold brewing when done right will yield a tea with the most tasty proportions, and 2) you should experiment with the teas you like, and see what happens with cold brewing—vary the ratio of leaves to water, the brewing time, and the temperatures, and see what your taste buds tell you...and, I should add, see what your friends and customers tell you.

As I mentioned at my talk, if you email me ( I will be happy send you a copy of my presentation -- just let me know whether you would like a Keystone or a Powerpoint version.

After the talk my ever so diligent helpers for tomorrow's session on pairing with tea discussed with me the plan for the tastings—will tell you all about that tomorrow.

Meanwhile here's a picture from the Dragon Dance that open ed the Exhibit Hall — such a charming and skilled performance by the young people of Kung Fu of Las Vegas—see

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Iced Tea Deconstructed - Part 2 - Ceylon Black Tea with Rose Water & Cardamom

This series of blog posts is based on the eBook published by Lu Ann Pannunzio and her colleagues (Nazanin from Tea Thoughts & Bonnie from Thirsty for Tea) that can be ours if you if you sign up for Lu Ann's blog newsletter— go to and sign up!

The next iced tea in the list, based on rose water, cardamom, and black Ceylon tea, in the Persian way that Nazanin Yousefnejad of Tea Thoughts treasures.

Why does this particular combination make for an exquisite iced tea?

First, black teas in general, and Ceylon black tea in particular, contain a host of chemicals that they share with roses, so the rose water brings out the flavors of the tea. You need make a special effort to bring these flavors out in an iced tea because many of them activate the warm/hot receptors, which is turned off by cold. I am thinking particularly of beta-damascenone, which gives the rich warm smell to damask roses. Of course there are cool smells in both roses and black tea as well — am thinking of linalool, geraniol and nerol, all of which activate TRPM8, the cool receptor. However these are not as abundant in black tea as they are in green tea. Instead, the processing of black tea yields linalool oxides, which are warm/hot, so any help the warm/hot receptors can get with rose water to boost the black tea flavor is huge for your enjoyment.

Which brings me to cardamom. My guess is that green cardamom is the ingredient intended. If you look at the composition of cardamom essential oil from green cardamom, it offers a curious mix of chemicals, some of which activate the cool/cold receptors (e.g. limonene), and some that actually turn off TRPA1, the cold receptor that leads to pain (e.g. borneol).* The latter chemicals can actually give your iced tea a "warmer" feel, and decrease the pain that the ice could cause.

When you taste plain cardamom, you will notice that its flavor seems to change, shifting from cool to warm as these different receptors kick in — remember that cool receptors are quick-on-quick-off, while warm and hot ones are slow-on-slow-off. It's this sequence that makes the flavor of cardamom so fascinating and hard to characterize! 

So go get your copy of the eBook and enjoy these marvelous flavor nuances for yourself!

** Masayuki Takaishi, Kunitoshi Uchida, Fumitaka Fujita, Makoto Tominaga. Inhibitory effects of monoterpenes on human TRPA1 and the structural basis of their activity. J Physiol Sci (2014) 64:47–57 DOI 10.1007/s12576-013-0289-0.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Iced Tea Deconstructed - Part 1 - Matcha Mojito Mocktail

Lu Ann Pannunzio (with her colleagues (Nazanin from Tea Thoughts & Bonnie Eng from Thirsty for Tea) has something special for you if you sign up for her blog's newsletter: an iced tea recipe book — 6 Refreshing and Fun Iced Teas — with one recipe for each of five teas and a tisane! 

Go to and sign up! 

Meanwhile here is the first of a series of why these wonderful iced tea combinations work: 

The Triple M! Matcha Mojito Mocktail, from 6 Refreshing and Fun Iced Teas.

The first iced tea in the booklet is a matcha mojito cocktail, developed by Lu Ann. It contains matcha, mint leaves, lime juice and...maple syrup? How could those flavors possibly go with maple syrup?

You do need sweetness to cut the bitterness of the matcha, but maple syrup? After all, the first three ingredients, and particularly the mint, all hit the cool/cold receptors—so refreshing! But maple syrup is brown, and should hit the warm/hot receptors, right?

I couldn't find any data concerning the receptors for sotolon and maple furanone, the main flavor chemicals in pure maple syrup, so I did the experiment.

I paired maple syrup with a sencha and an English breakfast tea (experimentation is limited in my current temporary housing situation).

To my surprise, the maple syrup killed the flavor of the breakfast tea, while the sencha lost its bitterness and gained a wonderfully green and flowery flavor.

So there you are: all signs point cool/cold receptors for the chemicals in pure maple syrup.

Any other supporting evidence? Perhaps two things:

First, pure maple syrup gives you that catch in the throat that good quality olive oil gives you. With olive oil that catch is caused by oleocanthol activating TRPA1, the cold receptor.

Second, sotolon is characteristic of fenugreek. And what can you use if you don't have any fenugreek hanging around?* Maple syrup (no surprise there)...and mustard seed. That may be the clue: mustard, or, to be more exact, the isothiocyanates in mustard activate TRPA1!

So the next time you enjoy pancakes with maple syrup, match them with a green tea...and don't forget that activation of TRPA1 can make you feel wide awake!

And don't forget to sign up for Lu Ann's newsletter — it isn't just another thing to clog your email box. It's filled with freshness and light on all things tea:


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

An elegant American tea ceremony (with no thought to pairing)! - Part 1

In the process of cleaning out my house, found my aunt's copy of Etiquette by Emily Post, published in 1928. Originally published in 1922, this book was the guide for women of the middle class, or moving into it, with aspirations for upper class status in the flapper era.

Was curious to see what Mrs. Post had to say about tea. 

Afternoon tea was a decidedly ceremonial event in those days, even if quite different in both style and substance from, say, a Japanese tea ceremony. Mrs. Post details the table setting, and speaks specifically to the "curate," the correct name for the "stand made of three small shelves, each just big enough for one good-sized plate" with "always two, usually three, varieties of cake and hot breads."

She goes on to say that "the top dish on the "curate," therefore, should be a covered one, and hold hot bread of some sort*; the two lower dishes may be covered or not, according to whether additional food is hot or cold; the second dish usually holds sandwiches and the third cake."

She further notes that "selection of afternoon tea food is entirely a matter of whim, and new food-fads sweep through communities...A fad of a certain group in New York is bacon and hot biscuit sandwiches and fresh hot gingerbread. Let it be hoped for the sake of the small household that it will die out rather than become epidemic, since gingerbread and biscuits must both be made every afternoon, and the bacon is another item that comes from a range."**

I'll be quoting some more from this fascinating book in future posts — among other things about the order of speech in such a tea (= who says what to whom when!)- but if I have whetted your appetite for more on the American Tea Ceremony, go to

Meanwhile, here's a modern Thai-American interpretation of a curate by Bambu Thai in Richardson Texas, sent to me by Friend of Pairteas Marzi Pecen (

* Note that this is usually the only tier on which a dome can fit!

** The history of ranges is another fascinating subject...suffice it to say here that in Mrs. Post's day the labor of tending to a coal range was significant, further augmented if you wanted to make several dishes at a time. If you were lucky enough to have either a gas range or an electric range, both of which were just then starting to come into general use, these appliances usually had only a single oven, so making a whole array of different baked goods and hot dishes required careful planning. However, many people still had both the old coal range and the new-fangled electric or gas range, so perhaps making all these dishes fresh could be accomplished—by the hard-working servant, of course!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Does our sense of smell favor processed foods?

Was fascinated to read an article based on a review paper published in the journal Science about the human sense of smell:

The Science paper's author, John P. McGann contends, I think successfully, that the human sense of smell is demonstrably better than we have believed.*

What struck me, though, was not that we have a good sense of smell—think of all the perfumes that have been created, each subtly different from the next, and you realize how important smell is to humans and how exquisitely sensitive we can be. 

Rather I was intrigued to learn that we are superior to other animals in smelling components of food, but not just any food: human food that requires processing like cheese and coffee and roasted meats and beer and wine (no data on tea as yet, though).

Here is a picture of a dog following the scent trail of a pheasant and one of a human following the scent trail of chocolate oil, from the article. Clearly the human goes less astray! Of course you could always argue motivation: the human may have been more motivated and the dog occasionally distracted. The fact remains, nevertheless, that the human does a pretty good job!

So what components of food are humans able to smell at lower concentrations than can other mammals? This question has NOT been studied extensively, but the Science article cites three compounds: 

  • n-pentanoic acid, also called valeric acid, which has a dairy, slightly fruity quality, and is found in milk, cheese, yogurt, coffee, as well as some fruits, including bergamot (Earl Grey, anyone?);**
  • n-octanoic acid, aka caprylic acid, that has a waxy, fatty, rancid, oily, vegetable, cheesy quality, and is found in a host of foods, notably (for my thesis) beer and wine;** 
  • 3-mercapto-3-methylbutyl formate, which has a sulfurous (that's the mercapto-) aroma, mixed with a caramellic, onion, coffee, roasted meat quality, and is found in beer and coffee.***

Laska and his colleagues suggest that perhaps each species' smell capacity is adapted to their dietary niche. 

It is interesting to contemplate that humans have developed a repertoire of olfactory receptors that are particularly attuned to the uniquely human foods that require processing for their development, like dairy products, and beverages, and possibly tea. Awaiting further studies!

* John P. McGann. Poor human olfaction is a 19th-century myth. Science 12 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6338, eaam7263. DOI: 10.1126/science.aam7263

** Selçuk Can Güven and Matthias Laska. Olfactory Sensitivity and Odor Structure-Activity Relationships for Aliphatic Carboxylic Acids in CD-1 Mice. PLoS One. 2012; 7(3): e34301.
Published online 2012 Mar 30. doi:  10.1371/journal.pone.0034301.

*** Sarrafchi A, Odhammer AM, Hernandez Salazar LT, Laska M. Olfactory sensitivity for six predator odorants in CD-1 mice, human subjects, and spider monkeys. PLoS One. 2013 Nov 20;8(11):e80621. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080621. eCollection 2013.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memorial Day Barbecue? Here's the sauce!

It's barbecue time again, so I'm proposing my Carolina-style sauce with Lapsang Souchong — it's my take on a super delicious way to have pork or chicken...or tofu!

Why choose a mustard-and-vinegar-based barbecue sauce to make with the Lapsang Souchong? Because the chemicals in LS hit the cool to cold receptors in the mouth, as do those in mustard, onions, garlic, and thyme. So rather than getting the kick from something like a chili pepper, this sauce gives you a kick from hitting the cold receptors, along with the tang of the vinegar.

Of course you can add a pinch of chili pepper if you like (and my daughter likes...) — just that it tastes can  I put Lapsang Souchong and more like something you would expect, with slightly muddled flavors due to the activation of TRPV1, the capsaicin receptor.

Here are the ingredients:
1 cup prepared mustard (a grainy kind)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of Lapsang Souchong tea
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
1 tbsp chopped garlic
A couple of sprigs of thyme
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup brown sugar

Here's how I made it:

Boil a cup of water, add 2 tablespoons of Lapsang Souchong tea, and let brew for 6 to 7 minutes, to get all the smoky pine flavors out of the leaves. 

In a small saucepan, sautée chopped onion and garlic in butter until onion is translucent. Add mustard, vinegar, sugar, lemon, and thyme to the onion garlic mix. Add a quarter of the tea. Bring to a simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes. Taste. If not smoky enough, add a little more tea, stir and taste again. 

At this point you may want to add a little more sugar to balance the acidity that is highlighted by the tea. If you add too much sugar, then add a little more tea to get back the smoky tangy flavor. In fact, you should play with the proportions of this sauce to make it just right for you. 

Note that I didn't add any salt — the mustard I used had enough, but you may want to. No pepper either, but you may want to "kick it up a notch" as Emeril used to say, by adding some fresh ground pepper. My thought is that the meat or tofu should already have enough pepper.

Simmer some more, say 5 to 10 minutes, with stirring, then use or refrigerate. I expect that the sauce will get better after a night or two in the refrigerator, but I wouldn't keep it longer than 5 days. With luck you shouldn't have any left by that time! Note that you probably will have made more LS tea than needed for the sauce — enjoy it!

Here's the sauce in my saucepan — was stirring it with my rice paddle…