Wednesday, July 10, 2019

What happened at the Green Tea Processing Workshop at World Tea Expo.

Jason McDonald and Timmy Gipson were responsible for this fascinating 2-day workshop on green tea processing. I take the liberty of saying ”fascinating” even though I wasn’t physically there because it fascinated me from the start of the concept to the finish when I “attended” via iPhone.

The idea behind this workshop was to show how each kill-green process works and what each process brings to the cup. Kill-green is the phrase the Chinese use to describe the processes whereby the enzymes in the leaf are denatured and no longer play a role in the tea’s flavor development.

The Great Mississippi Tea Company's new garden in the mist. It will be ready for harvest in a few years.
As part of the workshop, Jason explained in detail how they go about preparing the soil and growing their plants to yield their exquisite teas.

Timmy and Jason and friends plucked and sorted the leaves from their Great Mississippi Tea Company tea farm just before coming to Vegas. 

Sorting the leaves.

To keep the leaves from jumping the gun and producing and then losing too many delicious stress chemicals before processing in Vegas, the leaves were transported in darkness with ice packs and moisture in a big rucksack.



Most of the leaves made it safely to Vegas, though some were too close to the icepacks and suffered a bit.

Once in Vegas, the leaves were allowed to wither overnight, then Jason and Timmy brought them to the Convention Center, ready to undergo the kill-green processes. 


The leaves in Vegas, ready to be processed. The wok and boiling pot are on the table, along with a big sieve to capture them.

After the kill-green discussed below, it was time for the leaves to be rolled in muslin, then dried. Here you can see the muslin cloths after rolling. The difference on color is quite striking. Normally you would expect the muslins from steaming (on the right) to be very pale, but as you can see they are brown, suggesting over-cooking.

Muslins after rolling.
It is important to note that for each pair of the kill-green processes, one group of people carried out one timing, while another group carried out the other timing. The differences in the flavors of the pairs may therefore not only be the result of timing, but also result of subtle differences in handling of the leaves. 

When it came time to taste the brewed teas, I was invited in by iPhone to share in people’s comments and to ask and answer questions. I took notes and Jason sent me his. The following results are compiled from these two sources.

Witnessing the tasting by iPhone!


What were the results? 

Leaves and liquors from the four processes. Clockwise from top:
Pan-fired: left 5 minutes, right 10 minutes;
Steamed: left 2 minutes, right 45 seconds;
Sous-vide: left 20 minutes, right 10 minutes;
Boiling: left 1 minutes, right 2 minutes.
The photo does not accurately reproduce the colors of the leaves. See below.

1) Pan-firing in Chinese and Korean manner: 

For this process the leaves were tossed in a wok. The advantage of this method is that the tea gains a slightly nutty toasty quality. The disadvantage is that the leaves can burn if you don’t keep tossing them and turning them over completely. 

Tossing leaves in a wok.
One of the most curious results of the pan-fired processing was that the 5 minute firing had more of the toasty quality than did the 10 minute firing, which was judged to be more vegetal and greener, even buttery, though still toasty. The 5 minute was bitter while the 10 minute was sweet. 

As you may be able to see from the picture, the 5 minute was somewhat darker as well, suggesting more oxidation and also more Maillard browning products, which give the toasty quality.

One possible explanation for the unexpected findings may lie in the handling. The 5 minute leaves may simply have gotten too hot.

2) Steaming in the Japanese way:  

Steamed leaves: left 1 minute, right 45 seconds.

Steaming also yielded a paradoxical result, possibly explained by issues with the steamer. It has been suggested that the Las Vegas altitude and lack of humidity might account for the results. However, water turns into vapor at a lower temperature at higher altitude and lower humidity, so the observed burnt quality at 45 seconds would have been less rather than more likely. 

The 45-second steaming gave a darker leaf, with uneven color, as if some of the leaves had been properly steamed and some had become too hot. This problem was confirmed at the tasting, where the 45-second tea was found to be less grassy than expected, and to have black tea notes. At the same time, the 45-second steam also didn’t allow enough time for breakdown of the leaf’s cell walls, so it was harder than the 2-minute to roll.

The 2-minute steaming gave a more classical green tea: lighter, more grassy, more vegetal, bitter and astringent.

3) Blanching in boiling water, as home-growers of tea might do: 

Blanched leaves: left 1 minute; right: 2 minutes.

At 1 minute the tea seemed more like what you would expect a green tea to be. The hairs on the tips remained, the roll was lighter so the cell walls were adequately broken down. The flavor was green and vegetal, somewhat bitter while buttery and light, with slight roastiness suggestive of pan-firing.

Two minutes was perhaps too long for blanching: there was an abundance of yellow stems from overcooking. On the other hand the brewed tea was lightly vegetal and smooth according to some. According to others the brewed tea was bitter with a biting astringency!  Another variable one has to take into account in processing is the difference in taste sensitivity among people, especially when it comes to bitterness and astringency.

4) Sous-vide: 

Sous-vide: left 10 minutes; right 20 minutes.

Sous-vide was the most successful method of the four, as both 10 minute and 20 minute processing yielded pleasant teas. I believe that this method is successful under “amateur” circumstances because it involves the fewest variables. The temperature of the bath is constant, there are fewer chances of one clump of leaves becoming more heated than another, and the vacuum means that oxygenation is stopped the moment all the air is sucked out of the bag.

The 10-minute tea was fluffy, with white tips still in evidence. The “green” aroma chemicals were less developed than were those in the 20-minute tea. The 20 minute tea was more vegetal, with a well-rounded though still bitter and grassy taste, and a dry, slightly buttery after-taste that induced salivation.  


Conclusion

Perhaps the most obvious conclusion from this workshop is that processing leaves for tea is not easy. There are so many variables that come into play, over many of which we have limited control. What would seem to be simple is in fact extraordinarily complicated—as complicated as the chemical processes in the leaf, and as sensitive to growth conditions and handling.

IMPORTANT ===>>>  

Want to learn more?  Jason and Timmy are preparing to host an exclusive limited-attendance tea plucking and processing workshop at The Great Mississippi Tea Company farm this coming September! 

Keep an eye on Facebook for specifics!



Saturday, May 18, 2019

How the tea leaf protects itself from too much UV irradiation

One of the burning questions people proposed to me in my survey is: why are mountain-grown teas so often more flavorful than teas grown in the valley?




A tea garden on high altitude slopes in Munnar, Kerala, India, with dramatic clouds in the background.

Of course there are multiple factors involved in the flavor of mountain-grown teas, including increased drainage of the soils, increased fog, which increases ambient humidity, and an increased chance of experiencing the stress of a cold snap. 

One of the most fascinating set of effects of high altitude is the result of higher levels of UV irradiation from the sun. 

UV light causes the leaf chlorplasts to form carotenes and their derivatives, carotenoids. These chemicals serve multiple functions, among which are:
  • Capture of UV light energy to transfer of that energy to chlorophyll for photosynthesis, or to dissipate it as heat;
  • Capture of excess hydrogen and reactive oxygen;
  • Serve as precursors for a number of useful compounds for the leaf cell, and for aroma compounds in tea.

Capture of UV light energy:

UV light from the sun comes in three different wavelength ranges:
  • UV-A, or near UV (315–400 nm)
  • UV-B, or middle UV (280–315 nm)
  • UV-C, or far UV (180–280 nm)
UV-C is completely absorbed by the atmosphere, while some UV-B and most UV-A gets through. The amount of UV-B that gets through depends on altitude: the higher the altitude the thinner the atmosphere, so plants grown at higher elevations are exposed to more UV-B light. 

Exposure to UV light leads the plant to produce carotenoids. These compounds and their precursors, called carotenes, absorb light at the blue and UV end of the spectrum and reflect light in the orange-red range—this is why carrots are orange to our eyes. By contrast, chlorophyll a, the major form of chlorophyll in tea leaves, absorbs and uses light energy primarily in the orange-red end of the spectrum, and reflects green light, making leaves appear green. (Note that chlorophyll b, which is present in smaller amounts, serves as an accessory energy collector for chlorophyll a. It absorbs light in the blue end of the spectrum, but not efficiently at wavelengths below 400nm; in other words it doesn't absorb much UV light.)

By contrast, carotenoids can capture UV-A light energy relatively efficiently, and to some extent can capture UV-B light successfully as well. Then they transfer the light energy to chlorophyll, or they simply dissipate the energy as heat. Incidentally (or perhaps not so incidentally!), in low light conditions (shade, rain, fog), the leaf makes carotenoids to help the chlorophyll capture more energy.

Capture of excess hydrogen and reactive oxygen:

Carotenoids provide a system for dealing with two problems the leaf encounters: the excess hydrogen (H) produced by photosynthesis; and especially the reactive oxygen (O) that comes from photosynthesis and from UV light damage. 

First, the excess hydrogen ions: more hydrogen ions are produced in photosynthesis than are needed for making the leaf’s building blocks, such as sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids. Some of this hydrogen goes to forming a compound called NADPH. 

Second, both photosynthesis and UVB light produce reactive oxygen, that is, oxygen atoms and oxygen-containing structures that react with other chemical compounds, oxidize them, and destroy them. For example, a reactive oxygen atom can attach itself to a polyunsaturated fatty acid in the cell membrane, in a process called lipid peroxidation. It then can build a bridge attaching the fatty acid to adjacent molecules, so the whole membrane breaks up. Other peroxidation reactions lead to breakup of proteins, RNA, and DNA. 

The carotenoids quickly (in a matter of nanoseconds!) take up the reactive oxygen produced. They hand the reactive oxygen over to enzymes that combine it with the hydrogen from NADPH to form water (H2O). In this way the threat posed by reactive oxygen is reduced, while at the same time, NADP is released ready to take up another hydrogen. Having handed over the oxygen, the carotenoids are ready to take up more reactive oxygen, and the cycle can begin all over again.

Aroma compounds from carotenes and carotenoids

Some of the most delicious aromas in teas are made from carotenes and carotenoids, especially aromas with a floral quality, such as rose, lavender, and violet. 

Tea rose 'Mrs Dudley Cross'. Tea roses got their name because many have an aroma reminiscent of black tea, not surprising considering they share many aroma chemicals!
Photo by 
Solicitr from Wikipedia.
Carotenoids can also be transformed into safranal—safranal is a color and aroma chemical found in saffron—that gives oolongs a subtle but fascinating flavor. 

Beta-damascenone, a carotene derivative, together with the chemical phenyl acetaldehyde found in tea, can give teas the smell and flavor of honey. 

Last in this list, but by far not the only aroma compound in tea derived from carotenoids, is methyl salicylate. It is derived from abscisic acid, which is formed from the carotenoid zeaxanthin when the leaf is stressed, for example with a cold snap. The leaf transforms abscisic acid into methyl salicylate, with its sweet smell of wintergreen, so delicious and desirable in high altitude Darjeelings.

The buildup of carotenes and carotenoids in tea plant leaves grown at high altitudes gives us one reason for their more delicious teas. There are many more reasons, as you can imagine. I’ll be writing about them all in my upcoming book, “The Science and Pleasures of Tea.” Will keep you posted! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Hello Friends!
So happy to have met with many of you this year, and hope that next year will bring even more get-togethers!  
Am now settled in Chelmsford, MA, near Boston, so when you are in the area, let me know. Here's my “tea” address: virginia@pairteas.com.
Speaking of tea, have been extra busy this year with tea events. The “tea” thread through the year has been about the aromas of tea: what they are, how they come about, and how they blend with flavors from other plants and foods.
Started in this direction by participating via Skype with members of the US League of Tea Growers (usteagrowers.com) at their annual meeting in April, hosted by Jason McDonald at The Great Mississippi Tea Company (www.greatmsteacompany.com). During the meeting, members processed Jason’s leaves into tea, which gave me the perfect opportunity to share the chemistry of the formation of tea aromas, and for participants to experience the aromas produced by the leaves as they are processed. It was tremendous fun to be able to interact with everyone as they sniffed the scent samples I had sent down to Jason.  
Jason’s leaves reappeared at World Tea Expo in Las Vegas in June, where they were used in the tea processing workshop. Was invited to repeat some of my presentation on the scents of teas at that workshop. Was fascinated to see how participants related the scents to their experiences creating and sipping teas.
World Tea Expo brought me the opportunity for another presentation, this one a workshop about pairing foods with teas. Jason brought his Black Magnolia tea, and Vikram Mathur of Yatra Teas (www.yatrateacompany.com) brought three teas, a green (Fatikcherra Estate, Tripura, Autumn Flush),  an oolong (Goomtee Estate, Darjeeling, First Flush) and a black (Halmari Estate, Assam, Second Flush). All these teas were delicious and, importantly, distinctive.  I decided to forego a powerpoint for this presentation—an excellent decision, I think, because it allowed me to interact with the participants more directly. Explained how the trigeminal system works, and how it influences tea/food interactions. Everyone then experienced the interactions for themselves—most amusing was participants’ reactions to pairing a dark chocolate with the green tea…contorted faces and expressions of revulsion, in strong contrast to the response to the same chocolate with the black teas, and all explained by the functions of the trigeminal system.  


Above, a photo of the teas, scones, and trigeminal temperature diagrams at the WTE tea pairing workshop, taken by tea blogger extraordinaire Sara Shacket (www.tea-happiness.com). The teas you see are, left to right, Fatikcherra, Goomtee, Halmari, and Black Magnolia.

Repeated the US League of Tea Growers presentation, this time for all tea lovers, at the PA Tea Festival this September, hosted by tea lover and experienced herbalist—she comes from a multi-generation family of herbalists—Susanna Reppert Brill, at her Rosemary House in Mechanicsburg PA, pictured below (www.therosemaryhouse.com). I had met Susanna at a presentation I gave for the Mid-Atlantic Tea Business Association, and was thrilled when she invited me to participate in the Festival.  

What a magical setting! My table was in herb herb and fairy garden, in the shade, with lovely fellow vendors, including a charming person from Dollies Tea Room (Clear Spring, MD, www.dolliestearoom.com) who sold some outrageously beautiful tea party hats (as well as tea, of course), and was so helpful with my table set-up and tear-down.

Here I am at the table, selling my book, Three Basic Teas & How to Enjoy Them. The profit from the sales went to support Direct Relief (directrelief.org), an organization that brought medical supplies and care to victims of this year’s hurricanes and fires, and is still helping with last year’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico—mine was a small contribution, but every penny helps!


Photo by Kenneth Haulton, www.KennethHaulton.com 

To my great surprise I was called back to Cornell in October for a conference on…tea! The Cornell take on tea was historical and sociological—for example the role of the Great Depression and war in elevating tea to a national beverage in South Asia as exports to Europe and the Americas were collapsing. My contribution pointed out the effects of global warming on the aroma compounds in teas. The effects are not good. 

Importantly, the conference sponsored an essay contest in which students were asked to reflect on what they learned at the conference. You can find the winning essays here: 

This year, I also put together a course for the World Tea Academy on creating blended teas using herbs and spices, based on the principles I use for tea and food pairing. The course is part of a curriculum that leads you to become a Certified Tea BlenderTM—check it out at https://worldteaacademy.com/pages/details/1.

Coming in 2019: 
The Scents of Tea Kit! Spent most of August through November writing the book and preparing materials for the Kit that Scott Svihula of Hula Consulting (www.hulaconsulting.com) and I are planning to send to market in time for World Tea Expo 2019—let me know if you want a sneak preview! 

WTE workshop: Jason McDonald and I are planning a workshop for WTE where we process his leaves in four different ways to give four different green teas—be sure to sign up while reduced rates apply—they end January 31st!  (https://www.worldteaexpo.com/register/)

Wishing you and yours tea-mendous joy and fulfillment through 2019 and beyond!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Smell survey at World Tea Expo 2018

Hello All! -- Here are the results of the Smell Survey we undertook at WTE 2018!

As you can see, each of us has a different take on the nature of the aromas present in tea, so when we each enjoy our favorite tea, no doubt we enjoy it for different reasons!

Thank you so much, Marzi PecenIndependent Tea Consultant, Educator and Writer Extraordinaire, for helping to administer the survey!

Copyright 2018 Virginia Utermohlen Lovelace MD
First of all I would like to thank all of you who participated! This was a pilot survey, so the findings listed here are provisional and await a much larger effort. However even with a small number of participants, some interesting observations emerged.
Rationale for the survey
I was inspired to carry out this survey by three papers I had read. Two discussed the genetics of our responses to ß-damascenone, a smell present in Damask roses, and ß-ionone, characteristic of violets. In the third, threshold responses to each of these aromas were examined.*
Barrels of Kentucky bourbon whiskey; ß-damascenone contributes to Kentucky bourbon's characteristic flavor. Image from Wikipedia.
Both aromas are present in teas: ß-damascenone primarily in black tea, and ß-ionone in all teas. Participants in the survey sniffed both aromas and rated their qualities.
Demographics
There were 55 participants with usable surveys, of whom 53 indicated gender—29 females and 20 males. The ages ranged from 18 to 74. Ten females and 5 males considered themselves beginners or novices when it comes to tea kowledge, and 19 females and 15 males considered their knowledge to intermediate or expert.
Effect of age on intensity of the aromas
Age came into play, as Plotto and colleagues suggested (see reference below). For their paper they looked at thresholds, the lowest concentration at which people could detect ß-damascenone, and found that people who were 45 years and over had higher thresholds than did younger people. While we didn’t measure thresholds, we did measure the intensity of the sensation given by each aroma. A lower intensity may generally reflect a higher threshold. Therefore I wasn’t surprised to find that the older participants didn’t find the sample of ß-damascenone to be as intense as did younger people. Although Plotto and colleagues didn’t mention any effect of age for ß-ionone, in our study older participants also found ß-ionone to be less intense. 
We do know that age influences our ability to smell, though data I collected many years ago suggests that this decline varies from person to person, with some people retaining their sense of smell into old age. For me at age 75, ß-damascenone is quite intense. I consider myself lucky in this respect! Or perhaps not so lucky, if the smell is unpleasant.** 
Qualities of the aromas
For ß-damascenone, 29 of 53 (55%) who responded to the smell found it to be rose-like and/or floral, while 24 did not find any floral quality in it. In fact some people indicated that it smelled like paint to them! 
Because ß-damascenone is present in black tea, it would have been interesting to see how people whose favorite tea was black responded, but their were only 8 people who cited a black tea as their favorite, so statistical analysis was impossible to carry out. There is a slight suggestion that people who considered black tea their favorite thought ß-damascenone was not quite as strong smelling, but more research is clearly needed, as this may simply be  question of age—in other work I have done, black tea tends to be a favorite of older people.
For ß-ionone, 39 (71%) of 55 participants could not detect any floral quality in the aroma. Instead they found it to be woody and often pungent and sour, as has been reported in the studies cited. ß-ionone is present in all teas derived from Camellia sinensis, so this observation raises the question of whether these off-aromas may be involved in some people’s avoidance of tea. However, clearly people at WTE were not avoiders!
Interestingly, 19 (36%) of 53 participants could not sense the floral qualities of either odor.  Importantly, this phenomenon did not influence their choice of favorite tea.
Bulgarian Rose from the Rose Valley, Bulgaria near Rosino Village. ß-ionone and ß-damascenone both contribute significantly to the aroma of roses.
With apologies to Gertrude Stein and Will Shakespeare, a rose may be a rose, but your rose is not my rose...and a rose by any other name may not smell as sweet to you as it does to me...
Image from Wikipedia.
Favorite teas
As for favorite type of tea: 51 participants stated a favorite type; of these 10 (20%) preferred green, 29 (57%) chose oolong, white, or BaiHao (all floral teas), and only 8 (15%) picked black tea. Interestingly, those who chose oolong/white/BaiHao were signficantly more likely to state that they liked their favorite tea’s aftertaste. People who listed green tea as their favorite were significantly less likely to appreciate its aftertaste—was it because green tea aftertaste tends to be bitter/astringent, or because green tea tends to have relatively little aftertaste when compared with oolong? I cannot tell.
Bottom lines 
  1. What you experience in tea  and what I experience may be radically different, yet our tea preferences may not reflect these differences. 
  2. Oolong/white/BaiHao teas are particularly appreciated for their aftertaste. Can we use this information to spread interest in these teas among the general public? and if so, how?
Those are the results for now—so many unanswered questions!

Next year we’ll do a more extensive survey, so let me know what kinds of questions you would like to ask!
References
* Here are the articles:
  • Jeremy F. McRae et al. Identification of Regions Associated with Variation in Sensitivity to Food- Related Odors in the Human Genome. Current Biology 23, 1596–1600, August 19, 2013, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2013.07.031. 
  • Sara R. Jaeger et al. A Mendelian Trait for Olfactory Sensitivity Affects Odor Experience and Food Selection. Current Biology 23, 1601–1605, August 19, 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2013.07.030. A. 
  • A. Plotto, K.W. Barnes, K.L. Goodner.   Specific Anosmia Observed for β-Ionone, but not for α-Ionone: Significance for Flavor Research. Journal of Food Science. Vol. 71,  401-406 Nr. 5, 2006. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2006.00047.x.

** On the other hand, one decline I have noticed in my sense of smell is a decline in my ability to smell sulfur compounds. In the cross-sectional study that we (Willemien Steengracht MD and I, for her medical thesis at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam) carried out, the most notable decline in senstivity by age was in sensitivity to the smell of natural gas, i.e. mercaptans. Skunk smell consists of mercaptans—I have observed that I am slower than my daughters to perceive the aroma of skunk roadkill as we approach and pass over it. 

For those of us who are getting older: we probably shouldn't rely on our sense of smell to warn us of a gas leak...

Monday, July 2, 2018

World Tea Expo 2018 Workshop Post 3: how can we pair foods and teas in a food service situation?

In Post 2, we discussed how specific foods go well (or poorly) with specific teas. In this post: the main underlying question that came up in the course of the workshop—please please comment on the answers we developed!

That question is: what is the most efficient way to ensure that your guests pair tea with foods successfully, so that both tea and food shine? At fancy afternoon tea services, people are served a slew of foods, often in a three-tier curate, and then are asked to choose a pot of tea to accompany the foods. Inevitably there will be foods that don't go well with the tea a person has chosen:



What to do?

The solution I proposed was to have different curates, depending on what tea a person chooses. 

This idea was immediately shot down as utterly impractical. Just as an example, suppose each person at a table chose a different tea—how many curates would that entail? Can you just imagine what that table would look like?!!!

So the next thought that came to mind was to offer the same foods but as tapas, so each person could first choose their tea, then choose the tapas that would go with that tea. In general you would only need four or maybe five sets of tapas—you would serve what you would otherwise put on a curate in separate small dishes.  

This seemed to the workshop to be a workable plan—a Tea & Tapas Bar. (Worth noting: tapas are considered a major dining trend for 2018—https://www.foodandwine.com/news/food-trends-2018.)

Or maybe a Wine, Tea, and Tapas Bar? Such an arrangement would suit me! I don't drink wine because it makes me sick—surely there is a large number of people who, like me, feel out of place at a wine and tapas bar because they don't drink wine. Don't you think they would enjoy tea, especially when served in wine glasses! At the workshop we thought so!

Photo by Mel Turner from unsplash.com
Here are two places I know of where tea is successfully served in wine glasses (tell us about more!):

• For those of you in the Boston area: L'Espalier under the aegis of Tea Sommelier Cynthia Gold.
• For all of you in Benelux: Kristin van Eetvelt's—see https://kristinvaneetvelt.be

==>>> Even though Kristin's webpage is in Flemish, you can appreciate the photos of her approach to tea and food service! TAKE A LOOK AT THE VIDEO! (no words, just music and Kristin and guests and chef and tea and food). And please contact her with your questions—her website is in Flemish, but she speaks and writes English, and the word for "Contact" in Flemish is..."Contact"...























Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Such fun at World Tea Expo 2018! - Post #2—Workshop Part 2: teas and scones and chocolate

==>> If you were at World Tea Expo 2018, TAKE THE SURVEY!!! PLEASE!!! You will find the link in an email.

In the first post in this series I described our discussion of the trigeminal system and how teas and foods fit into the temperature response scheme of this system.

After we sampled the four teas,* we tasted them with food. Centerplate, the catering company at the Convention Center, provided three different kinds of scones: blueberry, raisin, and chocolate; with three different preserves from Bonne Maman: blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry.

This is not a picture of an actual scone from the workshop, though they looked like this one, but with some sugar crystals on the  outside...I meant to photograph an actual scone, but got distracted by eating them...despite sitting around, they were really quite good! And the preserves we used were in little pots, like this one. Photo by Sam Edwards on Unsplash.com.

To everyone's delight, the blueberry scones with blueberry jam brought out the refreshingly grassy qualities of the green tea. By contrast the flavors of the other teas were destroyed by this combination. 

Instead, the first flush Darjeeling sang harmoniously with the raisin scones and the strawberry jam, while the two black teas (Halmari Assam and Black Magnolia) were even more delicious when paired with the chocolate scones with raspberry jam.

A photo taken before we tasted the scones, but you can get an idea of the set-up.
Photo by Jo from Tea Blending Sisters (http://www.teablendingsisters.com 
Perhaps the most dreadful pairing was chip-like dark chocolate wafers with green tea. We all laughed as the chorus of ughs and eeuws and yucks spread through the room as each person tasted the combination. Not to mention the faces everyone made!

Whereupon I suggested cleaning out the bad flavors with good ones, by pairing the black teas with the chocolate wafers. 

So good indeed! especially when scooping up some raspberry jam with the wafer, taking a bite, and then sipping the tea. This process brought out the maltiness and coffee-like qualities of the Assam (confession time: a coffee malted milkshake/frappe with chocolate syrup is one of my all time favorites), while the Black Magnolia accentuated the deliciously tart qualities of the chocolate and raspberries.

The reasons for these reactions: blueberries activate the same cool/cold receptors on the trigeminal nerve in mouth and nose as does the green tea; Darjeelings, like oolongs, activate the warm receptors, as do strawberries and raisins; while the "hot" receptors are activated by dark chocolate, raspberries, and black teas. When you try to activate the hot and the cold receptors simultaneously by pairing green tea with chocolate, the clash is inevitable.

The take-home lesson of this phase of the workshop was: not all scones go with all teas. The pretty three-tiered curates, replete with scones and jams and bonbons, does a disservice to both tea and food. You will inevitably encounter a tea/food combination that makes one or the other taste dreadful. 

Better to have some way to serve teas and foods so that they pair successfully. 

After some discussion we came to the conclusion that a tapas tea bar with suggestions for pairing would be the answer.

Oh, and we didn't stop there—more about pairing and menu building in my next post!

* Here are the teas again:

From Yatra Tea (https://www.yatrateacompany.com):

FATIKCHERRA ESTATE, TRIPURA, AUTUMN FLUSH 2017
HARVEST MONTH: NOVEMBER 2017
GRADE: GSFTGFOP1
Clean liquor, with a savory aroma of cooked greens, and robust notes of vegetable broth.

Fatikcherra was the first estate in Tripura to produce organic tea in 1998. The estate itself is surrounded by dense forests of tropical trees, including teak, sal, and bamboo. The area experiences heavy rainfall, especially between June and September (the Monsoon season).
The tea industry in this eastern state of India was started by the people of East Bengal. Tripura is the 5th largest tea producing state in India, after Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu & Kerala.


GOOMTEE ESTATE, DARJEELING, FIRST FLUSH 2017
HARVEST MONTH: APRIL 2017
GRADE: FTGFOP1
Golden liquor, flowery fragrance, and crisp, well-rounded taste.

Goomtee is as iconic a Darjeeling estate as they come, its tryst with tea dating back to 1899. Hilly slopes at altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 ft. are abundant with teas of the China variety. Blessed with moderately cool temperature and adequate rainfall, Goomtee consistently produces Darjeeling tea of the highest quality.


HALMARI ESTATE, ASSAM, SECOND FLUSH 2017
HARVEST MONTH: JULY 2017
GRADE: GTGFOP1 
Bright ruby liquor, notes of caramel, delicious malty flavor. 

Located in the Moran Belt on the rich, fertile plains of Upper Assam, above the Brahmaputra river, Halmari's consistent commitment to producing quality Assam teas has rendered it one of the best tea estates in the world. By their own admission, production of top quality tea didn't commence until the 1980s. Since then, Halmari has rightly earned the title of top producer in Assam.
The limited production GTGFOP1 grade tea is an award winning, pure, Orthodox tea with an abundance of chunky, golden tips. An iconic tea with global appeal! 


*()*()*()*()*()*()*()*()*()*

and the tea from The Great Mississippi Tea Company:

BLACK MAGNOLIA, THE GREAT MISSISSIPPI TEA COMPANY

Jason says: " “Black Magnolia” is a unique black tea produced using a heated oxidation process that adds a Maillard Browning step similar to pan firing an Oolong."