Wednesday, June 29, 2016

=> Red, White, and Blue Cheese Blueberry Brown Betty for Chinese Green Tea <=

Last 5th of July, I posted this recipe on Facebook, a day late for the 4th of July celebrations here in the US. I've posted it early this year, so that those of you who want to get prepared will have time!

Here's a very special way to use the blueberries that are in season now! This dessert goes delectably with a Chinese green tea—refreshing yet with slightly toasty flavors.
The blueberry, lemon, and blue cheese flavors hit the cool "green" receptors, as does the tea, while the whole wheat breadcrumbs, the cinnamon, and the tea's slightly brown side, aim for the warmer receptors, making for a complex concert of flavors that linger happily on the tongue. BTW, the saltiness of the cheese takes away any bitterness in the tea. Here goes!
2 pints (about 1 liter) fresh blueberries
1.5 cups (350 ml) white sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons (10 ml) true cinnamon
5 oz. (about 150g) mild blue cheese (can also be 6 oz. - depends on the size of the package you can get)
8 oz. breadcrumbs (about 250 ml) (I used whole wheat panko - think regular breadcrumbs may be a better choice - the butter will soak in better)
1/4 lb (one stick) (about 110g) butter
Method: Preheat oven to 400ºF/200ºC.*
In a colander, wash the blueberries. Be sure to carefully look for and remove stems and any berry that has seen better days. Drain and put in a bowl. Add sugar, cinnamon, and lemon, mix, and set aside. (if you are tempted to taste a berry at this point, by all means give in: the berries will taste sweet and cool and fresh, with the slight and slightly delayed tang of the cinnamon to cap the experience! I confess to tasting several...).
In another bowl, combine the bread crumbs and crumbled blue cheese (as crumbled as possible). Melt half of the butter, and drizzle over the cheese-bread combo, and mix well.
Layer the bread-cheese combo in a well-buttered 2 quart dish, followed by a layer of the blueberries, then top with another layer of the bread-cheese combo. Cover (I covered my dish with foil) and put in the over for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, remove cover, dot generously with remaining butter, and place back in the oven uncovered for another 5 to 8 minutes to brown a little. When it looks good to you, remove again, let cool, and then refrigerate overnight. Enjoy the next day with the Chinese Green Tea. Some people might like whipped cream on the betty,** but I think it diminishes the complexity of the flavors.

Top: Red, white, and blue - berries, sugar, and cinnamon before the addition of lemon juice; bottom: the finished product with tea (yes, it crumbles when you serve it, mixing all the flavors together)
* Metric conversions are approximate, so use your own judgment! If it looks good and tastes good, then you've got it right! Please send me any corrections!!

** Something to do in your spare time: look up the differences among brown betties, cobblers, crisps, crumbles, grunts, slumps, buckles, etc. — I've called this dessert a brown betty, but it may not be, depending on the definition. In the old book on which this recipe is based, it's called a grunt, but I'm not sure that's correct either.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Thoughts about yogurt

Yesterday I enjoyed a great meal at our local Turkish restaurant, Istanbul.  We enjoyed our lentil soup (kirmizi mercibek corbasi) with cacik, their homemade Turkish yogurt with fresh parsley, cucumbers and garlic. The lentil soup is pretty spicy, so my daughter and I add lemon and then fold in cacik, to give an absolutely delectable combination, with just the right amount of heat. (Yes, I have to sip the soup repeatedly as I add cacik to get the level just right!)

Lentil soup at Istanbul Restaurant, Ithaca NY.

What is the yogurt doing for this combination?

First, the parsley, cucumbers and garlic, as well as the lemon, activate the cold receptors—this activation helps to dampen the activity of the hot receptors, so the overall heat is just right. 

Second, I was wondering about the fat in their yogurt (which, incidentally, is not very creamy, unlike the Greek yogurt you can buy around here). Technically, fat also helps turn off the hot receptor TRPV1, but yogurt’s sourness/acidity should turn that receptor on. When tasted by itself, this restaurant’s yogurt isn’t particularly sour—maybe the parsley/cucumber/garlic, by turning off TRPV1 are cutting some of the sourness as well. But did fattiness contribute to the decrease in heat?

My attempt to answer this question led me into the maze of literature—most of it fairly old actually—on the sensory properties of yogurts with different percentages of fat.

Not only can yogurt contain varying amounts of fat, it can also contain varying amount of sugar, and dairy proteins, all of which could influence sourness, as of course differences in lactic acid concentration, and citric acid concentration as well. Further, lactic acid has a bitter taste for some people, which may also influence the perception of sour. The result is a complex of taste receptor and trigeminal interactions that are, at least at first blush, difficult to parse.

As described in the most recent paper I could find on the subject, trained panels evaluated the sensory characteristics of a number of commercial yogurts. The panelists learned to recognize the 
different possible flavors by tasting solutions with characteristics flavors. 

(One example that I, having had children and grandchildren, particularly appreciated is contained in Table 2 of this article:

An aromatic that is sour and cheesy, reminiscent of baby vomit
  • DiGiorno Grated Romano Cheese = 6.0 (aroma)
  • DiGiorno Grated Romano Cheese = 9.0 (flavor)
  • Butyric acid (character reference)
The numbers are indicative of the panelists’  perception of intensity.)

All in all, the authors tested for 25 flavor/taste characteristics and 10 texture, mouthfeel, and mouthcoating attributes.

The correlations among the flavor characteristics were particularly instructive. For example,
“overall sour, lactic, and sour taste were significantly correlated to sharp/bite flavor. Sharp/bite comprises of sour, astringent, and pungent impressions, thus this correlation was understandable.”**

These correlations are all the more understandable if you know that sour, astringent and sharp/bite are all produced by activation of TRPV1. Although I prefer to reserve the word “pungent” for chemicals that activate the cold receptor TRPA1, such as wasabi, this confusion is also understandable as well, as both sharpness and pungency refer to the pain caused by activation of either of these receptors.

But back to fat: overall it is hard to find evidence that the fat in yogurt modifies sourness or sweetness. 

In the Brown/Chambers paper, there is no strong correlation between fattiness and sourness or sweetness. Earlier studies seem to indicate either no effect or dampening of sourness by fat. 

One study may give us insight into why there are such differences: the authors of this study did not lump all the panelists together, but looked at the effect of individual differences on the relationship between sourness and fattiness. These individual differences turn out to be critical, as some people found no effect and others sis. This research described in this paper was done long before we had DNA analysis, so we cannot say for certainty that these individual differences in perception were caused by individual differences in the gene for TRPV1 or its expression. However, it seems to me that this may be the cause. The genetics of TRPV1 in humans are extremely complex, with possibilities for both gain and loss of function, so that one may readily expect huge variation in response.****

In any case, this particular yogurt from Istanbul restaurant is not very sour to me, but whether it is the cold receptor activators (parsley, cucumber, and garlic) or the fattiness, I cannot say.

* Marissa D. Brown, Delores H. Chambers. Sensory Characteristics and Comparison of Commercial Plain Yogurts and 2 New Production Sample Options. Journal of Food Science. Volume 80, Issue 12, pages S2957–S2969, December 2015.

** Grammar as in the text.

*** H. Tuorila, et al. Sensory attributes and acceptance of sucrose and fat in strawberry yoghurts. International Journal of Food Science and Technology (1993) 28, 359-369.

**** Ruslan Dorfman, Hubert Tsui, Michael W. Salter, and H.-Michael Dosch. TRPV1 GENETICS.  In Vanilloid Receptor TRPV1 in Drug Discovery, Gomtsyan, Arthur and Faltynek, Connie R (eds.) ISBN 9780470175576, pp. 134 - 149.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Some more about smell…

At World Tea Expo 2016 I presented the following graph about smell, which shows where in the brain our awareness of smell is put together:

Odorants come into the nose either through the nostrils (orthonasal) or through the back of the throat (retronasal). There they are captured by receptors in the endings (dendrites) of nerve cells poking through the olfactory epithelium (marked 4 in the diagram) at the roof of the nose. The bodies of these nerve cells (6) are interspersed among the cells of the olfactory epithelium, while a long extension of each (the axon) makes its way through small holes the skull (3) to reach the olfactory bulb (1). Ends of groups of axons gather together to form glomeruli (5), and together they contact mitral cells (2) in the olfactory bulb. 

The ratio of axons to mitral cells is approximately 1000 to 1, so you can see that the mitral cells are in a position to calculate how much odorant is coming through: the greater the number of receptor cells activated the more likely it is that the mitral cell will be triggered and the stronger the signal sent to the  brain.

At the same time, the fact that the mitral cells each receive messages from at least a thousand receptor cells means that the mitral cells are in a position to simplify the message to be sent to the brain. in order to extract a specific message from the huge number of possible odorant signals the mitral cells interact among themselves and among other cells in the olfactory bulb, activating some and inhibiting others. The net effect is a “sparse” message that is then sent on to the pyriform cortex.

The pyriform cortex takes the message and, before contacting the next set of brain structures, assembles the input into “odor objects.” For example a group of smells may be characterized by the pyriform cortex as minty or citrusy. The more sensitive you are to a group of odors, the more likely you are to assemble them into these objects (configural representation), and the less likely you are to perceive them as separate elemental odors.*

The pyriform cortex next sends on its analysis to several different parts of the brain, as shown in the box in the diagram above. Ultimately the message arrives in the orbitofrontal cortex right above the eyes, where the odor’s identity is finally brought into awareness, and its importance and valence (either pleasant or unpleasant) evaluated.

As you can see in the diagram, the superior frontal cortex may also get into the act. Its activation depends on whether the the odor is hedrnically simple or complex. What does this mean? Some aromas are either pleasant or unpleasant, in other words hedrnically simple. By contrast some aromas are hedonically complex, because they have both pleasant and unpleasant components. The aroma of oolongs is one such type of aroma: it contains a number of pleasant odorants in the jasmine family, but it also contains a considerable amount of indole, which is also found (for example) in fecal material—stinky, in other words. When we encounter hedonically complex smells, the superior frontal cortex sends the message: sit up and take notice! 

BTW, that’s why the best perfumes aways contain a less-than-pleasant component (such as indole): it makes a person pay more attention to the person wearing the perfume!

* Thierry Thomas-Danguin et al. The perception of odor objects in everyday life: a review on the processing of odor mixtures. Frontiers in Psychology. June 2014 | Volume 5 | Article 504 ; doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00504 

** Fabian Grabenhorst, Edmund T. Rolls, Christian Margot. A hedonically complex odor mixture produces an attentional capture effect in the brain. NeuroImage 55 (2011) 832–843.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

What percentage of flavor is smell?

You may have heard people say that “taste” is really something like 80% smell. At our World Tea Expo 2016 workshop I was asked whether this were a fact.

The truth is that we can’t do such a calculation. The purposes of taste and smell are quite different from each other: taste gives us the nutritional value of an ingesting, while smell allows us to know what it is we are ingesting. Together with trigeminal sensation which serves as a sort of volume dial, each makes a necessary contribution to flavor. One modality without the others simply can’t lead to the full perception of flavor.

I think that the reason why this notion of percentage comes up is that the effect of holding one’s nose when tasting something is quite astonishing. Suddenly you lose the full richness of a flavor, to have it rush back once you let go.

It is much harder to “hold” your tongue the way you can hold your nose, so we don’t have an everyday way to experience the loss of taste. Still, loss of taste buds means loss of flavor as surely as does loss of smell. As a physician I have been with many a patient who has lost his or her taste buds—whose tongue, due to chemotherapy for example, is devoid of taste papillae. Patients with this condition complain that food has no flavor and that food aromas, when sniffed, are dampened and often unpleasant.

Taste, smell, and trigeminal sensations are only three of the peripheral sensory inputs that influence flavor. Vision and hearing also contribute, and you will get more flavor from a food if you are hungry than if you are sated, so the internal state of the body is also figured in. We also consciously or unconsciously compare our memories and expectations with the information given by our senses to determine how flavorful something is. 

In other words, what we experience as flavor is the product of the brain’s analysis of all manner of inputs, and its attribution of flavor to sensations coming from the mouth. That’s why it’s impossible to parse the sources of flavor in terms of percentages. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hot fudge sundaes and thoughts about tea.

So yesterday I celebrated some good news by having a hot fudge sundae (I mourn bad news in the same way, too—always satisfying!)…and got to thinking why such a contrast in temperatures, both actual and virtual, would work in the mouth, because of course it does. 

Which brings me to the notion of contrasts in pairing, and the problems of contrasts with tea.

if you drink a green tea, for example, then have some good quality dark chocolate, then sip the tea again, the tea usually tastes like so much warm water. The chocolate has turned on the hot receptor, which then turns off the cool/cold receptor to which green tea volatiles bind. 

By contrast, with the hot fudge sundae, you can experience the hot and chocolaty first, and the cold and vanilla-rich second, or vice versa. However you do it, the succession of flavors is clear and each flavor comes through on successive spoonfuls.

Why the difference?  My feeling is that the fats in both the ice cream and the chocolate serve to dampen the hot receptor, so that the “cooler” volatiles in the chocolate come through—if you ever had hot fudge all by itself, you’ll find that it tastes different from hot fudge when coupled with vanilla ice cream. In both instances a flavor that we recognize as chocolate comes through, but the chocolate tastes duller, pastier, and more fatty with the ice cream. 

Interestingly, the less fatty chocolate sauces get lost when you have them with high quality (or even not so high quality) vanilla ice cream. I'm thinking of the desserts I've had in Europe, where chocolate sauce is much "thinner."

By not containing fat, green tea cannot overcome the inhibition of the cold receptor by the hot. Note that with Earl Grey tea the opposite occurs, namely that the “cool” of the bergamot inhibits the “hot” of the black tea. Similarly, with chocolates containing Earl Grey, the chocolate usually don’t have much of a chance to be tasted. In sum, it’s a question of proportion. In my next post will talk about an amazingly delicious exception to this rule that I experienced at World Tea Expo 2016!

By the way, July 25 is National Hot Fudge Sundae Day, so this post comes a bit early…but I’m in the right place to celebrate it: while the location where the sundae originated is in dispute, Ithaca NY, my home town, can claim the first newspaper ad for sundaes (strawberry not chocolate, but it doesn't matter!).

Ad from the Ithaca Daily Journal, May 28, 1892, via Wikipedia.

And looking to Europe: The Guardian has an excellent article about different forms of chocolate sauce. Notice the descriptions of the chocolate in the different recipes!

Monday, June 20, 2016

World Tea Expo Day 3: about Selena Ahmed’s Skill Building Workshop “Taste & Tea Chemistry.“

On Friday morning I had the good fortune to attend Selena Ahmed’s skill building workshop, “Taste & Tea Chemistry.“

Selena is Assistant Professor of Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems at the University of Montana at Bozeman, where she studies the effects of the environment on the chemicals (and therefore the flavors) in tea. As her university webpage indicates, Her focal study system is tea agro-forestry and subsistence food systems in China’s Yunnan Province in the context of climate change and dietary transition.”  A major point she made, to quote from one of her papers: “The taste of plants, particularly bitterness, may guide societies in the search for medicinal plants and beneficial phytochemicals.” *
In her workshop we offered some tastes, such as the taste of caffeine, one of the methylxanthines (along with theobromine) in tea (note that theophylline, another methylxanthine, is rarely if ever in tea).

Here is the diagram Selena showed to accompany these tastes:

You can see some squiggly lines next to some letters. These represent the receptors for each taste. The bitter receptor in the lower right corner. As you can see it has two tails and loops in between. The upper tail sticks out of the taste bud cell and grabs on to the bitter chemical. The loops serve to anchor the receptor in the cell membrane, and the lower tail sticks into the inside of the cell. When the upper tail has a bitter chemical attached to it, the lower tail changes shape, and starts a series of reactions inside the cell that leads to our perception of bitter.

Caffeine is bitter, though not to equally bitter to everyone. One of the reason for variation lies in individual differences in the structures of the bitter taste receptors. There are about 40 different bitter receptor molecule structures, each of which is coded by a gene in the cell’s DNA. The gene for a receptor for caffeine, TAS2R43, is known to vary from person to person, and leads to differences in coffee liking. **

Next we tasted glutamate, a major chemical for umami taste. Sixty percent of glutamate in muscle exists as free glutamate, that is, not built into a protein. Thus when we bite into a piece of meat, the taste we get is primarily that of glutamate. It was interesting to me that the participants had difficulty both in detecting and then in naming the flavor. We are well accustomed to sensing the other tastes, but umami is elusive. As Selena pointed out in her slide, our appreciation of umami as a specific taste came late in history, and came thanks to the work of Kikunae Ikeda, a chemist at Tokyo Imperial University—his paper is dated 1909. He noticed that Japanese seaweed has a taste that was different from the usual four, and proceeded to discover that glutamate contributed a specific taste that he called “umami.” The discovery of specific receptors for umami taste on taste bud cells further solidified the notion that umami is a specific taste.

Finally we tasted gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA)—had never tasted it before. GABA is supposed to have a meaty umami taste, though I can’t say I tasted it very clearly. GABA is an odd chemical in that it is a neurotransmitter that dampens nerve function throughout the nervous system. It is present in a number of teas, especially pu-erh, and has been said to contribute to the soothing effects of this tea. Interestingly, it can be used at very low concentrations together with naringenin from oranges to reduce bitterness and mineral tastes (see patent:

Then came some of the aroma chemicals we find in tea. The first was nerolidol, which to my great shame I did not specifically recognize, even though I had use it in my own talk, and therefore had spent a good deal of time smelling it during the past months. To me, nerolidol is the faintest of smells, rose-like, yet woody. The word elusive again comes to mind.

But I did hit geraniol on the nose (if I may say it that way). Geraniol is one of the trio of monoterpenoids— linalool, geraniol, and nerol—that can be found in virtually every tea, and also in roses, where they give the flowers their characteristic cool smell. Geraniol, not surprisingly, can be found in geraniums—that slightly “off” geranium smell that catches you in the throat comes in part from geraniol. The “catch” part  comes from activation of the cold TRPA1 receptor on the trigeminal nerve.

All in all there were 10 smells, from linalool with its fresh rose smell, to two different pine-related compounds, terpineol and pinene, to citrus aromas. Our table had a lot of fun figuring out how to describe each one. 

The climax of the workshop was tasting high mountain versus low mountain oolongs, and high mountain oolongs from the spring and the summer (monsoon) season. The first pair were both from a spring harvest, processed more or less in the same way, and yet were as different as night and day. The high mountain was highly floral and fruity, whereas the low mountain was distinctly less so, and more woody.  And the monsoon tea was so flat compared with the spring tea. These differences can be explained by the striking differences in composition that Professor Ahmed showed us—a clear example of the effects of environment on tea.

Here I am in my pink outfit with (left to right) my table companions Tico Aran of JoJo Tea MiamiKuei-Chen Fang, of Jhentea, Taiwan and New York, Matthew Berning from the National Society of Collegiate Tea Drinkers, and Marzi Pecen, tea connoisseur, teacher, and consultant. Next to Marzi stands Selena Ahmed herself with Noah ten Broeck, chef and all around helper and facilitator.

 * Selena Ahmed, Uchenna Unachukwu, John Richard Stepp, Charles M. Peters, Chunlin Long, Edward Kennelly.Pu-erh tea tasting in Yunnan, China: Correlation of drinkers’ perceptions to phytochemistry. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 132, Issue 1, 28 October 2010, Pages 176–185.

** Nicola Pirastu, et al. Association Analysis of Bitter Receptor Genes in Five Isolated Populations Identifies a Significant Correlation between TAS2R43 Variants and Coffee Liking. Published: March 19, 2014.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

World Tea Expo - Day 2: so much to savor!

Back home finally, and now have a chance to catch up on my posts. So much to savor on Day 2, I hardly know where to begin! 

As you may have gathered, I am fascinated by oolongs—and they were the subject of my talk with Donna Fellman. Was planning to attend Thomas Shu’s WTE focussed tasting of oolongs Thursday morning, but met up with people, got to talking about all manner of projects, so missed that talk.

Probably not quite the same as his workshop, but Thomas Shu’s talk at the International Tea Importers (ITI) pavilion told us a lot about oolongs. He was introduced by James Norwood Pratt, tea proselytizer extraordinaire. 

James Norwood Pratt on the left, and Thomas Shu in the middle, talking about oolongs.

And while he talked we tasted several oolongs. The last but far from least of these was (if I heard correctly) a Special Orchid oolong (Tung Ting)—flowery, fruity, honeyed, sweet. I could have sat there sniffing the aroma all day.

Had to take a picture of the tea...

So what are these projects I mentioned above? One fascinating project is happening at UC-Davis, namely the Global Tea Initiative under the leadership of Professor Katherine Burnett.  Professor Burnett is an expert on East Asian art, and came to appreciate tea as a global cultural object with local characteristics in taste and tradition. One of her big questions is how Chinese tea culture came to be transformed into such diverse “ways of tea.” As she pointed out to me, the tea pot was developed by the Chinese in the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)*—prior to this point tea was ground to a powder like matcha and brewed directly in the cup. In the early years of the succeeding dynasty (Ming) teapots became ubiquitous in China, yet, according to Prof. Burnett, there was a considerable lag in their use elsewhere, for example in Vietnam. 

Something to ponder: was the tea available from China at that time best consumed after grinding? Certainly the bricks were beyond dry, and may have crumbled rather than yield leaf.

More about projects in a future post—meanwhile my next post will be about Day 3 at World Tea Expo 2016, and Selena Ahmed’s important talk about (among other things) the effects of the environment on tea chemistry and flavor.

* That’s the dynasty started by the Mongol chief Kublai Khan. After Kublai’s death, the empire gradually fell into disarray, with famines** and lawlessness. After the last of the Mongol emperors fled North in 1368, Han Chinese took over the empire and thus began the Ming dynasty.

** Famines were not only due to the ravages of armies, but also due to the beginnings of the Little Ice Age—cold summers began suddenly at the end of the 1200’s. The Little Ice Age lasted until around 1870, and is definitely over now!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

World Tea Expo Day 1: Organoleptic Experience of Tea

Attentive audience, great questions, and of course the experience of oolong teas together with whiffs of their component aromas…hope our attendees enjoyed our skill-building workshop as much as we didi!

“We” are not just Donna Fellman of World Tea Academy—among other things, Donna gave us details about the manufacture of oolong and about what to look for in a good oolong, not to mention some secrets of cupping—but also Marzi Pecen, who spoke about the scents we experienced—not only does Marzi know tea but she has had extensive experience with perfumery in France—and Suzette Hammond, another major contributor to the conference, and Ana Kotar, who together with Suzette skillfully brewed the teas and handed out the aroma paddles.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the workshop for me was to experience how much the flavors of the teas were enhanced when we sniffed the aromas then tasted the teas. It was as if sniffing one of the tea’s component aromas, such as jasmine, “primed the pump”—the aroma came to the fore in the tea, but even more importantly, the tea tasted richer and more complex.

Much discussion, as a consequence, on how to pair teas with foods—clearly foods have aromas and flavors too, so if you pick the right combination, tea and food together can be more delicious than either component alone. But I can tell you, if you pick the wrong combination…oh my!  a waste! more often than not the tea tastes like so much hot water! 

Which is probably why so many people said that they preferred drinking their tea by itself, without food...

Here's Donnna—she is working like crazy here to make a whole slew of events as success!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Wheels and receptors

Was thinking about the tea flavor wheels out there, and the wine flavor wheels, too. The purpose of such a wheel, as Ann C. Noble, who developed the wine wheel, points out, is to help the taster recognize the different flavor elements in a wine (or tea or coffee or beer or other beverage). The structure of these wheels helps you go from, say, recognizing that a flavor is fruity, to experiencing the fruitiness as citrus, to figuring out that the fruity flavor in question is reminiscent of lemon.  

The basic categories in flavor wheels are based in heuristics: in other words we recognize something as having a fruity flavor thanks to our life’s experience with fruit flavors, so fruity  becomes a category in the list. 

These categories have little to do with receptors. For example, in the standard Wine Aroma Wheel, “burned” (which leads to coffee, burnt toast, and smoky) comes under the category of “woody,” but from a receptor point of view “burned” should belong with the category "spicy" or maybe “pungent” because burnt compounds activate the hot receptor TRPV1. Along the same line, it's interesting that in the tea aroma wheel above, "spicy" includes both "hot" and "cooling."

The purpose of a receptor-based flavor wheel would be to help with pairing rather than with flavor/aroma identification. Am working on it!

My question to you: have you made use of a flavor wheel, and if so, how?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Some oolong scents...

Sorry for no recent posts — have been house-hunting in the Boston area this past week, and haven’t had a chance to think about flavors or aromas, but…

…when I got back home the scents for our World Tea Expo talk were at my door. What a feast for my nose!

There is one in particular, benzyl alcohol — one of the jasmine scents that are in oolong teas: it strikes me that it may smell different to different people. It is clearly a warm scent, and contributes to oolong’s activation of the warm receptors. 

The same goes for nerolidol — hardly smells like what you would think (at least to me), but is critical to the quality of oolongs.

Can’t wait to hear what the people at our World Tea Expo session will say!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Tea pairing event at World Tea Expo 2016!

Chef Mark Purdy of Alizé at the Top of the Palms Casino Resort (56 stories above the Las Vegas strip) has prepared a seven course tasting menu paired with teas from Seven Cups Fine Teas to be presented on June 16th. Barbara Fairchild formerly of Bon Appétit magazine will be the emcee. All in all a grand affair!

The full menu is available on the World Tea News website (see link below). Have been contemplating the pairings, and imagining how they would work...

An example: for the Amuse Bouche the tea choice is Jin Guan Yin Anxi Wulong Tea, which, according to the Seven Cups Fine Teas website, is “uncommonly intense. Even the aromatic richness of its dry leaf stands out among other Tie Guan Yin. When brewed it yields buttery and fruity aromatics and a bright yellow-green infusion…Its flavor is full bodied with both sweet and sour notes.” 

Tie Guan Yin’s in general are moderately oxidized, and I would expect this tea to be so as well. With moderate oxidation, the “green” cool aspects of the tea have mostly disappeared and the warm aspects come to the fore—the description “buttery and fruity” corresponds to activation of the warm receptors. The tea becomes sweeter, which also corresponds to the activation of warmer receptors. “Sour” speaks to activation of the sour receptor and also to the hot receptor. In other words, this tea likely activates the warm (and possibly the hot) receptors, so you would expect a pairing with a warm-receptor activating dish, so you don’t lose one or the other element of the pairing.

Yet here are the pairing choices:
  • Chilled cucumber soup with cucumber terrine, carrots, pecans and dill 
  • Calvisius Caviar with toasted brioche panna cotta and dill.
The cucumber soup is destined to activate the cool/cold receptors, and I am willing to bet that the tea will taste like so much hot water with it, no matter the intensity of the tea, because activation of the cool/cold receptors turns off the warm and hot receptors.

The caviar dish has a better chance of working with the tea, not so much due to the caviar itself, though its saltiness will bring out any residual “green” in the tea, but because the toasted brioche will hit the warm and hot receptors, while the panna cotta will turn off the latter, leaving the warm receptors active to respond to the tea.

To see more of the proposed pairings, go to:

…and please let me know what you think!

And of course, if you go to the event, let me know how my predictions turn out!