Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Beer again, but one on the warmer side...

Beer again, and this time my son-in-law paired his Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA* with a quinoa-and-bean-based veggie burger. Very good beer, very good burger, and very good pairing!

Here's why:

First about the veggie burger: overall the burger had a warm/hot flavor profile, suggesting that together its ingredients activated the warm and hot receptors TRPV3 and TRPV1. At the same time, there was a first impression of a vegetal quality, perhaps grassiness, that meant that the beer lost nothing of its complexity when tasted with the burger. 

Now about the beer:

1. The beer is a light amber rather than the pale yellow of the Lord Hobo beer I described in my previous post, and it's even slightly more brown than you would expect to find in the usual IPA's. This means that it has "brown" chemicals that activate the warm and hot receptors.

2. While it has "piney & citrus notes" according to the description on the Dogfish Head website, which would be a sign that cool/cold receptors were activated (think of walking through a pine woods on a hot day!), the citrus side comes across to me as orangey rather than lemony, again a trait associated with the warm receptor activation. One reason may  may be that the "brown" nature of the beer shifts the balance away from "lemon" towards "orange."

3. Hops were added continuously to this beer during the 60 minute boil, hence the beer's name. With this addition throughout the boil, you get much higher levels of linalool in the final beer than you would if you only added hops at the beginning of the boil.** Interestingly, if you add hops after the boil (a process called dry hopping), you would not get any more linalool and probably even less. Linalool, in context with the other compounds, also contributes to the "orange" perception. 

4. Geraniol in the hops is transformed into β-citronellol, first during the boil, and thereafter by yeast.*** β-citronellol, found in oranges, also activates the hot receptor.**** Different varieties of hops have different proportions of geraniol, so how much of this compound is present in a beer would be of interest, in that it shifts the temperature activity from the cool/cold contributed by CO2 and by eudesmol, (the latter is a water soluble compound in hops that activates TRPA1, the cold receptor), to the warmer, more orangey side.   

5. Concentrations of β-damascenone, which has a damask-rose aroma, increase over time when the hops are added at the beginning of the boil, so may be expected to increase even more when the hops are added continuously during the boil.** This compound also activates the warm/hot receptors.

6. All that hopping extracts large amounts of eudesmol, a compound that activates the cold receptor TRPA1, which together with CO2, gives the beer its pungency.*****  

All of this brings together the reason I used the word complexity to describe the experience of this beer with this burger. As you first sip the beer, the quick-onset cool/cold receptors respond, and the pungency caused by activation of the cold receptor TRPA1 zings in. Then activation of the warm/hot receptors dominates, and the beer's orangey quality comes into focus. Then a bite of the burger, and the cycle repeats itself, first a quick cool and grassy, then warm/hot. The sweet carbs and the salt in the burger, meanwhile, cut enough of the bitterness in the beer to allow the aromas to sing. 

Delicious complexity, indeed!

* -- if you visit the site, be sure to see CEO Sam Calagione's short video about the beer 

** Toru Kishimoto,*, Akira Wanikawa,Noboru Kagami, and, and Katsuyuki Kawatsura. Analysis of Hop-Derived Terpenoids in Beer and Evaluation of Their Behavior Using the Stir Bar−Sorptive Extraction Method with GC-MS. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2005 53 (12), 4701-4707. DOI: 10.1021/jf050072f.  
=> Note: the hop used in the experiments looking at compound concentrations over time was Hersbrucker, which by these authors' analysis had a high linalool to geraniol ratio.

*** Takoi K, Itoga Y, Koie K, Kosugi T, Shimase M, Katayama Y, et al. The contribution of geraniol metabolism to the citrus flavour of beer: Synergy of geraniol and β-citronellol under coexistence with excess linalool. Journal of the Institute of Brewing. 2010;116(3):251-60.

**** Ohkawara S, Tanaka-Kagawa T, Furukawa Y, Nishimura T, Jinno H (2010) Activation of the human transient receptor potential vanilloid subtype 1 by essential oils. Biol Pharm Bull 33:1434–1437.

***** Kazuaki Ohara, Takafumi Fukuda, Hiroyuki Okada, Sayoko Kitao, Yuko Ishida, Kyoko Kato, Chika Takahashi, Mikio Katayama, Kunitoshi Uchida, and Makoto Tominaga. Identification of Significant Amino Acids in Multiple Transmembrane Domains of Human Transient Receptor Potential Ankyrin 1 (TRPA1) for Activation by Eudesmol, an Oxygenized Sesquiterpene in Hop Essential Oil. J. Biol. Chem. 2015 290: 3161-. doi:10.1074/jbc.M114.600932.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My first sip of beer...

In honor of my talk about beer next month, I had my first sip of beer ever...and was pleasantly surprised! The stink of the stale beer of my youth, coupled with the fact that I can't tolerate alcohol, limited my desire to taste beer in the past, but for the sake of science, I decided to take a sip. 

It was a local beer from Lord Hobo, Woburn, Massachusetts, pale and cloudy, with very little head, a Session IPA, a style that was originally brewed in England in World War I for workers in armament factories. The requirement was (so I was told) that the brew should have less than 5% alcohol, to prevent drunkenness — this version clocked in at 4.5%.
This picture, from the Lord Hobo Brewing Company website, shows exactly what the beer looked like.
My son-in-law declared it "hoppy." What I sensed was a grapefruity bitterness, with a little tickle and sourness from the carbonation, and bitterness with a slight prickle lingering at the finish: a "clean" fresh impression overall. Nothing like anything I had tasted before, though on thinking about it, it was a bit like the Pompelmo (grapefruit) Fanta from Italy that my father loved (now discontinued, btw). 

For dinner, my son-in-law had a mildly spicy and salty, definitely umami meatloaf, with a rich barbecue sauce. He said that the beer mellowed out with this dish, so that it was less sharp, bitter, and flavorful, but still refreshing, and palate-cleansing. Later, well after he had finished the meal, when he drank the last sips of the beer, he said the original qualities of the beer returned.

Here's what I think is happening at the level of the taste buds, namely that the beer activated the cool/receptors (it was refreshing!) and my son-in-law's meatloaf activated the warm/hot receptors so the beer's qualities were muted. 

More about how this all works in another post. This beer thing really has me enthralled!

=>> Don't worry, am not forgetting tea — am also busy creating an extended course about pairing in general and pairing with tea in particular! Stay tuned!

And meanwhile, take a look at my book "Three Basic Teas & How to Enjoy Them" by Virginia Utermohlen Lovelace. You can find it on Amazon!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Port wine and tea

To continue my exploration of tea through library searches, came across a paper on the flavor chemicals in port wine... (don't ask how this paper came up when I searched for wonders about search algorithms sometimes!..not that I'm complaining: this paper on port wine was fascinating.*)

Although I don't drink alcohol for genetic/metabolic reasons (I can't detoxify alcohol's poisonous metabolite, actealdehyde) I have been fond of the flavor of certain alcoholic beverages, including port. Now I know why.

A glass of port, photo by Jon Sullivan that was a featured picture on Wikimedia Commons (Featured pictures) and was considered one of the finest images. 
A key step in the making of port is the addition of a wine-derived spirit called "aguardente" (burning water) obtained by distillation. This distillate increases the alcohol content of the port, but also contributes a number of volatile compounds to port's flavor.

Among these compounds are ones that make green tea so refreshing by activating the cool receptor TRPM8: 
- linalool, found in all teas, but dominating green tea, with its fresh flowery/citrus aroma;
- geraniol, found in geraniums (as its name implies) and in roses as well as all teas, which contributes a peach-like nuance; and  
- (Z)-3-hexen-1-ol, which contributes a grassy note to green tea, and in addition a slight pungency due to activation of TRPA1.

A couple of other flowery compounds in aguardente are more characteristic of oolongs and black teas, including: 
- beta-damascenone, the name of which derives from Damask roses, which has a more musty quality than many of the other rose-related scents in tea, probably from its ability to activate the warm (TRPV3) and hot (TRPV1) receptors; and
- benzaldehyde, which contributes a sweet, nutty, cherry/almond note to oolongs in particular (also an activator of TRPV3). 

So the next time you have a glass of port, look for the flavors of your favorite tea, and vice versa!


Just a reminder: if you would like a compilation of knowledge about tea flavors, their sources and their effects on nose, mouth, and brain, you can find it in my book: "Three Basic Teas & How to Enjoy Them," by Virginia Utermohlen Lovelace, available on Amazon.

Rogerson, F.S.S. and De Freitas, V.A.P. (2002), Fortification Spirit, a Contributor to the Aroma Complexity of Port. Journal of Food Science, 67: 1564–1569. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2621.2002.tb10323.x

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What's to love about garlic?

So many things! But one in particular is fascinating: garlic's ability to block the aversiveness of high levels of salt.

In my mother's pre-culinary days, she used to make a salad dressing with vinegar, a generous dose of salt, and very little oil because she felt that oil was fattening (those were the days when good olive oil was hard to come by, and we couldn't have afforded it anyway). I used to hate salads—the sourness of the vinegar made me shudder, and the bitterness of the greens was intolerable. 

Then somewhere when I was around 11 or 12 she discovered the trick of rubbing the salad bowl with garlic (she still hesitated actually including the garlic in the dressing itself). Suddenly salads were much more palatable for me.

Cross-section of garlic bulb, from Darnok at

Garlic contains a compound, allyl isothiocyanate, that gives it the garlicky flavor, This compound (henceforth "AITC") also activates the cold/pain receptor, TRPA1, in the mouth, hence garlic's pungency. 

In experiments with mice, Oka and colleagues used AITC to dissect how high concentrations of salt (NaCl) become aversive.* 

It turns out that, while low concentrations of salt inhibit bitter-sensing taste bud cells, high concentrations of salt activate these cells and also activate sour-sensing cells. That's why high salt can bring out the bitterness of your salad greens and the sourness of the vinegar in your dressing. These activations can be inhibited by AITC!

High concentration salt also activates TRPV1, the hot/pain receptor.** When TRPA1 is activated, TRPV1 will usually be inhibited, and vice versa. 

So garlic in your salad dressing or sprinkled on a salty food will help hide the fact that you may have used too much salt...

* Oka, Y., Butnaru, M., von Buchholtz, L., Ryba, N. J. P., & Zuker, C. S. (2013). High salt recruits aversive taste pathways. Nature, 494(7438), 472+.

** Lyall V, Heck GL, Vinnikova AK, Ghosh S, Phan TH, Alam RI, Russell OF, Malik SA, Bigbee JW, & DeSimone JA. (2004). The mammalian amiloride-insensitive non-specific salt taste receptor is a vanilloid receptor-1 variant. J Physiol 558: 147+.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Planning to give a talk about beer flavors for Scott Kerkmans in Brewing Industry Operations Program at Metropolitan State University, Denver, Colorado next month, so I have been looking into how beer is made, and in particular have been interested in the flavors that result from the temperatures at which beer malts are kilned.

Beer malts —left: pale malt; top right: black malt; bottom right: crystal malt. Photo by Lufke, from Wikipedia.
These temperatures range from below 100ºC for pale malts to increasing temperatures above that for darker and darker malts, finally to around 200ºC for black malts. The resulting color goes from pale yellow to dark brown, and the flavors go from grassy and sweet, through nutty for kilning temperatures around boiling, to chocolate and coffee flavors at temperatures up to 200ºC. (BTW, makes me think of the effects of oxidation and heating on teas.)

If you look at the temperature scale below you'll notice that the temperature-sensitive TRP channels in your mouth are activated at temperatures that are about half the temperatures at which these malts are kilned: at lower temperatures the chemicals in the malts tend to activate TRPV3 (warm) and TRPM5 (sweet), while at higher temperatures the kilned malts activate TRPV1 (nutty to chocolate flavors).

Am fascinated by this observation, and eager to figure out what it means — stay tuned!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Oolong-hai and lychees

Came across this fascinating photo by Chinh Le Duc when searching for tea images on The title words read: "Drink, glass, cocktail, beverage and alcohol."  

Photo by China Le Duc,

Alcohol? When my keyword search was "tea?" What is going on here? 

Come to find out that there is an iced alcoholic beverage called oolong-hai consisting of oolong tea combined with shōchū, a Japanese drink fermented and distilled from any one of a number of starches, including rice, barley, buckwheat, and interestingly, sweet potatoes. Apparently the choice of starch conveys a distinctive flavor to its shōchū. 

Here's what Sara Shacket of the blog Tea Happiness* has to say about the oolong-hai she savored:
"The drink was incredibly refreshing on a hot NYC summer evening. I tasted the slightly bitter earthiness of the Oolong, along with a subtle hint of something smoky that reminded me of whiskey. Shochu has a subtle flavor, and so my drink didn't have the overwhelming alcoholic taste that I usually expect from a cocktail. This makes the drink quite dangerous for me. I hardly even noticed that I was consuming any alcohol! It had a similar refreshing feel to the mugicha I recently tried.  I also love that it wasn't sweet. In fact, the server warned me that it wasn't a 'sweet cocktail'."
At another (commercial) website,** found a good photo of oolong-hai, along with a recipe:

Oolong-hai from
Comparing this photo with the one by Chinh Le Duc, it looks very much the same: same color and cloudiness. 

Which led me to the next question, namely would lychees go well in this drink?

Looked up the chemistry of lychees in a paper by colleagues of mine from Cornell, Peter Ong and Terry Acree.*** Turns out that lychees share a number of flavor-significant compounds with oolongs. Some of these, such as linalool, are found in all teas, but the one that stood out for oolongs specifically is furaneol, aka strawberry ketone, which activates the warm receptor, TRPV3. Another important flavor compound in lychees, and perhaps in some oolongs, is vanillin, which also activates TRPV3.  But most striking is the presence in oolongs of cis-rose oxide, which has a characteristic lychee aroma.**** Put together, oolong and lychee will each expand the flavor of the other.

In case you are wondering, I haven't experienced the drink myself. I lack functional aldehyde dehydrogenase, so become quite sick with very little alcohol, and despite my love for oolongs, I really don't like lychees—and now I know why. Lychees have δ-decalactone, which has a strong flavor of coconut. Can't stand the flavor of coconut, and lychees come across as too coconutty to me. So I am not about to try this drink, no matter how hot it gets this summer. 

But you might enjoy it very much!

*** Ong, P.K.C., and Acree, T.E.. Similarities in the Aroma Chemistry of Gewürztraminer Variety Wines and Lychee (Litchi chinesis Sonn.) Fruit. J. Agric. Food Chem., 1999, 47 (2), pp 665–670
DOI: 10.1021/jf980452j.
**** Sheibani, E., Duncan, S. E., Kuhn, D. D., Dietrich, A. M. and O'Keefe, S. F. (2016), SDE and SPME Analysis of Flavor Compounds in Jin Xuan Oolong Tea. Journal of Food Science, 81: C348–C358. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.13203

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fresh versus dried fruits

The other day a friend of Pairteas asked me why certain fruits—blueberries, kiwis, and apricots in particular—go better with oolongs when dried than when fresh.

The first point to make is that the chemicals in oolongs for the most part activate the warm to hot receptors. Consequently foods that activate the cool/cold receptors, such as blueberries and apricots, will cause the flavors of most oolongs to disappear.

The second point is that drying, whether of fruit or tea leaves, changes their chemistry. When they are fresh, fruits and tea leaves are still alive, so they respond to drying by making defense chemicals in response to the stress. 

For example, fresh ginger has two chemicals, zingerone and gingerol, that are slightly different in flavor. Zingerone activates the cold receptor (TRPA1) and gingerol activates the hot receptor (TRPV1). As ginger dries, these chemicals disappear or, to be more exact, are transformed into shogaols that collectively activate TRPA1. For those of you who were at our WTE about green tea way back in 2015, you might remember how a tiny bit of dried ginger dampened the bitterness of the tea and brought out its herbaceous qualities.

Apricots have compounds that hit the cold receptors, so can kill the flavor of an oolong.  As apricots dry phenyl ethyl alcohols and linalool oxides oxides appear—they hit the warm/hot receptors and make oolong happy.

As for blueberries, don't know what happens in them specifically. Fresh blueberries hit the cool/cold receptors, as does blueberry jam—the berries don't have a chance to make an abundance of stress chemicals before they are cooked and their enzymes denatured. My guess is that drying makes them create a panoply of chemicals similar to those in apricots.

And as for kiwis—will have to do some experiments once I get settled in my new home...

...and please do experiments yourselves to see what happens. Would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Asparagus, coffee, and tea

Had a fascinating experience the other morning. Bought a lightly roasted coffee called Stargazer from our local specialty coffee roaster, Gimme!. Flavor description from the package: "dark chocolate, bourbon cherry, caramel, stone fruit sparkle."

Stargazer coffee beans—notice the light color and lack of oil, indicative of a light roast.
I got the chocolate and maybe the caramel, certainly the sweet, but was overwhelmed by the coffee's vegetal taste — clearly asparagus. It even had that sweetish asparagus after-taste, all of which led me on a hunt for understanding how these flavors came to be in the coffee...and in green and oolong tea, too.

As I said in my book, "Three Basic Teas & How to Enjoy Them:"*

"The strongest odorants, and perhaps the most numerous, in asparagus are sulfur-containing and nitrogen-containing compounds—these can be detected by the human nose at the level of parts per billion. They will dominate any aroma mixture you can imagine. 

Of these 20 or so typical compounds in asparagus, the most abundant is dimethyl sulfide. This compound can be present in green and oolong tea, where it contributes a “marine/seashore/oceanic” quality. But if you associate that smell with cooked asparagus, then you would say it’s an asparagus smell. You could also associate that smell with the odor of urine after eating asparagus—the people who have the gene for breaking down asparagusic acid excrete dimethyl sulfide among other compounds."

Dimethyl sulfide doesn't give the asparagus aftertaste, however. Another sulfur compound that could be a candidate: methionyl acetate. It's in both coffee and asparagus, and beer, too. But it doesn't give a sweet aftertaste as far as I can tell.**

Perhaps the sweet aspect comes from an entirely different set of compounds, the pyridines, which abound in coffee, especially with light roasting. Pyridines can be sweet, even too sweet, though many also have a grassy quality. Turns out that 2-ethyl pyridine gives a sweet yet green grassy quality to asparagus—in fact, some people consider it to be "the" asparagus scent. (Worth noting that it is in black tea as well.)

The conclusion I reached from this hunt (and so many others) is that foods from plant materials such as tea, coffee, and asparagus, share a host of basic chemicals—the resulting flavors may well simply depend on which chemical stands out in the mix. 

* You can get a copy of "Three Basic Teas & How to Enjoy Them" either from the printers:, and get a 10% discount using the code V97A7SQ3; or from Amazon—sorry, couldn't get a discount with them.

** Ulrich, D., et al. Contribution of volatile compounds to the flavor of cooked asparagus. Eur Food Res Technol (2001) 213: 200. doi:10.1007/s002170100349.

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…

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Making your tea less bitter

In the Wednesday post, I mentioned that as the ratio of amino acids to polyphenols in oolongs increases, the value of the tea increases, and suggested that the reason is that polyphenols are bitter, so potentially aversive, while most of the amino acids in tea are sweet and savory (umami), giving the tea a delicious flavor.

The question is then, how can you make a lower grade oolong taste more delicious?

One way, as I will explain in my talk about cold versus hot brewed tea at World Tea Expo 2017* is to brew the tea cold, because much less polyphenol gets into the cup.

The other way is to inhibit the bitter message, which can be done with a tiny amount of salt. We will try this experiment in my other session at World Tea Expo, a focussed tasting called "Pairing with Tea: the Science of Flavors and How to Enjoy Them!" Wednesday  June 14th. Here is a diagram of taste bud cells you may have seen on this blog before:

The X from the salt-sensing cell to the bitter-sensing cell indicates inhibition. There is an X from the sweet-sensing cell to the bitter sensing cell as well, but you need relatively more sweet than salt to sense the effect.

Hope we will be to carry out this and other experiments together at WTE!

* What's in the Cup & Why You Like It: Hot Brewed vs Cold Brewed - CS49
Tuesday, 06/13/2017: 8:30 am - 10:00 am
Room: N237
Session Number:  CS49

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Oolong quality and amino acid/polyphenol ratio

One of my two talks at World Tea Expo 2017 will be on cold- versus hot-brewed teas.* (The other will be about pairing with teas, about which more in my next post.)

One of the most important conclusions we will reach is that the quality of a tea depends on the ratio of amino acids to polyphenols. Here is a result from a paper on oolongs: the more prized the oolongs — and the more costly — the higher the ratio.**

Looking forward to seeing you at WTE 2017! 

* What's in the Cup & Why You Like It: Hot Brewed vs Cold Brewed - CS49
Tuesday, 06/13/2017: 8:30 am - 10:00 am
Room: N237
Session Number:  CS49

** Yueh-Tzu Hung, Po-Chung Chen, Richie L.C. Chen, Tzong-Jih Cheng. Sequential determination of tannin and total amino acid contents in tea for taste assessment by a fluorescent flow-injection analytical system. Food Chemistry 118 (2010) 876–881.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

How much theanine in your cup?

When I was looking for information to share with you all at World Tea Expo come June, found a fascinating paper about L-theanine content of different teas available in England. L-theanine is a compound found in young tea leaves that may (or may not) have worthwhile effects on your mood and sleep.*

You may have heard that green tea has more L-theanine than does black tea. However, as the authors indicate, the studies providing these measures extracted total theanine from the leaf—they didn't measure the amount of L-theanine that gets into the cup you actually drink.

That's why the authors of the paper measured extracted L-theanine, namely the amount in a cup of 200ml, with the tea brewed with water at 80ºC for 2 minutes.

Under these circumstances the results were reversed, as the graph below shows. For the sake of simplicity, all of the teas I included in the graph were Twinings teas—several other brands of teas were tested, with the same results. 

Average theanine content of different Twining's teas.

The "Everyday" tea was a bag tea, while all the rest were loose leaf. The first difference is that the loose leaf teas released significantly less theanine than the bagged tea. The second difference is that the green and white teas released less than some, but not all, of the Twinings black teas. 

When all of the teas tested (including teas produced by other companies) were taken together, however, black bagged teas released significantly more theanine than did the loose leaf black teas and the loose leaf green and white teas. It is likely that the leaf particles in bagged teas offer more surface area to the water for extraction. With respect to the difference between some black teas and other teas, the difference may come from the more extensive processing of black teas, which may release more theanine.

Incidentally, for most of these teas, the maximum theanine was released at 2 minutes of brewing; and lemon, sugar, or small amounts of milk had no effect on theanine release.

Bottom line: enjoy your specialty loose leaf teas for their exquisite flavor, but if you just need a theanine "hit," go for a bagged tea!

* Emma K. Keenan, Mike D.A. Finnie, Paul S. Jones, Peter J. Rogers, Caroline M. Priestley. How much theanine in a cup of tea? Effects of tea type and method of preparation. Food Chemistry 125 (2011) 588–594.