In this post I'll tell you about the beginning of the workshop I hosted, "Learn to Pair Teas with Food & Build Menus from Scratch."
Thanks so much to Jo from Tea Blending Sisters (http://www.teablendingsisters.com) for the photos of the workshop!
Here's Jeni Dodd introducing me—so pleased that I got to see Jeni! As you may remember, dear readers, Jeni specializes in Nepali tea, and hosted the elegant tasting with Cynthia Gold at L'Espalier in Boston a couple of months ago—see my write-up "Nepali Tea at the Sunday Tea Tasting" dated 2/7/18 on this blog.
First we tried the cinnamon-mint experiment. It consistently amazes! You put a cinnamon candy in your mouth, and get the cinnamon flavor going. Then you take it out and replace it with a mint. The cinnamon flavor is immediately replaced with mint. Then take the mint out and wait...the cinnamon comes back!
|Mint and cinnamon candies. Photo by Marzi Pecen.|
It's an illustration of the competition among trigeminal receptors, that comes to the fore later in the workshop when we tasted green tea with chocolate. More about that in a coming post.
Why this experiment works has to do with the functions of the trigeminal nerve. This nerve not only registers texture and temperature, it also responds to chemicals. In the case of the candies, it registers the cinnamon as "hot"—and it takes a beat or two for this effect to register. Then when you replace the cinnamon with mint, the mint's "coolness" quickly takes over, and the cinnamon disappears, but only temporarily. The "hot" chemicals in cinnamon are still attached to their receptors on the trigeminal nerve, so once the mint leaves its receptors (which are quick on-quick off) you can sense the cinnamon again, and then it too finally fades away.
Here I am explaining the temperature scale and the different trigeminal nerve receptors that correspond to the different temperatures. We discussed both the different words that you could apply to the different sensations in the mouth, such as "refreshing" at the cool end and "sizzling" at the hot, and the different kinds of food that elicit these sensations.
Then it came time to taste the teas. Here we are with the tasting sheets, where we could record the sensations we experienced with the different teas.
We had three teas from the Yatra Tea Company, offered by our friend Vikram Mathur and Black Magnolia, a tea from friend Jason McDonald's Great Mississippi Tea Company.
We started with Vikram's green tea, a Fatikcherry from Tripura, India. On purpose, I had it brewed at highly too high a temperature and for slightly too long, in order to bring the catechins out of the leaf. As a result, the tea was slightly bitter and astringent, but still delicious. How delicious it really was we brought out by putting a tiny bit of salt on the tip of the tongue and then tasting the tea: audible "wows" came from the group—the astringency disappeared and refreshing herbal qualities of the tea came to the fore! It was clear to everyone that this tea activated the cool/cold receptors.
Next came Vikram's Goomtee Estate First Flush Darjeeling, which was deliciously delicate. I asked which of the following words best applied to this tea—refreshing, soothing, or hearty—and everyone picked soothing, which it definitely was. This observation reflected the fact that Darjeelings, like oolongs, activate the medium warm temperature receptors—a range that is slightly warmer than body temperature, a range that we find soothing.
The third of Vikram's teas was a Halmari Estate Second Flush Assam, a rich Assam that everyone declared was "hearty." This observation reflects the fact that Assams like this one activate the hotter end of the trigeminal temperature spectrum, and give an energizing sensation.
Finally we enjoyed Jason's Black Magnolia tea. It too was declared hearty, but in a way quite different from the Assam. I think it's because (at least to me) the Assam was sweeter, and the Black Magnolia more toasty.
Jason carries out a heated oxidation step when he makes "Black Magnolia." This step results in Maillard browning, a process whereby sugars in the leaf attach to amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) in the leaf. As a result there are lower amounts of free sugars and sweet amino acids in the brew, so it tastes less sweet. When you toast bread the same reactions occur, hence the perception that "Black Magnolia" is toasty.
Bottom line, you should taste these teas for yourself to appreciate the differences—they are all really special!
In the next post, the pairings!
Here are description of the teas from Yatra Tea (https://www.yatrateacompany.com):
FATIKCHERRA ESTATE, TRIPURA, AUTUMN FLUSH 2017
HARVEST MONTH: NOVEMBER 2017
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
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
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 (http://www.greatmsteacompany.com)
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."