Tea is one thing I can’t master. No matter what I try to make, a lot of times, I steep it too long and it ends up bitter. Still, it makes me appreciate a good cup of tea even more, so when The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf decided to start a series of Tea Appreciation seminars, I was definitely excited.
Tapping connoisseur and Master Tea Blender David DeCandia, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf aims to introduce the local palate to the wide range of flavors that tea has and can complement. Still, before one gets to taste something, isn’t it best to know more about it?
Sitting down to a short discussion, we were given a short background on tea. Like how it’s the second most consumed beverage in the world, and how, until the 19th century, solid blocks of tea were used as Siberian currency. Riveting stuff, really, but what’s more interesting is knowing what goes into your tea.
Apparently, the best tea comes from whole leaves and not the ground powdery kind we sometimes see in commercial tea bags. To show us the difference between specialty teas, they even cut open tea bags to point out how their brand differs from competition. True enough, Coffee Bean’s tea had little whole leaves, grains and other natural components, instead of the usual dry powdery material. It was even packed in little triangular cloth mesh bags, designed so that the leaves can unfurl gently as your tea brews. Sounds beautiful, if I do say so myself, but how does it taste?
After teaching us about the finer points of tea, we were then invited to try Cupping, a tea evaluation exercise that requires years of expertise in tea tasting. Here, the tea tasters evaluate a tea, detecting possible defects, and making predictions as to which flavors can perform well with it when infused or blended. Of course, while we don’t have that tea expertise and background, it was still pretty fun to taste, identify flavors and guess what was in our cup.
During the cupping session, we tried five kinds of tea.
â€¢ Genmaicha Green, a light, aromatic tea that blends Japanese Sencha and toasted rice—definitely a winner in my book since I’ve always been partial to rice flavors in my tea.
â€¢ Fancy Formosa Dragon Oolong, a subtle floral tea made of only young tea leaves. It has a pleasing hint of peach—not quite a fruit tea but still as lovely.
â€¢ Apricot Ceylon, a Sri Lankan Black Tea that’s flavored with Apricot. Another tea I really enjoyed, thanks to the fruity profile. True tea connoisseurs may stone me for this statement, but I really would love to have a dash of honey with this.
â€¢ Chai, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s special hand blended tea that marries Black tea, cinnamon, clove, cardamom and other spices. Stronger than the other teas because of the spicy background, there’s still something soothing about a cup of Chai. Whether taken as a hot tea or blended with milk, it’s something I can never say no to.
â€¢ African Sunrise, a yet to be released original blend that we were treated to that evening. I’m not schooled enough to identify what tea goes in it, but it reminds me of burnt brown sugar, the kind you put on leche flan and caramel. Pleasant, full-bodied and heady, this is something I’d love to enjoy very hot with nothing accompanying it.
After all that tasting, I would’ve loved sitting down to more tea, but instead, we were left to mingle and sample some of their store’s usual offerings. (Not that I can complain, those tiny pesto-laced chicken sandwiches were delicious.) Still, even though that signaled the end of the evening, that barely ends my exploits into the world of tea as I carried home a small sampler of their various teas. Now if only I can manage to brew them properly instead of oversteeping again! Wish me luck!
My Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Story
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What’s your Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Story