Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf: What’s in your Cup?


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.

Cups

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?

David_Candia

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.

compare_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?

discussion

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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

pinkies

What’s in my cup? If I’m drinking it, not Pinkies I hope!

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
Some of the best stories of our lives happen over a cup of coffee or tea. If you have a similar experience, write about it and get a chance to win an all-expense paid trip to Hollywood, Los Angeles.

What’s your Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Story
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19 Responses to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf: What’s in your Cup?

  1. aoitenshi says:

    Very kewl! Were you invited because you’re a food blogger? My friend from Health Today was at that event too.

  2. dementedchris says:

    Sounds like a really fun (and educational) experience! Ashke and I were just at Coffee Bean last weekend, trying out their tea. I can’t remember the exact names of what we had, but I can definitely pick them out of a menu. ^_^

  3. nina says:

    I’ve so far tried two of my take home teabags. I couldn’t identify the first one, but I was certain the second one has vanilla in it. What I usually do is a steep the tea in a mug of hot water, then after 10 minutes, I transfer the brew into a tall tumbler and fill it with ice water and some ice cubes. Yummmm.

    See you at the next foodie event? 😉

  4. Beccory says:

    Hey, I just thought I’d mention something. The women in my family are all huge tea geeks and we have kind of a trick- my mom narrowed steeping time for black tea down to the second and uses a kitchen timer to steep. Most commercial tea bags say to steep for 5 minutes, but that is WAY too long. We steep our tea for 2 minutes and 34 seconds, like I said, using a timer. I also recommend getting a tea infuser and buying loose tea rather than bags, they have much more room for the leaves to unfurl even than the triangular kind.

    Oh, and try out http://www.culinaryteas.com. AMAZING.

  5. Nightfall says:

    Since I had to cut back on my coffee intake, I’ve turned into something of a tea snob – at least in that I’m very fussy about my tea. I’m not as snobby as I could be tho, I think because I like flavored tea much better than plain black (except for on those mornings when I’m wishing my tea were actually coffee…) and I’m not at all scientific about how I brew it. (I don’t know if tea snobs are the same as coffee snobs, but coffee snobs tell me you can’t drink flavored coffee if you want to be taken seriously… ;P) You can buy measuring spoons for loose tea and a timer for brewing time, if that helps… I usually make black tea tho, and I find you can’t generally ruin that the way you can green tea (that gets much more bitter if it is oversteeped) and I like my tea strong anyway, so I generally go by instinct. If you drink the same tea a few times and experiment a bit on brewing time, you’ll eventually figure out just when the taste is perfect for you… ^^

  6. toni says:

    Gah you were there!!! I wanted to go but I had a schedule conflict. Boohoo. To think that venue was only two buildings away from where I work. Darn it!

  7. Tony Lou says:

    cool workshop. sounds like a lot of fun. and very educational.

  8. Tony Lou says:

    i think i’m going to like that african sunrise. i love the taste of leche flan syrup. hehe!

  9. kaoko says:

    @aoitenshi
    Actually, I just tagged along, hahaha! It was really punkednoodle who was invited.

    @chris
    Very! I want to go grab various bags of their tea and go tea-crazy.

    @nina
    I really wish they labeled it, if only so I’d know how long to steep each. Oh well, I guess I’ll try steeping for green tea and wing it from there. Pero I like your iced tea idea <3

    @Beccory
    Thank you so much! That helps a lot. I really want to know more about tea because I find the various kinds and brews fascinating. I'm still a coffee person in the mornings---I need my caffeine, but tea, I like enjoying leisurely. And I also found an infuser I like, one of those long cylindrical thingies, but I keep on forgetting to order! It doesn't help that I can only get it online *sigh*

    @Nightfall
    Mental note, get an egg timer for tea! I think all my past attempts were failures because they were mostly green tea. I guess it needs more practice than with black? A Chinese friend kept trying to teach me but I always ended up with bitter chrysanthemum tea. I guess it's time to try to learn again.

    And about coffee snobbery---hehe, I will probably make them all turn in their graves! I'm such a coffee philistine, I just like my coffee sweet and creamy 😛 And loaded with caffeine of course.

    @toni
    Sayang! I think we're destined to not meet. Maybe we really live in separate dimensions and only connect via the WWW? 😛

    @Tony Lou
    You'd love it then! It really has caramelly undertones, minus the super sweetness. You know, I take back saying I'd like to drink it solo. Maybe it will be good with a sliver of really rich leche flan? 😛

  10. Mila says:

    I love my teas, green, black, the roibush from S. Africa, the flowery teas. They smell good, make you feel relaxed and happy, or a light buzz perfect for a jolt without too much of the crash that coffee gives me.

    As for steeping times, consider your water source (hard water is not good for teas), and how much minerals are in the water. Some black teas should be given a first wash that is then dumped, so that the second input of water is then used for steeping and drinking.

    • kaoko says:

      Sadly, I really need the coffee-induced caffeine buzz on workday mornings, but lately, I’ve been waking up to this delightful Singaporean Honey-Lemon tea drink on weekends. It helps that it doesn’t need steeping! *laughs sheepishly*

      As to water sources, I assume distilled water’s good? And I didn’t know that part about “washing” tea before drinking. I really should read up on tea. I can’t wait for the weekend so I can experiment. Everyone’s input excites me.

  11. Inga says:

    that sounds awesome, I wish we had events like this here. I love tea and I probably drink more than I should! 😀 Unfortunately, it’s such hassle to find good quality tea here, I tend to scour the internet in never-ending quest for good tea. When I lived in the States, we had a Korean supermarket nearby, they had the most awesome tea I’ve ever had – roasted brown rice. I miss it so. I tried to find it again when I moved to England and practically got laughed out of the local Chinese food market >_> They’ve never heard of it. Bah.

    • kaoko says:

      Really? I always assumed you’d have the widest tea options in England. Not getting certain tea variants there boggles my mind! Just goes to show how little I know. 😛

      • Inga says:

        This could be due to my living in Nottingham, England’s very London-centric, you can get your hands on anything as long as you live in London. There is only one shop in all of Nottingham, that I can think of, that sells unique quality tea.

        You would be surprised (and shocked!) at how many English people can’t even make tea anymore. I’ve seen anything from using hot water straight from tap to brew tea; to tea bag dipped in hot milk for a second and thrown out – any tea content there is purely incidental 😀

        High Tea is pretty much forgotten now, replaced by Starbucks and Caffe Nero. Shame really.

      • kaoko says:

        It’s sad how the art of brewing tea seems to be dying then. :( Darned trendy coffee shops…not that I can blame them, I like stopping for a cup of coffee or two as well, but it would be so nice if we can manage to preserve old traditions while embracing the new.

  12. Pingback: Coffee Bean’s African Sunrise tea offering and the Wisdom of Crowds — A Bugged Life // Jayvee Fernandez

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  14. This sounds like it was great fun. While it is true that some of the British have lost interest in taking the necessary steps to make a good cup of tea, rest assured that my British mother in law is on a one woman quest to preserve the tradition.

    • kaoko says:

      It was fun. And I support your mother-in-law’s quest. It would be great if proper tea making can be enjoyed by future generations as well.

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