Witch’s Brew: Blending Your Own Tea

For Halloween, let’s brew up some unique tea blends using existing teas. Over the next four weeks, we will walk you through the craft of blending tea while creating four new blends to enjoy. So grab your measuring spoons, cup and infuser and join us on our blending adventure.

1st Recipe: Strawberry Jasmine

This blend is a mix of our Strawberry Oolong and Jasmine Green teas. Generally a tea blender would not opt for this mix as the density and size of the two teas are not similar, so the possibility of separate in the final storage container is rather high. Separation has to be considered as it leads to an inconsistent flavor on a cup by cup basis. So this is a blend you would make by the cup as opposed to making it in a large scale.

In crafting this blend, we choose to favor having a stronger Strawberry flavor with a Jasmine highlight. Picking a flavor to focus on is critical in making a tea blend. Ironically, if there are too many flavors in a blend it becomes hard for the drinker to figure out what they are drinking, which leads to confusion and a nonoptimal tea experience.

Recipe for Strawberry Jasmine – 12oz Cup

3 tsp (flat) – Strawberry Oolong

1 tsp (flat) – Jasmine Green

Steep for 3 minutes in 175°F water.

2nd Recipe: Caramel Apple

This blend combines our Dulce de Leche and Apple Blossom teas. Pretty routinely you will find that flavored teas are inspired by other food combinations. When building a blend on a known flavor it is important to think about what components are in the flavor and is there a dominant flavor characteristic. For Caramel Apple, the caramel is dominant with a slight apple finish. So you will notice that in this recipe, if you want more apple, adjust the Dulce de Leche down and the Apple Blossom up. Much like our last recipe, this is a blend to make by cup as the Dulce de Leche is rooibos based, making it very small and dense, while the Apple Blossom is puerh based, making it big and lite.

Luckily, this blend combines teas that require boiling water and have the same steep time, so no adjustment is needed there. If you have not had puerh before, we would highly recommend you drink some Apple Blossom on its own. It is a great introduction to puerh and its earthiness, without being overwhelming.

Recipe for Caramel Apple – 12oz Cup

2 tsp (scant – less than full, think 90-95% full) – Dulce de Leche

1/2 tsp (flat) – Apple Blossom

Steep for 5 minutes in 208°F water.

3rd Recipe: Almond Joys

When aiming to recreate a known flavor profile, in this case a famous candy bar, the goal is to find the balance in the flavor. Sure, a cup of tea will not contain the sweetness of the candy bar, which gives you some flexibility in what flavor to amplify. So feel free to play with the ratios to highlight either the chocolate or the coconut of this combination. We combined our Chocolate Almond Fantasy and Coconut Oolong to make this cup of tea. If you need that sweetness as well, add your sugar after you brew.

Blending with nuts is a tricky business, first you need them cut into the right size to roughly match the size of the tea leaves and then you need to factor in their shelf life. Slivered nuts have no where near the shelf life of tea. A good black tea can easily stay fresh, when stored correctly, for 5 years. Slivered nuts, on the long side, might have 1 year, but are more likely going to start to turn bitter at 6 months. So if you like teas with nuts in them, drink them frequently and do not save them for the future.

Recipe for Almond Joys – 12oz Cup

1 tsp (round) – Chocolate Almond Fantasy

1 tsp (flat) – Coconut Oolong

Steep for 4 minutes in 195-200°F water.

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss

Easy Chai Latte: Do it Yourself at Home

Autumn is nearly upon us, and nothing says fall flavors like the comforting warmth of a chai latte. This sweet, spiced, and creamy twist on traditional chai is a perennial coffee shop favorite, and for good reason! While there are many recipes online for how to replicate chai lattes at home, we’ve gone ahead and developed a ridiculously easy, no-fuss method for the autumn brew, no special equipment required. And did we mention that it’s easy to customize? You can try this recipe with traditional Masala Chai, Maple Chai, Chocolate Chai, or even – for that extra dose of fall spirit – Pumpkin Spice Chai.

For this easy at-home latte, you will need:

  • 2 heaping tablespoons of your favorite loose-leaf chai
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar, honey, or your sweetener of choice
  • 1 cup milk or non-dairy substitute, divided
  • Freshly ground nutmeg, cinnamon, chocolate shavings, or other garnishes as desired.

To prepare, start by steeping your chai in freshly boiled water for five minutes, then straining out the leaves. This will create a chai concentrate. Sweeten your concentrate to taste. Gently heat 2/3 cup of your milk or milk substitute in the microwave or on the stove until steaming, then stir into your concentrate.

For a quick and easy foam topping, take the remaining 1/3 cup of milk and pour into a small glass jar with a lid. Fasten the lid tightly and shake the jar vigorously for about thirty seconds. Remove lid, place jar in microwave, and heat for thirty seconds. The agitated milk will froth up as it heats. Remove from microwave (carefully, as jar may be hot) and scoop your milk foam onto your latte mixture. Garnish with your favorite toppings.

By: Jen Coate

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss

5 Teas to Try Iced

Nothing says summer like a tall, cold glass of iced tea. We all have our favorites when it comes to which teas we ice (Classic Iced, Georgia’s Peach, and Adirondack Berries are three of our bestsellers here in our tasting room). But there are many teas out there that are overlooked for their iced tea potential. Here are five of our favorites of these hidden gems.

Glass of iced tea with lemon.
  • Darjeeling: A wonderful way to expand your horizons when it comes to an iced black tea. Darjeeling’s woody, complex flavors brew up to a smooth and refreshing ice tea with a subtly sweet finish. Try icing our 1st Flush for rich floral undertones, or 2nd Flush for its fruity muscatel flavors.
  • Dark Roast Alishan: All of our Alishan oolongs take beautifully to being iced, but we are especially partial to the Dark Roast for how its sweet, nutty flavors shine when served cold. Try it as a lighter substitute for your afternoon coffee.
  • Huang Shan Mao Feng: This savory Chinese green mellows beautifully over ice, bringing its creamy, savory flavors to the forefront. Try pairing it with a cold pasta dish or your favorite Asian noodle dish.
  • Himalayan White: The delicate and refreshing sweetness of this Nepalese white can’t be beat on a hot summer day. This tea is a good candidate for cold-brewing, which helps retain its subtle floral flavors.
  • Matcha-Infused Sencha: If you love the bold flavors of iced Japanese greens, consider experimenting with our Matcha-Infused Sencha. A dusty of matcha powder gives this tea an additional boost of umami richness and a full, satisfying mouthfeel.

When it comes to brewing iced teas, there are many more options out there than you may realize! Try experimenting with your favorite hot tea and see how it does over ice. You may be in for a delightful surprise.

By: Jen Coate

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss

Aging Tea at Home

Ceramic tea jar for aging tea.

As we’ve covered in previous posts, the world of aged teas is incredibly diverse. In addition to puerh, the most famous of the aged teas, certain white and oolong teas can also be left to mature to delightful effect.

If you’re new to the world of aged tea, you may be wondering how to begin. The truth is, no two teas age exactly the same. Aging tea at home requires a little bit of experimentation and a whole lot of patience. But for anyone just starting out, there are a few key principles to keep in mind: quality, airflow, humidity, and time.

Tea Quality

Aging tea does change its character, but maturation isn’t magic. Just as time can’t fix a bad wine, attempting to improve the flavor of a cheap tea through aging will only result in stale leaves. Set yourself up for success with a quality tea that has a proven reputation for aging well, like a sheng puerh or a high-elevation oolong.

Airflow

How much airflow should you allow your teas when you store them? The answer varies depending on type. For puerh teas, which are fermented, some airflow is essential for the microbial processes that give them their flavor. Thus, puerh storage can be as simple as keeping the tea wrapped in the paper packaging it came in.

But for white and oolong teas, oxygen is the enemy. These teas need to be kept airtight. A simple, if less elegant, approach, is to keep it in a zip-top bag. Clay or ceramic crockery can also be effective, provided that the vessels have sealed lids. This approach is similar to traditional storage methods in China and Taiwan, where the tea would be sealed into clay jars with wax to prevent airflow.

Regardless of type, aging teas should be kept in separate containers from other teas, and away from anything that may produce a strong odor, to prevent them from picking up unwanted flavor notes.

Humidity

When it comes to aged teas, humidity is a tricky business. Too dry and cold an environment can flatten flavor development. On the other hand, too much moisture may cause your teas to taste sour, or even start to mildew.

For puerh teas, a humidity anywhere between 60 – 85% should suffice. For drier climates, a moisture pouch button, such as those sold to maintain tobacco freshness, can be stored alongside the tea. White and oolong teas, however, should generally be kept away from excess moisture.

Time

No exact formula exists to say how long a tea needs to mature, and how long it will last before the flavor starts to degrade. Type, cultivar, growing region, and leaf grade can all have an impact on how long tea should be aged. Generally speaking, during their first couple years of aging most teas will still taste relatively fresh and young. An awkward “middle period” can be expected from years two to five, and from five to seven years onward most will begin to develop their richer, more complex flavors. White teas usually begin to mature fastest, followed by oolongs, and then puerhs. If stored properly, all three types can last for decades before they begin to lose flavor.

Have you had any experience aging tea at home? How do you like to store your teas? Drop a line in our Facebook comments to let us know!

By: Jen Coate

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss

Compressed Tea Cake Utensils

We’ll admit it: tea cakes can be daunting! Although compressed tea is a delightful way to explore unfamiliar traditions and flavors, we know that starting out may be intimidating. Maybe you’ve recently purchased a brick of your favorite puerh or aged white and aren’t certain how to use it. Maybe you’ve been given a handful of tuo cha by a well-intentioned friend. Or maybe you’re looking for a gift for the tea connoisseur in your life. Whatever the reason, we at Dominion Tea are here to help. Here’s a list of our favorite tea cake utensils, perfect for either the seasoned tea veteran or the novice just starting out.

    1. Tea Needle/Pick: These handy tools come in a variety of shapes and sizes designed to help break off sections of tea from your brick or cake without damaging its form. Picks and needles are used by sliding them horizontally between leaf layers in your tea cake, allowing you to gently pry free small measures at a time.
    2. Cha Ze Scoop: Traditionally made from bamboo or wood, Cha Ze scoops are an elegant way to measure out and present your tea after you have broken off the sections that you need. The high walls and long body of this tool make it perfectly shaped for transferring tea into your teapot for brewing.
    3. Cha Jia Tongs: Cha Jia serve a variety of purposes, especially if you are serving your tea traditionally. These bamboo tongs can be used to handle broken-up sections of compressed tea, pick out brewed leaves from a pot or pitcher, and

      Compressed Tea Cake Utensils

      Compressed Tea Cake Utensils

      handle hot cups during a Gong Fu ceremony.

    4. Breaking Tray: Also referred to as a Judging Tray when it is used for evaluation purposes, this small and shallow tray provides an ideal surface for breaking up compressed tea cakes. One bottom corner is always cut out, which allows you to easily pour your dry tea into your Cha Ze, gaiwan, or teapot.
    5. Tea Knife: Just like picks and needles, tea knives are specially designed to help you pry apart your tea cakes without causing excess damage to the leaves. Look for a small, flat, and very rigid blade that can easily slip between the dense layers in your tea cake. A good puerh knife can be a work of art in its own right, and many are designed to be beautiful as well as functional.

 

If you’re feeling intimated by the thought of a tea cake, why not pick up a few new utensils to try with it? (We carry them in our Purcellville, VA store.) Just like any other art, when it comes to tea preparation, having the right tools can make all the difference.

By: Jen CoateFollow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss