Saturday, October 27, 2018

Exploring the Asheville Goods "High Tea" Gift Box

I wrote an earlier blog post about the Asheville Goods “High Tea” Gift Box to give you an idea of what makes up this carefully curated collection.  Now, I will open up the packages and tins, have a taste of these teas and goods, and share the experience with you.

The teas in this gift box collection are selected to carry you through the day. If you follow my way of doing things, you will begin your morning with the brisk black Rwandan tea from TimaTea.  You will drink Dobra Tea’s green tea as a gentle afternoon pick me up, and then wind up your day with the soothing tisane from Asheville Tea Company.

First let’s talk about how to brew these loose teas.  Using the cute infuser which is enclosed in this gift box (pictured above) you will want to follow the brewing instructions on each tea package as your starting point for knowing how much of the loose tea to use and how long to infuse it in order  to brew a cup of tea.   

I drink a great deal of tea, so I generally brew my tea by the pot rather than the cup.  For a pot of tea, you will want to calculate out how much dry loose tea to use depending upon the size (cup capacity) of your tea pot. I use a tea pot with a built in infuser basket.  If you do not have this type of tea pot, you could use paper infuser bags such as those pictured above.  They work great.

Now, I want assure you that you are always free to experiment with both the amount of loose tea and the brewing time used to find the combination which suits your taste.  The suggestions on the packages are just a starting point.  So experiment and really taste your tea.  Each of these teas is a high quality tea that you will no doubt enjoy.  So if the first cup is not to your liking, experiment!

If you enjoy a sweetener in your tea, try the delicious wildflower honey from Mikell’s Farm which is included in the gift box. And if you enjoy a sweet something to eat with your tea, you will certainly love the lavender shortbread cookies made by Asheville’s Ivory Road Café& Kitchen.  The cookies freeze beautifully, so if you do not plan to eat them within a few weeks of purchase, pop them in the freezer to maintain their delicious, lavender-enhanced buttery flavor.

I drink a pot of black tea every morning with my breakfast.  This morning I brewed the black tea from Tima Tea of 3 Mountains which worked for me as a great morning wake up! This medium-bodied brew is slightly astringent and carries a distinct flavor profile which Tima Tea describes as being the flavor of the Rwandan terroir.  I like a fairly strong brew in the morning, so I steeped this tea for 5 minutes rather than that recommended 3.5 minutes.  Even with my  slightly longer than recommended brew time the tea did not taste bitter to me.  I look forward to enjoying this tea again with my morning meal.

The Green tea from Dobra Tea hails from the Yunnan province in China.  I find green teas to be a little less forgiving when it comes to modifying brew time because they can become quite bitter if over brewed. So I would definitely start with the 1 minute brew time recommended for this tea.

I brewed today’s afternoon green tea, called “Dian Lu Eshan” as directed.  I used the small pot and cup combination that had been given to me by a Chinese friend of my daughter. This small pot is perfect for brewing teas which call for multiple infusions with short brew times.  If you do not have your own small teapot, do not worry. The infuser included with this gift box will be perfect for brewing this tea one cup at a time.

Once brewed, this tea is light and fresh in body and flavor.  And because you can brew multiple infusions from the same leaves, which is to say that you can pour hot water over the same wet leaves time and time again, this tea will go a long way.

At the end of a long and busy day, the relaxing properties of the Lavender Chamomile tisane from Asheville TeaCompany are just what is called for.  This naturally caffeine-free blend, with its light body and slightly sweet flavor, is the perfect addition to your evening routine.

You can brew this herbal blend for as long as you like.  It does not get bitter with an extended brewing time. (This is a useful note for the forgetful ones among us.) I brew this blend for 5 minutes before drinking, but that is not mandatory.

So today I enjoyed the full range of items offered in the Asheville Goods “High Tea” gift box.  I recommend this collection as a gift for yourself or for any tea lover in your life.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Asheville Goods "High Tea" Gift Box

Asheville is a unique place - and Celia Naranjo of Asheville Goods has been around long enough to have an insiders’ knowledge of what makes the city special. Asheville’s artisanal food producers, organic farmers, hand crafters, and independent small businesses give the city its special character.  Celia includes products from each of these categories of makers in the creative gift boxes that she offers both online and in person at Asheville Goods.  From the Pritchard Park coffee and chocolate box to The Laurel body and bath box, her Asheville Goods gift boxes represent the city at its best.

So what about tea? You are asking. Asheville Goods now offers a tea-themed gift box called “High Tea” which includes products from each of Asheville’s tea-related independent businesses.  In this gift box you will find a tisane from the Asheville Tea Company, blended by owner, Jessie Dean, from locally grown botanicals. Next is a green tea from Dobra Tea’s Andrew Snavely who travels and sources his teas from throughout Asia.  Sara Stender’s Tima Tea loose leaf black tea from Rwanda rounds out this gift box’s tea offering.  As accessories to the three tea selections you will find a fun tea infuser with lavender shortbread cookies made by Jill Wasilewski of Ivory Road Café & Kitchen. And to sweeten the mix even further you have Mikell’s Farm wildflower wild honey from hives that abut the Pisgah National Forest.

Each of these makers is a significant figure in the Asheville tea “scene.” So, in order to get an insider’s view and taste of tea in Asheville, you need to try the “High Tea” gift box from Asheville Goods. It is the perfect gift for yourself or the tea lover in your life.

Those of you in the Asheville area, will have the opportunity to meet some of these characters from the Asheville tea “scene” at a Saturday, October 27 pop up shop. Join me, Celia, Jessie Dean, and whoever else shows up from 2-7 p.m. at the Asheville Goods and Asheville Tea Company brick and mortar shop at 7 Brevard Road. This is located just off of Haywood Road in West Asheville.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Story of Robert Fortune in Tea and Books

Today, I have been sipping Upton Tea Imports’ black tea blend called Robert Fortune Blend 41.  Naming this blend after the Scottish adventurer, botanist, and plant hunter is apt as the blend contains both Chinese Yunnan and Indian Darjeeling tea. The life and exploits of Robert Fortune created a symbolic bridge between the worlds of China and India, and this unique tea blend does as well.

The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide by Mary Lou and Robert Heiss describes Yunnan black teas as “lush, thirst-quenching treats.”  This same book describes spring Darjeeling teas as being characterized by “fresh exuberance” while later flushes of Darjeeling are described as “rich and smooth.”  In either case, Darjeeling, known as the “Queen of Indian teas,” adds a lighter note to the Chinese Yunnan and results here in a lovely, balanced black tea blend.

If you would like to read a lively account of the life and exploits of Robert Fortune, take a look at For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History by Sarah Rose.   The short version of the story goes something like this: Robert Fortune, as an “agent” of the East India Company, shipped/smuggled tea plants, seeds, and eight Chinese tea experts from China’s tea lands into India where they formed the foundation of what later became the Indian Tea Industry.

You can find bits and pieces of information about Robert Fortune in any of the books pictured here above. (Click on image to enlarge it.)  And if you are somewhat business oriented and interested in knowing more about the East India Company, you might want to look up a 2012 book called The Corporation that Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational.

(Disclaimer: The tea discussed here was provided to me by Upton Tea Imports.)
© my tea diary
Maira Gall