Sunday, August 28, 2011

Babs & Coco's Tea Emporium

This afternoon I went to the Darjeeling Tea Tasting that was held at Babs & Coco's Tea Emporium.  As usual I had my camera with me and managed to snap a couple of pictures.  I couldn't help but snap this picture though.  It is a big blow up advertisement for Fushi Yama restaurant that is located near their shop.

I wasn't there to go eat so bypassed him and went into Babs & Coco's.  It's always a pleasure to go into there.  They greeting me by name and invited me to have a seat and a cup of tea.  In my other posting about their business I mentioned about how they are willing to brew you a cup of whatever tea you wish to try which is nice.   I didn't have that much time to spare before the lesson began.  Today it was about Darjeeling tea. Keep in mind that any information that I give about it might be a little off since I am not the expert.  If you find an error in this, please let me know and I'll correct it.  Ready to learn about Darjeeling?  Then read on.

Darjeeling tea is actually a black tea even though most of them might be more technically an Oolong.  When you brew it, there can be a tinge of astringent tannic characteristic to it.  Some say it is call a muscatel since it can also have a musky spiciness to it.  While at the tea bar, they brought out a scale that they were given and demonstrated how to use it.  

 As you can see, the digital scales that most use are much more user friendly.  :)  

Then we went back to the classroom area to actually learn about cupping teas and our taste testing.  We didn't do the cupping but we actually did taste some of the teas and compared them.  In order to do so, we were given a tasting terminology sheet and a tea cupping log.  Cuppers evaluate teas and provide feedback so that producers and suppliers can get first hand information on them.  The events that people go to are called Cupping Events and there is an International Tea Cuppers Club.  For more information about the International Tea Cuppers Club go to:

We went through some different grades for the leaf teas.  There are pages full of different grades but some of the ones we talked about were OP for Orange Pekoe.  Most everybody should be familar with that.  It is probably what you normally buy off the shelf at the supermarket.  Then there is FOP or flowery orange pekoe, TGFOP - tippy golden flowery orange pekoe, SFTGFOP1 (special tippy golden flowery orange pekoe) and many more.

We also learned that the dry leaves are looked at for both appearance and aroma and descriptors such as bright deep, golden smooth can be used to describe the color and large, wiry, twisted can be used to describe the shape.

They also look at what the infused leaf looks like in appearance and aroma.  I found that of the teas that we tried, there could be a distinct difference in what the color and shape of the leaves are like before infusion and afterwards.  These are things that professionals can tell just by looking at which tea it is, etc.  Obviously, I will never get to that level and will gladly let the professionals do it.  We did learn how to sip the tea for a tasting.  I like the slurping method.  Reminded me of easting soup by myself in the middle of winter. LOL.

The coloring of the tea was interesting to see.  Each taster would put their own descriptive to it so it can vary.  Of the ones that were at this tasting, It was the Margaret's Hope tea that caused the most difference in descriptions.  What other teas did we try?

Our first tea that we tried was Wonder Tea or Gopaldhara which, I believe, is the name of one the estates that the Darjeeling tea is grown in.  It was my favorite of the ones that we tried today.  When dry, the leaves had a mixture of both long and short leaves as well as some stems in it.  I think it was a first flushing.  It was light gold liquid when steeped and not astringent.  It did not hae a "grade of tea" and just called Wonder.  Although later on it was mentioned that Wonder should probably be given more of the German spelling.  Did you know that the Germans were/are big tea drinkers?  I managed to get a picture of what the dry leaves as well as what the wet leaves of this tea looked like.  

The next one (my least favorite) was Singulli.  The rating on this one was SFTGFOP1.  That Special Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe grade means it is very top of the grade and made with the best leaves and buds.  Yeah.  Well this one I don't know.  I'm not fond of it so I'll just take their word for it.  This would be one I would have to "doctor up" in order to drink it and to hind that after taste which kicks in a minute or two AFTER you swallow.  The color of it was a darker honey color and pretty but that's about the best I can say for it.  Of course this critique is my own and not everybody might agree.

Thurbo was the third tea we tried.  It was a clonal and the leaves were more twisted.  It's grade was FTGFOP1 which is Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe or high percentage of tips with excellent quality of leaves.  I kind of liked this one.  After the steeping, you could see some red mixed in with the green leaves as well as some stems.  

The last two teas we tried were both Margaret's Hope.  One was last years and one was just picked in March of 2011.  The newer leaves were more broken up and young.  but last years when brewed up had a big red tinge to the leaves clearly indicating the autumnal picking.  The reviews were mixed on this but overall they were favorable.

Here is a picture of the owners talking about the tea leaves and point out the differences and what to look for.

Overall I liked this tea tasting.  While Darjeelings won't ever be my favorite, I know more about them and realize that there could be some blacks (or Oolongs) that I might like.  They are considered the Champagne of Teas (another name for them) but give me White Tea over them.  This tasting was informative and a much smaller group which is ideal for tasting.  I learned a lot and look forward to going to another in the future.  If I were to give them a grade I would give them an A.  

If you wish to learn more about Darjeeling tea and aren't in the area to ask these lovely ladies, you can understand a bit more by even going to wikipedia.

It will talka bout some of hte grades that I mentioned here as well as others and is a good jumping ground for further investigative work if you wish to learn more.  

I ended my stay at the Tea Emporium with a cup of Liquid Jade tea.  that is an organic green and white tea with a little bit of bergamot in it.  It is labelled as honey and citrus which is true.  I might have to buy that one come payday.  While drinking the tea and having a nice conversation with others, the topic of teas in food came up.  Another person was drinking Con Artist tea which is a smokey flavored tea.  We were thinking of ways to use it in cooking and I remembered mother use to buy "liquid smoke" and we decided that a google search of that would give some ideas.  Some ideas that we did think of was fish,, chicken, kabobs, soups and stews and root vegetables.  I am going to try tea in my rice sometime but want something different than just jasmine.  Perhaps a berry flavored?  I need to think on it more.

No matter which tea you prefer, have a cup and relax.  Tomorrow is another working day for most.  Until next time........

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