November 24, 2015

Book Review - The Healthy Matcha Cookbook (& Recipe Excerpt)

There are many things to like about Miryam Quinn-Doblas's The Healthy Matcha Cookbook. One, the book is hard cover and has a dust jacket illustrated with a photo of a delicious looking Barley Risotto seasoned with 2 teaspoons of matcha. I have not yet made this recipe but perhaps I should, soon; after all, it's the cover photo! Two, the pages are stain resistant. I don't have to worry about wiping every bit of spice or sauce off my fingers before turning the page, though the book is designed such that I don't have to, which brings me to three. Each recipe and it's accompanying photo are in a facing pages layout. Four, the focus of the book is the recipes. Five, in keeping with the emphasis on recipes, there is relevant information about matcha as well as the other ingredients used to prepare the dishes. Six, there is a Resources chapter; it's short but practical. And seven, the book has a handy conversion chart for metric to imperial and Fahrenheit to Celsius. One more thing, the index is logically designed.

There are four categories of recipes: Energizing Breakfasts, Healthy Snacks, Lean Meals, and Decadent Desserts. I chose a dessert (Chocolate Chunk Cookies) and two breakfast recipes (Breakfast Frittata and Breakfast Parfaits). The frittata could work as an entree or "lean meal".
The cookies, and many of the desserts, contain coconut oil. I stored them in the refrigerator to prevent the coconut oil from going stale.  I liked the cookies, especially warm. The coconut oil was the predominant flavor so if you are not a fan of coconut oil, this might not be the cookie recipe for you.
The egg dish was also good. I didn't make it to the recipe, though. One change was that I used cumin because I did not have tumeric (the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon). The combination of matcha and cumin was delicious. The matcha added a deep green color and flavor -- similar to fresh spinach, and not baby spinach -- to the eggs.

My favorite of the three recipes was the parfait.  Again, I strayed slightly away from the recipe. I used regular whole milk and not plan Greek yogurt but this recipe is versatile so I think using a yogurt of your choice, or fresh fruit of your choice (as suggested by Miryam) will produce tasty results. The best part of this recipe was the "matcha yogurt" as I call it of yogurt, maple syrup, and matcha. I will definitely use this matcha yogurt in other recipes. And thanks to Skyhorse Publishing, I am sharing the full Breakfast Parfait recipe below.
Breakfast Parfait recipe reprinted with permission from The Healthy Matcha Cookbook: Green Tea–Inspired Meals, Snacks, Drinks, and Desserts by Miryam Quinn Doblas (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015.)

You can find Miryam and her recipes at EatGood4Life. She's on lots of social media platforms, too. The Eat Good 4 Life Pinterest boards are a delight. The Healthy Matcha Cookbook: Green Tea– Inspired Meals, Snacks, Drinks, and Desserts is sold on Amazon (affiliate link) as well as via Skyhorse Publishing.

A review copy of The Healthy Matcha Cookbook was provided by Skyhorse Publishing. Recipes were prepared with culinary grade matcha courtesy of Mizuba Tea Co.

November 19, 2015

Favorite Tea Ware - Bonnie Eng of Thirsty for Tea

As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from bombillas to matcha whisks. Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community. Today's faves are from Bonnie Eng of Thirsty for Tea. Bonnie is a renaissance tea drinker; her background is in health education, Asian American Studies, and culinary arts! She posts photographs of her beautiful recipes and crafts on Instagram @thirstyfortea.

1. This English teacup is one of my prized possessions. I got it on Etsy years ago and love its shabby chic vibe, especially the poppy colors. The cup is quite sturdy, probably made of porcelain. I like to enjoy a classic English Breakfast in it, or a bright Darjeeling if I’m lucky enough to have some on hand.

2. Ok, of course the irony here is that you should never, ever use tap water to brew any tea. But I like this glass bottle for taking iced teas on the go. If I know I’m out and about the next day, I like to cold brew second steepings of a tea to compare the hot and cold versions. This bottle makes a great on-the-go drinking accessory not only because it doesn’t carry over flavors, but also because it’s a reminder to myself and others to stay green.

3. This Chinese teacup is a vintage find. I got it at Pikes Place in Seattle several years ago at a dingy little shack of a store. The cup was hidden in the back amongst a host of granny-approved treasures. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I felt like Indiana Jones finding the Holy Grail when I got my hands on it. The cup is made of very thin bone china–extremely fragile–but great for enjoying an expensive Puerh.

4. This is the most practical tea ware piece in my collection, a Japanese Hario Tea Pot. I literally use it everyday. Lately, it has become a part of my sommelier coursework protocol (here, you see it with a Young Puerh). I park this on a tray with tasting cups, a thermometer, and a timer so that I can get to work. The teapot is ideal for a singular tea drinker, and because it’s made of tempered glass you can enjoy watching your tea leaves “dance” as they brew.

5. Again, there is an element irony here because I never use this teapot to brew tea–I use this pot solely for food photography purposes. Because of its broken handle, this gem cost only 50 cents at the local Goodwill store. The check out lady was kind enough to stick on several layers of tape over the sharp edges where the handle broke off. I like that the classic blue and white teapot design looks both iconic and humble at the same time.

6. This Japanese Kami cup comes straight from Hokkaido, and is made from precisely shaped castor aralia wood. To protect the natural wood grain, the cup is sealed with a protective coating. I love to drink organic, ceremonial grade matcha in this cup–the frothy leaf green against the natural wood color brings me a sense of peace.

I am so glad Bonnie agreed to participate in this series. Her favorite tea objects are gorgeous!

November 16, 2015

Giveaway: The Art and Craft of Tea by Joseph Uhl

You are probably familiar with Joe Uhl's teas via Joseph Wesley Tea. Joe is also an author. His new book, The Art and Craft of Tea, is beautiful. It looks and feels like a "coffee table" book. The writing is strong and the photographs are fantastic.

I have partnered with Quarto Cooks and Quarto Books to giveaway TWO copies of The Art and Craft of Tea. We are hosting the book giveaway on our Instagram page. The giveaway is open to residents around the world. Enter now. Good luck!

November 12, 2015

Teabook, Part 2: Interview with Jeffrey McIntosh, Teabook Founder & CEO

Have you had a chance to read Teabook, Part 1, a review of two Teabook teas? The founder of Teabook, Jeffrey McIntosh, spoke with me last week about his start in tea and future plans for the company. I'm pleased to share our Q&A below. Please note that the answers are a mix of verbatim transcription and my paraphrasing.

Notes on Tea: Before receiving my teabook I envisioned a tea bag chest that you sometimes see at an afternoon tea service. The design of Teabook is a bit like that. Can you talk about the design of the “book” as well as the inspiration for company’s name?
Jeffrey McIntosh: Teabook is the third tea company that I have opened. I lived and studied in China and am fluent in Chinese. I wanted to make quality tea accessible. People in the US find it hard to integrate tea into everyday life. With Teabook, people can have access to and get new tea every month; pure loose leaf tea. They can say, "Wow, tea tastes great on its own!" The main friction points for potential teal drinkers are (1) temperature; (2) leaf to water ratio; and (3) steep time. The Teabook concept addresses all three. Green, white, oolong, red, and a special tea will be offered. The inclusion of a special collection tea is to provide an ultra premium tea experience. The tea bags are designed to open across the top cleanly so there will be a nice pour. The minimalist box design is a nod to low cost production as well as to modern design aesthetic. 87% of millennial are drinking tea; this demographic is pushing the demand.
The company is incorporated as Xian Chan Tea Corporation but we decided not to use this name for the product because it is difficult to type and we wanted to appeal to a broader audience. The name Teabook evokes a narrative, a journey; the more you interact with the company and its teas, the more you learn.

My husband said that your tumbler reminds him of seeing office workers in China drinking tea from mason jars. Was this imagery the inspiration for your tumbler? Did you have concerns about oversteeping since the leaves remain in the tumbler?
The tea tumbler design originated with a tumbler producer in China. We did not want to use plastic so we altered the design to a double-walled glass body. The filter is stainless steel and durable but other components of the lid are plastic. In the next iteration of the tumbler, it will be a plastic exterior with a glass interior, and no plastic in the drinking experience.
We were concerned about oversteeping only on red tea but we think most people will drink the tea before the liquor reaches this point. You can steep the green tea for an hour without overstepping. There is 1-2 grams of tea in each pack and the tumbler holds 10 ounces of water. We are working on  making the portions more precise.
If you experience a plastic taste, the tumbler can be washed in very hot water and it is dishwasher safe.

In your bio, your “hands-on tea farm experience in China and modern large American tea company know-how” are mentioned. Can you describe both experiences in more detail? 
When I was 17, I walked into a small teashop in Seattle and drank a high mountain oolong. This cup of tea was literally life changing. I felt a weight lift from my shoulders and I realized that this -- holding a cup of tea in my hands -- was what I wanted to be doing. I dropped out of school and started an internship at the teashop. Through the Seattle teashop owner, I met an Los Angeles based tea master and owner of the Denong Tea Company. I completed an eight-month apprenticeship in Yunnan dos studied with her for one year in L.A. After that, I traveled between L.A. and China two to three times per year. During this time, I fell in love with puree. The first tea company I founded focused on puree and the majority of my clients were based in Russia.
The mission of Teabook is really clean tea that tastes good and is affordable, then we will introduce teaware and other aspects. My biggest fear is that tea will become a beverage industry.

Why a subscription service model and not a traditional tea seller?
I know that the subscription or curated model is hugely popular as a result of my studies at the Founder's Institute, the largest incubator in the world. We designed our subscription experience to provide a little window into the tea world every month. It is flexible in terms of commitment because we did not want the customer to feel trapped. People can go in and create account. The interface is one page and it is easy to submit an order.

I’ve noticed that many of the new tea companies – whether subscription services or tea sellers are located in the Pacific NW (Washington, Portland, Vancouver). Can you talk about your locational decision?
I don't know. A lot of beverages start ups have come out of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Maybe it is the cold weather, the rain. It's possible that large Chinese populations in Seattle and the PNW might be a contributing factor.

I read that the teas you will offer are based on “the season’s best”. Can you give a preview of what a subscriber might expect in each month’s box over the course of 12 months?
A new website will be launched this month. A white tea is coming soon. Next month, the box will have an oolong and a green tea and we will increase to 19 packets (9 packets each of the two regular teas, and 1 packet of the special collection tea). In the winter we will provide roasted oolong and black tea. Next year we want to introduce puerh but there is a washing aspect which we are working through. We may offer puerh through the special collection along with rock tea and Wuxi teas. Look for new quotes in the January box. We will begin to feature farmers’ gardens. Also, we are developing videos; starting in January, a video will be released every month. Finally, next year, customers will be able to customize their teabook box.

How will you maintain "seasonal offerings" with a customization option?
We will keep the choice of tea simple by type so a subscriber can’t ask for a Bi Lo Chun “out of season”, for example. Also there might be a month or so when green teas would not be included in a teabook even if a subscriber requested all greens in her box.

Is sustainability a core element of Teabook?
Sustainability is important but I am focused on validating the concept. At 10,000 + subscribers, all packages will have to be biodegradable. The first element that we would make sustainable is the tea packets. We have found a supplier in the U.S.

Jeffrey McIntosh is the founder and CEO of Teabook. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, Jeffrey.

November 10, 2015

Teabook, Part 1: Teas and Tumbler

As part of my introduction to Teabook, I interviewed founder Jeffrey McIntosh. It was a great conversation so stay tuned for the transcript later this week. In this post, I share my experiences of the teas and the tumbler.

Each Teabook box comes with three types of tea, one of which is a specialty tea from Jeffrey's personal collection. There is only one packet of the specialty tea. There are eight packets each of the other two teas. In my box, there was Long Jing (green), a Dian Hong (red), and Xiang Ming (also a green). Each packet has approximately 2g of loose leaf and the tumbler has a liquid capacity of between 8 and 10 oz. I usually steep my tea in a taiwan (or tasting cup set) so I was not used to this ratio of leaf to water.

The Long Jing is good. It has all the classic Dragonwell elements in terms of leaf style, aroma, and flavors. However, when I steeped the tea in the tumbler, there was a plastic smell and taste. I washed the tumbler several times following instructions from Teabook to wash in the dishwasher and/or with very hot water. I have not been able to remove the plastic odor and taste from the tumbler. I also used the tumbler for the Dian Hong and it had the same effect.

Dian Hong (aka Yunnan Gold) is one of my favorite teas. I definitely enjoyed Teabook's version when I prepared it in my gaiwan which has a smaller water capacity than the tumbler. The ratio of leaves to the amount of water in the tumbler can dull the flavor of this tea. In addition, I found that steeping the Dian Hong in 185 degree F water really showcased the taste of this tea. Another tip: immediately after opening the packet, take a deep inhale of the leaves. The smell is heavenly.

I haven't yet prepared the Xiang Ming. Since there is only packet I am hesitant to steep it! I think I need an "open that packet night" similar to the Open That Bottle Night hosted by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, wine columnists for the Wall Street Journal.

Come back for more Teabook: (1) my interview with founder Jeffrey MacIntosh and (2) my tasting of Xiang Ming!

Teabook (teas and tumbler) c/o of Teabook.

This post was edited on November 12, 2015. Read Teabook, Part 2: Interview with Jeffrey McIntosh, Teabook Founder and CEO.
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