Category Archives: Tea Pairings

Matcha Green Tea and Matcha Bites at Sip Tea Lounge

imageIt is said that green tea was first introduced to Japan in the 8th century by a monk named Saisho.  He brought back tea seeds from China, where he was studying Buddhism.  During meditation, the tea was used by the monks to help keep them awake.  In the 12th century, Eisai, a monk who had also been studying Buddhism in China, began to popularize tea in Japan.  Eisai instructed that the tea should be consumed for its healthful properties.  While in China, the monks had learned to prepare tea during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) by grinding it into a powder, then mashing it in a bowl before brewing it. Eventually, the Chinese stopped preparing tea in this way and the custom was appropriated by the Japanese and integrated into the tradition known as chanoyu.

imageIn the 16th century, Sen No Rikyu codified the tea ceremony (chanoyu).  From 1641-1853, about 200 years, Japan was isolated from the rest of the world.  During this time, China was supplying many countries with tea while Japan was developing its own ways of processing and brewing it.  Matcha was mainly used in the Japanese tea ceremony and it has now become a very popular tea due to its health benefits.  Japanese researchers had studied the tea in the 1920s, proving that it contained catechins and antioxidants.  More recently, numerous studies have been ongoing to uncover the health benefits of tea, particularly matcha green tea.  Green tea has remained the most popular in Japan and although there may be some black teas produced domestically in Japan, the green teas are mainly the types associated with Japan.  Tea trees in Japan are often covered with canopies to shade the leaves in order to help them produce higher levels of chlorophyll and amino acids, and fewer tannins.  Primarily these shaded plants produce premium gyokuro, tencha and matcha.  To process matcha green tea, the leaves are picked, cut into tencha and ground into a fine powder after being steamed.  The result is an emerald green tea leaf that brews a brightly colored, almost fluorescent green liquor.  To brew the matcha green tea, the powder is placed into a traditional Chawan or appropriate bowl, 175 degree Fahrenheit water is placed on top of the powder (just enough to cover it) and the tea is vigorously whisked with a chasen (bamboo tea whisk) to create a thick frothy, bright green liquid. At Sip Tea Lounge, we have adopted our own version of serving this healthy brew.  The tea is whisked and prepared in a bowl similar to a chawan, but made for our tea lounge.  Additionally, we have added matcha tea to some of our vegan sweet treats including our Vegan Matcha Bites.  These can be a welcome tasty treat for anyone who would like to get a small taste of matcha, but is not ready to try the traditional Matcha Bowl by itself.  First time matcha tea drinkers may find straight matcha to be slightly bitter.  To balance out this bitterness, it is always nice to enjoy something sweet with the tea. image

The Tea Plant (Camellia sinensis)

There are three main varieties of the Camellia tea plant, the sinensis, assamica and cambodiensis. The Camellia sinensis is most commonly used for the cultivation of tea including black, green, oolong, white and pu er. The Camellia sinensis is a sturdy plant that can withstand harsh conditions and can grow at high altiutudes. Among the sinensis, there are many cultivars that have been created, some more cold resistant than others and some better for certain types of tea. The life of this plant can span decades and there are trees that are 100-1000 years old in existence today. Though the leaves tend to be a bit sparse on an older tree, leaves still can be gathered to make tea. If left uncut, the Camellia sinensis can grow to 20 feet while assamica varieties can reach almost 100 feet. On a plantation, most tea plants last approximately thirty to fifty years. Most plants used for tea are kept at waste height to make picking tea leaves easier. The Camellia sinesis is a perennial plant, and in some regions, can be harvested all year round. Where sunlight is less than 11 hours north or south for more than five weeks, however, growth slows and the plant may go dormant until the next season. Typically the first new leaves are picked in spring. This first picking of the season is also known as the first flush. It is said that the highest quality tea is picked at this time because the plant’s ingredients are more concentrated and aromatic when it awakens in the new season of spring.The five main tea-producing regions are China, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, India, and Japan, but tea plants also grow in Turkey, Africa, Argentina, Australia and even the United States as well as some other regions. The quality of the tea is greatly influenced by the condition in which the plants grow including soil, climate, altitude and latitude. In the United States, the most productive tea growing region at this time seems to be the Big Island of Hawaii. It can take some time for plants to mature, and to produce a significant amount of tea requires older plants, a fair amount of them and the labor to harvest and process the leaves. image

TEAS WITH CHEESE

On Sunday, March 24th, 2013, Sip Tea Lounge hosted an event with Mark Cassin from The Big Cheese.  We paired five teas with five local cheeses.  The result: AMAZING!
The fifth pairing was a surprise that included Red Rooibos, a delicious, homemade ginger bar from Sip Tea Lounge and fresh Chevre from New York State.  A trio of goodness.
For those of you who missed the event, here’s a breakdown of how things went down:

Pairing 1: Makaibari Darjeeling Tea with Berleberg Cheese
It is estimated that Darjeeling produces about 9 million kilograms of tea annually, yet it is said that 40 million kilograms of tea end up at the market each year. The good news is that there’s nothing fake about this organic 1st Flush 2012 Darjeeling from Makaibari Estate. The sweet and spicy scent and fruity notes of this SFTGFOP 1 SPL grade tea are signs that it is the real deal.

The tea is paired with Berleberg cheese from Hoosick, NY. One of the few certified organic cheeses, this cow’s milk cheese is delicate with floral notes, and has a finish like buttered popcorn. When combined, the Makaibari and Berleberg create a symphony in your mouth.

Pairing 2: Japanese Sencha Tea with Dulcinea Cheese
This clean, vegetal premium grade Sencha green tea from Southern Japan is deep steamed after plucking, giving the leaves their emerald green color. With hints of seaweed and ocean, this delicious brew will transport you.

This tea is paired with Dulcinea, a raw sheep’s milk cheese from Danascara’s Cheese of Fonda, NY. The cheese is made in the “Manchego” style, yet it has some cheddar notes. A rare find in New York State, a cheese like Dulcinea is a treat. The light sharpness of this cheese pairs well with the seaweedy Sencha.

Pairing 3: Chinese Pu Er Tea with Redfield Cheese
This mini “Shu” or “Cooked” Pu Er Tea cube from Yunnan, China is a fermented, compressed tea. To make Shu Pu Er, the fermentation process is accelerated by mixing new leaves (almost compost style) with the previous batch. Once the tea leaves have completed their rotation from the bottom to the top of the covered pile, they are baked, steamed, compressed and packed. This earthy Pu Er will continue to get darker with each brew, making it a long-lasting tea to savor and share.

This tea is paired with Redfield, a raw goat’s milk cheese from Cranberry Ridge Farm in Williamstown, NY. A semi-firm, light and almost lemony cheese, Redfield is a nice combination with the barny, hay-like Pu Er tea.

Pairing 4: Chrysanthemum Tea with Alpage Cheese
According to traditional Chinese medicine, Chrysanthemum flower is known for its internal cooling properties, and its ability to clear the liver and help the eyes. This decaffeinated herbal infusion is flowery with a unique and appealing bitterness.

This tea is paired with Alpage, from Amazing Real Live Food Co. in Pine Plains, NY. Alpage is a raw, aged cow’s milk cheese made in the classic Swiss tradition of Gruyere. The cheese hints of grass and stout by itself. When combined, the Alpage and Chrysanthemum bring out the best in each other.

Pairing 5: Rooibos Tea with Painted Goat Cheese
Rooibos is an herb that is grown in a small area in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Not technically a tea because it is not produced from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis, Red Rooibos goes through a process of oxidation that is somewhat similar to a single garden tea.  As a result, the leaves become reddish-brown in color. The decaffeinated Rooibos herbal tisane has a distinct mellow yet earthy sweetness that makes it a lovely choice for the end of a meal.

This tea is paired with the season’s first batch of fresh Chevre from Painted Goat Farm in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.
The combination of the Chevre spread on top of a delicious, homemade ginger bar, and the Rooibos herbal Tisane, make this final pairing an unforgettable surprise.

Don’t be sad if you missed this pairing.  We will do another tea and cheese event.  In the meantime, check out the siptealoungeny.com “Events” section to learn more about our upcoming tastings and pairings.

See you at Sip Tea Lounge soon!

SKIDMORE SIPS

On October 6, 2013 we had the pleasure of hosting a pairing for some amazing Skidmore Alumni who live in our area.   During this pairing, five teas were matched with five baked goods from the Sip Tea Lounge kitchen.

For those of you who missed it, here is a recap of the menu:

Pairing 1: Genmaicha with Musubi

Originally enjoyed by Japanese peasants because the addition of rice made the tea more affordable, Genmaicha is now a favorite of all tea drinkers. This Genmaicha tea is made from a combination of steamed green Sencha, roasted brown Japanese rice and sorghum which, when popped, resembles popcorn. Brewed, this tea has a comforting aroma with hints of spinach and popped corn. It brews a bright green-yellow liquor.

Musubi (known also as Onigiri) is a delicious Japanese comfort food. Made with sushi rice filled with pickled Umeboshi plum, coated with toasted sesame seeds and wrapped in Nori, Musubi is the perfect partner for Genmaicha tea. Two comforting tastes that pair great together.

Pairing 2: Matcha Tea with Vegan Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cup

Originating in China, this tea was brought to Japan first by Japanese Zen monks who shared it with aristocracy. Made from Tencha leaves of shade-grown tea plants, Matcha powder is whisked into a fluffy froth often used in Japanese tea ceremonies. Popular among the health conscious, Matcha encourages a focused and relaxed mind. Brewed, Matcha makes a thick green paste-like tea.

Sinfully Delicious Vegan Peanut Butter Cups pair well with

Matcha. The creamy texture and sweet taste of the peanut butter cup combines nicely with the bitter Matcha to form a bittersweet symphony of flavors.

Pairing 3: House Spiced Black Chai with Toasted Coconut Brownie

In India,“Chai” means “tea.” A cup of “chai” typically consists of a black tea with milk and sugar. We invite you to share our own artisanal-spiced chai blend. Made with black tea and organic dried ginger, black and white peppercorns, star anise, fennel, cardamom, Ceylon cinnamon, cloves and allspice, this tea will rock your world.

The rich chocolate taste and coconut texture pair well with the big and spicy black chai blend featured here. The strong, yet slight sweetness of the tea brings out the best in the brownie.

Pairing 4: Russian Caravan Tea with Russian Tea Cookie

Russian Caravan is a black tea blend from China with a distinct smoky aroma and flavor. Rising in popularity in the 1700’s, when black tea from Wuyi Mountain in Fujian Province was exported by caravan to the north, this tea became a popular item in Russia. The tea, which picks up aromas very easily, was carried via caravan along the trading routes. Repeatedly exposed to campfires in transit, the tea developed a smoky flavor. Those who tasted it liked the smoky notes and started ordering “smoky tea” from the producers. As a result, the tea was named “Russian Caravan.”

It’s hard to believe such a tiny cookie can have such a big impact. The creamy, nuttiness of this powdered sugar coated Russian Tea Cookie can really pack a punch. That is probably why it pairs so well with the smoky, slightly bitter Russian Caravan Tea. This combination proves the saying that “good things come in small packages.”

Pairing 5: Chamomile Lavender Herbal Tisane with Maple Walnut Bar

Chamomile blended with lavender come together to make a soothing, calming herbal tisane.

Sip Tea Lounge’s Maple Walnut Bar pairs nicely with Chamomile Lavender. The sweet, yet light maple flavor of the bar is enhanced by the elegant Chamomile Lavender Herbal Tisane with its characteristic apple notes.