Darjeeling. An area of our planet which many argue produces the finest teas in the world. In Northern India, just below the Himalayan Mountains, the estates here are very high in elevation, cooler, and exposed to thinner air and more sunlight than most other tea growing regions. Along with these factors, using Chinese varietals rather than the native Indian varietal adds a level of complexity to the teas that makes them truly unique. And the first budding of the year, the first tiny buds and leaves to unfurl after the fallow winter, are the most prized and sought. Since we only carry one First Flush a year, we taste and compare extensively… until we come to our decision for 2013: the Organic Arya Diamond. This is an American Tea Room first! Both the Diamond and our rare White Pearl Darjeeling are from the same estate! Arya, founded in 1885, has some the most exceptional teas around, as well as being in one of the highest elevations of the estates. And may we say, the Arya Diamond is exceptional.
When you try this tea, it’s hard not to be impressed. First, observe the dry leaves. Downy silver buds and auburn-green leaves are fluffy and woodsy, with an essence of musk, kale, and fresh pine needles. But with a first brew, you will be astounded that the astringency and peppery qualities inherent in most Darjeelings is missing. Instead, an aroma of toasted pumpkin seeds billows up and with a sip, a fascinating flavor of pear and fresh spring flowers lingers longer than you would expect. In fact, this tea sits longer on your palate than most we’ve ever tried. The complexity draws out even further… but I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you! It’s best experienced in person. A masterpiece of a tea, truly.
Really, the best way to recommend matcha is to ask the simple question: “When isn’t it a good time for matcha?” For those who aren’t familiar, matcha is the stone-ground leaves of Japanese green tea plants. You then whisk that powder into water and enjoy. Think of it like green tea espresso! It’s chock full of antioxidants (per cup, it actually contains some of the highest levels of antioxidants in the food kingdom), is smooth with a grassy sweet finish, and has a good dose of caffeine, for energy, and of theanine, for focus. Ok, maybe you shouldn’t drink it right before bed, but with all the delicious invigorating qualities it has to offer, it really is a healthy habit to get into. Find your Zen… drink matcha.
It’s something that we at American Tea Room know as the Kabuki craze. Every Spring, for some time now, we’ve brought in a seasonally fresh Japanese green tea that never fails to wow us and our customers. And that tea is Kabuki. With a waiting list that grows year-round, this partially shade-grown green tea, known as kabuse, is blended with freshly budded cherry blossoms in Japan, imparting a sweet, floral, smooth flavor that makes you woozy in the head. And with only a very limited quantity, it’s usually one of our fastest selling teas as well.
What’s it like? It’s jade green brew has a touch of amber and exudes an intensely fresh Spring flavor of floral cherry. The quality of the tea is evident — look closely at you’ll see the ultra-fine fragments of the green leaves swirling in your cup, creating a veritable galaxy of goodness. It also helps the richness of the brew to maintain and assert itself through the sweetness of the blossoms. The cherry is prominent, but after the initial sweet bite, it fades to a mellow vegetal quality that forces you to reflect on the coming wealth of summer. Once again, this tea sells out fast, so be sure to grab a little before you have to wait another year! Trust us, we know how painful it is to wait for this one.
Bi Luo Chong, or ‘Spring Green Snail’, is a renowned green tea in the east, and we source ours only from one of the best growers of this tea in Taiwan’s northern Pinglin District. The long, tightly curled leaves appear capable of coming alive and jumping right out of your cup and into your lap. And from it’s aroma, you may not be surprised if it did; Because of its bright, fragrant aroma, this tea was originally called ‘Scary Aroma Tea’ in China. A truly unique tea of it’s own, we’ve just received our brand new Spring batch from Taiwan and are pleased to share it with all of you.
First, notice the intense smell. Like fresh forest moss and spring grass, this tea harkens the season. Cool your water before steeping, the richness and subtlety come only with a bit of coaxing. The color is pale yellow, like the year’s first budded flowers. On your palate, the taste is at first light, but a much longer experience than you might first expect. A twinge of French green olives and fresh green herbs give way to a crisp creaminess. A hint of roasted squash and cauliflower accent the surprising finish, lingering and leaving you wanting more. So stop by the shop, and experience this tea firsthand.
The Arya Pearl estate in Darjeeling, India, just a hop away from Nepal and Bhutan, is an estate alive with the kinds of teas that we wait all season for. We crave it, we hope for it, we even dream of it. With Spring here, the time has come for our first tea harvest. Plucked less than two weeks ago, this tea is supremely fresh and rare. We only have seven kilos! This limited quantity is not to be missed. A real treat from a region known for their black teas, we’re honored that our first flush of the season is Arya Pearl’s organic white tea, here once again to thrill our customers.
The leaves are the color of green cardamom and consist of the bud and next two leaves. Aromatically, it evokes a brisk high mountain plain, with notes of wildflowers and a dash of white pepper. The brew comes through lightly, but a sip assures you that this tea is not exactly ordinary. The amino acid richness fills your palate with a bright grassiness leveled out with notes of peach and pistachio. For a real treat, use extra tea in your brew and let the body of the leaf assert itself. A tea like this treats you to the real terroir of the Himalayas in the most delicate and delicious way. If you are looking for the rich and rarefied, look no further.
P.S. And Happy Good Friday! For a limited time, you can save 20% off all tea purchases on our website!
Last week, we at American Tea Room had our first event of the year. A collaboration with the ultra talented Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections, we paired five of our gourmet teas with five custom made creations by Valerie. The evening was one to remember! Each and every guest not only had the pleasure of sampling, tasting, and pairing the night’s treats, but took home a goody bag complete with a double walled glass tasting cup, a 20% off coupon good for most items in the store, a tea info pamphlet, a complementary teaspoon, and three samples of our blended teas. And believe me, you wish you were there. Why? Check out these food pairings:
Market Green Salad with Black Sesame Vinaigrette,
Paired with Honyama Sencha
A Shiitake, Chicken, and Leek Tarlet,
Paired with Milk Oolong
Mellow Gold Grapefruit & Jasmine Sorbet,
Paired with Jasmine Pearls
and a Coconut Panna Cotta,
Paired with Macaroon
We worked hard to be sure that our teas not only complemented the amuse-bouches, but enhanced them in the way that only tea can. Be on the lookout for more events to follow! You don’t want to miss out on the fresh new pairings and ideas we have in store for the future.
Pictured: Valerie, David, and Jordan
To coincide with our most recent Tea*Vent, we’ve created a smoky tea cocktail with bourbon and the hearth and heart’s favorite smoky tea, Lapsang Souchong! Recipe as follows:
2 oz. Bourbon
4 big teaspoons Lapsang Souchong tea
4 ounces Water
4 tablespoons Sugar
1 sprig Lavender
1. Two hours before preparing, infuse the bourbon with 2 teaspoons of the Lapsang tea. Let sit at room temperature until ready to prepare the cocktail, then remove tea leaves.
2. Brew the remaining 2 teaspoons of tea in the water at the recommended temperature for the recommended time. Remove leaves when done steeping and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Allow to cool. You will have more than you need, it’s just easier to make this much.
3. Carefully, peel off a large chunk of the kumquat, to use as garnish.
4. In a large Boston shaker, muddle the kumquat then fill with ice. Add bourbon, add 1/2 oz. of your Lapsang syrup. Then shake shake it!
5. Strain into a martini glass and garnsih with the kumquat peel and a spring of lavender. Enjoy!
Tea*Vents are back! And not just any tea*vent, but a very special one featuring Valerie Gordon, owner of the popular Valerie Confections! She normally works with us in providing our gourmet foods for the shop, including tea jams and chocolate barks. But now, we’ve been able to sort out a fantastic event with her, on Thursday, March 14.
We will be pairing five legendary teas (including a tea cocktail) with five amuse bouches designed and prepared by Valerie, each emphasizing a different flavor profile. Each guest will get to taste, combine, sample, and leave with a gift bag that includes a tea tasting cup and 20% off coupon for the shop. But hurry! Space is limited! Tickets and $40 per person and advance reservations are required.
To make reservations, call American Tea Room: 310-271-7922
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember, the event is Thursday, March 14, 7:00 - 8:30pm
To learn more about Valerie and her inspired creations, check out this video.
Very little is better in the world than tea in its prime. At American Tea Room, we are always searching, tasting, and sourcing the best and freshest tea we can acquire. Sometimes it can be difficult, considering we have varietal staples in our collection that our customers simply can’t live without. Thankfully, and not a moment too soon, we’ve found the newest editions of our oolong collection, 2012 Winter Harvests of Bao Zhong Royale and Dong Ding.
Bao Zhong is one of our most complimentary oolongs. Smooth and light, tea lovers and novices alike delight in its flavor. Grown in Pinglin, Taiwan, one can immediately see that it’s a tea to be desired, as the leaves curl in long elegant spirals. Bao Zhong means ‘wrapped in paper’ and that’s exactly how the growers achieve this twisted effect. The brew is of a pale gold with a hint of green, but lean in close and it’s the aroma that floors you. A wonderfully heady blend of floral tones: lilac, narcissus, jasmine. Taste it and recognize the total lack of astringency here; in fact, it is smooth and sweet on the finish.
Dong Ding is of a darker oxidation, but still retains a vegetal nature that lovers of green and white teas will find pleasing. Paired with the mossy juiciness of this tea is a nutty, toasted quality that reminds one of the high-altitude forests that this tea was grown in, near a high mountain lake. It’s name means ‘icy peak’ and is taken from the original varietal grown in China. Ours comes from the Nantou region of Taiwan, legendary for their oolongs, and is rolled by hand into small pebbles that unfurl in your cup. A balance of bite and beauty turn this tea into a connoisseur’s treasure. Our new batch is available at a new discounted price as well! So hurry up to brew a cup.