19. May 2011 09:49
How many teas are in your cupboard? I’ll bet you have more than a few. And why not? One of the greatest joys in drinking tea comes from discovering new teas and trying them for the first time. Maybe it’s a new herbal blend that you’ve never heard of, or perhaps it’s a fancy Oolong with a Chinese name that’s barely pronounceable. The world of tea keeps providing us with wonderful new experiences, and, like a childhood toy chest, our tea collection keep expanding.
Naturally, we want each of these teas to taste its absolute finest--not only for our own mental well being, but also to satisfy our friends and guests. The way we get each tea to taste its best is to make sure that we prepare them properly. For example, Dragonwell, a pan-fired Chinese tea, is typically prepared at around 85°, steeped for about four minutes: any hotter, and it tastes bitter; any longer, and it loses its sweetness. Japanese green teas, such as Sencha or Gyokuro, require even cooler water temperatures, and even shorter steep times, and can likewise taste not-so-great if prepared improperly. As we embark upon our tea journey, it can be extremely helpful to stay conscious of which teas need to be steeped for how long, and at what temperature, so that they can be enjoyed as the tea artisans in faraway lands intended them to taste.
Another important lesson in our tea journey is to carefully meditate on the rich and subtle flavors our teas provide us with. Does the Oolong come with subtle notes of apple and pear? The Pu-erh the scent of fresh morning pine? Stewed spinach in our Gyokuro? Meditating on the aroma and flavors of our teas builds our tasting vocabulary, which is extremely important for communicating and sharing our tea experiences with others. This kind of deep meditation also fine-tunes our minds and tongues to become more sensitive and aware of the nuances in what we drink, and, like with all things, we get better at it the more we practice. Improving your tasting skills can in itself vastly increase the enjoyment and sense of balance we get from our teas.
However, bringing it back to where we started, most of us have a cupboard full of teas, and it might be daunting to keep track of all of our tasting notes and brewing instructions in our heads. We might try to keep a notebook, but in our day and age, there ought to be a better, more automated solution.
As it happens, I myself wished for something like an iPhone app that I could have, conveniently, right in my pocket when I needed to brew a cup of tea. I couldn’t find anything out there that did what I wanted, so, with some great design help from Mac Tyler, I wrote one! The app is called Tea, and it keeps all of your tea tasting notes and brew settings organized. Tea also has a built in timer that is preset for each tea in your collection. If you’ve been looking for an easy way to track different brew settings and tasting notes, hopefully Tea can help you. It’s my way of giving back to the wonderful tea community that has, and continues to, touch so many lives by sharing the best drink on the planet.
--Sam Iglesias, @siglesias
Learn more about Tea for iPhone at http://www.teaapp.com