Sunday, March 27, 2011

Drinking Bubble Tea

I have noticed that there are new bubble tea shops opening in Singapore. Bubble tea is actually chilled or iced tea that include tapioca jelly balls in the drink.

Drinking bubble tea was a fad about 8 years ago in Singapore. Many people were drinking this chilled beverage and many bubble tea business sprouted out to cater to this demand. This fad or bubble soon burst and the bubble tea business became quiet. There is now a new interest in bubble tea here. New bubble tea shops now offer customers with a wider choice of tea, new flavors and you can dictate the amount of sugar/milk as well. Prices can range from $2-6 per cup (about 500ml)

The 2 pix attached is a bubble tea shop set up in a newly opened mall. I decided to try their roasted milk tea. I was asked my sugar and milk preference before I parted with $2.10 for the drink. I was given a number and when my number was flashed on an electronic screen, My cold beverage was ready (see pix 2).

This roasted milk tea taste like a mild taiwanese oolong tea, sweetened with sugar and milk. Noticed the tapioca jelly balls at the bottom of the cup. The straw provided is wide enough for you to suck up these jelly balls, which is slightly starchy is texture. A nice refreshment for a hot day.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Iced Tea

"Ice Tea" is authored by Fred Thompson. Published by Harvard Common Press in 2002, this book I am reading is in its 5th printing.

The book contains 50 recipes to make iced tea. The author explains his passion for tea as follows:

"Growing up in the South, I watched grandmothers, aunts and my mother 'make tea' which, in the South, means iced tea. The different versions of iced tea I consumed at home, family reunions, church suppers, and restaurants all had subtle variations in taste. My mother's, of course, was always the best, but all had three things in common: a dark amber hue, copious amounts of sugar, and being made with care. though not sacred, good iced tea is considered essential to a Southerner's happiness and well being. The importance of iced tea can best be illustrated by this old Southern saying : 'In the South, never marry a man until you know how to make his mama's tea'. "

The author had also included a few rules to making ice tea. Some rules were
- "putting hot tea in a cold refrigerator will guarantee cloudy tea. Let your tea cool before refrigerating it.
- Make only what you can drink in two to three days
- Never, ever use anything but freshly squeezed lemon juice.......Why ruin your fresh tasting tea with an artificial flavor."

This book's ice tea recipes mainly used tea in tea bags, sugar and the use of fruits like apple cider and even milk. Click the above pictures for a enlarged view and a more comfortable reading of the recipes. The Solar Tea is very fascinating and the Tea Smoothie (which I tried) was quite popular with my kids.

I found this book a very interesting read.

Use your Chinese tea to make a chilled and refreshing tea drink. Throw a half teaspoon of oolong or green tea leaves in a half-liter water bottle and leave it overnight in the fridge. Its ready to drink the next day. No sugar needed. Try me.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tea & Coffee Mix

One common trend in people living in cities is the consumption of fast food which include 'fast drinks'. Drinks like milk tea, coffee, chocolate and even baby milk can be purchased in a 'ready to drink' package. Its all premixed with water or milk and you can drink it straight away.

You can save a little money if you are willing to do a bit of work. Some of these beverages come in powder sachets, where you empty the contents in a cup, add hot water and its ready to go. Coffee and tea mixes are very common here in this part of the world. We used the phrase "3 in 1" to signify the addition of milk, sugar and coffee/tea. Consumers now have the luxury of more choices as drink manufacturers offer '2 in 1', or less sweet/milk combinations.

The picture show a 25-pack "4 in 1" - coffee, tea, milk and sugar. Each sachet is 25g.

So how is the taste? Quite pleasant actually. Sweetened milk tea with a hint of coffee or its the other way round. Rather sweet but overall a very interesting beverage.

This coffee-tea blend is not new as many people do drink this mix and you can actually ask for such a beverage at most neighbourhood drink stalls. I believe that the nickname for this beverage is called "yin-yang'.

On a side note - when you are in this part of the world, you will noticed some drink stalls selling fresh soya bean milk. They will also sell black grass jelly drinks as well. These drinks are very popular and inexpensive and you can find many such drink stalls especially in Singapore and Malaysia. Yes, people here even mixed these 2 drinks together to make a beverage. In Penang Malaysia, this drink is called 'Michael Jackson'.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Amoy Tea - Relocation

Amoy Tea has relocated.  They are now at Block 45 Sims Drive #01-164.  If you are taking the subway (known as MRT here), you exit from Aljunied station, cross the pedestrian bridge and walk towards Sims drive with the MRT tracks on your left.  It takes less than 10 min of walking before you reach Amoy Tea.  The shop also faces a cooked food centre where good local food are found there.  Yummy.

This shop is much smaller than their previous outlet.  Moving around the shop is quite challenging as the  wide range of tea sold there takes up a considerable space in the shop.  There is no sampling of tea in this tea shop although you are offered a cup of hot tea when you are a visitor.  Closed on Sundays.

Amoy Tea is one of the shops where I buy my tea in Singapore.  The friendly atmosphere, pricing and the wide range of products are good considerations to make a visit to the shop.  I noticed some of the tea prices have increased during my last visit.  The Sea Dyke brand of lao chung shui hsien that comes in the yellow tin is now $15.   

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2 grams of tea

I had just purchased a electronic weighing scale.

Why did I buy it? I had purchased this scale in Guangzhou from my earlier trip in Mar' 10 at less than US$10......and I wanted to know how much tea I am brewing during my tea sessions. I subsequently used it to measure the weight of tea leaves to check my visual guessing of small amount of tea leaves. I found it useful in my subsequent visit to Guangzhou, where a couple of tea dealers there used more tea leaves in their tea sampling.

There is absolutely nothing wrong (in my opinion) in using more tea leaves in a tea sampling exercise. Whether its oolong, pu erh or green tea, using varying amount of tea leaves could be a personal preference or that the particular tea being sampled would taste better with a stronger or lighter brew.

The ripe pu erh tea brick which I had purchased in Hong Kong (4 feb '11) was very impressive when more tea leaves was used for brewing. I had to increase the tea leaves to 9g instead of the average 7g of ripe pu that I used for my 160ml teapot (a 28% increase in tea). However I had to point out that there were instances where I had to reduce the amount of tea used. The Menghai '07 lotus/needle ripe (8 jan '10) and the Haiwan '06 marvin (3 dec '10) are examples where I had to reduced the tea leaves used for brewing. These tea brew fast and strong. I suppose many loose gongting ripe pu erh need less leaves and reduced infusion times as well.

I had noticed that in a couple of tea forums I had visited, some tea drinkers had given their findings on the tea they have brewed. Some of these tea drinkers seem to adhere to a fixed set of brewing technique like fixed amount of tea leaves used and fixed infusion times. An example of a pu erh tasting session ( I am taking a example from a tea forum) would be 6g of tea for a brewing vessel of 140ml, 2 flash rinse followed by 1st brew - 15 sec infusion, 2nd -15sec, 3rd-30s, 4th - 30s, 5th & 6th - 45s.

What am I trying to say? Simply this, you cannot simply just use the above times as a 'finding' or 'review' of a tea. You do not do justice to the tea. The particular tea may be better with a different amount of tea or with different infusion times. I myself had to go through at least 8-10 brews before I find the right brew (to my liking) for that tea.
While I was in Hong Kong, the teamaster, Mr Lau of Lau Yu Fat Tea Shop, uses about 8-9 g of tea in a medium size gaiwan and does a triple flash rinse, with the 1st 4 infusions at less than 5 seconds for the tea being sampled. This pu erh tea which I sampled and bought really require more tea leaves than what I would normally brew. The taste and tea sensations from drinking this tea was good.

Mr Chan Kam Pong (aka cloud) in his book "First Steps to Chinese Pu erh Tea" says "Actually, the infusion time for each interval depends on several factors such as grades of the tea leaves, aging years of your Pu erh tea and the degree of integrity of the tea leaves. There is no fixed brewing time for each infusion. Different Pu erh tea of different ages should have their own brewing time table." For Mr Chan, "The amount of tea leaves required for brewing depends on the size of your teapot or brewing container........that is to say about 8 grams of pu erh tea is enough for a tea ware with 150cc volume while 10 grams of pu erh tea is suitable for 200cc gaiwan."

Thats my 2 cents worth of thoughts on tea......make that 2g of tea.