How to Brew Black Tea

After I discovered the Shangri-La Diet (2000), I started drinking lots of tea. Tea has smell without calories, which complemented the calories without smell of the diet. Mostly I drink black tea — more complexity than green or oolong tea. Until recently, I made it the usual (Western) way. 1. Add hot water to tea. 2. Wait 3-4 minutes. 3. Add cream and sweetener. 4. Drink. 5. Throw away tea.
Continue reading “How to Brew Black Tea”

Coffee Experiments: Suggestions for Improvement

Seth Brown, a “data scientist” with a Ph.D. in computational genomics, has done several experiments about the best way to make coffee. In one, he compared other people’s burr grinders to his blade grinder. There was no clear difference in taste. In another, an Aeropress apparently produced better-tasting coffee than drip extraction. He hasn’t found other factors that matter. If I drank coffee, I’d be happy to know these things.

If I were teaching how to do experiments, his work would be a good case study. I’d have my students read it and suggest improvements. The contrast between his data analysis (sophisticated) and experimental design (unsophisticated) is striking, maybe because he has no background in experimentation.

Here’s what I would have done differently: Continue reading “Coffee Experiments: Suggestions for Improvement”

Tisano Chocolate Tea and Combining Complex Flavors

After I interviewed Patrick Pineda about how Tisano Tea began, he gave me several tins of chocolate tea, their main product. Since then, I’ve had dozens of cups of chocolate tea. It’s a good caffeine-free drink, especially with cream.

My main use of chocolate tea, however, has been to improve black tea. Black tea + chocolate tea = great drink, better than any black tea alone or chocolate tea alone. So much better that I have stopped drinking black tea the usual way (without chocolate tea). Even cheap black tea (e.g., Lipton’s) plus chocolate tea tastes better than expensive black tea. I think I know why. Black tea (fermented) has a complex flavor, like most fermented foods. Expensive black tea is more complex than cheap black tea, but only a little more. Likewise, chocolate tea has a complex flavor (like chocolate). Combining two sources of substantial complexity produces tea with great complexity — much more than you can get by tweaking one source of complexity (e.g., varying black tea). Continue reading “Tisano Chocolate Tea and Combining Complex Flavors”

How Things Begin: Tisano Tea

Tisano Tea, based in San Francisco, sells chocolate tea. It was started in 2010 by Patrick Pineda, Leonardo Zambrano, and Lucas Azpurua. I was curious about the company because I like two chocolate tea blends very much: Red Cloud Cacao (a black tea/chocolate tea blend from Peet’s, no longer available but they will bring it back) and CocoMate (from American Tea Room). Continue reading “How Things Begin: Tisano Tea”

Teeccino Tasting Notes

I started drinking lots of tea when I started the Shangri-La Diet. The diet made me crave food with smell, which tea provided. I started chewing gum, too, but that was less enjoyable, maybe because I never became a gum connoisseur.

I recently learned about Teeccino coffee-substitute “tees” (brewed like tea) from Patrick Pineda of Tisano. They resemble Pero but with more flavor and variety. I really liked the first two flavors I tried (Vanilla Nut and French Roast) so I wrote to Teeccino asking for samples of all the flavors. In addition to no caffeine, Teechino drinks are high in inulin, a soluble fiber.

Here are my comments on the samples.

Dandelion Dark Roast. Similar to French Roast (relatively strong coffee taste) but more earthy-tasting. Maybe that’s the dandelion.

French Vanilla. Strong vanilla taste. Too much like vanilla for me, I want something more complicated.

Caramel Nut. Halfway between  caramel and burnt caramel, which I like. As complex as French Roast.

Mocha. Excellent. Complexity of coffee plus complexity of chocolate.

Chocolate. Like mocha, except darker coffee flavor.

Original. Excellent. Weaker coffee flavor plus fruity complexity.

Almond Amaretto. Wonderful combination of coffee flavor with nutty almond/amaretto flavor.

Java. Rounded coffee flavor.

Chocolate Mint. Enough mint but not enough chocolate and coffee.

Southern Pecan. Delicious. Pecan and coffee flavors well-balanced. I wonder: What does Northern Pecan taste like?

Maya Chai. Tastes like chai. I would prefer, in addition, a dark coffee taste.

Tea and News: Rinse First

While living in China, I discovered that it was a good idea to rinse tea with hot water before brewing it. The rinse removes a certain rough taste — easy to notice in side-by-side comparisonsA Chinese college student made an interesting analogy:

Entertainment news is like drinking tea, first time is like washing tea leafs, no one really cares. Maybe 2nd or 3rd time it will have the sweet taste, but in the end it gets weaker and weaker.

Hot Miso with Cream and Sweetener: Coffee/Tea Substitute

A few weeks ago, I wondered if I drink too much tea. Is 4 cups/day too much? What about 2 cups/day? To learn more, I needed to drink a lot less tea.

What about miso? I wondered. I had some high-quality miso paste in my refrigerator. I got it in Tokyo at a miso store (thanks to Gary Rymar for taking me there). I made a cup (about 25 g miso paste — 2-3 teaspoons? — mixed with 1 cup hot water).  It was delicious. The complex taste reminded me of coffee and chocolate. I added a little cream and a half packet of sweetener (Sucralose). It tasted even better.

I did the same thing with miso from Berkeley. It was still very good.

I cannot imagine not drinking tea. But I can now imagine drinking less tea because miso is much healthier. Replacing tea with miso is an easy way to eat more fermented food. A cup of miso is easier to make than a cup of tea.

Incidentally, don’t waste your time with powdered miso. It is much worse than the refrigerated miso (paste) sold in tubs.

The Willat Effect: More Consequences

A month ago I bought three identical tea pots to compare tea side by side. I hoped to take advantage of the Willat Effect (side-by-side comparisons create connoisseurs) to become a tea connoisseur.

It worked. Side-by-side tea comparisons are fun, easy, and have taught me a lot. When I drink tea I notice more and like it more. I do about three comparisons per day. I blogged about the first results here. The most useful idea about these comparisons came from Carl Willat himself: Compare the same tea brewed differently (e.g., different amounts of tea, different brewing times, different water temperatures). Most of my comparisons vary amount of tea or brewing time.

These many  comparisons have had several effects: Continue reading “The Willat Effect: More Consequences”

Even More About The Willat Effect

I have had tea daily for the last ten years, ever since I discovered the Shangri-La Diet. A few weeks ago, I started doing side-by-side comparisons of similar teas or the same tea prepared two ways (e.g., different brewing times). Would the Willat Effect make me a tea connoisseur?

Since then I have done at least one side-by-side comparison every day. It’s almost as easy as making an ordinary cup of tea and a lot more fun. These comparisons have taught me more about tea preparation than the previous ten years. I’ve learned:

1. The black tea I have (an Earl-Grey variant) tastes better when brewed for 3.5 minutes than 4.0 minutes.

2. The black tea tastes better when I use 1.5 grams of tea than when I use 2.0 grams of tea. (After starting these comparisons, I bought a scale for weighing tea.)

3. One of the green teas I have tastes better when “rinsed” for 30 seconds before brewing 1 minute than when simply brewed for 1 minute. In China, this preference (rinse green tea before brewing) is common. I was reminded of it by this comment and Paul Jaminet’s post about tea. Black tea is different, as I noted earlier.

4. I have a caffeine-free tea blend called Choco Late made of cacao husks, vanilla, and rooibos. The package says brew 5 minutes. Which is nonsense. It tastes better (fuller, more rounded) when brewed 30 minutes than when brewed 15 minutes. (I’ve noticed the same thing with caffeine-free chai blends. Enormous brewing times, like 60 minutes, produce much better results than short times.)

5. My most interesting discovery is when I brew Choco Late for 30 minutes it tastes so good I no longer want to sweeten it. It is pleasant enough already and sweetness would distract from the complexity, fullness, and slight bitterness. (At first I wrote “lovely complexity, fullness …”) I was shocked when I noticed this. It has never happened before.

This tea-selling website mentions the Willat Effect under the heading “Do you want to be a tea connoisseur?” I hope this means the idea will spread among the fancy-food community. They have a lot to gain from better understanding of how to make people connoisseurs. Many times I have asked people in that community what makes someone a connoisseur? The usual answer is education. In my case, Willat-Effect comparisons (side-by-side comparisons of similar teas) were far more powerful than reading about tea, drinking a variety of teas, going on tea tours, going to ordinary tea tastings (where you taste a wide range of teas), and talking about tea with experts. I have been to five or six Fancy Food Shows and have visited thousands of booths. Exactly one booth offered side-by-side comparisons of similar products. It was their product made with and without a special ingredient.

Willat-Effect comparisons are mini-science. They aren’t quantitative but they include three other things central to science: 1. Close comparisons. This is the essence of experimentation. 2. You don’t know the answer. 3. You care about the answer.