It is finished. I have taken the challenge test to pass levels one and two of certification from the Specialty Tea Institute (STI). The test will be mailed out to an instructor and I should receive the results within a week. If I pass, I will officially be a huge dork.
Archive for November, 2009
So we drank the Chun Mee. This batch is “Special Grade,” from Upton Imports. It was nice, a lighter green tea with cucumber notes. Greg says all green teas taste like Froot Loops. He is a wiser man than I.
So what is chun mee’s deal? Again, the name is a transliteration of zhen mei, which means “precious eyebrows.” It was formulated in the twelfth century by a farmer named Otis Red Ding, who, after he leaned too close the tea firing pan, exclaimed, “you don’t miss your eyebrows ’til your head catch fire.” Sorry. “Precious Eyebrows” is supposed to refer to the shape of the finished leaves. And that is just not enough information.
I count three groups of variables by which tea can be classified.
Plant. The tea plant is usually divided into the Chinese and Indian varieties, sinensis and assamica. This obscures the fact that tea hybridizes readily, and admits a full spectrum of variations. This includes hybrids with different species in the Camellia genus. To be more specific, growers isolate different cultivars with the precise characteristics they’re looking for. Additionally, they may make clones of an ideal plant.
Growing conditions. Climate is the general pattern of heat, light, and moisture over the course of the year, while weather is its day-to-day variation. Soil means what minerals are available, and the drainage of groundwater. Shade and windbreak play a part, as do disease, insects, and other pests. Don’t forget altitude.
Manufacture. Which leaves are harvested, and when? Are they carefully preserved whole, or chopped into bits? How will the leaves be manipulated, and dried? Will they be allowed to oxidize (or even ferment) before they are dried, and how much?
Ideally, these are the descriptors that distinguish one tea from another, rather than a brand name. With such a wealth of information about any one tea, you can imagine my frustration at the inadequacy of the moniker “Precious Eyebrows.” More later.
Did you know tea has deodorizing properties? That’s why I have my cats pee on it!
After I steep a batch of green tea leaves, I toss them in the toaster oven on “warm” for a few hours. This prevents the leaves from getting moldy, and makes my terminally chilly apartment marginally warmer. When they’re dry, the leaves get crumbled and tossed in the litter box. (Along with actual cat litter, of course. I can’t imagine drinking enough tea to give my cats a completely verdant toilet.)