Posted by: ktzefr | June 21, 2018

The Sweet Habit of Afternoon Tea

The tea smoke

and the willow

together trembling

~ Issa

The first time I went to a proper afternoon tea was sometime in the early 1980s.  It was in the Caribbean, the last place I would have thought of drinking any hot beverage in the afternoon with the heat and humidity.  But the tradewinds seemed always to be blowing and tea was served promptly at 4 p.m. every day — white linen, silver utensils, cookies and scones with lemon curd.  I was hooked!  

Later, when I worked for an international organization where a tea/coffee break in the afternoon was customary, I continued the habit.  I still look forward every day to afternoon tea.  And something sweet — most of the time.

A few years ago a friend was traveling on business in Taipei and brought back a tin of oolong tea leaves.  I put the tin in the pantry to wait for a special occasion.  I forgot about it.

Teatime; Photo:KFawcett

When I discovered and opened the tin a few weeks ago I figured the leaves were so old they would have no flavor left.  I was wrong!  

At the time I knew nothing about Taiwanese teas, but since discovered that the island grows some of the best oolongs in the world.  This Alishan High Mountain tea is grown in the mountains of central Taiwan.  The high elevations produce hardy leaves with a high concentration of flavor.  Some say the tea has a light orchid or gardenia aroma; others describe it as a complex mix of fruits and flowers with a light creaminess.  I call it tasty.  

I especially like the light-to-medium color, the flowery flavor, and the way the leaves last well for multiple brews.  Sometimes for a second brew I’ll add a couple of jasmine pearls.  The two flavors mix well.

“Balls” of oolong tea; Photo:KFawcett

These tea leaves are usually rolled into dense little balls that unfold when you add hot water.  I was surprised at the size of the leaves once they unfurl.  

My tin came from the Wang de Xing Tea Company, but Alishan High Mountain and other excellent oolong teas are available from a number of tea houses and online sites 

The something sweet?  Scones and lemon curd are always perfect.  But I like these cookies, too, and they’re quick and easy.  Start with a package of Betty Crocker’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie mix.  Follow the recipe but add: extra chocolate chunks, pecan halves or pieces, and dried cherries.  Don’t skimp!  Drop by big spoonfuls for big, lumpy cookies.  Yummy!

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