I have always been a bit of a tea nut. In fact, before I became a serious coffee drinker, I dove headlong into tea. I currently have 9 varieties of loose tea sitting on a shelf above my desk. My personal favorite right now is a pre-Qingming Huang Shan Mao Feng from Anhui Province, China. In layman's terms, that is a Chinese green tea harvested in early spring before the Qingming festival in China (which happens in the first week of April). The tea is a Mao Feng pluck meaning two leaves and a bud. I owe a lot of my tasting abilities to the years I spent refining my palate for tea. High grade teas are often more mild and subtle in flavor. My preferred brewing method is a small porcelain gaiwan (Chinese lidded cup) but I also have a yixing tea pot for oolong tea and a kyusu for Japanese tea. I hope some day to include a line of teas with my roasted coffee but for now I offer a small example of my tea knowledge at the market.
For the past two weeks I have been offering an iced green tea. The secret to good iced tea is using good tea and preparing it well. For this tea I chose a Chinese pouchong scented three times with jasmine flowers, to this I added fresh mint and cold brewed for 16 hours. The result is light and refreshing with a strong floral note and a crisp minty finish. Come by and try a cup this Saturday, only $2.00.
If you are interested in expanding your appreciation for coffee, I suggest drinking tea. The subtle sweetness found in high-grown coffee was easy for to pick out because it is similar to sweetness found in high-grown green and oolong tea. In tea culture it is called Gan and it is experienced primarily in the aftertaste. In the highest grades of tea, this sensation can last long after the last sip (sometimes over an hour). The best way to experience it is to breath out of your nose with your mouth closed just after you have swallowed. In tea, this helps to accentuate any Gan that may be present in the tea. With good quality coffee, you will find that this causes the sweetness in the coffee to explode onto your palate.
If you want to find great teas there are a lot of wonderful companies out there. Some of my favorite online re include TeaTrekker, Rishi Tea, and Den's Tea (Japanese Green tea only). If you are looking for a local source in Houston, I suggest Ten Ren Tea at 10804 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, TX 77072. The owner, Richard, is a third generation tea master from Taiwan. He really knows his tea and can help you get started towards enjoying tea. Ten Ren specializes in Chinese and Taiwanese teas.