Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall is Here & Big Travel Plans

I love fall!  The only problem with this time of year is that it just isn't long enough.  Maybe some of you feel that way too!  In the fall in North Georgia, we have wonderful orchards that are brimming with apples. One our family's favorite things to do is go up to the mountains for a hike, go to the apple orchards, and then go to Burt's Pumpkin Farm to pick out our family pumpkin.  Fall also means football season at our house.  My husband loves to say, "Fall is that magical time of year when Christmas comes every Friday and Saturday night."  It doesn't matter where we go though, we always bring hot tea with us! 

Autumn is a great time of year to sip on a steaming hot cup of tea and watch the beautiful leaves. This year my featured treat on my website for fall is the Apple Tart Recipe from the France chapter in TheWorld in Your Teacup.  It is so easy and a great way to use fruit that is in season.   

As you read this blog, I am on my way to the tea fields of Taiwan and Japan.  I am so excited to be a part of this tea study trip put on by Thomas Shu.  I won't be able to write for a few weeks, but I can't wait to tell you all about it in future blogs. If time allows, I might be able to give small updates!

Until then...
Happy Fall, Baking, and Sipping, Lisa

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tea Certification-Let the Learning Continue

Tea for me will be a lifelong study!  Although I always do self study, cuppings, gather information, and write about tea, it has been 2 years since I had done formal training.  I was part of the first graduating class from the Specialty Tea Institute Professional Level 3 in the summer of 2008.  The STI has just rolled out Level 4 this year which is why I went to Charleston. 

I have to say that Level 4 is not for tea wimps!  A lot of work has gone into putting this level together from professionals all over the world.  The first class I took was Advanced Cupping and Sensory Evaluation-Cupping for Defective Teas.  It was a day full of cupping really bad teas and I was actually excited about it! After reading through the manual prior to the class, I was hoping that we were going to be able to taste "what went wrong" and we did!  What amazed me during this class is how many things can go wrong in making tea.  It really takes skill to take leaves and turn them into such a great tasting beverage.  

Each step in the process of making tea is so important.  The skill of the tea workers, estate manager, and tea master is incredible.  From the time the leaf is plucked, the skill of the worker must be engaged to make tea.  From withering, to oxidation, to firing, and all the way to packing the teas, special attention must be taken to ensure the tea is properly taken care of.  I guess I am really a "tea geek" to be excited to taste defective teas but it is important to know what has gone wrong and to detect that with your palate.


The next Level 4 class I took in Charleston was The Technology of Tea.  It was time to get down and dirty in tea study with this class.  Basically it is the science of the tea leaf and what happens to it biologically and chemically while it is going through the process of becoming tea.  For me, this class put together all that I have learned about tea.  Although I found the class challenging to say the least, it was great to understand the process from that level.  I started studying the manual in early July and kept studying a little at a time all summer long. 

The class was jam-packed full of information.  I was a Business Administration/Marketing major in college, so all of this science was a big stretch for me.  I hadn't had a science class for over 25 years-yikes!  However because I LOVE tea, it made the information very fascinating. 

We learned the science of the stages of Processing:
  • Withering-the chemical and physical process
  • Cell disruption during leaf maceration
  • All about Polyphenols
  • Understanding different types of Browning
  • Science of the Oxidation Process
  • Applying Heat-Firing and Baking
  • Sorting and Grading the Finished Leaf
The last part of the class was understanding the dynamic of Infusion and the Principals of Solution.  We finished up the class with understanding chemically the taste, feel, color, and aroma of what is in the cup!  We did cuppings. (a professional way of consistently tasting tea by same weight, same water temperature, and same steeping time, all in professional cupping sets-see picture above)

Then it was exam time, we all had to pass the test with an 80% or greater in order to get credit for the class.  I am very happy to report that I got a 100%!!!!  Passing the class was very exciting to me, but the most exciting part truly was learning the material.  This night ended with dinner out in Charleston with many of my tea friends.  I am honored to be a part of such a wonderful group of tea professionals and to serve on the Education Committee. 

What do you appreciate about tea?  After taking these classes, my respect for tea workers all over the world has increased tremendously.  I now have a new appreciation and love of the tea that I so enjoy everyday.

Happy Sipping and Learning, Lisa