|2008 Mu Ye Chun 99801 Premium Ripe Pu-erh tea|
It’s never too early to start thinking about your Thanksgiving menu, and about including tea as one of the beverages, or even the beverage, to serve with that menu. Whether your meal is centered around turkey or you serve up something a bit different (Dim Sum comes to mind or even a hearty lasagna), tea is a perfect choice.
Since turkey is the most often served, let’s look at what teas go with it. There are four basic tea categories from which to choose here, each lending their flavors to that very distinctive meat flavor but also countering the drowsiness you feel after that big meal (an effect known as post-prandial depression and not caused by L-Tryptophan, a natural chemical in the turkey, as some think — see this article). You can select a tea from one of these groups and be assured of a good pairing.
Oolongs — These are partially oxidized teas and come mainly from Taiwan and parts of China. They are usually made with larger leaves rather than tender tips and buds. You can select from the very lightly oxidized Pouchong (often classified as a green tea) to some that are close to black tea (fully oxidized). The best aspect of these teas is that you can infuse them multiple times and sip on them during the meal or even before dining when that turkey is roasting and those delicious aromas are filling your kitchen.
A top pick is Alishan High Mountain Jian Xuan Tea. This High Mountain Jian Xuan comes from Taiwan Alishan Tea Garden which is one of the best High-Mountain Oolong Tea plantations. The natural conditions of the plantation makes tea leaves very robust and full of rich flavors. While cupping it, the hybrid Oolong produces a milky-tasting liquid which provides a smooth aftertaste and a lingering finish. The tea liquid provides an amazing fruity fragrance indicative of the high quality of this tea and the care taken when processing the leaves.
|Alishan High Mountain Jian Xuan Tea|
Yunnans — The Yunnan Province of China produces a series of fine teas, including black teas and pu-erhs.
Try a Yunnan black tea. It is well-known for its high freshness and sweetness. For such high quality, it has little or no astringency at all so there is no need to add sugar or honey. Spring Imperial Yunnan Fengqing Golden Buds Black Tea (2010 and 2011 harvest years) is a great option.
|2010 Spring Imperial Yunnan Fengqing Golden Buds Black Tea|
A good pu-erh option is 2008 Menghai “0532 Premium Ripe” Pu-erh tea cake. One of the highest grade premium ripe teas released by Menghai tea factory for the year 2008. The 0532 recipe ripe cake is composed of an average of Grade 3 ripened tea leaves. The cake is full of small leaves and fermented buds, but balanced with slightly larger leaves to create a rounded flavor. Menghai tea factory is the foremost tea factory in Yunnan with more than 50 years of history. When brewing, keep infusion times very short in the beginning! This one has an amazing textured flavor profile and limited production quantity.
|2008 Menghai 0532 Premium Ripe Pu-erh tea cake|
Darjeelings — The Darjeeling area of India is at the northmost end and just the other side of the Himalayas from southern China. The tea plants there are the same varietal as those grown in China. However, these teas have a flavor that is considered fruity, like Muscatel grapes, and so this tea is often called “the champagne of teas.” You’ll want to look for the official Darjeeling seal to know you’re getting real tea from the Darjeeling region of India. The tea is so popular that it has been used in blends that are then labeled as “Darjeeling,” even if it has as little as 10% Darjeeling tea leaves. You can select these teas by garden and flush (harvest time). I’d recommend Autumn Flush for its stronger flavor, but if you want a lighter and more fruity flavor, go for First or Second Flush.
Ceylons — Ceylon teas are grown on the island nation of Sri Lanka. They used to be a key coffee grower but had to wipe out their coffee fields when a plant disease developed. They were looking around for a replacement cash crop, tried tea (again using the Chinese varietal of the tea plant), and were eventually able to get it to take hold. During ensuing decades, they have worked on the quality to the point that it is becoming quite a supreme tea. Most of the crop is processed as black tea and tends to have a rich flavor and aroma akin to raisins or currants. If you’re planning on including these fruits in your menu, this tea might be the ideal to serve.
Whichever tea you choose, have a great feast!