Teaching Beginner’s Class at Puerh Brooklyn

November 22, 2015

teaclassDecember 5th 2015, 11am
Puerh Brooklyn

Join me at the lovely new Puerh Brooklyn as we taste through a sample of their tea menu and explore different styles of tea and tea ware. Please contact the tea shop directly to reserve your spot. See you then!

Puerh Brooklyn teashop
174 Grand Street, Brooklyn NY 11211




A Cup of Christmas

December 24, 2013

It’s that time of year for a cup of Christmas. Making masala chai (spiced tea) has become a Christmas morning ritual. I make it early – letting the steamy spices fill the air and tickle awake the senses of my friends and family.

Riverdream Masala Chai 6690607299_36a20b5c51_b

Makes 2 cups, double or triple to make a big pot!

1-1/2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
1 large bay leaf
4 black peppercorns
8 pistachios (out of shell and crushed)
1 Tablespoon of fresh ginger
2/3 cup milk
3 Teaspoons Assam black tea
3 Tablespoons honey or sugar


click to play

Bring 1-1/2 cups water to boil. Add the spices and simmer 5 minutes. Add the milk and sweetener (if desired), bring to a simmer again. Add tea, cover, and turn off the heat. Strain after 2 minutes and serve immediately. Makes two cups.
This recipe is inspired from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking, Barron’s, New York, p. 196 (1983).

The recipes for masala chai are endless, have fun crafting your own. Here are some guidelines:

How to Make Masala Chai

General Ratios:
2 to 2.5 cups water to 1 cup milk
1 tsp tea for each cup of liquid
1 tsp sweetener for each cup of liquid

Spices: Allspice, Aniseed, Bay Leaves, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Peppercorns, Cloves, Cumin, Fennel seeds, Chiles, Mace, Nutmeg, Saffron, Pistachios, Ginger, Rose Petals, Vanilla, Almonds

Tea Base: black tea (teabags, CTC, whole leaf) from Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon, Sikkim

Herbal Base: Rooibos, Mulberry leaves

Milk: Cow’s Milk, Condensed Milk, Almond Milk, Soy Milk, Hemp Milk

Sweeteners: Sugar, Honey, Molasses, Maple Syrup


Afternoon Tea at Brown’s Hotel, London

May 20, 2013

photo-17I love Downton Abbey. When Stephen and I visited his family in London last week – I headed to a fancy afternoon tea at Brown’s Hotel with his sister. Our only argument: who would get to be Lady Mary.

Brown’s Hotel is proper and historic. Opened in 1837, it was the first grand hotel in London. It’s here that Rudyard Kipling wrote many of his novels and where it’s believed that Agatha Christie took inspiration ‘At Bertram’s Hotel.’ Now days, they open their doors to ‘normal’ people like me, and offer gluten free, Tea-Tox Healthy and traditional afternoon tea menus.

We were seated in the middle of the room, next to the fireplace in low and comfy chairs. The table was set with a fine china sandwich plate and a silver small fork, knife and teaspoon. While this was very fancy for me, it would have been casual for the wealthy back in Victorian and Edwardian times.

I ordered the gluten free menu while Corinne decided on the traditional afternoon tea.  Our courses were served on a silver tier with removal plates – so we could easily go in order of sandwiches, scones, then pastries. Our pots of tea came out first – then we began with my favorite course of savory, finger sandwiches (5 kinds: coronation chicken, egg salad, smoked salmon, cucumber and turkey). Hers were on various white, wheat and rye breads. Mine were made on two types of Genius Bread – a surprisingly delicious gluten free bread made in England.

DSC_2562The next course were scones with clotted cream and jam. Corinne looks like she was in heaven as she cut open her warm scones (she said later it was her favorite course). I wanted to like my gluten free scones – but the texture wasn’t right – did enjoy the clotted cream and jam though.

The third course were small pastries of mini cakes and desserts. Again Corrine had the better desserts – while my mini pastries (with the exception of a chocolate cup filled with cream and berries) were more like cardboard in texture.

Fourth course was a choice of cake and sorbet for me. Corinne had a Victoria sponge cake and I had a raspberry sorbet.

DSC_2565The tea was prepared in the English style of tea steeped loose inside a teapot with a strainer placed on top of the teacup to sieve the leaves. The waiters refreshed the teapots half way through (at this point you can ask to try another one, we did) so you always have hot tea to sip. The tea list is complete with herbals, white, oolong and green teas (even matcha). We stayed a more traditional path sticking with black teas: Darjeeling 2nd Flush (our favorite), Assam and Brown’s Afternoon tea blend.

The service, atmosphere, live piano music, silver teapots, fine china at Brown’s Hotel is really something to see, especially as a traveler. My imagination swirled with the pouring tea – finding my inner Lady Mary with all the history, gossip, sweets and manners.

Brown’s Hotel

Afternoon Tea is served Monday -Thursday 2pm-6.30pm, Friday-Sunday 12noon-6.30pm



April 24, 2013

photo-16I was 22 when I first sipped Gyokuro. I didn’t like it at all. I could not pronounce the name and it tasted like salty snot mixed with seaweed. I was working at Teaism in Washington DC at the time. Not only was it the most expensive tea on the menu – it was only ordered by the same middle-aged man who came in alone on weekends. This led me to form early conclusions that this tea was strange and out of my price range.

My re-discovery of Gyokuro happened eight years later while working for a tea company. We would get very small shipments by air from Japan and store them in a mini bar fridge to prolong shelf life. We’d carefully taste each batch like we were dividing gold. I learned that its salty, rich vegetal taste is described as ‘unami’. A fifth taste beyond sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Unami is distinctive to Asian cuisine and a desired trait in tea.

I began to enjoy its lush, full-bodied nature. The seaweed and snot taste of my 20’s became refreshing notes of ocean and spring greens in my 30’s.

History & Cultivation

gyokuro_fieldGyokuro has become one of the world’s most expensive teas due to the high cost of cultivation and market demand.

Cultivation of Gyokuro began in Uji prefecture during the 1800’s. Uji is a special place in the world of tea, as it is home to the beginnings of tea cultivation in Japan. Its tea legacy continues to be celebrated nationally in Japan and by tea drinkers worldwide. Continue reading