Traveling with Tea
I'll post some fun photos of my trips soon, and I'll also be catching up on some tea tasting notes. For today, though, here are a few thoughts on traveling with tea.
- It really isn't hard to pack up small bags/canisters of tea. I prefer bags because they're lighter, but canisters are good to protect fragile leaves. When I'm staying at hotels, I bring my own kettle for heating water (most U.S. hotels provide coffeemakers in rooms, but these always taste of coffee). When I'm going to homes of family and friends, I just bring tea and a small chatsford filter (you can stick the filter directly in a cup to brew the tea).
- I'm very glad that I saved the small box that my glass gaiwan (from Teaspring.com) was shipped in. It protected the cup, which I kept in my carry-on bag. I then used it for an oolong tasting session with my brother and sister.
- Water changes everything. I've used city water, well water, bottled water, and filtered water on my trip. There is an amazing difference in how this affects the flavor of tea. In Wyoming, the water has much calcium and is very "hard." My parents have well water, naturally filtered through the underground limestone aquifers beneath, and the water has a wonderfully clear, mountain flavor. The mineral content, however, can really flatten some teas. This same water makes an incredible cup of smokey tea -- russian caravan or lapsang souchongs do really well with hard water.
- Some teas are just sturdier than others, and they stand up to variations in water, boiling temperatures, and less than perfect brewing conditions. I had great luck with a medium-roast dong ding oolong, but some of the more floral oolongs were likely to go astringent or lose their floral essence. The golden yunnan that is spicy and wonderful here in Seattle just didn't take to the water in some of the places I've been. On the other hand, the Golden Yunnan from Floating Leaves was consistent and stood up to a wide range of brewing conditions.
- Japanese pottery cups are really great for sipping tea outdoors, whether you brew it outside yourself or you're just carrying a thermos. The cups are sturdy, easy to hold, warm your hands just a bit, and don't have handles that are likely to break when transported (or dropped, as I occasionally do). They also pack up in bags and are easy to stuff in a cooler.
I'll post more in a few days, after I've had a chance to catch up to things here. :)