Nerd Fun and Tea 101
May 26, 2009
By Heather Classen
Since the last time I checked in with Nerdabout my meetup group, Nerd Fun Boston, has been nerding all about Beantown. The Cambridge Science Festival brought us countless events, Galileo’s 400th anniversary brought us more, and there’s the regular local events like Maple Sugaring, WGBH talks, the Museum of Science, and all that MIT and Harvard have to offer the community. All quintessential nerd fun.
A couple Saturdays ago we did something a bit different. Assistant organizer, Amy, brought us to afternoon tea at the Park Plaza hotel where tea sommelier Cynthia Gold hosted a tea tasting, teaching us all about the world of fine tea. Instead of ordering off of the tea menu Cynthia brought us five different teas along with scones and tea sandwiches and a tea infused port … so good. The first tea was “Steep Towards a Cure”, a lovely mix of white tea, green tea, and cherry blossoms, mixed especially to support breast cancer research, this is the only of the teas we had that were for sale, and $5 of the $15.50 price is donated to Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Research. She explained how she plans a mix of tea, looking for a dominant flavor, and then complimentary flavors. Then the mix needs to sit for 3 to 7 days for the flavors to blend, but not longer so the tea remains fresh. This particular mix was inspired by the anti-oxidant qualities of the ingredients.
Next up was the World Tea Expo award winning St James Ceylon tea, my favorite, followed by Aria Estate Darjeeling, followed again by an 18 year old Chinese Pu-erh from Yunnan province, ending with a Bohean tea from Anwi province in China.
Cynthia explained the tea harvesting process, and how the fine tea is hand picked to get the best leaves. We learned that the same estates that produce the mass market machine harvested tea also produce this fine handpicked tea. And, that over the next twenty years the world of fine tea will most likely become very expensive as fewer and fewer people are interested in doing the skilled harvesting work. The estates had set up a system where they provided education for the children of the tea pickers, and subsequently with education the children rarely want to follow their parents into the family business.
We also learned about the origin of black tea. White and green tea sent in ships from South Asia to Europe would go bad by the time it arrived in port. The estates learned to dry and ferment the tea before packing it onto the ships bound for England, and even now black tea is still the most widely used in England and the United States.
The Bohean tea that she served with dessert is the same type of high end tea that was thrown into Boston Harborin 1773. The fermentation on this and the Pu-erh tea were definitely noticable. An aquired taste, but fantastic to try.We asked if tea were grown in the U.S., and she mentioned American Classic that was grown in South Carolina, as well as some tea being grown in Hawaii that seemed promising. Tea needs varied climate with dry and wet cycles, good draining and high elevation that steep hills provide, Cynthia explained.
Check the Boston Park Plaza web site to see when they have the next Tea 101.