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Team Portrait: Kevin Gascoyne, Tea Taster

2 January 2018

at 12:57 by Social

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Here at Camellia Sinensis we not only value the quality of our teas but also the quality of our team. How well do you know our four expert tasters ?
This month we’d like to introduce Kevin Gascoyne, co-owner of Camellia Sinensis since 2004.

How does your story with Camellia Sinensis begin?

Being the old man around here, I had another tea life and company before joining Camellia. I had been asked to be a guest on some local TV show and they were looking for another guest that was running a tea house. So I offered to go down and check out this new place that had just opened. On arrival I discovered 3 very cool guys running the most bohemian, eclectic and exciting little tea room I had ever seen. They were passionately into to both tea and having a good time, so we rapidly became good friends.
What is your role in the Camellia team?

Aside from tasting, sourcing and buying since 1993, I try my best to deal with Human Resources here in Montreal, staff training, public relations, our international projects and conferencing. I also love shopkeeping so I hop behind the counter to chat with the clients whenever I can.
Your tea highlight of the year?…

The Darjeeling Singell DJ 19 is probably my favourite tea this year. An exquisite example of the original Chinese seeds planted in the Himalayan terroir back in the 1860’s. That magic combination that gave the region its reputation all those years ago.
Do you have a recent discovery ?

Not known for my love of green teas I am really enjoying rediscovering this year’s spectacular Anji Bai Cha.

What are you best known for at Camellia?

Probably my obsessive enthusiasm for tea, my terrible dad jokes and for drinking large quantities the profits.

Our team reveals its tips and tricks

23 July 2017

at 11:51 by Social

CS_Photo_Feuilles2The world of tea is exciting, diverse and surprising. Whether you are an amateur or an expert, there is always something new to discover. Everyone at Camellia Sinensis is a tea enthusiasts whether they are in the shop or the tea house, the warehouse or the central administration. Here are some of their tips and tricks to improve your tea experience.

Explore
Try going off the beaten track, with a family of tea less familiar, it is a great way to expand your palate. While some explorations may prove to be less to your personal taste, the exercise will help you discern new and subtle flavour aspects otherwise unknown to you. Best case: you could be pleasantly surprised and find a new favourite!

Here’s a way you can start: try our 15$ “all you can drink tea” promotion, available at our Montreal tea house. Our experts will guide you and help you to discover something new.

Tastings
When buying a new tea or a tea that is a little more expensive, try to create the perfect occasion to savour it in a Gaiwan or Gong Fu Cha. Creating that moment will surely make it more memorable!

After this, try the same tea in more “regular” teapot setting – this will just surely change the overall taste experience but your knowledge of the tea will be installed.

Various tips

  • Pre-heat your teapot before an infusion. A great tip to make sure your water temperature is accurate and retain heat while you drink it.
  • Pour a first cup then pour it back into the teapot: this will allow the liquor to circulate and even out.
  • Try high-pouring your tea. This can help cool your tea by up to 10 degrees Celsius.
  • For teas that require rinsing, pre-heat the pot at the same time with the same water…It saves both water and time!
  • With Gaiwan, pour out a small quantity to taste directly. This will allow you to observe the evolution of the infusion
  • When trying to choose between a $20 or $200 Chawan, ask one of our experts how it should be held. Feeling the object will help you choose.
  • Moving around with tea usually means spills. Using a tea boat as a tray help retain any overflow or drips.
  • To protect those delicate tea leaves (green or white tea leaves), pour a very thin trickle of cold water on to them prior to infusion. This will prevent them from mild scalding and help towards a perfect infusion.


What are YOUR tips & tricks?

A Time Tested Method!

2 January 2017

at 9:49 by Social

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Since its early days, the tea industry experienced many phases of development that progressively required new machinery, tools and techniques. The rapid and impressive deployment of the plantations in India under the supervision of the British in the mid 19th century imposed, from the outset, a method of rapid, on-site analysis and quality control. A daily taste test, both rigorous and systematic, to compare each days transformed leaf, was an essential exercise for correcting and re-calibrating each step of manufacture. Comparative tasting was also used to rate each lot before their sale at auction. Buyers today still have the opportunity to visit a tasting room and taste the teas before buying. This technique has spread internationally and this equipment can now also be found in the research centres of China, Taiwan and Japan.

Though there are some subtle variations in manipulation the principal objective is to quickly analyze a large number of teas by regulating a series of controlled infusion parameters. Here is a basic summary of the method:

1. Place the teas in the order you wish to taste them and measure equal amounts of leaf for each sample into their respective cups (between 2g and 4 g depending on the style of tea) add a sample of each tea on the respective dish for visual analysis.

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2. Add water at the desired temperature, moving methodically from one cup to another in sequence, taking care to replace the lids on the cups.  Then start the timer.

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3. After the desired infusion time, ( 3-5 minutes as specified), turn and angle each cup on top of its bowl to completely drain the liquor off the leaf and into the bowl.

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4. Present the hot infused leaves of the inverted lid and place the cup holding the lid behind the bowl – for a 3 stage olfactory and visual analysis of the dry leaf, infusion (wet leaf) and liquor.

Voilà! Careful preparation allows us to observe the size, shape, uniformity and color of dry leaves, the fragrances and the color of the infusion. Then the third essential phase, allows us to inhale vapours of the liquor, to appreciate its texture, strength and aroma before we taste.

With this method the liquors are often intense due to the 3 fold water/leaf ratio, that’s three times the usual dose. This must be taken into account when tasting in order not be put off by their strength or bitterness. This approach has the advantage of extracting everything from the leaves of the teas tasted, giving us access to both the qualities and faults.

A discerning palate knowing this can therefore benefit from the technique and taste hundreds of teas daily.  This is fairly standard in the tea industry.

On a more humble and accessible tasting table 4-10 teas is a good start. This tasting method gives us access to subtle variations and nuances of similar teas, of neighboring terroirs or of completely different regions.

Enjoy!

Our Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide

28 November 2016

at 10:15 by Social

GUIDE-CADEAU (21)

The countdown is on – a few short weeks left before wrapping those holidays gifts! To help you save time, we’ve compiled a handy suggestion guide filled with original gift ideas for everyone. Meaning less time running around shopping and more quality time spent with loved ones.

 

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Iced Tea Epiphany

13 July 2016

at 14:43 by Seb

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With the hot season in full swing and more hot days yet to come, this is the ideal time to rediscover your favorite teas in their iced tea version.

Whether you use a mixture already prepared or benefit from emptying your collection of bags of tea and adding fruits and spices, the procedure is simple. Just add cold water to your preparation at a dosage you would use for a hot infused tea, and allow it to infuse for 6 am to 12 hours in the refrigerator, then filter before tasting! Prepared the evening, it will be ready the next morning to satisfy both your thirst and that of your guests.

It is also an opportunity to experiment with new recipes or simply to prepare a natural iced tea, as we do every day in our shops, in order to give you the opportunity to taste our latest creations. While some of my colleagues daringly mix Darjeeling with green tea, or even Pu Er and Wulong, I am a little more  conservative and prefer to use a single tea in order to fully appreciate its potential. In this way I have  rediscovered a family which I sometimes forget to enjoy, that of white teas. My revelation was immediate and sublime when I tasted the sweet nectar obtained from a white tea from one of my favorite producers, Jingning Yin Zhen! Purity, lightness, delicacy and refreshing were my words. My feelings are still vivid and though I want to share my discovery with you I also hope to inspire you to vary your infusions.

Be daring, and let me know of your discoveries! I’m interested in your best recipes or simply your special favorites.

Wishing you a good summer!

Sébastien

Searching for balance!

25 May 2016

at 15:48 by Seb

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A simple yet fundamental idea when preparing tea is that of how to make a good infusion. Clearly the main factors are the water and leaves, but besides the quality of these, three other parameters need to be carefully considered to get the best of our tea, this is why we have written on the bags: quantity of leaf, brewing temperature and time. For preparation in a teapot, around 2.5 grams (1 to 2 tsp) of tea per cup of water are submerged at the desired temperature, depending on the type of tea, and left to infuse a few minutes before removing leaves with the filter when the infusion has reached its balance! But what about the renowned sweet spot …

Each tea has its own chemical composition depending on a multiplicity of factors, and the rate at which its various constituents are released during the  infusion is also extremely varied. A minute too short can result in an infusion which gives the impression of  tasting a fragrant hot water, be very careful when infusing your tea since the tannins, which cause the sensation of astringency or dryness in the mouth, are progressively adding body to the liquor, and this happens more rapidly when the water is hotter. Those who prefer light and fine teas can therefore benefit from lowering the water temperature or shortening their infusion. It is useful to follow the evolution of the infusion by periodically tasting the liquor (every 15 seconds towards the end!), until the balance is what I call the nose and mouth, i.e. between the aromatic profile and the tastes and sensations (body, volume and texture). Too long an infusion and astringency may overwhelm the flavour, limiting the perception of more subtle nuances. Too short, and it offers too little texture and a lack of body. It is also good to know that the liquor changes even after having removed the leaves, becoming more full-bodied with time. A good reason to make small quantities at a time!

The three parameters are closely related, varying any one affects the others. A stronger dosage provides a  greater concentration of aromatic oils, but also more caffeine and tannins, sometimes resulting in a more pronounced bitterness. In this case it is necessary to  shorten the infusion to maintain the ideal balance. The techniques of infusions in small volumes (gong fu cha, gaiwan, sencha do) correspond with this idea.

Each tea merits being preparing according to a variety of different recipes in order to understand its multiple aspects.  A good knowledge of the infusion also enables adapting it to suit the moment, for a solo morning lunch,  a winter evening in good company or a family afternoon on the hot sand.

Happy experiments.

Glass Infusion: A Key to Exploring Chinese Green Teas

17 April 2015

at 9:32 by Seb

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Consumed by the millions of tons annually, green tea has reigned in China for several centuries. Infused and drunk by all, at any hour of the day or night, green tea remains the  favourite everyday beverage of the Chinese population. While preparation with a teapot or the use of a Gaiwan might enable  a more refined service, another method, adapted to the lifestyle of the population, has established itself progressively over the years by its simplicity and aesthetic appeal!

IMG_1657For each choice of tea it is enough to put a just a pinch of leaf in a glass or a tea bottle, then add the hot water. The leaves opening from the effect of the heat captivate the eye even before satisfying the taste buds and the thirst! This visual assessment of the quality of the leaves is of crucial importance in China, often more so than the taste aspect, and has resulted in a fashion of ‘beautiful tea’

Jasmin verreThe liquor is then sipped from the the same glass and filtered using the lips. The trick is not to over infuse the tea but simply top up with a little more water, as and when required. Taste a quarter or a third of the glass, then top up again … and so on, until the leaves are used, maybe add some fresh leaves to prolong the experience! This method, in addition to being visually interesting and easy to perform, can extract the richness of tea flavours, fully and progressively, in order to further our understanding without diminishing our appreciation.

This method works so well for the Chinese green teas but why not rediscover some of your other favourite teas this way be they white, semi oxidized or black!

Tips for your Water Temperature

14 January 2015

at 14:27 by Seb

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Whether in a teapot, a cup, or a tea flask, infusing tea remains simple: add water to the leaves to extract the flavors. But for the liquor to be at its best, rich and balanced, it is necessary to take care to use water at a temperature, that fits the tea.

While aged teas, wulongs and the black teas tolerate very hot temperatures,  other more fragile leaves such as white or green teas, will not tolerate boiling water. Water that is too hot will deplete the liquor of its aromatic elements and texture in addition to encouraging a faster release of the  tannins that create the sensation of  astringency in the mouth! For such delicate teas, water which is simmering will better access their potential. Here are 5 methods to achieve the desired water temperature.

The singing of the bubbles: This is the poetic approach to the art of tea as elaborated by Lu Yu (VIII century), author of the Classic of Tea: “When the water boils, it forms bubbles like the eyes of fish on the surface and produces a barely audible sound. When it sings on the edges like a spring and looks like an endless pearl necklace, it has reached its second stage of boiling. When it leaps like breakers, majestically, and resonates like a wave that swells, it has boiled just enough”. So those who have the luxury of staying patiently next to their kettle will see the first bubbles form on the surface, with quivering, around 85 ° C, while the full boiling is reached with large swirls at 100 ° C.

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Time: on average water loses about 2 ° C per minute with the kettle’s lid open. Thus a ten minute cooling pause is needed to lower the temperature of boiling water (100 ° C) to that required to prepare a green tea at 80 ° C.  This must be adjusted to your own equipment but is a good guide.

Thermal shock: Another trick which is faster but has the same effect. Water loses around 10 ° C when poured into an unheated receptacle (cup, teapot, …) pouring boiling water into an empty teapot will lower it to around 90 ° C, then transferring to a second cup or teapot, will  bring the water to a temperature of 80 ° C. This requires a little more manipulation, but the operation also has the advantage of warming the teaware.

Thermometer and cold water: Those equipped with a thermometer  with reading between 50 ° C and 100 ° C can easily add a little cold water to their hot water to obtaining the desired temperature. A simple and effective option.

The programmable kettle: Easy and reliable, these modern kettles bring water to the desired temperature, and will hold it there. An almost essential tool to any serious infuser.

Integrate the most convenient method to your daily brewing procedure to improve the quality of your tea experience.

Happy brewing!

The taste of water

20 September 2013

at 12:33 by Seb

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All drinkers of tea one day come to consider the choice of water used to prepare tea. And since about 98% of what is found in the cup is water, it is better to choose it for its taste. Many masters and scholars of tea have considered with great interest the quality of water to be used, depending on its origin (mountain, spring, rain, river, etc..) in order to obtain the best tea possible. Though our modern urban realities offer us sanitized water, accessible and rather neutral, what is the quality of its taste?

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Here is a simple experiment to learn the differences in the taste of some waters close at hand and their effect on tea. Choose 3 or 4 depending on their availability, e.g. tap water, filtered tap water (Brita or other), glacial water (bottled), mineral water (Eska, Evian, …).
First perform a tasting of the waters being attentive to their differences in textures (+/- silky, oily), flavors (+/- salty, mineral) and aromas (chlorine, sulphur, metallic etc).

Then, heat the waters and prepare a tea with each of them keeping to the same parameters (quantity of tea by volume, water temperature and infusion time) for each infusion. Then all that remains is to taste and note the effects on the liquor by observing the differences of vitality, of body, texture, …

Do you prefer water with high/low mineral content? Does your favourite water give the best brew? Are the differences subtle or obvious? Repeat with another tea to see whether or not the same nuances are there! Share your observations with us.

Just Add Hot Water

14 December 2012

at 14:50 by john

Recently published in Ed Behr’s wonderful periodical on food and taste the Art of Eating
Just Add Hot Water

 
 

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