Sobacha or Buckwheat Tea

For a long time, I have known about buckwheat tea but have never given it a shot.  After enjoying some nice bibim naengmyeon at the best Korean restaurant near me, I went to the Korean market nearby and chanced upon a container of buckwheat made for brewing.  At seven dollars for a decent sized container, I figured, “Why not?”

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Creative Blogger Award

Lazarinth of the blog Fantasy and Anime has honored me with a nomination for the Creative Blogger Award.  I truly appreciate the award, and I would encourage all of my dear readers to take a look at this aspiring fantasy author’s blog, which boasts a fun blend of articles on fantasy books and anime.  The rules for accepting the award are as follows:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  • Share 5 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 10 – 20 bloggers and add their links.
  • Notify the bloggers you included.
  • Keep the rules in your post to make it easy for everyone to know what to do!

I’ve shared so many facts about myself through awards like this that it is difficult for me to come up with new ones.  However, I’ll follow Lazarinth’s lead and group these facts around a specific subject.  In the early days of this blog, many posts of mine were dedicated to trying new alcoholic beverages, which you’ll find under the subject “fine drinks“; so, why not five facts about my enjoyment of alcohol?

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1. My all time favorite wine and food pairing is port and pumpkin pie.

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Medieval Otaku’s Second Quick Takes

Well, here’s another set of quick takes for you.  Once again, they have been inspired by Nami’s Quick Takes on The Budding Philosopher.  I feel like I should post, but don’t have energy to concentrate on writing a proper post.  May you enjoy these quick takes!

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My laptop adapter broke.  So, I’ve been relying on my smart phone for the past while, which is the least pleasant way to browse the internet.  At any rate, I’m happy to report that the replacement adapter has arrived.  So, I hope to make up for lost time in reading my fellow bloggers’ articles.

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Pennsylvania produces my favorite beers.  I love beers from Weyerbacher, Yards, Victory, Sly Fox, and Troegs.  One unpleasant surprise I had in regard to these beers, however, is that the Troegenator doppelbock–at least, the last time I had it–actually tasted pretty bad.  As my friend said, it tasted like malt liquor, which is sad because the Troegenator launched my interest in the realm of craft beer.  Troegs brewery seems to have made up for it in their Cultivator Helles Bock.  The flavor is quite fresh with a creamy mouthfeel and notes of biscuit and raspberry.  Very good stuff!

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How to Become an Uncle Iroh Level Tea Connoisseur

I had thought about covering how I wound up becoming a tea connoisseur, but I already possessed a great level of devotion to the drink from the age of seven.  So, I shall spare you from what would be a long history and only mention the pivotal moments on my journey to my present level of expertise.  In college, my father introduced me to Peet’s Coffee and Tea, and I feel in love with their Assam Golden Tip.  From that point on, I practically tried every variety they had available, and learned which teas I favor and which I hate.  Concerning the latter, three syllable oolong varieties, Pu-erh, and Japanese black tea are all anathema to me.

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As I plunged into learning about the different varieties, I learned what temperature water and time were proper for each kind and even the complex terminology surrounding tea.  For example, Balasun Estate SFTGFOP1 SUPREME First Flush translates to this tea being from the first pick of the year on the Balasun Estate and earning the designation Special Finest Tippy (or really, really, really awesome) Golden (the tips of the tea buds were golden) Flowery (the bud has not yet opened) Orange Pekoe #1 (only the bud and the two adjacent leaves plucked, which were “slightly delicate, long, wiry leaf with the light liquor”–courtesy of Wikipedia, as I knew not what the “1” meant) SUPREME (just in case you can’t figure out that this tea is awesome).  I thank The Tea Drinker’s Handbook by François-Xavier Delmas et al. for teaching me the terminology and many other intricacies pertaining to the beverage.

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Drinking in Early 19th Century America

I have a couple of comments on my recent article On Vanity about the per capita drinking rate of early nineteenth century America.  According to their calculations, people would only be drinking three ounces of pure alcohol per diem if the per capita rate of drinking were 18 gallons of pure alcohol.  And if everyone from the age of fifteen onwards only drank only three ounces of alcohol per diem, it strikes one as crazy that any sort of Temperance movement would start.

But yes, many temperance ladies were crazy anyway.

But yes, many temperance ladies were crazy anyway.

So, I decided to examine how 18 gallons of pure alcohol would translate across the spectrum of beer, wine, and hard liquor (most probably rye whiskey, rum, or gin at that time) in terms of bottles and cases.  Now, look closely at my math and see whether I’m correct in my calculations.  My specialty is Classical languages after all, not mathematics.  But if I am right, early Americans must really have been having a good time!

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My Writing as a Hurricane

Well, dear readers, the lack of inspiration hitting me at the moment has caused me to ponder the ingredients in my writing style.  Why aren’t the juices flowing?  These thoughts and Froggy-kun’s article How Does Anime Influence Your Writing Style have engendered this article.  I have decided that the perfect metaphor for my writing is the hurricane.

Now, this is not the kind which destroyed New Orleans, but something of restorative value which is popular there: the fruity, tropical cocktail which my sister chides me for imbibing.  I needed to pick this cocktail because my usual choices are far too simple: a gin and tonic, a salty dog, a martini, a manhattan, a negroni, or a scotch and soda contain too few ingredients.  (I listed these just to show you that I do usually tend to masculine side of the cocktail spectrum.)  The complexity of the hurricane seems to capture each facet of my writing without exceeding the number of ingredients–as would be the case in the Original Singapore Sling.  (I really want to order that one day!  Probably annoy the bartender unless he’s on the order of Ryuu Sasakura of Bartender.)  Here’s the recipe:

I prefer the Bacardi 8 year old myself.

I prefer the Bacardi 8 year old myself.

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First Tasting in a While

Yesterday, my brother treated a friend of his and me to the 812 Cafe in Richmond. Shade from the partially closed venetian blinds covered an otherwise light colored cafe and bar. The tables jammed together with people lent a cramped feeling to this otherwise comfortable atmosphere. Our party was given a table near the bar, and we soon ordered a round of Two-Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewery. While waiting for the beer, I proposed that we have some appetizers; but, this request was immediately shot down by our generous host on the grounds that the main course would be enough. With the help of the extra calories provided by the beer, this turned out to indeed be the case. So, I can’t complain.

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In short time, that round of Two-Hearted Ale arrived. Last year, my brother had offered me a bottle of Two-Hearted Ale. At the time, I did not find it very impressive, perhaps because it was served too cold or kept too long. Anyway, a beautifully tasting IPA met us at the table. The hops provided all the flavor with notes of lime, orange, and grapefruit. This melody of citrus rendered the beer very bitter to boot.

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A Nice Dinner

Having just finished a luxurious dinner, I find myself not in the mood to vent my spleen in regard to the present state of the James Bond franchise.  In addition to a couple of glasses of Chardonnay, I has a Negroni for the first time and a twenty year old Tawny Port from Graham’s.  The food at this Italian restaurant was superb, but my memory of these drinks holds first place.

As my little Mr. Bartender app informs me, the Negroni consists of 1 part Gin, 1 part Sweet Vermouth, and 1 part Campari garnished with an orange peel.  This drink works wonderfully well as an aperitif, as one might guess from the presence of gin and Campari.  The gin makes this a rather spicy drink, while the other two elements nicely balance out the spiciness with their sweetness and the orange peel adds some interesting complexity.

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Good Tea

Here’s a short post on four superlative teas.

1.  Harney & Sons Holiday Tea – This is a wonderful offering.  It shows that great tea can come in tea bags!  The spices pair nicely with the orange peel and black tea, and is especially delicious with honey.

2.  Yin Hao Jasmine – This is the highest grade of jasmine tea I could find on the Upton Tea Imports website, and it doesn’t disappoint.  The jasmine flavor and scent make this a very refreshing tea.  The green tea which the jasmine flavored is of high quality, which gives it plenty of complexity.

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Tea Reviews

For a change of pace, I’ve decided to review those teas which I’ve recently enjoyed.  With the exception of the Yunnan Noir and Ooooh Darjeeling, these were all purchased from Upton Tea Imports, which–as I mentioned in this article–requires the buyer to be somewhat fluent in tea knowledge.  Otherwise, it stands as a great supplier of fine teas.  In any event, my next order will be from Adagio Teas, the company which supplied the two named above.  Not that it is a superior tea company, but they offer an interesting selection of high quality teas and a change of venue.  Variety is the spice of life!

Along with each review, I shall give some information regarding the type of tea and who would enjoy it.  Though, I must confess myself to be somewhat deficient as a tea taster, my descriptions should give you a general idea of what you’re going to experience from each tea.

1.  Special Grade Temple of Heaven Gunpowder Green Tea

I’ve always enjoyed Gunpowder for its earthiness, and this particular variety combines a nice earthiness with deep, slightly sweet vegetal flavors and a metallic hint.  (By the way, it’s named gunpowder because this tea is rolled to resemble pellets of black powder.)  People new to green tea often try this variety first because certain of its flavors are reminiscent of black tea.  Just be careful that you do not oversteep it or use too many leaves, because these errors will lead to it becoming too bitter.

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A Recipe, One Cider, and a Laundry List of Beers

For a change, I’ll be giving a cider review alongside my beer reviews.  I enjoy cider as an eminently quaffable, uncomplicated, and refreshing beverage.  It also features as part of my favorite seafood recipe, which I gleaned from Mark Bittman’s magnum opus. The Best Recipes in the World.  So, let me start by giving you that recipe.

Cider Poached Red Snapper/Cod

Ingredients

Salt and Pepper to taste

Half a Stick of Unsalted Butter

2lbs of Cod/Red Snapper Fillet

1 Large Onion, diced

Plenty of Portobello Mushrooms, sliced

Enough Cider to cover the fish (have at least two bottles handy, one may suffice)

(How do you like my precise measurements?  🙂 )

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From Virginia with Beer

Well, the time spent at my brother’s was most enjoyable and productive in finding new beers.  There’s a splendid shop called Total Wine where he lives, and it stocks a great selection of American craft beer.  This visit, I was shocked to find some Goose Island and quickly snatched up their English Pale Ale and Matilda, a Belgian Style Pale Ale.  I also saw an English Pale Ale (So they say.  Tasted more like an IPA to me.) from the Shipyard Brewing Co. named after Joshua Chamberlain, one of my favorite heroes from the Civil War, and snatched that up immediately.  I shall also be reviewing Dogfish Head’s Sah’tea.  Plenty of other ales found their way into my hands, and it will be my pleasure to reveal their tasting notes later.

Yet, I would first like to recommend a wine which paired perfectly with the grilled meat in yesterday’s dinner: Block 303 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.  (By the way, I just learned something amazing: Amazon.com sells wine!  They’ve really branched out from being a simple bookseller!)  Some of you probably recognize the Rutherford shelf as the most prestigious sub-region of Napa Valley.  Unlike most wine from this place, Block 303 does not cost an arm and a leg, but still shows the quality one can expect from this region.  The wine is very full-bodied, shows great integration, and complexity with flavors of boysenberry and black cherry prominent, though one can discern other dark fruit flavors present therein.  (I forgot them, and I refuse to cheat by reading the label!)  These flavors blend marvelously with the tannins, which, as I mentioned above, make it a perfect match for grilled meats.  A beautiful wine.

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Favorite Teas

Well, dear readers. the the idea to write a post on some of my favorite teas came to mind.  As for which categories of tea I prefer, oolong takes first place, then black tea, followed by white tea, and green tea the last place.  I just prefer the flowery and yellow fruit flavors which one tends to find in oolong.  It’s particularly relaxing after a hard or stressful day.  Oolong’s caffeine level stands midway between black and green teas, so it won’t keep one awake all night.  Black tea is practically a sine qua non for me in the morning: the morning doesn’t start until that first sip of Assam or whatever strong tea fills my cup passes my lips.  Occasionally, I do have coffee, but I often find myself making a pot of tea afterwards anyway.  Then, green tea goes well during the afternoon or dinner.  Even though I prefer white tea to green tea, sometimes there is difficulty in finding the right occasion for it: having a cup or two of white tea used to be my favorite way of sobering up from a drinking party; so, it’s often the last tea of the day.  Now, I shall name which specific strains of tea within each of these four categories are my favorite.

My favorite Oolong has always been Phoenix Mountain Oolong.  It’s flavors of honeysuckle and apricot are particularly endearing.  At the moment, I’m trying an oolong from the same region sourced by Adagio Teas, named Dancong Aria.  It’s also quite wonderful, but the flavors seem a little less intense than what I remember in the Peet’s oolong.

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Hop Wallop

A long time ago, I promised to start reviewing Victory Brewing Co.’s beers.  The first of these articles is finally here!  A couple of nights ago, I visited a friend’s place bearing a six pack of Hop Wallop, which far exceeded the expectations I had for it.  You see, American craft beer drinkers love hops; so, one often finds IPAs either containing enough pineyness to remind one of gin or such overwhelming citrus that one thinks one’s downing some grapefruit juice.

From the high ABV of 8.5% and the name “Hop Wallop,” one expect that this will be an abrasively hoppy ale.  However, developing such an expectation means that one has forgotten the softness of the water this brewer employs.  This prevents the hops from taking a rough edge.  We see a similar effect in Czech Pilsners.  Hop Wallop stands as an incredibly drinkable American Double with delectable flavors of pineapple, tangerine, and honeysuckle.  One really has to be careful not to drink this one too fast; otherwise, the 8.5 % ABV will soon turn one into a blithering idiot–which, by the way, is the name of a tasty barley wine from another Pennsylvania brewer, Weyerbacher.  The only drawback I can see in this beer is the high ABV, which effectively prevents one from having as much of it as one would like.

Cheers!

Review of Okakura’s The Book of Tea

For those of my dear readers who did not know me in college, I am a tea connoisseur.  My preference for tea has existed at least since I turned ten.  Some time after that, I began to indulge in coffee but always considering it a lesser drink to be enjoyed with much milk and five teaspoons of sugar until after my college years.  Indeed, in my dorm room, you could find eight to ten high quality teas and a box of Folger’s bagged coffee just in case I needed a change of pace.  Even now that I enjoy coffee more, I usually keep only one premium coffee.  You see, I felt that all coffees were the same, but tea held real variety!  In the early days, Bigelow’s Raspberry Royal was the most prized of teas, now it’s Phoenix Mountain Oolong (a Peet’s item.  In addition to their coffees, they also offer some very high quality tea).

In order to enrich my tea hobby, I got a couple of works on tea.  One is an incredibly dense and informative work called The Tea Drinker’s Handbook by Francois-Xavier Delmas et al. and the other is Kakuzo Okakura’s The Book of Tea, which will be the book under review.  Okakura is famed for his resistance to the Westernization trend during the end of the Meiji Era (1868-1912).  He wrote two other works (also in English): The Ideals of the East and The Awakening of Japan in order to explain Japanese Culture to a Western audience.  He strove to demonstrate that there is much good to Asian culture and that it is worthwhile for Westerners to understand it–samurai are not the only worthwhile part of Japanese culture!  For someone working in a second language, his skill with English is incredible.  Also, the boldness of his style seems equal to the best passages in Nietzsche, and the variety of information and humor in this particular work make its 49 pages fly by!  I’d highly recommend picking this work up, especially as it deals with a part of Japanese culture which has almost disappeared.

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New Tastings

On the 21st we celebrated my mother’s birthday by visiting P. F. Chang’s, a great Chinese restaurant.  It provided an excellent opportunity to try a couple of beverages which I had not yet had the pleasure of imbibing.  So, here are a few things you might want to try yourself.

I opened the meal with Magic Hat #9, which is produced by a famed Colorado craft brewer which I have avoided until now for some reason.  Initially, my lack of surety concerning what style the #9 stood for almost made me pass up this beer.  Then, I figured that, if the sommelier here has any intelligence, this beer should fall into one of these styles: Belgian Tripel, Dubbel, or Witbier, IPA, or American Pale Ale.  These beers, especially Belgian Abbey ales, pair marvelously with Asian cuisine.  If you don’t believe me, pay a trip to the Mekong restaurant in Richmond.  Their beer list is huge–the size of their selection of Belgian ales is particularly astounding.  This makes for a great dining experience.  On the advice of a friend of mine who had the pleasure of staying in Belgium, we selected the St. Feuillein’s Tripel.  I shall leave off this digression by saying that no other Tripel has bested it before of since.

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Exploring the Brews of the Victory Brewing Company

Before I start extolling the virtues of the Victory Brewing Co., based in Downingtown, PA, let me say that your opinions have been heard, dear readers.  According to the history of the site’s traffic, fine beverages and anime are the two most popular topics.  So, while I will publish articles on my other hobbies, expect to see a slew of articles on these topics.  Without further ado, here’s your next favorite craft brewer.

So far, my palate’s had the pleasure of experiencing six of their brews.  By far, their Baltic Porter, aptly named Baltic Thunder, is my favorite.  Drinking this is like drinking a rich chocolate cake, but the sweetness doesn’t overwhelm one so much that one cannot drink it alone.  The next time I walked into the store, restraining myself from buying a case of this required not a little willpower.  Their Russian Imperial Stout, Storm King Stout, is another of their dark beers for which they are rightly esteemed.  This one is packed with espresso and dark chocolate flavor with a hint of vanilla; but, at the same time, its dryness would make it a nice complement to your first barbeque this year or some nice London broil, filet mignon, or meatloaf.

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The Forgotten Pleasures of Fine Beer

I’ve gotten a request to review some beverages I’ve had recently.  Might as well start with the one I just finished: Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout.  It has a wonderful roasted coffee flavor which is enhanced by the brewer’s licorice.  I also noticed some vanilla and a slight dark chocolate flavor.  I’d especially recommend it with some grilled steak or similarly cooked beef.  This is the second Bell’s I’ve had, and they really live up to their reputation.

For the next few reviews, I’d like to note that I’ve been saving these beers for after Lent, so any discrepancy between how other people have reviewed them and mine may be attributed to that–especially if I give a sour review.

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Nearing the End of Lenten Penance

This year, I decided to give up alcoholic drinks as penance for Lent.  While I wouldn’t say that I went through withdrawal (I pair alcoholic beverages with dinner about four nights a week, and abstain the other three), this pleasure was greatly missed.  Exactly how beer tastes has vanished from my memory.  How spirits taste appears rather vague.  Amusingly, wine, even though I presently enjoy much less of this kingly beverage, is still very clear to me.

While helping my father out in choosing the wines for this Easter celebration, reading the flavor descriptions allowed me to form very accurate ideas of how the wines would taste.  I suppose the reason lies in that I started out with wine (or, to be more precise, with water, and then tea–but wine was the first alcoholic drink I took the time to study).  Also, my family, being of heavily Hispanic and Mediterranean origin, always preferred wine to other beverages.  It is true that my father’s a Scotch fan as well, but he seems to enjoy collecting more than drinking.  So, you might say that my memories of wine stretch back much farther.

Expect an accurate report from me on the best bottles tomorrow.  I’ve also been saving some bottles of Hitachino Nest, a Japanese craft beer brewer.  I was astounded to find them in a well-stocked store in Richmond.  They were selling them for $4 a bottle!  But, I snatched up four of them.  And I had thought that I should never see these beers without taking a trip to Japan!  The Hitachino Nest XH (a Belgian Strong Ale), though not the greatest example of the style, had a wonderfully rich flavor and was very smooth to boot.  So, I’m very much looking forward to these.