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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Beer Tasting in Old Town

If you've been meaning to check out our newest location in Old Town but still haven't made it out there, I've got good news for you: we're holding a beer tasting event on Thursday June 7th, from 5 - 8 pm. So come escape the heat and the office boredom and try some delish brews. We'll be sampling the following Peak Organic Beers:

Peak Espresso Amber Ale
organic, from Maine, robust with locally roasted fair trade espresso with a rich, roasty flavor, America’s first fair trade certified beer
Peak Summer Session Ale
organic, from Maine, complex mouthfeel with citrusy aroma
Peak IPA  Maine  7.50
organic, assertive, hop-forward nose, citrus & floral characteristics
The first two are available on tap, the third is bottled. We'll be serving up sample-sized portions of the beers, paired with free and delicious nibbles from our bar menu. 

At 6:30, Brendan Gangl, our rep from Peak Organic Brewing Company will be speaking and answering questions. So call your friends, come for happy hour and stay for dinner -- you won't get a better chance to check out Teaism Old Town on the cheap! 

Saturday, 26 May 2012


Teaism has now joined the #twitterevolution. Check us out:!/TeaismATeaHouse and mention either twitter OR the blog and get a free Salty Oat this weekend! 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Legend of the Salty Oat

Once there was a Cookie, a "subtly sweet . . . curiously salty" confection known as the Salty Oat. It's praises were sung up and down the East Coast and many a blogger and baker tried to reproduce the magic of the Cookie, but the recipe remained a fiercely guarded secret. The ingredients are simple -- organic oats, wheat flour, organic raisins, butter, cane sugar, organic eggs, vanilla, kosher salt, baking powder, and baking soda -- but producing the Cookie takes a little more kitchen wizardry.

Salty Oats are the brainchild of Terri Horn, who was working at DC's own Marvelous Market, when the first Cookies appeared. As she tells it, Terri conceived of the cookie while she was kayaking: 
"Paddling off the coast of Maine and needing something hearty to get her back to shore, Terri dreamed of the oat and raisin cookies she had been baking for years, sprinkled with salt to remind her of the sea."
Terri went home and baked, and baked, and baked, perfecting her confection before she shared it. Soon her Cookies were making a splash in the DC artisanal scene, and Terri left Marvelous Market to start her own company, the aptly named Kayak Cookies.  Once Teaism started selling the sweet and salty confections, word of the delicious Cookie began to spread and sales took off. 

Friends and family were soon begging for a sister Cookie, preferably with chocolate. Terri answered with the fabled Chocolate Salty Oat, with Belgian chocolate chunks, just a hint of coconut, and of course, sea salt sprinkled on top. To round out the Salty Oat family, Terri created one more masterful Cookie: the Chocolate Chunk Pecan, my personal favorite.

Terri Horne now resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and sells her Cookies all over the northeastern States. Teaism is a licensed producer of the Salty Oat, and Terri visits annually to train our bakers and make sure we maintain the magic of her Cookies. Often described as "maddeningly delicious" and "dangerously addictive," the Cookies can be purchased individually or in packs of six. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Bits and Pieces from the World of Tea

  • If you're like me, you love the recent infusion of taco trucks and other mobile food vendors in the urban scene. But what about tea? Two Brits have taken upon themselves to start A Couple of Mugs, serving up high grade teas from a vintage 1970's Citroen H van at weddings, bar mitzvahs, county fairs and other events all over the English country-side. 
  • Tea cocktails? I met a friend for ramen at Toki Underground last week. Don't let the name fool you -- the restaurant is actually located above the Pug in the heart of the Atlas District. With manga table tops and a smattering of local art, this spot really does manage to capture the spirit of Tokyo. The ramen was scrumptious, but my cocktail was even more memorable - an Oolong Hai (oolong, simple syrup, and Kettle 1 vodka) was the perfect companion to my soup. 
  • Or, for a change of pace, head over to Teaism's newest location in Old Town Alexandria. We've got a full bar, including mojitos, ginger limeade cocktails, and our own alcoholic tea creations! Full cocktail list coming soon...
  • Chef Allison Swope has cooked up some delectable new dishes for our youngest sister. If it's gray and rainy, as our Spring has been, try a meal-in-a-bowl hot pot: miso chicken meatballs, cabbage, spring onions, and enoki mushrooms will warm you up from the inside. If it's warm and sunny, go for a Saigon Sub or Kelp Noodle salad with Spicy Almond Butter at the high-top tables in our airy open dining room. 
  • Soon to come: check back on the blog for the Legend of the Salty Oat and learn the history of your favorite cookie! 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

All about Oolongs - the Black Dragon

oolong [ˈuːˌlɒŋ]
a kind of dark tea, grown in China, that is partly fermented before being dried
[from Chinese wu lung, from wu black + lung dragon]
There's something special about oolongs, and I'm certainly not the first person to notice. Often called the "Champagne of teas," oolongs bridge the divide between green and black teas, with a wide array of flavors and varying degrees of oxidation. Unlike many other varieties of tea, oolongs can actually improve with multiple infusions. 

In The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea, Michael Harney introduces the magic of this variety:
 “A sip from a light oolong can taste like a walk through a garden packed with lilacs, gardenias, and jasmine. A darker oolong can smell like a bakery right after it’s finished a round of peach pies…. Many oolongs are creamy, their liquor litteraly coating your mouth like fresh cream. Others are almost effervescent, practically fizzing like Champagne.”
1. Baozhong: This is the lightest of the oolongs, closer to a green tea than our other selections with only 25% oxidation. Harney describes the Baozhong as having an aroma of gardenia, jasmine and butter, but the perhaps my flavor palate isn't sophisticated enough to distinguish the light floral notes. Mostly I just taste the signature grassy flavor of green teas, with a hint of cream or butter on the finish. 

2. Tai Guanyin: This variety is much more robust than the Baozhong, medium bodied with a 40% oxidation rate. Harney observes floral gardenia and buttered white toast in his Tai Guanyin, but I find it to be more of a woody, toasted flavor. An old Chinese myth relates the story of a poor farmer renovating the temple of a Buddhist deity, Guan Yin. Suddenly the iron statue of the goddess comes to life and tells the man that he will find fortune in the fields by the temple. He begins to cultivate the tea bush he finds there, naming it after Guan Yin, the Iron Goddess of Mercy. 

3. Baihao: At 75% percent oxidation, this oolong is much closer to a black tea, and happens to be my favorite of the Teaism selection. It brews to a rich, red color, smells floral, and tastes lightly of peaches and toast. 

4. Formosa: Also 75% oxidized and therefore close to a black tea, Formosa has a very particular flavor - love it or hate it. It tastes nutty and slightly creamy, with a natural sweetness but a slightly astringent aftertaste. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

An Infusion of Life

I've been drinking tea like a maniac lately in an attempt to do battle with the Spring cold that has been plaguing me and everyone I know lately. Today I've been doing Mind & Body, an herbal blend of lemongrass, rooibos, ginger, ginseng and more, purported to have healing properties. I'm on my third cup of the day, and the exploding-head syndrome seems to be abating.

Yesterday I focused on green teas, starting with Moroccan Mint, a perennial favorite of mine. Two cups of that and I found some of my congestion clearing up. Then I switched to Bi Luo Chun, a classic Chinese green tea with hints of hay. By the time I got to Thai Nguyen, a light green grown in Vietnam, I was sweating but definitely feeling some improvements. Perhaps it was all in my head, but I could've sworn my immune ninjas were fighting with a renewed vigor.

In the Book of Tea, Okakura Kakuzo cites Lutong, a Tan poet, on the power of a tea regimen:
"The first cup moistens my lips and throat, the second cup breaks my loneliness, the third cup searches my barren entrails but to find therein some five thousand volumes of odd ideographs. The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration—all the wrong of life passes away through my pores. At the fifth cup I am purified; the sixth cup calls me to the realms of immortals. The seventh cup—ah, but I could take no more! I only feel the breath of cool wind that rises in my sleeves."
And so, perhaps I'll go back to the green teas. A little Dragon Well (another Chinese variety, with more of a grassy flavor) might do the trick -- by the seventh cup I shall feel nothing but the afternoon breeze on my arms. If not, I suppose a trip to the doctor is in order...