A tea adventure along the California coast

If you - like me - are into hiking, the Bay Area and Northern California have a lot to offer. At least once a week, I crave spending time outdoors surrounded by nature (have you ever come across the Japanese tradition of "forest bathing"?). I find it uplifting and de-stressing. Nature is beautiful and inspiring and the perfect backdrop for a tea session, don’t you think? I’m incredibly lucky to live so close to scenic coastal trails, forests of towering redwoods, hills and farmland, waterfalls and mountains. This time I’m taking you hiking along the California coast, to Año Nuevo State Park, near Pescadero, about an hour drive from San Francisco.

My tasting notes: Nilgiri Blue Mountain Frost Tea

Darjeeling and Assam are the most renowned tea producing regions in India, but they are not the only ones. The tea I’m tasting today comes from the Nilgiris or Blue Mountains in the state of Tamil Nadu, in Southern India. According to the Indian tea association, Nilgiri tea accounts for about 10% of the total tea production of India.
 

Tea in San Francisco - by neighborhood. Hayes Valley

Hayes Valley is one of the most charming neighborhoods in San Francisco and a fine dining destination, full of independently owned shops and boutiques. I decided to explore it by taking a look at the tea it has to offer. Despite not having many tea houses or tea shops, there’s plenty of high quality, loose leaf tea in Hayes Valley! I have a few gems in store for you, are you excited?

Comparing 2 single-cultivar matcha

Why do we love matcha so much? Personally, I love its color, sweetness, cocoa butter notes, hints of freshly cut grass (even better if there’s some umami taste), rich persistent foam and creamy mouthfeel. Honestly, I’ve been wanting to take it to the next level of tea geekness for a while. Unexpectedly, I found an intriguing method for matcha evaluation on the Kettl Tea blog (*). When I managed to find and get my hands on 2 single-cultivar matcha, the stars aligned. I had to compare them in a systematic way. The idea of “decoding” matcha is pretty exciting and I ended up learning more than I had ever expected to.

Matcha madeleines


Some days, I find myself craving matcha. Does that ever happen to you? I crave the chawan in my hands, the powder on my fingers, the swoosh of the chasen, the pattern of the tiny bubbles on the surface and the aromas and texture and flavor. It’s irresistible. Some other days, I crave whatever edible and colorful pops up on my Instagram feed and that’s exactly what happened when my sister Chiara made her matcha madeleines dipped in white chocolate and those popped up on my feed… they’ve been on my mind ever since! 

My tasting notes: Gold tea from Nepal

This is a very experimental tea brewing and tasting session with a black tea from Nepal. Instead of Western style, I brewed it in a gaiwan (but I have to specify, not gongfu cha style) to push it to the edge of flavor and aroma, to get a more concentrated brew. It was a series of trial and error and adjustments to the brewing parameters, but I’m happy with the results. 

The Tea Squirrel visits The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents

Flavor is a combination of taste and smell, which is why I believe that to be able to fully appreciate tea, training your nose is equally important as training your palate. The Tea Squirrel visited The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents, a charming collection by Mandy Aftel,  renowned natural perfumer and book author who also works in the realm of flavor. 
 

Tea and murals. The So Cal edition

What is tea and murals? It all started with the realization that beauty can be part of my everyday life anytime, anywhere. Be present in the moment and you’ll be surprised how much beauty you will find, often in the most unexpected of places, sometimes in a cup of tea, sometimes just around the corner. Tea deserves more attention, and so does art. I’m pairing the two by showing you the most vibrant and fun murals while drinking tea. Grab your cup, let’s go!
 

The marine layer tea cocktail

I am a huge fan of craft cocktails and I probably don’t have to tell you that I’m always on the lookout for tea-infused craft cocktails wherever I go. Recently, I’ve realized that 99% of the already scarce tea cocktails available on the local imbibing scene feature Earl Grey. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good Earl Grey tea cocktail, but I believe it’s high time bartenders tried something new. To make up for the lack of other teas in the craft cocktail world, I have a beautiful recipe for you. When I don’t go out, I love playing bartender at home. Let’s be honest, sipping a fancy, creative drink crafted with homemade and locally sourced ingredients and served with great attention to detail is still a fancy affair, even if you are in your pajamas and slippers.

An epic tea tasting with David Lee Hoffman

It’s a beautifully mild and sunny winter Saturday in San Francisco. My friend and fellow tea blogger Mike (The Tea Letter) and I are headed across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County, north of San Francisco. On the way, lush eucalyptus groves give way to towering redwoods. It’s a beautiful area and one that I often come to when I go hiking. Our destination is Lagunitas, where a very special tea tasting awaits.
 

What I “tea” in a day

The inspiration for this blog post comes from fellow tea blogger Lu Ann of The Cup of Life, who basically invented this. It’s about “keeping track” of tea, because - as someone once said - “tea is more than just a beverage, it’s about noticing your own habits.” 

My tasting notes: Da Hong Pao

No matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise, we’re still in the dead of winter. January has brought a lot of rain and grey, overcast skies to San Francisco and I cannot deny the intoxicating allure of bold, charcoal roasted teas. I let my imagination run wild and I picture myself in a forest of tall, majestic redwoods (that’s what we have around here), sitting by the fire and clutching a warm tea cup filled with fragrant Da Hong Pao.

Hojicha mochi muffins with hojicha tahini drizzle

Remember the mochi muffins? I while ago I had shared the recipe for matcha mochi muffins and - to date - it is still one of my most popular posts here on the blog. If you are not familiar with the mochi muffins (which I refuse to believe if you live in the Bay Area), let me tell you what the hype is about. This time around, I’m flavoring the mochi muffins with hojicha, roasted Japanese green tea, which I think pairs really well with the other ingredients.

Pairing Nepali white tea and cheese

It's no secret that I’m an epicurean tea drinker. I find pleasure and excitement in the taste of tea and in pairing it with fine foods. Indulgence, beauty and deliciousness are the principles I live by. I’ve paired tea and cheese many times before and it never ceases to amaze me how two things that are so different can go so well together. You guys love it when I put together a cheese board to pair with tea, so I’ve decided it was high time to do it again. 

The Tea Squirrel interviews tea blogger Georgia of Notes on Tea

Happy New Year, dear tea lovers! I wish you a wonderful 2018, filled with sips of delicious tea enjoyed together with friends and loved ones! To kick off the new year I have a very exciting interview for you! My tea friend and fellow tea blogger Georgia, author of the NYC based blog Notes on Tea, kindly agreed to answer my questions about her own tea journey. Last year, it was such an honor to be featured in her teaware series on her blog! Without further ado, let me introduce you to Georgia.

The most inspiring tea blog posts of 2017

2017 is almost over and I’m looking back and taking stock. It’s been a great year for The Tea Squirrel and I am truly honored to be part of such a lively, inclusive and positive community of tea bloggers and tea professionals. We inspire, support and motivate each other and I’d like to thank each and every one of you personally. Here's a roundup of the tea blog posts of 2017 that I found most inspiring.

Tea Reflections

Last week my friend and fellow tea blogger Mike (The Tea Letter) and I met for a gongfu tea session. Mike brought the tea, I brought the teaware and my camera. We had had tea together before at a tea house in San Francisco but this was the first time we got together with the intention to work on a “tandem” blog post. I’m glad to report that the input and inspiration I got from our tea session stretches far beyond that. This post has been particularly challenging to write, maybe because that input stirred inward reflection and assessment of my tea journey so far.