Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Funny Thing... About Eating with Girls

Ordering lunch yesterday with very sweet but health conscious girlfriends:


Friend 1: I'll have the Thai Brunch Bowl.
Me: I'll have the Superfood Salad, full sized.
Friend 2: I'll have the Superfood Semi-fried Rice
Friend 1: Can I get the coconut shreds not be toasted?  No? Okay, then just on the side. No? Okay, just no coconut at all.
Friend 2: Excuse me, for my semi-fried rice, can the rice be on the side?
Me: ....
Waiter: Anything else?
Me: ...Can I have my greens put on the side?
Me: --kidding!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Guide to Scottish Whisky Flavor Profiles

Scotch whisky is my drink of choice. Here's an infographic I came across that breaks down 86 different brands into 12 flavor categories.  Click for full size.
[src: http://www.rsvlts.com/2014/09/26/scotch-flavor-infographic]



Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Funny Thing... In The Elevator

That moment when a random person recognizes you in a public elevator.

Guy: Excuse me, are you chubby...
Me: 😨 ...
Guy: –chubby...?
Me: 😨 ...
Guy: ... The Chubby Ninja.. Are you?
Me: ooooooh. I thought you were calling me fat.
Guy: (sputters awkwardly)

I really need to change my Instagram name. :)


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December Ideas to Spoil Yourself and Friends

The past year, I've got to experiment with a lot of new products and services.  Some, I've grown to love and have since incorporated it into my latest routine.  I'd like to share these with you, so you can spoil yourself too.  Extra bonus: I've been fortunate to have been given promo codes for most of them, so you can get a discount off this December!
Categories: Kitchen, Pantry, Skincare, Beauty, Health/Fitness, Haircare, Weightloss

For the Kitchen & Home Entertaining

SALT GRAMMAR 
by Indiana Supply Company http://store.indianasupplyco.com
They have a fascinating range of edible whole salts, unrefined salts, and macrobiotic salts.  For both the health conscious foodie or gourmand friend who seems to have everything already, this is a great addition for him or her to experiment with.


NESPRESSO
or Nespresso Boutique
Nespresso needs very little introduction as the other coveted Gift Registry item after the Kitchen Aid mixer.  They've just released a Christmas inspired range, with tasting notes based on three traditional German and Austrian treats: Apfelstrudel, Linzer Torte, and the Sachertorte. While I like to eat Apfelstrudel the most, I highly recommend the Linzer Torte Nespresso capsules; they're a delight with hints of redcurrant and raspberries.




Another option for the Nespresso fiend, is the Versilo Capsule Dispenser.  It can stand on its own (depicted below), or can be hung on the wall. It's also magnetic if you want to stick it to your refrigerator.  This dispenser makes my whole Nespresso corner that much spiffier.


OMAKASE BOX
by Chitose Agriculture Initiative http://www.cai-sg.com
Fresh seasonal produce delivered weekly from Japan and Cameron Highlands.  Most of the vegetables and fruits in Singapore are cultivated using large amounts of pesticides, which destroys the ecosystem in the fields; and chemical fertilizers that force harvest to grow drastically in a short amount of time. Chitose Agriculture Initiative works with artisan farmers and seeks to give our households access to their produce.
I've found it interesting using their services, since each week is a surprise depending on what produce is freshest and in season.  I've also been introduced to new vegetables I haven't cooked with before, so it forced me to get out of my comfort zone and learn how to prepare something new.  It's been very rewarding so far–I'm currently cooking and eating through an Omakase box full of Japanese winter vegetables: sweet potato, broccoli, mizuna leaves, San Fuji apples, oranges, and more.


SUNDAY PUNCH
Small batch bottle cocktails. Had a few of these babies at house parties and barbeques. It was always a complete hit, having great quality cocktails and zero of the work needed (mostly because the small team behind Sunday Punch slaved away to make our lives easier!). They've just released a Christmas edition, just in time for .. well, Christmas.

The Old Fashioned Christmas features spiced whisky, a velvety mouthfeel of cocoa and deep sweetness of blackcurrant, with a subtle coffee after-note.


MONOGRAM Collection
by Gryphon Tea Company http://www.gryphontea.com
Contact bespoke@monogramtea.com for bespoke services
Promocode (10% off your first order): "SHOPNOW"

In conjunction with its 10th anniversary, tea experts Gryphon Tea Company is the first to offer bespoke services, where you can customize your own teas. Consumers can create their own blends of teas and tisanes, making for a personal touch in your pantry or as a gift.  
The quality of the teas are one of the finest as far as tea sachet brands go. Gryphon Tea Company is a homegrown brand that Singaporeans can be proud of. Having personally met Lim Tian Wee, the man behind Gryphon, it's been quite an experience to witness the sincerity and knowledge he has for his teas.  Many of the Gryphon Tea sachet recipes were personally created by him; and now tea lovers can create their own with the Monogram collection.
They have a pop-up stall set up at TANGS at Tang Plaza until 24 December. You can also purchase Gryphon Teas on their site, or Monogram teas at www.monogramtea.com after 16 December.


DELIVEROO
http://deliveroo.com.sg
Promocode ($10 off your first order, valid until 6 Feb 2017): "CHUBBYNINJAROO"

While compiling this list, I JUST realized that you can also use Deliveroo from your browser, the app isn't always necessary. Woohoo! 
As a heavy Seamless Web user back in NYC, I was pretty upset by the dismal food delivery options in Hong Kong and Singapore. Then, Deliveroo came to our shores and made the world right again. The app user experience is very smooth, and customer service is very quick to remedy any errors if it happens – errors of which have become more rare as time goes on (hooray!). I'm impressed by their restaurant selection, having been able to bring onboard mostly top notch restaurants, so food is hardly a disappointment. 

My regular fixes are roast Irish duck from Tunglok, Motorino pizza, Hyangtogol, Crystal Jade Korean Ginseng Chicken, Park Bench Deli sandwiches, and Saladstop.  I'm waiting for the burger crave to hit before I tap into Market Grill's burgers or Burnt End's pulled pork sanger.  It will come.

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SKINCARE


Look at my skin!!!! (also, cookie) Thanks to the products I use below.

I'm annoyingly particular about my skincare routine, and once I find something I like, I'm reluctant to keep experimenting. I have sensitive skin and I don't want to risk a bad reaction when I use something that already works. I used SK-II for a very long time, and eventually (with some coaxing) I was persuaded to give Cle de Peau de Beaute a try.  Likewise with Dr.Leaders, I responded to a friend with it that I won't endorse a product I don't like, and I hate experimenting with my face! P.S. I also don't like whitening products (see more below under SK-II for more on that). She persisted, and so I tried.

DR.LEADERS 

I love this product. Thank you for insisting I give it a shot, Elaine and Joan! I've used the cleanser, toner, serum and gel cream from the Hydrophilic Expert series. The brand is from Korea, touting itself as luxury plant powered skin care. It's particularly made for Asian skin and the humidity.


After using Dr.Leaders for a week or so, my skin balance has improved a lot, and my skin tone has evened out after a month – so, unless I need to be on camera, I don't wear foundation when I go out anymore! My skin's bouncier, "juicier" feeling from the plant stem cell power. Even during hormonal weeks (PMS), my skin condition doesn't change. 


However, I did use this product also when I started going to The Wellness Suite for facials, so it's hard to say if it's a combination of both or if the skin improvement is solely from the product.

SK-II
I grew up as an SK-II loyalist, since my father (who has amazing skin) uses the product. I used to use almost all of their products, except whitening, until I discovered Cle de Peau and Dr. Leaders.  However, here are the SK-II products I still use regularly.

1/ SK-II Color Clear Beauty Artisan Brush Foundation retail info here
The coverage is fantastic, and the applicator brush is better than any brushes I have! The foundation has HD-camera worthy coverage, along with 4x concentrated Pitera (SK-II's signature formula) and SPF 40/PA+++.  I usually use Chanel Vitaluminère Aqua (Teint Parfait) if I only want to even out my skin tone, but I use this SK-II foundation for special nights out or if I know I'm going to be filming that day.
 2/ Mid-Day Miracle Essence retail info here
This is SK-II's signature Facial Treatment Essence in a portable to-go bottle. I like to spritz this if I've been sitting in a dry environment for a few hours (air conditioned rooms, airplanes, or cold cities in the winter). If I get back home really late and am way too tired to shower (ew, I know, but rarely), I'll wash my face and spritz this on then crash.


3/ Facial Treatment Essence (Limited Edition Bottles) and Facial Treatment Essence masks
The Facial Treatment Essence works, period. There's a certain dewy glow that results from using this daily. Likewise, the FTE masks are a real treat for the skin. 
If you're gifting this for someone else this holiday season, may I recommend the latest Limited Edition bottles; inspired by Sumanigashi, the Japanese art of ink on water.



4/ Genoptics Aura Essence
Removes and prevents sunspot formations.
I mentioned before that I don't like whitening products, because generally, it's some form of skin bleaching. Plus, I don't like the unnatural creepy doll-like effect it has overtime. Perhaps the American in me also appreciates a touch of the healthy golden glow from being active outdoors.

However, I noticed my suntanned freckles take longer to fade as I get older. SK-II's Genoptics Aura Essence penetrates through the layers of skin to work from within, rather than simply bleaching spots off your face. The team behind SK-II reassured me that it doesn't whiten; rather, it prevents spot formations from under the surface of your skin.  I use this product when I know I will be outdoors a lot that day.


Skincare Travel essentials and tips for tropical weather: 
With so many different products out there, I ask SK-II USA Ambassador Steve Jan what actually works and what's just a marketing gimmick.  He also explains that whitening products can be very drying, so avoid using them before or right after airplane travel.


Cle de Peau Beauté 
Cle de Peau is my new favorite travel skincare products, and for a time it became my entire morning and night skincare routine. I take it everywhere I go, particularly in temperate climates (Japan, United States, Hong Kong during cooler weather, Australia).


In Singapore and Hong Kong, during the day, I use Hydro-softening Lotion and Protective Fortifying Emulsion (which has SPF). I carry the Hand Cream in my bag wherever I go, whichever country I'm in.

In the evening, as I mentioned I now use Dr.Leaders. However, every 3 nights, I'll switch back to my Cle de Peau routine with (1) Hydro-softening Lotion, (2) Intensive Fortifying Cream, and especially (3) Intensive Eye Contour Cream and (4) the ultra-luxurious La Creme.  La Creme is a miracle cream, I use it the night before anything important, in order to look my very best the next day. 

It's a ritual I've grown to love. I have a special little set up on my vanity table for my Cle de Peau products, for those nights I have time to take a few extra minutes to luxuriate and pamper myself. The packing is especially beautiful, which quite frankly, enhances the whole ritual experience for me.

The Hydrafacial
Location: Paragon Shopping Centre, Level 13
Promo discount, quote this during reservation: "Victoria Cheng"
for 1st trial Hydrafacial at $125 or All Skin Laser+IPL Combo at $70

For the ultimate medical grade facial (non invasive) using the 4-in-1 Vortex Technology – to cleanse, exfoliate, extract, hydrate and nourish. The first thing the therapist warned me was that this wasn't your average spa-like pampering facial, where most of the time is spent on massages. Initially, I was worried about leaving with blotchy red patches on my skin, or worse, serious burns from uncertified clinics.
Turns out, this facial is by far the most effective I've ever had and a doctor who could answer all of my questions (Dr. Jonathan Yong). Clearer skin with every visit, lessening of fine lines, and noticeably brighter and younger looking skin. Highly recommend.

Sun Protection Mist
by DrGL
Ultra light and can be applied over makeup too. There's no white oily residue, and I haven't had any clogged pore problems using this. It's become part of my travel necessities kit, especially this past year having spent most of my overseas time in sunny cities. It's meant for Hair/Face/Body, and I do spritz a fair amount over my hair, scalp, and shoulders as well.


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HAIRCARE

LUMINOGENIC HAIR PROTECTOR
by Shiseido Professional
Speaking of hair protection, in addition to a spritz of DrGL over my roots, I use this lightweight protector over the rest of my hair (starting from the ends and working my way up on towel dried hair). I find this particularly crucial when I'm spending a lot of time in the sun. I brought the whole bottle with me on my recent trip to Bali.


LUMINOGENIC SHAMPOO, CONDITIONER, MASK
by Shiseido Professional http://www.pro.shiseido.com/haircare
I prefer the Luminogenic series since it preserves my hair color best, and seems to leave my hair condition the softest. Also, it smells so good... a wonderful floral perfume. I use the whole series, including the Caviar Essence, of which you can learn more about in this overly dramatic video:



If you don't have colored hair, then I would also recommend the Aqua Intensive series.

HAIR COLORING, TREATMENT, STYLING
by HairCube (Novena)
Promo discount, quote this during reservation (until December 31): "Victoria Cheng"

The stylists here are great. Personable, warm and friendly, and I've always left with perfect hair.  See examples below:





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BEAUTY

LASH EXTENSIONS & MANICURES
by Flutters Lash Salon http://www.flutters.com.sg
Promocode (for 10% off ala carte services and trials, 5% off regular packages): "VICTORIA" 
The quality of their services speaks for itself. My lashes and nails alway look gorgeous after I visit this cute salon tucked in Duxton Hill.





DESIGNER DRESS RENTALS
by Covetella
Promocode ($20 off all rentals over the holidays): "VICHOLIDAYS20"
Covetella has been my go-to dress rental the since F1 in September. I've gone to them even as late as the day before to pick up gowns for events, weddings, cocktails, parties... Here are some of the outfits I got to wear.







RADIANT LIQUID ROGUE & EXTRA RICH LIPSTICK
by Cle de Peau Beauté http://www.cledepeau-beaute.com
I use the Extra Rich Lipstick in Dusty Red (103) almost daily for a natural tinge of pink, and the Radiant Liquid Rogue in Light Rose (13) for evenings I go out.  I'm actually wearing it in most of the photos above in the Covetella section.

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HEALTH/FITNESS

(photography by David Yeow)

PurelyB's FRESSKO FLASK
Promo code (5% discount off all orders): "VICTORIACHENG"
Founded by an entrepreneurial team of women from Malaysia, PurelyB focuses on fitness, wellness, and healthy living. The past year, I've experimented with their meal plans–I lost 2 kg after 2 weeks on their SaladStop plan, and have shopped from their Marketplace. 
One of my favorite items is the beautiful glass Fressko Flask. It can store hot or cold liquids, and has a "brew as you go" concept. Infuse berries, honey, herbs, into teas or water; or store smoothies and yogurts in a gorgeous on-the-go container.


TEABIOTIC
by We Are Cultured http://www.wearecultured.com
Promocode (15% off everything): "VICTORIA15WAC"
There are a few different varieties depending on your needs, but I've been using their PURE MA-CHA, a ceremonial grade matcha (green tea) + probiotics in one.  80% of the immune system is located in the digestive system, so the gals behind Teabiotic focus on your gut health to heal you from the inside out.  Claims say it helps with focus, energy, detoxing, and skin health.  It can be drank as a tea (hot or cold), or used as a sprinkle ontop of desserts or dishes.  Check out their site for some ideas.

VIBROGYM
by Alvin Tan, Owner Lifestyle Fitness
(related article: How F&B Tycoons Stay Trim)
I've written about my training at the boutique gym on the 5th floor of Sheraton Towers a number of times. I've even mentioned it in articles that ask about my fitness routine (see Straits Times article below).  There has been a direct correlation with my weight loss and training with Alvin Tan.  My training with the vibrogym has also helped with increasing flexibility, endurance and muscle tone.  
Mr. Tan caters his training depending on his client's goals, age, and body type.  He also assists with injury rehabilitation. He's the only trainer I've had so far who's been able to get me to lean out rather than bulk up (my body type is prone to getting bulky & muscular looking rather than limber).


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WEIGHTLOSS


SLIM SUPPORT
by Vermilion 
Promo code at checkout (buy 2 boxes, get 1 free): "VCSLIM"
*3 boxes need to be in the cart before entering the promocode. I've written a few testimonials about this product over the last few months. I've used a lot of different methods to try to lose weight to supplement my exercise. In particular, I've found that diet pills or supplements are terrible–they gave me bad mood swings; fullness meant feeling bloated; faster metabolism was just caffeine kicking in, or worse some made me hungrier.  Best case scenario was no effect at all.

So I started taking Vermilion's latest Slim Support with low expectations. Vermilion's other supplements worked well enough for me and I like their natural approach to the product, so I trusted that it wouldn't be harmful at least.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my appetite did decrease, and I continued to lose weight even when I had to go on a 1 month break from exercising.  Also, no side effects!
Check the link above for more details on the product.

My body type is naturally curvy. There are pros and cons to this, depending what your preferences are. I gained 14kg in a year, then lost 12kg in 6 months. I plateued for a bit here and there. One thing that helped get over those humps was @vermilion_sg's Slimming jelly supplements. Tried and tested! Usually diet pills/teas etc are all bullshit (I know I'm not the only one who's tried and failed). These Vermilion jellies (all natural using a combo of TCM and western science, developed by two doctors) effectively reduced my appetite and sped up my metabolism, and no addition of caffeine. This is NOT a sponsored or paid post - I'll explain how I came across this product in a YouTube video later. ☃️❄️❄️❄️But they've offered a special promo code until Christmas: Buy 2 boxes, get 1 free. Use code: VCSLIM at checkout on their website🦄 . . Yes, I realize this photo is flanked by delicious food photos. That's the problem! Hahah. Thank goodness for these jellies.
A photo posted by the chubby ninja (@victoriacheng) on

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RETREATS

REMINDER BANDS
These make for great gifts. They're attractive cuff bracelets with words meant to inspire you everyday you wear it. These are the two I chose: "Believe" and "Fearless". I'm planning to order a bunch for Christmas for each of my 4 brothers.


W Sentosa Detox Retreat, Singapore


Alaya Ubud, Bali
More about that soon.

Katamama Boutique Hotel, Bali
More about that soon.

Westin Singapore - Makantrail with Misstamchiak
More about that soon.

Friday, December 2, 2016

When being called a celebrity or influencer is insulting



The truth about Michelin. Or rather, here's an opinion I share with Marco (video above). The guide has changed a lot in the past decade and is no longer what it once was. Perhaps it was as a result of globalization and increasingly loosening standards as Michelin became a business instead of a symbol.

But more about today's thoughts: I disagree with his statement about not being a celebrity chef. 
He is a celebrity. 

Yet, I completely understand what he means – that he doesn't identify with it and all the usual 'celebrity chefs' qualities that give the title a reputation he doesn't want to be associated with. He has actual life skills that brought him to celebrity. I feel the same way about the influencer/blogger label and I often protest the title as well.

Lingyi Xiong, the writer, producer, and creator of Singapore's highest viewed YouTube channel, Wah!Banana has less than 5,000 followers on her personal instagram account (currently). She jokes about the times when fans ask her to hold the camera and help take photos of some of the other YouTube actors. Still, she is the essence of the channel and the brains behind the operation.

I don't think she would get miffed by being called a celebrity, influencer, or Youtuber. But one day when she has hundreds of thousands of followers on her personal accounts... and folks reduce the popularity of her work down to taking cute photos on Instagram, I somehow doubt she'd appreciate that.

Moreso, it's amateur to believe number of followers equates actual influence or is a measure of a brand or person's success, intelligence, or skill in anything besides posting clickbait. Viewership or followers is an important metric, but there's so much more to it (related post: I'm the worst digital influencer)

There are a lot of us who take pride in our work, that there's a certain skill and expertise we've honed over the years, a decade for me; and decades for someone like Marco. (I am not saying we are on the same level, but the heart is the same) He is an internationally renowned chef, but his celebrity is as a result of his actual cooking prowess and a passion he's able to so acutely articulate.

When he's thrown into the bucket label of 'celebrity chef', I imagine he's not impressed by the association with men who made it because they are great on television, men who sought the fame for the cameras and not the craft of culinaire.

Still to this day, I grit my teeth a bit every time someone calls me a blogger. I know there isn't any insult intended behind the label, it's simply a title I don't relate to.

With the celebrity chef, l'enfant terrible, Marco Pierre White.



Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Moderator at Singapore Writers Festival

Phew! Just conducted the panel in this room!
[photo added after the event]
--

I'll be Moderating a panel discussion this Thursday evening at Singapore Writers Festival 2016.

You can view the event info here if you'd like to attend: 


November 10, 2016
7pm-8pm
Venue: The Arts House, Chamber
The Hipster Invasion of the Food Scene
Laksa served in mess tins, kale pandan smoothies in artisanal mason jars and spam fries on recycled wood plates with a side of deconstructed condiments. Shop designs and menus cater to the young and affluent, and gentrification has made its way to old estates and HDB heartlands. Is the hipster invasion of the Singapore food scene here to stay? Does this signal the beginning of the demise of traditional hawker culture? Has our relationship with food changed?
Moderator: Victoria Cheng
Participants: Constance Singam, Prashant Somosundram, Christopher Tan

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Guide to Chinese Teas

An article and Podcast by Victoria Cheng for Momentum magazine (Article & Podcast Here)
All images by Kenny Leong of Teatle-Tattle.com


According to the Chinese, there are 7 necessities to daily life: firewood ( chái), rice ( mĭ), oil ( yóu), salt (yán), sauce ( jiàng), vinegar ( cù), tea ( chá). Tea, not water, was listed as one of the essentials.

Surprisingly, tea doesn't trend in the media the way coffee or wine does out in Asia, where the plant is native. But in certain parts of America, especially New York and San Francisco, tea is being realized as a product with a lot of complexity. Considerations like terroir, aroma, oxidation, astringency, processing, and other geeky things about tea are becoming increasingly popular. 

For example, 3-Michelin starred restaurant Eleven Madison Park in New York City has a tea sommelier who presents a tea-pairing menu.  London, arguably the only Western city which tea is deeply integrated into the culture, has a number of restaurants that are paying more attention to elaborate tea services as well.

Notably in Singapore, one-Michelin starred American Steakhouse restaurant, CUT, offers a range of 22 types of tea, 12 of which are Chinese. Two-Michelin starred restaurant, Odette, offers a carefully curated selection of teas from various parts of China, Taiwan, and Japan to accompany Chef Julian Royer's exquisite modern French menu.

I sought further tea advice from my longtime friend, Mr. Kenny Leong of Teatle-Tattle.com—he happens to be the tea expert who consulted on Odette's tea pairing menu. He served us an elegant fenghuang dancong tea from Chaozhou in a richly colored bowl-like vessel. It was only at the end of our tea session that he revealed that the glazed vessel I was drinking from was a tenmoku, a rare type of  Jian ware ceramics that were favored by the ancient Song dynasty emperors. They're prized and extremely valuable, whereupon I stopped touching it immediately.

Prized, golden glazed tenmoku vessels

Tea Origins
It’s the Godfather of sophisticated beverages

The tea plant is assumed to be indigenous to southwest China, and consumption began as early as the second century, where archaeologists have found a jar of tea leaves in a Han Dynasty tomb.

The earliest reference to tea-drinking was first found in Sanguozhi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) from 264 AD, but it wasn't until the Tang Dynasty that the tea ceremony was formalized. Consumed by monks to stay mentally alert during meditation, tea was appreciated for its stimulant and medicinal properties.

During this dynasty, Lu Yu, a fellow known as the "Sage of Tea", wrote Cha Jing (The Classic of Tea)—scriptures remarking on the importance of water quality and other measures of tea making—consequently creating the first official compendium of the cultural pursuit.

Later, during the Song Dynasty, tea became an artistic and luxury activity, especially among scholars, nobility, and the wealthy. Tea enjoyed its golden age in China during this period, and was being exported to other countries such as Korea and Japan.

"Tea competitions were all the rage. The ceremony of the day typically involved breaking off pieces of pressed tea bricks and grinding them into a fine powder. The ground tea was then sieved and placed in a zhan, with hot water. Then a bamboo whisk was used to whisk the brew vigorously until a layer of foam formed around the surface," Leong explains of the Chinese customs. Regarding these foams that were often decorated, he quips, “Essentially, the Chinese also pioneered the first forms of what we now call latte art!”

Buddhist monks who came to study in China, brought the practice of whisking tea back to Japan, where it has evolved and is very much part of the Japanese tea tradition today. Through trade on the Silk Road, tea also spread to Arab countries and Africa.

Tea eventually became accessible to the common people of China during the Ming and Qing period, when tea was recognized as a necessity and thus no longer taxable by the governing houses. Ultimately, loose-leaf steeped tea (baocha) replaced traditional tea bricks that were previously whipped (mocha) during preparation—leading us to the form of tea we’re most familiar with today.

Down to a Tea
The difference between Western and Eastern tea, according to a tea purist

"The European development of tea in the last 500 years began with the Portuguese queen," reveals Leong. "Ironically, it was Queen Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II, who introduced the English aristocracy to her tea drinking custom of having it served with her meals and snacks.

However, as popular as afternoon tea has become since, Leong wryly opposes British methods of steeping. "Usually Chinese teas are quick infusions. Whereas the English brew it with a large pot and a lot of water for a few minutes, which is not the best way... and perhaps why they add milk and sugar to their tea!" 

As a tea classicist, Leong prefers unblended teas that are not augmented with other things such as flowers or citrus fruits, "It takes away from the chaste enjoyment of tea; just how you wouldn't add Coca Cola to your wine." An unblended tea is typically a single variety of tea.

Every country has its own premium tea varieties, and it's subjective to experts on which is the finest amongst the first flush (first harvest), where the highest grade of tea are plucked in early Spring. Arguably, one of the most difficult teas to make are Oolongs, specifically cliff tea varieties. There's an intricate process of fermenting and oxidizing the leaves, and if not done carefully, an entire season's harvest could be spoiled. Oolongs typically require more work than a green or white tea.

[Listen to the podcast for more details on how to properly steep teas, what kind of material the kettles should be made of, and which brands of bottled water are the most suitable for high grade tea]


Mastering Tea
It’s as pretentious as wine tasting, but not as pompous in practice (at least for now). Perhaps owing to its intriguing ancient history, complexity, variety, and nutritional properties.

There are different schools of thought on how to 'taste' tea, but the simplest is a sensorial approach.

Color: Good tea should have clarity. The liquor should appear bright and have a certain lively vibrancy. It shouldn't look dull.

Aroma: Look for aromas that are typical of the tea that you're drinking. For example, the fenghuang dancong Mr. Leong and I are drinking this afternoon should and does have notes of apricots, peaches, tropical fruits, and flowers.

Taste: Tea should be faithful to its variety. A pu-erh should taste like pu-erh. If it doesn't taste like anything (dull, astringent, tannic, bitter), it's probably best to throw it out.

Aging Tea
Aging makes the tea softer and mellower, lending a matured character to the taste and aroma. Pu-erh is popular for aging, as young pu-erh can be tannic and astringent, but after ten years, it ripens like a fruit. “The taste becomes dark and soft, that’s why it is consumed with dim sum,” explains Leong.

In the Chinese community, it has become trendy to age white tea.  But like wine, tea is a highly complex issue, and more so. It’s also important to note, that aging doesn’t necessarily improve the quality of tea (or wine). Our tea expert cautions, “There’s no point aging a terrible tea, because it won’t get better! Start with a good product first, and even then, aging won’t necessarily improve it.”

Tea Bags, Iced Tea, and other potentially blasphemous things
Doth ice in tea offend tea purists?

If you cut open a tea bag, you’ll find it is mostly tea ‘dust’, which is the lowest grade of tea leaves you can possibly have. Whole tea leaves or tea bricks that are broken up and ground up (different than tea dust) are most ideal. There are tea brands that retail reasonably good tea in tea bags, such as Dilmah Tea and Singapore founded tea brand, Gryphon Tea Company. Out of the politeness of a tea drinker, we’ll refrain from naming some of the tea dusters. [However, you might hear some specifics mentioned in our podcast, along with more tips on tasting, preparing, and purchasing tea]

How about iced tea—is it blasphemy? No, it isn’t, and thank goodness. There are ways to cold steep teas. Particularly in tropical countries or in summer, you can find good quality oolongs or green teas and brew it cold. The night before you serve cold tea, put the leaves in a glass decanter with room temperature water—both Leong and I have an appreciation for Volvic water, because of its soft texture and lack of harsh mineral character. Then cover the decanter with cling wrap and let it steep overnight or at least 8 hours.

An Ode to Tea

As you may have gathered, there is much knowledge that goes behind tea—there’s more complexity to it than even wine. At a restaurant, all that needs to be done is a pulled cork and a bottle being served right in front of you, to be tasted the wine maker would have intended it. The tea expert, Kenny Leong divulges, “Whereas the result of tea will depend on the person brewing it, and whether he or she has all the brewing parameters to a… well, down to a Tea.”


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