Tea Party Tuesday: Elmwood Inn Lung Ching Green

A couple years ago, I started hearing about this place in Danville, Kentucky, serving world-class teas. Like pilgrimage-worthy teas. Person after person told me about this family who had started a tea room in a historic house, which then took off big time, so much so that they had to close said tea room to meet international demand for their amazing teas. Finally, when my friend Stuart, a local historian and expert on the Boyle County area, recommended it to me, I got in the car.

If you are not from Kentucky, which I suspect you are not, this is probably not particularly noteworthy information to you. If you are from Kentucky, I can hear what you’re thinking, which is probably something along the lines of, “k.” Danville is small, very small. We’re talking low five-figure population small.  The idea that it could sustain a world-class tea shop seems crazy. Hell, the idea that it would even have a tea shop is, in and of itself, unlikely.

But not only is there this lovely shop, but this lovely shop is so popular with locals and visitors alike that all three times I’ve gone, there’s been a line to get tea. The secret of the super-nice, extremely well-informed, low-key Richardson family is out, and for good reason: they’ve got an amazing product and they are willing to talk to you about it for as long as you’re interested.

They’ve got a whole range of historical teas (be still my heart) that I’ll tell you about at a later date, but for now, let’s talk about the Lung Ching Green I picked up on a recent visit.

 

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Look at that! This is the platonic ideal of green tea, if we want to get right down to brass tacks. It’s a classic pan-roasted Chinese green tea and it’s got a simple, earthy taste I love things like it to have. It’s also really pretty; check out how nice those leaves look! You can tell it’s high quality because of how flat and light the leaves are (that’s usually a good indicator with dragon well teas; lower quality ones will often have darker, less uniform leaves). I got three good cups of tea out of this and it stood up really nicely to multiple steepings. The flavor developed differently every time I added more water rather than collapsing and becoming sadder and more faded.

In keeping with the meeting-you-where-you-are ethos of the Elmwood Inn tea experience, this is an easy to make, easy to drink tea that has simple-to-follow prep instructions printed right on the label, making it ideal for a novice tea drinker who just wants to dip a toe into the uh, kettle of very hot tea water? That metaphor fell apart, but bottom line: this is a great tea if you’re new  to tea and want to try a clear-cut example of a near-perfect green tea, but it’s also wonderful if you’ve got a more developed tea palate because it’s just…really good drinking.

This Lung Ching green tea is available on their website (or in person at their adorable shop!) for $12.95/4 ounces.

Have you been to the Elmwood Inn shop? Read any of their great books about tea? Do you have a recommendation for an out-of-the-way tea shop for me? Tell me all about it! I’m listening.

Tea Party Tuesday: Lingonberry Green

Confession time: I have a lifestyle crush on Marcus Samuelsson. He is nice-looking, has a neat restaurant, seems to genuinely like his super-hot wife, and exudes competence on Top ChefThe guy just seems to have his life together. This weekend, I took a knife skills class and got to the cooking school a little bit early, giving me just enough time to wander around and spend more money. When I saw that he had a beautifully packaged new tea line, there was no outcome where I didn’t purchase it. 

I mean LOOK at that tin. It's so pretty.
I mean LOOK at that tin. It’s so pretty.

After an agonizing ten minutes deciding which of the four offerings I would select, I left the shop with the Ambessa Lingonberry Green. Let’s start with the downsides before I go on to the fun stuff. Bad part one: it’s a sachet, which I didn’t realize. Bad part two: I did not suddenly become a Beard award winner OR the partner of a model after drinking a big cup of this tea. 

Now, on to the fun part. I love lingonberries. They’re somewhat uncommon in the United States (though if you live up north, you can grow them), but they’re a staple in Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and other consistently cold European nations. They’re tart and sweet, and boast a host of nutritional and medicinal properties that make me wonder what all the fuss about acai berries is. The green tea they’re blended with here is a Japanese sencha, and it’s very delicate. We’ve covered how great green tea is for you in the past, so no need to rehash here.  

The nose on the leaves was just slightly fruity– enough that you knew there was cowberry in your future, but not enough to remind you of Celestial Seasonings Peach Whatever Whatever. I steeped it for threeish minutes and took the bag out and this is what I got:

Incredibly pale, yes?
Incredibly pale, yes?

It’s subtler than I expected– the lingonberries are there if you’re looking for them, but they don’t knock you out. That’s a drawback of some teas that come blended with fruit, and I was glad we sidestepped that particular pitfall. This would make a really nice iced green tea for a hot day, but I enjoyed it in its intended form, too. Definitely recommend, despite the fact that it did not come with complimentary Michelin stars. Ugh. 

The lingonberry green runs about $8 for 40 sachets, and is available here.

Anyone tried any of the other Ambessa teas? I’m curious about the Earl of Harlem!

 

Tea Party Tuesday: Swamp Sencha

Well, friends, it’s that time of week. Time to turn our attention to our livers. After last night’s shenanigans after the game, the poor dears probably need a detox. Never fear, green tea is here!

Tastes less cloudy than it looks!
Tastes less cloudy than it looks!

Sencha is the crappy tea you get in the teabags that are 100/$3 at the grocery store! The one I’ve brought you today is a much nicer version of that taste you probably already like. It’s a Japanese green tea that is made without grinding the tea leaves at all. It’s got a little caffeine to it, but probably something along the lines of 1/4 of the caffeine a cup of coffee might should have.

Allegedly, this will lower your cholesterol and increase your brain functions (you will suddenly remember that your girlfriend’s favorite flowers are peonies! crossword puzzles will be easy even on Sunday!), and can decrease your risk of certain kinds of cancer. I actually bathe in this stuff every morning.*

You can get the one that I drank this morning for $16/2 ounces. It’s a superior product by far– you don’t have to be an expert to taste the difference between this and the stuff you drank at Benihana,

*not true

Tea Party Tuesday: Pearl Tea

Y’all, I love pearl tea. It’s so delicate, so jasmine-y, and overall, just my favorite thing in the world. It’s with pleasure that I bring you this week’s tea:

Those tiny pearls expand to fill the pot almost completely with leaves, which is, to me, completely magical.
Those tiny pearls expand to fill the pot almost completely with leaves, which is, to me, completely magical.

Pearled tea is hand-rolled. I’m going to pause to let that sink in. Every tiny pearl is a long, lightly oxidized green tea leaf that a human being rolled into a ball. This boggles the mind! As we’ve covered before, green tea is an antioxidant, helps with weight loss, improves circulation, and is generally a wonder drug. I love this particular tea because it is so fragrant, so light, and so perfectly floral.

The downside of a lightly processed, delicate tea with a high degree of human involvement is that it’s a little pricey– about $10 an ounce. The good news is a little goes a long way; six pearls will make you a nice pot of tea, and you can resteep the leaves several times. The variations in the flavors are delightful. Just delightful.

My favorite pearl teas come from my work ($24 for 2 ounces) and, honestly, from Teavana ($12 for 2 ounces). You CAN tasted the difference if you’re discerning, but if you’re new to tea and want to get your feet wet before investing, the less expensive option is still great.

Have you tried pearl teas? Do you like them? Do you love them? Let me know what you think.