Archive for the 'Tea de France' Category

Tea de France: week four and the Tea GC

July 22, 2012

Stage 19, Saturday 21 June
Bonneval – Chartres (ITT), 53.5km
Winner: Bradley Wiggins (Sky)
Brew: Fruits Rouge Wu Long
They say: “Raspberry and wild strawberry flavors. Low in caffeine.”
We say: Yeah, sure – it’s just raspberry and strawberry, like Wiggins’ time trial victory was just pedaling and a funny helmet. The brief description above doesn’t do justice to the full, rollicking ride this tea takes you on. Open the sachet and whompf – we’re rolling down the ramp with a fizzing raspberry aroma. Empty it in the pot, pour in the water and you’re settling in to the scent of wet earth. Then comes the long, steady brewing section (at a recommended time of seven minutes, this was the longest wait of all our teas) followed by a woody taste hitting the finish line at the back of your palate. Bravo!

Stage 20, Sunday 22 July
Rambouillet – Paris Champs-Élysées, 120km
Winner: Mark Cavendish (Sky)
Brews: Pu Er Imperial and Dong Ding
They say: Pu Er: “A very fine crop, with many buds for this very particular type of tea. Its powerful scent is reminiscent of damp soil and bark. Its name means ‘trouser bottom’. A Chinese folk tale tells how the tea pickers keep the best leaves for themselves, hiding them in their pockets before taking them home with them. Pu Er tea is highly regarded in Chinese medicine for its curative properties. It lowers cholesterol levels, they say, it dissolves fats, helps digestion, improves blood circulation and lowers the effects of alcohol. This tea improves with age, owing to the specific type of fermentation that affects the tannins.”
Dong Ding: “This tea which grows on the eponymous mountain, means ‘Icy peak’. It is considered by tea lovers to be one of Taiwan’s best. The leaf, which is pearly and moderately fermented, gives the liqueur a particular yellow-orange colour that is unique in the world of tea. Its scent is both silky and lively, its taste recalls the flowery side of the little fermented Wu Long (oolong) teas and also that of the fruitier, woodier Fancy teas. An exceptional crop.”
We say: The final day of the Tour is supposed to be simple: a procession into Paris, a crit on the Champs Élysées and we’re done. If only the last section of our tea odyssey had been as straightforward. Pu Er, while in the packet, smells more like ordinary tea than all the other brews we’ve had. Add hot water and the scent is transformed: we’re in a wood-paneled room that retains the oddly comforting aroma of old cigarette smoke. A sip reveals that it actually tastes like tobacco, too. A few more gulps of this red-tinged oddity and we’ve acclimatised. I have a second cup; Jen passes. We decide to give Dong Ding a spin and our opinions become more sharply divided: I think it has a gassy odour, while the taste reminds me of farts and wet, miserable afternoons in Balham; Jen smells the perfumes Opium and Amarige and tastes… well, nothing really. But at least we both agree that Dong Ding is a bit of a clanger.

The Tea GC
It’s been a historic three weeks of racing, and an incredible four weekends of drinking teas. Now we reveal which brews are our Wiggins, Froome and Nibali.
Third place: Thé des Moines. Light, calming, floral. A delight.
Second place: Thé du Hammam. Creamy, vanilla-like, echoes of Earl Grey. And it leaves a mild tingle on your tongue.
First place: Margaret’s Hope. Malty with a rich, woody aftertaste. Deep and enriching. A classic.

So there you have it. Our tea journey has been drained to the very dregs. If you fancy some of the brews me and Jen have been tasting, have a look at Le Palais Des Thés. Happy supping!

Tea de France: week three

July 19, 2012

Stage 13, Saturday 14 July
Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux – Le Cap d’Agde, 217km
Winner: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol)
Brew: Thé du Hammam
They say: “Inspired by a Turkish recipe using green tea, Thé du Hammam is a fruity blend which evokes the fragrances used to perfume the hamman [Turkish bath]: roses, green dates, red fruit and orange flower water. Sprinkled with flower petals in the purest of eastern traditions, the tea’s extraordinary fragrance features a subtle combination of Chinese green tea, celebrated for its freshness and thirst-quenching properties, and rich fruit aromas.”
We say: We found our Wiggins in the form of Margaret’s Hope – and now we’ve discovered the Chris Froome of tea. In Jen’s words, “It’s like walking into a sweetshop. But with your tongue.” A creamy, vanilla-like flavour with echoes of Earl Grey and a slightly tingly aftertaste, this is the least bitter of all the green teas we have had so far. It’s our number two tea, and it’s fruity. Our two tea fruity.

Stage 14, Sunday 15 July
Limoux – Foix, 191km
Winner: Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank)
Brew: Thé des Moines
They say: “Inspired by an ancient recipe created in a Tibetan monastery, Thé des Moines is a rare blend with a unique flavour. Legend tells how the monks would prepare this blend of tea, plants and flowers in the greatest of secrecy. After several days of soaking, the leaves were carefully plucked out and put to one side. By this mysterious alchemy the monks turned the tea into gold and gave Thé des Moines its exceptional scent.”
We say: Did someone say something about punctures and total chaos on today’s stage? I can’t say we noticed too much as we were becalmed by the perfume of this black and green tea blend. An earthy, slightly floral taste. A delight.

Tea de France: week two

July 11, 2012

Like an ambitious third cat switching from a heart rate monitor to a power meter, Team Tea has upped its game this week by investing in a valuable piece of hardware: the Home-Tek Aqua Sensor Kettle and Water Filter.

With this handy device, we are now able to prepare each brew to the manufacturer’s recommended temperature and keep the water warm for a second pot should we so desire. And we did very much desire another swig of a certain brew last weekend – so come with us now as we describe the highs and relative lows of our tour of teas. Strainers at the ready – let’s par-tea!

Stage 7, Saturday 7 June

Tomblaine – La Planche des Belles Filles, 199km
Winner: Chris Froome (Sky)
Brew: Thé Des Alizes
They say: “A green tea enlivened by flower petals and delicately scented with pieces of white peach, kiwi and watermelon. The green tea and the juicy freshness of the fruit are wonderfully balanced. Can be drunk hot or iced.”
We say: On screen, the sensational double act of Froome and Bradley Wiggins taking the stage win and the yellow jersey respectively; in our mouths, a much less impressive double-act of fruits and green tea. Peach dominates, but who really wants peaches in their cuppa? Well-blended, so not the unpalatable taste you might expect, but for us it’s not worth a revisit. A curiosi-tea.

Stage 8, Sunday 8 June
Belfort – Porrentruy ,157.5km
Winner: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ–BigMat)
Brew: Margaret’s Hope
They say: “Fruity with a great character. Special feature: it is invigorating and dark because of the greater proportion of Assam tea plants (20%) than Chinese plants on the plantation, something that is not very common in Darjeeling. It is a much sought after tea, which Darjeeling enthusiasts find ideal in the morning.”
We say: If yesterday’s tea was an oddi-tea, today’s was back to normali-tea. You could, if you wished, happily throw a splash of cow juice in this one. But as cycling history fan Thibaut Pinot proved with a thrilling solo stage win which got his directeur sportif Marc Madiot banging his car door with joy, a love of tradition doesn’t mean you have to be dull. This brew has a lovely malty Assam base and a rich, woody aftertaste. The overall flavour is deep and enriching. Unquestionably our top tea thus far.

So there we are. Margaret’s Hope leads our tour of teas – and, appropriately for British cycling’s domination of the Tour, it’s the only brew in our selection that has an English name. Who will be its competition for the top of the tea GC? We’re giving no tea-sers. Come back soon to find out…

Tea de France

July 4, 2012

Tea and cake: they go together like helmet and head, or spoke and nipple. It is cycling’s perennial double-act of refreshment and sustenance. Yet many cyclepeople consider cake to be the star rider and tea the humble domestique. Well, not in our gaff, buster.

My romantical partner Littlejen is Queen Tea. A Zimbabwean by birth, she settled in this country partly because of its love of the old Rosy Lee. So when it came to choosing a hotel for our recent trip to Paris, we were pleased to stumble upon one that specialised in teas from around the world. You could say we were – yes! – absolutely tea-lighted.

And now we can share that delight with you, valued readers, because Jen has purchased a selection of the teas offered to us on our trip to the French capital. They’re all from a French company called Le Palais Des Thés, and co-incidentally there’s a bike race on across the channel at the moment. So naturally I thought, why don’t we sup a different brew for each of the six weekend stages of that famous bicycle race, then express our opinions about them? We could call it Drinking Teas From France While Watching Men Racing On Bicycles In That Same Country. Then I though, no, let’s call it Tea de France instead. Come with us now as I reveal what happened, tea-wise, at the opening weekend.

Prologue, Saturday 30 June
Liège-Liège, 6.4km
Winner: Fabian Cancellara
Brew: Thé des Amants
They say: “Rich and sensual, Thé des Amants is a heady, fragrant blend of black tea, apple, almond, cinnamon and vanilla, spiced up with a hint of ginger.”
We say: You’ve been waiting 49 weeks for the Tour to roll around again – so there ain’t no way you’re not going to enjoy the prologue. Similarly, I reckon it’s impossible to dislike this light, buoyant tea. Ah, cinnamon – lovely cinnamon: the giddy fragrance of joy. Just sniffing the pot will put a smile on your face, and days later I can still recall the breezy taste. The only possible downside of this brew is that, like a GC contender with a series of early-season victories, the trajectory of our tea odyssey – or ody-tea – may have peaked too soon…

Stage 1, Sunday 1 July
Liège-Seraing, 198km
Winner: Peter Sagan
Brew: Thé des Fakirs
They say: “A tasty, scented blend of green tea and spices (cardamom, clove) with a hint of citrus fruit. Delicious served either hot or iced.”
We say: Sagan, the steely Slovak sprint sensation, locked onto the wheel of good-natured time trial legend Fabian Cancellara within sight of the finishing line – and this tea is also very much a coupling of two distinct halves. The green tea dwells stolidly on the bottom of the palate while the fruity bits sit lightly on top. Pleasant, but nothing to delight or amuse. Also, it looks a bit stew-like in the pot.

So that was the Prologue and the first stage. Who knows what teas we’ll be downing this weekend? Well, I know, obviously, and so does Jen. You’ll just have to pop back soon to find out…

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