Five years ago, when Andrea Riesenfeld wandered into a Japanese tea shop in Paris for a sublime cup of sencha, her fate as a tea purveyor was sealed. Since that life-altering day, she trained as a sommelier at the UK Tea Academy in London, climed in the Japanese Tea Gardens of Uji and learned to make Taiwanese Ooolong on Ali Mountain. Set to reopen her shop, Leaves in a Bowl, in Greeport next spring, Riesenfeld shares her favorite brews to sup through the chillier seasons.
This black-tea blend is crafted to be consumed with milk and sugar. Warm milk is soothing and resonates with the quiet and slower pace of winter. If you have a refined, nuanced English breakfast, try drinking it black with a sweet, creamy desserton the side. Some of the teas typically used in a breakfast blend can stand on their own: Assam, Ceylon (Sri Lankan), Keemun.
Another well-known breakfast style. Black tea is scented with the oil of bergamot, an Italian citrus. This is the season for all kinds of citrus, which can brighten a cold winter day. Consider warming the teapot with hot water from the kettle, especially in winter, so the water temperature doesn’t drop during brew time. Also consider using a ceramic teapot for black tea, roasted oolongs and pu-erh, especially during the cold weather. It retains heat better than porcelain or glass.
Mucha Tieguanyin (Iron Goddess of Mercy)
The flavor profile of this dark- roasted, full-bodied oolong from Taiwan is complex: nutty and smoky, deep and toasty, with notes of fresh stone fruit, dried apricot and a hint of floral sweetness, depending on how it’s processed. The taste and aroma evoke a fire in the hearth and smoke curling from the chimney. Pair it with a fine raw milk Comté or possibly a creamy blue for an unusual winter cheese plate. For the many among us who like cold tea year- round, Tieguanyin also makes a bold, flavorful cold brew.
This option is fermented and aged, a fine tea for cold, snowy days. It can be gentle, warming and comforting, and you can often feel your body start to relax after just a few small cups. It is hard to capture the wide, complex world of pu-erh in a few words, but this flavor profile is a starting point: rich, wet earth, mushroom, forest. A good one is clean and sweet. Pu-erh is best brewed in a very small teapot with a high leaf-to-water ratio, making several small infusions. If you are new to pu-erh, try the cooked (shou) version, sourced from a reputable tea shop.
Lishan and other lightly oxidized high-elevation Taiwanese oolongs are the perfect antidote to winter, especially for those who are sensitive to the longer nights and shorter days. They are energetically uplifting, and the expansive floral notes can be relaxing. These teas create internal movement, useful during this time of year when we are more sedentary.
Not technically a winter tea, but a great gift during the holiday season, this scented Chinese green lifts the spirits with its beauty. The heady aroma—intense, sensual and floral—is joyful yet relaxing at the same time. The physical appearance of the dry leaf is an artful collaboration between nature and artisan tea-maker. Premium jasmine pearls should be made from a young spring bud and two leaves, handrolled and dried. In summer, jasmine flowers are handpicked at the height of their season and layered with the tea for 10 to 12 hours. Seven times over the course of a month, this meticulous process is repeated. Luxury in a cup.
Photography by: Photo by Design Dermz/Unsplash