April 26th, 2008

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The search for the perfect iced Hoji-Cha

Okay -- I know a few people on my flist are far more experienced tea aficionadoes than I. Time to mine that expertise a bit.

My very favorite drink in recent years is the iced Hoji tea from Teas' Teas. This is a high-end brand that's sold at Whole Foods and the fancy section of Shaw's. They make green teas perfectly: smooth but intensely flavorful iced teas that would be sacreligious to sweeten, strong enough that I don't miss the calories at all. All of their varieties are good, but I prefer the smoky varieties: the Hoji and now-discontinued Genmai.

The problem, of course, is that the stuff is preposterously expensive ($1.50+ per bottle), and not exactly environmental with all those wasted plastic bottles. So I'd like to learn to make it myself. I've been doing some experiments with both Genmai and Hoji: the results aren't terrible, but they're not great, so I'm seeking advice.

The problem seems to be a sour edge that I'm getting rather strongly in my iced tea results. It's moderate in the Hoji, and strong in the Genmai. I suspect it may be the result of overbrewing, but I'm trying to get as much of the smokiness of the flavor as I can, since that's what I really love in both. (I love my tea very much the same way I do my scotch, with a lot of smoke in it.)

So that's the challenge: how does one extract maximum flavor in an iced tea, specifically for a smoky iced tea, without that sourness? I've only begun to experiment, and I'll be trying a number of things (including cold extraction), but if folks have any suggestions, I'm all ears...
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CFL colors

And while I'm consulting with the Uni-Mind:

Compact fluorescents are getting steadily better. In particular, the new ones seem to turn on a good deal faster than the previous generation did, which alleviates one of our big annoyances with them. But the other is still there: we just plain don't love the colors.

Yes, it's a somewhat irrational bias. But the fact is, we grew up used to incandescents. We think of indoor light as having that slightly yellow-creamy color of traditional Soft White bulbs, and we *like* that. So it's disappointing that we haven't yet found a CFL that mimics that at all well. There's been a lot of movement towards "daylight" or "full-spectrum" CFLs, but we find those much too white in many circumstances. The color feels harsh and over-bright, and frankly looks terrible in some of our rooms: places that felt warm before come out really cold in the whiter light.

So here's a question: has anyone come across a good CFL that is both quick-starting and has that old-fashioned tone? It would be a fine thing for peace at home. (I would like to up our CFL usage, but msmemory cares about the color even more than I do...)