Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Christmas tea blend follow-up, and Indonesian jasmine black tea

I wrote about a homemade Christmas tea blend recently, and mentioned I was going to try variations.  It's not as if I've really broken new ground by doing that but I'll mention the update.

the dried fruits part

It had seemed the tea, a fruit and spices blend with black tea, would work best made as a masala chai is made, boiled versus steeped, with milk and sugar, so that's how I tried it.  It did work really well.  I've tried it twice since then prepared to be infused instead, as a normal tea blend.

Indonesian jasmine black tea

One part of that adjustment was varying the black tea used to make it.  One other Indonesian commercial tea I'd bought was a jasmine black tea, which turned out to be quite nice.  The appearance was a little odd, on the dusty side, with some sticks, and tea presented more as flakes rather than some other conventional way.  Oddly that didn't translate into a bad tea; it was actually mild and well-balanced, with limited astringency, nice clean flavors, some underlying earth and mineral tones, and a good balance of light jasmine flavor.

It couldn't pass for a higher end specialty tea, based on appearance, but it was much better than it looked, quite good for teas of that type, not so far off other teas I've tried that look much better and cost much more.  In fact it may have been the best value in a tea I've ever bought; something like 50 grams of tea for around a dollar, for one of the best teas I ever bought in a grocery store.  A black tea I found in Cambodia was pretty good once, and a hojicha in Japan, but you get the idea; grocery store teas are universally mediocre or even bad, and this one was ok.

Indonesian black tea label

I mixed that black tea with the other black tea I'd bought from the Wonosari plantation (another Indonesian tea I bought on that trip).  It also wasn't so bad, but was quite astringent, so that for me to drink that tea without milk and sugar added would be unthinkable.  This was really going to be the challenge for this blend, if I could adjust the ingredients for it to work as a normal steeped tea.

I loved the idea of clove mixed with tea, really the main reason I even tried it, and that spice in particular was problematic.  It gave the tea an aromatic, spicy earthiness but it seemed like adding enough of it to actually taste it would require at least sugar mixed in to counter the "spicy" spice aspect, something related to pepper or ginger, the heat.  Someone could drink straight cinnamon brewed as tea without compensating in the same way, or cardamom, or nutmeg, but spicing that comes across as heat is hard to integrate into a standard tea flavor profile not designed for adjustment with sugar or milk.  Why not add sugar and / or milk then?  Kind of a long story to get into that, but there is an image issue related to those, which overlaps with an image issue related to drinking tea blends.

One challenge would be balance.  Making it in a masala chai style took away from that problem; milk and sugar could offset any problems with astringency or spicing, and even smooth over other balance issues between fruit, tea, and spicing.  Another would be getting the fruit to show up, since tea typically brews in around 3 minutes, but a 5 minute steep really isn't long enough to get a fruit peel or dried cherry to give up flavors.

For the first try at an infused version I just backed off the spicing, went a little heavier on the fruit, and tried it out brewed at boiling point for the typical range, around 2 to 3 minutes, prepared with enough extra tea it would brew two or three infusions at that ratio.  I skipped the vanilla because it was too much messing around for preparing a tea with breakfast, cutting a bean / pod open to get to the spice itself.  It was drinkable but not great.  I tried it with sugar; better but not great.  Then with milk and sugar both; much better but still not great.  The fruit really didn't come out nearly as much as in the first version I'd wrote that earlier blog post about, a boiled preparation of a similar tea, but then I'd simmered the dried fruit alone without tea for 5 minutes in that batch to give it a head start.

the earlier version; pre-simmering the fruit and spices

I adjusted the mix a little the next day, backed further off the clove, and added a hint of cardamom along with the nutmeg and cinnamon, but the results weren't so different.  It was more drinkable but still needed sugar and milk to get the flavors balance right.  It seemed possible that I was so accustomed to straight teas, usually a bit subtle, that trying to drink a plain spiced tea wasn't working based on that, even adjusted to be more subtle.  The fruit still wasn't completely there.  It occurred to me one could go with a much reduced ratio of tea to water and use a 5 minute steep to compensate, then add more black tea and go with a second 5 minute steep, and it would show through much better in both infusions.

I've been drinking tisanes with dinner lately, to allow for a version of tea (something like it, at least) in the mid evenings, without caffeine, and steep times can just keep going for those.  When one reads package instructions or blog reviews of tisanes those always cite a 5 minute steep time, longer than for tea, but that's typically for a well shredded or even powdered version of an herb or flower (or whatever it is, a root or spice of some other sort, or mix).

sage!  it's already an "herb tea," just like this

If you make an herb tea / tisane with a plain spice like dried sage or rosemary (which I do; those are two of my favorites) that can make tea based on using 4 minute boiling-point infusions, nearly endless numbers of times, producing a half-dozen cups of tea.  Of course I'm not using anywhere near as limited an amount of herb one would find in a tea bag, and they need to shred that down nearly to a powder for it to brew out in the 5 minutes.  It would be possible to tear up the herbs a bit to speed infusion along (chop them, however that would go), but I don't, which is why I'm using a lot more and then needing to let it brew for much longer to get the "tea" out of it.

So what is the conclusion for this tea, prepared as a more conventional blend?  Per my taste it worked a lot better made in the style of a masala chai, with a lot more infusion time for the fruit, conducted at a simmer.  The real vanilla probably made a big difference, since that gave it a lot of natural sweetness and a creamy feel.  The infusion version may have worked out better with that added back in, but it wouldn't seem likely two 4 minute steeps would pull out most of the flavor of a vanilla pod either (although that might be wrong; I didn't test it).

Although I loved the effect of the clove, and the idea, it would be hard to get it to balance in a tea and herb infusion that didn't rely on sugar and milk to compensate for the peppery spice effect.  Something as simple as ramping up cinnamon by a lot might help with that, but cinnamon wouldn't bring the same smooth, sweet, creamy effect that vanilla did.

spices and some of the teas from Indonesia

I don't plan to do a lot more with tea blending but you never know; something else might come up.  I'll still be keeping an eye out for crushed tamarind seeds and orange blossoms to put that traditional Thai iced tea version together, someday.  And I bought cardamom pods I didn't get around to using yet in Indonesia (the touch I added was ordinary spice-jar version), so although we're coming to the end of the Thai cool season now at some point I'll revisit masala chai.  Given the daily lows are around 80 F / mid-20's C now it might make sense to adjust that to an iced tea version, but somehow it never comes to that, I just drink hot tea when it's hot and humid and then sweat a bit.

Monday, January 11, 2016

baking a pumpkin pie from scratch (not about tea)

This is a clear violation of tea-blog scope, writing about something that has nothing whatsoever to do with tea.  I wanted to write a bit about cooking in a food group I'd been spamming with tea blog links when the two subjects seemed to overlap, and then thought why not break form and write it here.  If I don't post links to it anywhere then it will be a little like it never happened anyway.

So all this is about a very normal thing for me, making a pumpkin pie from scratch.  It's really not worth mentioning how to do it, in a sense, because it's so easy a child could do it, and everyone should already know how, it's just normal food preparation, but I'll run through it anyway.

Japanese pumpkin is orange; brown- green Thai version

To begin, we bought a pumpkin travelling in Isaan, North-East Thailand, on a trip to Khon Kaen.  They kept selling interesting an inexpensive fresh vegetables so we came back with a lot of corn, that pumpkin, a watermelon, and a lot of one type of yam.

The pumpkin is a Japanese pumpkin, different than the type one sees in America or the Thai pumpkin, which looks more like a strange version of a squash, with a green, odd-textured exterior.  Thai pumpkin tastes more like a squash too, with the Japanese style in the middle, not so different than the one you see America, but not the same (on the left in this picture).

Isaan!  Looks like the country anywhere, but a little tropical

I'll keep it simple, just how I made it, resisting the urge to ramble on and on about tangents.

Roast the pumpkin:

Of course, right.  One would cut up the pumpkin into manageable large sections, take out the pulp and the seeds, and keep the skin on, then put the pumkin in a covered pan with water in it for something like 45 minutes to an hour, around 350 or so (but I'm on Celcius here, so 175 C = 350 F).  Really I used around 200, close to 400 F, but it will take the pan and water and pumpkin awhile to reach temp, so it may work well to go with 400 for 20 minutes then back that off to 350 for another half an hour.

roasted pumpkin (slightly less orange)

It's really not a recipe if someone keeps saying "about, roughly," right?  A real recipe can talk you through it, but for me it's best to just wing it a bit, and then fix the glitches next pie.  Betty Crocker can give you more input on measured ingredients, though, and Google must have more on roasting pumpkin.

You know when the pumpkin is ready when it's soft.  If it has a little more texture than you think it should that won't matter, because the pie still needs to cook, but if there's a raw layer near the skin you won't be able to make it work out.  Once the pumpkin is roasted you'll still need to take it out, let it cool a little, then scoop the pumpkin flesh from the skin.  I'm using the skin to eat separately; yesterday I roasted some with butter, and some of that with a yellow curry powder added, broiled at high heat for about 15 minutes in a toaster oven.  For God's sake don't throw it out; think of the nutritional value, must be lots.

another way to roast it

This is a good time to mention I made the whole thing in a large toaster oven.  Thais don't generally have ovens, and we don't (I live in Bangkok).  At a different time in my life I practice baking in a normal small version; you can, but the extra space helps.  It absolutely won't work without a temperature setting, though, so if yours just toasts it's too much of a stretch.  The oven we have isn't like a normal toaster oven, it's a larger version for baking, with two different rack levels and an option to use an extra fan to help distribute the heat differently for some types of cooking.

Ordinarily you wouldn't cover a pie, I mean with foil, and it will throw off the top texture if you do in this case, but I'd at least consider it for a toaster oven because it's just not set up for baking like that.  One really should cover the pumpkin for the roasting step.

Toast the seeds

Maybe optional, but come on, do it.  As a child we made them with just salt added, but this time I added a good bit of oil as well.  It works a lot better with the American version of a pumpkin, with smaller seeds and a thinner seed shell, but the ones I just made are tasty.  I'm not going to be as much help as I should be about temperature and time, and mine went a little extra brown this time, so about three minutes less than I cooked mine would be better.  Just keep an eye on them!  Again maybe 350 would work, maybe only 12 to 15 minutes, but it's easy to check, just eat one.  They should start to tan a little but not get brown.

a little less dark would be as well

Prepping them takes some doing; it takes some meticulous work separating them from the mushy pulp, but that roasting step gives you an hour to mess with.  I'd give them a really good wash too; all that pumpkin mush could throw off the final crispy-skin texture a little.

Salt level is critical, not too much, not too little, but just don't go crazy with it and you'll be fine.  Someone else might think about spicing, doing a curry here too, but for me I like the plain taste.

Make the crust

Easy!  Melt butter to a soft but not liquid state, cut in enough flour so that it gets a bit clumpy, then add water chilled with ice to get it back to a dough consistency.  Ok, so maybe that's not so easy.  My mom used a pastry cutter, hard to describe, it looked like a handle with a half-dozen thick wires making a part that worked like a giant fork.  You can mix it with a fork, or a wooden spoon; I used a metal tablespoon this time.  It only needs a touch of salt, or not if you are using salted butter, but I add a little of whatever spice I feel like, usually cinnamon and something else.  I didn't feel like grinding the sticks and was out of the powder so I did the unthinkable and made this pie without any.  As I recall I put a little nutmeg and ground cardamom in the crust this time.  Vanilla would be nice but if using liquid one would want to be careful about texture.

They advise careful rolling and folding the crust, then some edge fluting, which is a nice approach, but I mashed handfuls of the dough into the pan to give an even depth coating.  Function over form!  Some purist would say I've lost some of the lightness of texture by hand-warming and over-working the dough, and that's right, it's not as flaky as it would have been, but I honestly don't care.  I don't want a light-structured pie crust any more than I want a machine-processed pie-filling consistency; I want it to seem like a person made it, not a machine.

Make the pie filling

Tricky stuff!  Mash the cooked pumpkin, mix in spicing, sugar, spices, eggs, and milk.  Here you might want to check on that link I mentioned for Betty Crocker's version to back me up.  I used four eggs this time, when I'd initially planned to go with three, but the pie was kind of big (non-standard; more on that later), and I decided to use palm sugar disks, and needed to dissolve those in water to work with them, and the mix was a bit thin looking.

They say to use evaporated milk, in that version.  I guess; why not.  Or whole milk really would work, or cream, or half and half.  It's your pie; go with your own instincts, just plan to make another at some point in the future that will turn out even better once you see what works.  Evaporated milk has a nice flavor balance and texture, the right elements for ingredient purposes, but half-and-half would be about the same, and nice that it's a bit less processed.

This is where things gets strange:  I don't measure, anything, ever (ok, maybe for chocolate chip cookies, those things are touchy).  Even stranger:  I would taste the mix to see if it's right, even though it tastes way different when cooked versus raw, and that risks sudden death with raw eggs in it (or maybe not, really).  So for sugar you've got me how much to add, or even what type.  That Betty Crocker version requires a half-cup of white sugar, but really why wouldn't one go with half white and half brown instead.  I used all palm sugar, which is a long story related to how that differs, so hard for me to really say.  So I'll say something that's partly right and perhaps a little wrong; it's closer to a less processed cane sugar.

Spicing:  let's check back in with that "original" recipe, what "pumkin pie spice" really is:

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Not bad, for a start.  It's essentially a fruit based custard, so as well to add just a little vanilla as well.  I would also throw in a dash of nutmeg, and ramp up the ginger and clove level a little.  I added cardamom to the version I just made, and as I mentioned I didn't use any cinnamon, but that is crazy.

Next someone might think of how to push this further; fresh vanilla pod would add a lot of flavor, and if someone had easy access to a juicer using a bit of fresh ginger juice instead of a powder would work out better, just good to be careful or the pie would turn out spicy, maybe not in a good way at some level.  Someone that's been making a lot of masala chai might think "why not black pepper?" but that wouldn't cross my mind.  I usually skip it for that tea too, but to each their own.

Bake it

Betty Crocker says to use 425 for 15 minutes and go down to 350 for another 45.  I kept this one in for about an hour close to 400, because it really did take a long time.  For this step I would give the standard recipe a close read to see what they say about checking temperature, and consider the bit they mention about covering a fluted edge with foil to keep it from over-browning.  It that happened the pie would still be worth eating, it's all just about little details at some point.

About the picture of a pie here, someone might notice it's square (OMG!).  Round is more ideal, but it fits in the toaster oven space that way (really a larger baking oven version of a toaster oven, but not so different).

And the top isn't right; not dark and carmelized, because I made it covered.  That can actually affect taste just a little, but not much, so probably as well to leave it uncovered right at the end, but only right at the end if burning it when cooking in a smaller space than a normal oven is a concern.  The crust did stick a bit, too, due to that lapse in method I'd mentioned.  This is not so difficult to work around by not pressing it in the pan, and using a light flour dusting on the outside of the rolled dough.  Or not; that part doesn't affect the taste, just presentation.

For all the rough-edges in approach, I'll go ahead an offer my opinion of how it turned out compared to the standard version, using canned ingredients.  I think much better, which is kind of amazing given that I didn't use cinnamon.  Part of that was luck, since I'm out of practice (I've made this two or three times in the last 8 or 9 years).  Getting the spice balance right without measuring is a stretch; same for level of sweetness.  Even if it wasn't so great this is my pie, my own creation, and I enjoy cooking a lot more for my own input being part of the process.

If I were in the US I'd say I could just buy a store-bought pie if I wanted the completely standard version, but here I really can't.  There are pumpkin pies out there, somewhere, in specialty grocery stores or very expensive niche bakeries, but walking into a normal grocery store to get a normal version isn't an option.  I'm confident that this is one of the best pumpkin pies in existence in this city of 10 or 12 million people right now.

Now I just need more people to appreciate it.  My kids will eat a little but they're much happier to eat little handfuls of the whipped cream instead, all the more so since I cut that corner and bought the can of automatically whipped cream that they would love to make a meal of.

The Real Da Hong Pao

tea shop owner (one of them)

Awhile back I tried a really nice version of a Da Hong Pao, from a Bangkok Chinatown tea shop, Jip Eu.  It came up in discussion that different teas are actually sold as Da Hong Pao, and according to them the one I tried was an authentic version, a Bei Dou cultivar (actually Pei Tou, but based on research the other transliteration seems more conventional).

So what is Da Hong Pao, really?  Of course it's a Wuyi Yancha or “rock oolong” type, the best known one.  These are roasted oolong teas from Fujian province, China, with production centered around Wuyishan.  The flavor profile has earth and mineral elements, with leaves prepared as long and twisted versus the rolled styles.  The most distinctive elements of the best versions are a bit hard to describe.  Some say they relate to an unusual mouth-feel of the tea, others to a taste comparable to citrus, or even alcohol, and the aromatic elements remind me a little of perfume, in a sense I can’t completely describe.


the typical look, long, dark, twisted leaves

The part I'll focus on here is the cultivar / tea plant type issue.  This also came up related to a World of Tea cultivar database, with a related cultivars overview page linked from there.  This is a great reference, which will keep getting better with more details filled in.  Da Hong Pao wasn’t listed there.  Per online discussion with Tony Gebely, the World of Tea reference author, there is a possible short answer related to the plant type it's made from, and a likely complication:

Da Hong Pao is made from a cultivar called  Qi Dan 奇丹... [but] many times there are multiple correct answers [to such questions].

Right away this conflicts with the common understanding that Da Hong Pao is both a cultivar (plant-type version) and a prepared tea leaf type, but then the full story being more complicated than the conventional take isn’t that surprising.  The distinction between plant type, cultivar, and hybrid can be a bit unclear in different references, but for this discussion it works to use these as one thing, as possible "basic, starting point" plant types, and also as cross-bred variations of those.

How to resolve this then, since online references are most often vendor materials, short descriptions directly written for advertising products, or as summary reference articles that are not intended as full descriptions?  

I tried asking two people who might know.  One was my friend Cindy Chen, a Wuyishan tea producer, who suggested those two cultivars as both right answers was correct.  The other was the owner of that Bangkok shop, Jip Eu, named Kittichai (a common Thai name, but then it is a Thai-Chinese shop).  He said his family had been selling tea from that shop in Bangkok for 90 years, but that he still travelled back to Wuyishan to help produce teas there with other related family.  And he showed some interesting pictures of there, one of him at a small tea factory that was torn down when Chinese officials turned that tea area into a restricted park decades ago.

So two cultivars stand forward as main ones used to make the tea, but any number of others are sold as such, and it would be hard to say for sure which plant type really should be, or if there is even a grounds for such a "should."

brewed leaves; oxidation and roast affects color, looks about right

Or maybe the real answer could seem different after getting more expert input, as suggested by Tony Gebeley:   

I have 10-15 answers to many of my tea questions.  The correct answers usually fit into context and show themselves.

Tony cited one reference supporting Qi Dan as the single right answer is a article on Qi Dan / Da Hong Pao, essentially the Chinese version of Wikipedia.  Of course this is only one of many sources and authority inputs he had reviewed, and of course anyone that doesn't read Chinese would need to use automatic translation to read that.

Better references dig a little deeper.  A Global Tea Hut tea reference describes Da Hong Pao as a plant type, which it gives a detailed description of, and seems to describe Bei Dou as a first generation derivative plant type, with the name related to plants grown in a very limited area (with most details on page 19 of this reference).

A Tea Spring vendor reference cites some intriguing background that is hard to verify elsewhere, although this same content is referred to in other places:

In the early 1950s, Mr. Yao Yue Ming started a Da Hong Pao research laboratory. Using a few stems from the original 800 years old Da Hong Pao tea bushes, he successfully created two new tea varieties. However, Mr. Yao's laboratory was later closed down and his research was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Yet, he continued his research in secrecy and through his dedication and determination; he finally perfected his creation. He named this tea, Beidou No. 1.

Another Seven Cups vendor reference offers an interesting suggestion:

When you travel to Wu Yi Mountain, the birthplace of wulong (or oolong) tea, tea enthusiasts always visit Big Red Robe Park. Guides take visitors to the famous five bushes, perched on a cliff face inscribed with the characters for Big Red Robe. These bushes are estimated to be more than 300 years old – much older than is common for a tea bush… Researchers say of these five bushes, there are three distinct varieties. One of them is named Qi Dan.

So maybe one more name and plant type fills in the set?  It’s interesting to hear this complex story unfold.  Stepping back and thinking through plant genetics seems to help place all this.  A vendor reference about a completely different type of oolong from a different region, Dan Cong oolong from the Guangdong Province, provides a broader perspective, relevant even in the limited the context of discussing tea originated from only five plants:

In modern days, tea can be propagated by cutting. With this method, all tea trees carry the same genetic trait. In old days, tea was propagated from seed. Therefore, each tea tree grown from the seed carries unique and identical trait. As a result, each tree shows differences in terms of the leaf size, intensity of bitterness, flavor, taste and even the color of leaf. It is just like us, human. Although our face and character can be very resemble with our parent, we are not identical with our parent.  In a way, different tree carries different identity, especially in flavor and quality.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

travel to Northeast Thailand, Isaan, and about tea

Recently well-known tea personality Robert Godden commented on a tea-travel post that all tea bloggers turn into travel bloggers when they go places, since the subjects automatically overlap then.  This post will test the limits of that contention.

Over the New Years holiday I visited Isaan (or Esarn--it's just a transliteration), the agricultural area in North-Eastern Thailand.  They don't grow tea there, or drink much tea; there don't even seem to be many Chinese people living there.  I didn't drink as much tea as I normally do on a daily basis on the trip, or buy much.  All the same I'll describe the trip as it related to tea.

not just any dinosaur, a Thai dinosaur

Part of that is seeking out the overlap.  Google Maps mentioned there was a tea-related business not so far from where we stayed in Khon Kaen, which we really visited to see nearby dinosaur fossils.  But I didn't make it to that shop.

tracks from a dog-sized dinosaur

I did go to see a dinosaur museum, and we hiked out to see fossils they left as they were found in a park, and nearby dinosaur footprints.  You just kind of expect those to be big, from something like a T-Rex, but they looked to be made by one a good bit smaller than an ostrich.  And we visited two different zoos, which both had small water parks, just perfect for my kids.

As for contacts, Trip Advisor describes the museum we visited, with further links easy to find from there.  The park information is available through this official government site, with other resource descriptions in Lonely Planet or Trip Advisor type listing.

But back to the tea then.

I had tea in a Vietnamese breakfast-themed local restaurant.  I took a picture of the Thai tea strainer used to brew tea there, the kind that looks like a small wind-sock, which is usually used to make hot tea and milk, mixing sweetened condensed milk into brewed tea.  An original version would be a Thai Assamica-type black tea but now they would probably more conventionally be made from low grade Ceylon, tea from Sri Lanka.  I ordered it cold, and I'm quite certain what they gave me was from powder instead, the typical version (#1 Brand, whatever that is).  It wasn't bad, but I can see why I never drink that, clearly artificial in origin, real powdered tea mixed with chemicals.

traditional!  not ideal brewing practice though

I also bought what I thought was a Vietnamese tea there, labeled as "Hoang Hao," a kind mixed with herbs (based on trying it; the package didn't have that much English on it).  That tea was pretty nice.  Later I noticed the relatively obvious packaging included Chinese characters, not Vietnamese, or kanji instead of Latin lettering with digraphs and diacritics (accents), so it's origin made a bit less sense.

Of course it was a relatively basic tea, related to quality level, since grade can be used to refer to only leaf preparation, in the convention that results in the strings of letters.  Later I asked a Chinese friend to read the package description and say what it was, but it's not so clear, only "tea," so I never will know.  It makes no sense to me it is Chinese tea mixed with herbs, and the name seems Vietnamese, and a Google result says it's a Vietnamese export / import company, more related to medical supplies and advertising, but so it goes, I don't need to know.

tea; seemed to be Vietnamese green tea with herbs

I also bought more mulberry leaf tea / tisane, since I'm running low on the last batch, but of course that's not exactly tea.

The subject of how to brew tea when you travel comes up from time to time, and for some reason it seems organic and natural to me to not prepare ahead and then struggle through it.  Somehow it even adds to the experience to approach it that way.  In the past that took different forms.  One natural solution is to brew tea in a coffee cup in a hotel room, then strain into a second cup.  I once bought a tea-pot strainer once at a Daiso (essentially a Japanese dollar store), and that helped.  Really packing a teapot, or gaiwan, a french press, or whatever else, would make a lot of sense, although it would take some of the fun out of it too.

supposed to be a lighter oolong, really

This time I brought a tea bottle--cheating, really.  When people mention brewing "grandpa style" this type of device is what they are referring to, at least in the original Chinese form.  Ordinary people walk around in China with these, plastic versions, and keep refilling the water until the leaves give out.  The most natural tea type for this use, it seems to me, is lightly oxidized oolong, because it won't get astringent when over-brewed, and it brews a lot of tea.

Given that Chinese people drink more green tea (per stats I've seen; with the obvious disclaimer that I'm not an authority on consumption background, and not everything you see is right) then maybe green tea is filling that space sometimes, even though most versions will get a bit rough if they brew too long.  Of course in the West most tea-enthusiasts tend to not use boiling point water for that, adding another concern; one would't walk by hot water sources available at a range of temperatures, so then mixing water, or letting it cool would come up.

I won't get into it here but of course the modern tea-culture version of those devices are tea tumblers.  Most would probably not be glass, but also not the Tupperware-grade plastic that had been more typical previously, the kind Chinese tourists walk around the Forbidden City carrying.

It's interesting how a Chinese linkages can really tend to justify practices related to tea.  I've noticed that other tea enthusiasts are much more likely to see our Chinese vendor counterparts--those working in the West--as a valid reference, compared to other Westerners selling tea, when this really may or may not translate to an immersion in traditional practices or knowledge.  In discussing local culture with a friend living in Beijing, along with his Chinese girlfriend, it was interesting to hear about how their class-oriented society was separated so that not just practices related to something like beverage choices but any type of general contact might be avoided by those of the more privileged class.  It made me consider how rather than looking on the use of plastic bottles to brew tea "grandpa style" as validated by crowds of tourists some other Chinese people may see it as yet another lower form of a traditional practice.  I'm all about function over form anyway.

unrelated action shot

Of course I screwed up the Grandpa-style brewing theme and only threw in some black tea at the last minute, not because I thought it would work well, but just because I felt more like black tea.  It still worked; I drank four cycles of strong black tea, which brewed better than it seemed likely to.  I did cheat a little and poured it into another bottle to drink, to limit infusion time, not going with the most basic practice of drinking tea with leaves still floating in it.  Hot water just kept turning up in different places, like magic, just as I wanted more tea, so I had the full effect of a spontaneous brewing practice.

cheerful in spite of holiday traffic

It almost worked really well to switch over to that Vietnamese tea (if it was that) but I lost it in the mess that was a randomly packed car, so after checking options at a gas-station stop (convenience store RTD bottled tea, coffee shop tea-selections, powdered tea mixes from a stall) I went with the obvious default on the drive back:  Mountain Dew.  It paired perfectly with a Thai version of Cheetos.

Tea got a bit lost in all this, didn't it?  At least in other trips I could drink badly made tea at hotel breakfasts, but we visited local restaurants where I only tried those two types.  I saw Thai teas at a shop in an outlet mall on the drive back, a half-dozen types, probably most relatively decent lightly oxidized oolong versions, with a bit of green tea.  As unnatural as it seemed I didn't buy any, since I'm completely burned out on mid-range lightly oxidized oolongs.  At least we did see those dinosaur fossils, and as always the best part was my kids loving general aspects of travel, so I'll get back to the more interesting tea themes through mail order.