Category Archives: Tea

Chaihana

With my all-encompassing love of Uzbek food, I try to find every opportunity to sample it.  But sometimes, I have to make these opportunities.  So, a while back, the folks and I drove to the Botanical Gardens in Chicago and for lunch/dinner went to the Uzbek restaurant not too far from there.  The restaurant is called Chaihana (19 West Dundee Road Buffalo Grove, IL; 847-215-5044) and is in a strip-mall next to Rogan Shoes. Don’t let the location fool you, it’s an oasis where your hunger for scrumptious food and delicious drink will be fulfilled.  There were several articles written about it, and this one is probably one of the better ones.

Chaihana

Chaihana

This was my second trip to this restaurant and I wish it were closer to where I live. Not that absolutely everything was always fantastic, but it’s pretty great. Of course it differs from how we make this kind of food at home and how it was made in Tashkent, but it’s pretty close given the limitations (the lamb species here is different from the lamb in Tashkent, so it’s missing the proper fat, and there are no tandyr (tandoori) ovens).

Chaihana interior

Chaihana interior

The decor is surprisingly  nice. I like that there are crisp, clean, white table cloths and napkins; I like the little fountain, the murals, and the suzaneh (pronounced: soo-za-neh with the accent on the last syllable in this case) hanging on the wall. My grandma has one that was made especially for her at her work as a sign of respect and appreciation. It was given to her at her retirement party.

Suzaneh

Suzaneh

Here is a close-up of the suzaneh.
Seeing it in this restaurant just reminded me so much more of where I came from, made it feel more authentic, and I’m sure made the food taste all that much better.  Though our waiter was not an Uzbek, we learned that the owners have lived in Andijon (a city in Uzbekistan) for many years.  And no, I don’t have a suzaneh hanging on my walls, nor does anyone else in my family. It’s stored in some dusty suitcase somewhere…

But back to the food….

Tea in Piala

Tea in Piala

First things first…. We ordered hot tea. Remember that it was the middle if winter and cold and there’s nothing better than a steaming cup of real black tea. By real I mean loose leaf, not in a tea bag. See, you can even see the leaf floating in the cup. Oh, and these cups are called piala or pialushka (pronounced: pee-a-loosh-ka, with the emphasis on the “loo” part; with pialushki being the plural). The tea was good, so totally hit the spot. Ahhhh, bliss… And it helped that it was served in the traditional tableware. We have that same set at home, it’s what helped fill our crates when we came here (and if you know where we can get more, please let me know!) and the atmosphere was therefore so much more comfortable and homier.

Salad

Salad

Then we ordered food. It felt like we ordered half the menu, but the portions were very generous and we had plenty to take home.
We ordered salad (“achichuk“), like the one we typically make at home. But we (I) typically leave the cucumbers off. It was pretty good, and I was surprised since it was the middle of winter and the tomatoes were pretty good. You know me and tomatoes…  If you search online for this restaurant you’ll see other reviews and sometimes incorrect descriptions.  This salad is not pickled as others claim, and you can see that from the picture.

Lepyoshka - Uzbek bread)

Lepyoshka - Uzbek bread

We also ordered bread. It’s called a lepyoshka (pronounced: le-pyo-shka), and should generally be made in a tandyr, but this was done in a regular oven. It was pretty good, but of course, not like what you’d get in Tashkent pretty much at any bazaar, even the little sidewalk ones. The open fire really adds quite a bit of flavor and puts it over the top. I really like the sesame seeds on it; just adds a really nice hint of nutty-ness and changes the flavor profile of the whole thing. These are made from scratch daily and are served warm. YUM!

This post is getting pretty long, and I haven’t even gotten to the main course. So please stay tuned to the next post.

Advertisements

Tea (Rishi) and Anaba Tea Room

Anaba Tea Room

Anaba Tea Room

I really wasn’t planning on writing a review about this tea tasting. When I got there, I was greeted at the door by two lovely women who offered me ice tea. I’m not a huge fan of cold drinks, especially tea, and seeing just the one table with two varieties, I was rather disappointed that I wouldn’t get to try more teas. But was also confident in my decision not to blog about it.
But then I tried the tea. Amazing. Even for a cold tea. Good thing I try to carry my camera with me at all times.  Never know when it might be useful.  They also told me that there are tea demonstrations on the rooftop as well as in the tea room. (When you first walk into the building, it looks like a garden shop and the tea room is on the level below.) So I went downstairs and found the place to be rather charming. The skylight lets light into the tea room even though it’s in the basement and you feel like you’re outside, with the fountain adding to the feeling.

Tea Tasting

Tea Tasting

Walking around, I realized there were two areas where representatives from Rishi were offering teas for tasting as well as a plethora of information. I found both representatives to be incredibly knowledgeable and approachable.
Then I started tasting the teas. I tried the Jade Oolong in both cold brew and hot and liked it enough to purchase a sample. I also tried a few other varieties and ended up settling on Silver Needle as another sample purchase. These teas are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re so good and so worth it. The different profiles of the teas are evident depending on how it’s brewed.
For this event, the appetizers/finger food was provided by the Anaba Tea Room. When I looked at the menu, nothing looked like something I would want to order. I was actually surprised at how good the food was and how well it went with the different teas. One of the representatives talked about tea in terms of wine, and I think that metaphor worked well not only for the food pairings, but also for our general comprehension.

After spending ample time in the tea room, I decided to make my way up to the roof garden.

Rooftop Garden at Anaba Tea Room

Rooftop Garden at Anaba Tea Room

Rooftop Garden at Anaba Tea Room

Rooftop Garden at Anaba Tea Room

It’s a wonderful urban oasis. You sit on the top of the roof, in this gorgeous garden, drinking the most delectable tea, enjoying life. It’s perfectly chic and urban without being a cliche. The teas served on the roof were interesting. One of them had a very strong citrus flavor and I could pick out grapefruit. This is the only tea I didn’t like, but I didn’t like it because I don’t like grapefruit. I’m sure if there was no grapefruit, I’d have a different reaction. The other tea served on the roof was with a hint of peach. It was so refreshing. As a cold brew, it would be wonderful, almost like a peach bellini but better, in my opinion.

I also didn’t know that Rishi is a local company and was glad to find out that it is.  The representatives also told us that Rishi just won first place for one of their teas at the World Tea Championships.

A few hours later when I was doing grocery shopping, I did pick up another canister of Rishi tea to try.  Sendik’s stores have a really wide selection, so why not try something new.   As a side note, I’ve been drinking Jade Oolong all day today and I love it.  What a wonderful find.  I wish Rishi would do these tastings every weekend so I can try all their teas.  😉  But for now, here is their events schedule.

On Tea

I have to confess, tea is my favorite beverage. I am very particular about it, maybe even snobbish, but when you grow up with good tea it’s easy to be spoiled by the high quality Indian tea. Specifically, the water has to be perfect and I’m lucky that my plain tap water is great tasting (but I still filter it). If you’re serious about tea, you know not to buy tea packets. The general tea packet (Lipton and other such brands) are really just tea dust and to me, they taste like the paper they’re wrapped in. Yuck.

Taste of Tea

Taste of Tea

Tea jars

Tea jars

When I was in San Francisco visiting friends a few years ago, we went to China town and ducked into a tea shop. I’ve never been to a shop that offered tastes of tea. It was like a tea bar! I loved it; we spend about 2 hours there and I bought some teas. I really liked being able to try them before I bought them.
I don’t even like any “additives” in the tea like sugar or lemon. Never milk. Why spoil things? Milk is milk and tea is tea. The two do not belong together on my taste buds.

I have always had green tea on hand, but never liked it much. The reason for that is because when it gets cold, it’s quite bitter to me. Adding sugar just makes it nasty. Cold tea (of any kind) and sugar. Shudder. But it can be almost sweet (naturally) when at the right temperature.

I like the “gunpowder” style of green tea.  I think it’s called “gunpowder” is because it resembles the pellets of the explosive.

When the tea is brewing, the leaves unfurl and you can see some of then in the second image in detail.  The third image shows how it looks in the tea pot.  Yes, I actually do have a strainer, but I wanted to show how the leaves unfurl and I know how to pour/drink tea to avoid the leaves, so I don’t mind the lack of strainer.

The last image shows a traditional Uzbek cup called пиала or пиалушка (piala or pialushka).  The shape allows the tea to be cooled easily and convenient to hold in your hands.  I prefer these cups, but a regular “Western” teacup, one with a handle, is also great.  It’s what’s in the cup that matters.

Green tea - gunpowder

Green tea - gunpowder

Green tea leaves

Green tea leaves

Tea brewing

Tea brewing

Tea in piala (pialushka)

Tea in piala (pialushka)