Meet Chef Josh Lewin of Bread & Salt Hospitality
Chef Josh Lewin is one of the partners behind Bread and Salt Hospitality, a Boston area culinary group. Bread and Salt refers to an old Middle-Eastern tradition of hospitality. It’s born of the phrase, “There is bread and salt between us.” Chef Lewin has worked in the kitchen of Beacon Hill Bistro, and more recently was the Chef in Residence (popup chef?) at the South End’s Wink and Nod.
We managed to cross paths–on Twitter–a while back when a friend in the Boston foodie scene gave Teawrights a shoutout in a post about tea services in NYC. Chef Lewin happened to be exploring tea and tea programs at the time. So eventually, we moved from Twitter to the phone and from the phone to his kitchen.
The idea of Tea Craft intrigued him.
Tea Crafting in the Wink & Nod
Crafting a Black Tea
One afternoon in March, I awkwardly wandered through the delivery door at Wink & Nod, a lovely cocktail bar in Boston’s South End. Standing by the kitchen, a couple folks briefly paused from their prep work to see who the rando was that walked in. Oh jeez, a salesman? Now? “Hi! I’m here to meet Josh? I’m the tea guy he spoke with?”
“Come on in” Josh invited. After my initial awkwardness (King of Awkward here btw) I navigate the kitchen, trying to not be in the way. We set up a small station and for the next hour or so, we craft a brand new tea in the kitchen of the Wink and Nod. I walked Josh through the transformation of the raw tea leaves (still green and juicy) into a smooth black tea.
Actually, I lost track of time while working the leaf with him. When the service prep began its murmurings, it was time for me to get out of the way. We racked the leaves so they could oxidize out of the way. I instructed Josh on aromas to expect and the look of the changing leaves. He would dry the leaves in his oven later that evening.
The next afternoon I returned to check on the tea we crafted together. It looked beautiful! The undersides of the leaf had a lovely silvery fuzz. When steeped, the flavor was smooth and creamy with a subtle bite of astringency. I’ve come to learn that crafting a black tea from leaves normally used for oolongs, results in a smoother tea. You might consider it a darker oolong.
We were happy.
Pan Firing a Green Tea
That same afternoon, Pastry Mercenary Kate Holowchik warmed up a small pan. The two of us crafted a pan-fired green tea. We used a technique inspired by a couple of my customers. They’ve shared their techniques on our subreddit /r/Teawrights.
You want the pan hot enough that the leaves lightly sizzle on contact, but cool enough you can briefly touch it with your hands. For us, this meant fiddling with the knob on the electric pan. It alternated between too hot and too cold. Kate soldiered through quite well though. As she worked the leaves, you could feel a stickiness as the leaf sugars released and caramelized.
Incidentally, Eric Scott
of Tea Drunk formerly of Happy Lucky’s in Fort Collins, CO (Hi Eric!) informs me that this pan caramelizing is what makes pan-fired greens so vastly different from Japanese steamed green teas.
James Beard House & Beyond
That weekend with black tea in hand, Bread and Salt traveled to New York City to create a dinner at the James Beard House. They prepared a special Nowruz meal for the Persian New Year. He created a unique blend with the black tea base we crafted, by adding a delicate & flavorful saffron.
This saffron comes from Afghani veterans. It’s part of a non-profit training them to grow a sustainable and legal cash crop. This provides a stable alternative and living once they return to civilian life. The saffron itself is beautiful.
Anyway, this is where my end of the story takes a pause. I’m told the tea was great!
Things to Come
The reason for sharing this story isn’t simply to showcase tea crafting, although it definitely was fun getting to meet everyone involved. The reason is that Boston Teawrights will work with Bread and Salt this coming Summer.
Keep your eyes and ears peeled for the big announcement on
May 15th May 18th Announced! Yay! See Below.