Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Republic of Tea Citizen's Traveler Press

My local Whole Foods recently relocated so I stopped in to check out the new digs. In my shopping travels I came across this neat little tea press. It is basically a Bodum press with some cute graphics added by Republic of Tea. I found it to be generally useful and easy to clean. It also did not seem to retain odors from strongly scented teas, even when the leaves are left for a few hours. The double walled design keeps the tea warm for longer while also preventing me from burning my hands. It didn't even leak when I absent-mindedly tossed it into my purse.

The only issue I had with it was that the strainer does not always catch the fine particles of most herbal teas. That is just a small set back though since I rarely use herbals. Unfortunately I accidentally dropped it onto frozen cement from a considerable height. Alas, my press is no more. It is plastic so I didn't expect it to be indestructible. My clumsiness aside, I would definitely recommend this tea press. For the price you really can’t beat a handy, simple to use gadget like this one.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Boulder Tea Hojicha Dark Roast

Boulder Tea describes this tea as being very low in caffeine with a mellow roasted flavor. They also boast that it can be steeped two or three times. The leaves were dark and fairly large. I brewed this tea using my Zarafina tea maker set on strong green. The liquor was very dark for a green tea, almost resembling a dark Oolong. The aroma was fresh and woodsy with just a bit of smokiness.

This tea had a vegetal taste and I could definitely detect the roasted quality. It has a sweet aftertaste that was very refreshing. I wish that I had more of this tea to sample because I have a feeling that it would make an excellent iced tea, especially with a bit of honey. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Monday, December 29, 2008

TeaGschwendner Fancy White Peony

I realize that I've been a very bad tea blogger. I've been an even worse tea drinker. My lack of free time is really cramping my tea style. I hope to make a bunch of posts over the next few days to make up for it. Getting back to my beloved tea is my New Year's Resolution.

According to TeaGschwendner, this is a “new style” Chinese White Tea from the Fujian Province. It is created by plucking of the bud and first leaf in late March or early April. I wasn’t sure what was new about it since it appeared to be very similar to a standard white peony. The aroma of the dry leaves was not out of the ordinary either. I made this tea using my Zarafina tea maker set on strong white. The liquor was a light golden yellow but didn’t have too much of an aroma to it.

The flavor of this tea was very subtle, almost too subtle. I had to really work to detect the floral, chestnut and honey notes. I cannot say it was a bad tea but it just didn’t do anything for me. For someone who likes the challenge of finding the flavor in a tea like this, it might be worth a try but for a casual tea drinker there are much better varieties to be had. I love TeaGschwendner and this is the first slightly negative review I have given them. I would probably not recommend this tea.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Teajo Rooibos Chai

I was excited to try this selection because I thought rooibos and chai was a unique combination. Teajo lists the ingredients as including African rooibos with cinnamon, ginger and other natural spices. I brewed this tea using my Zarafina tea maker set on strong, herbal. The liquor was a deep red and the spicy scent was very apparent, both in the tea and the dry leaves.

I have to say that this is the first selection from Teajo that I have thoroughly enjoyed. It was a tasty and spicy with just a hint of the woodsy flavor of rooibos. It was definitely chai but in an understated way that wasn’t overwhelming to the palate. I only wish I had enough to make this tea more than once. It would have gone very well with some steamed milk. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Japanese Garden in Autumn

I was bored this weekend so I dragged by boyfriend to the Japanese Garden at Georgian Court University. I've been meaning to go for some time and I figured we should make a run for it before winter is upon us. I was no dissapointed. The Japanese maple leaves covered everything in a blanket of bright red. They even had a restored traditional tea house in the garden. The inside shot was as good as I could get through the glass but you can get the general idea of the structure. I also hit up the newly relocated Whole Foods and found a neat little travel tea press for $10. I also picked up some Rishi Plum Oolong since I couldn't resist trying it out right away. Reviews of both will definately follow :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

TeaGschwendner Rooibos Cream Caramel

TeaGschwendner’s lists the ingredients as including rooibush tea, caramel bits, and natural flavor. The dry leaves had the woodsy rooibos smell with just a hint of creamy sweetness. I brewed this tea using my Zarafina tea maker, set on strong herbal. The liquor had a deep red color that was typical of most rooibos teas I have had.

This tea was rich and decadent with a pleasant aftertaste. The flavoring was not overpowering to the rooibos base but was just enough to complement it. I would be curious to know what they used to get the creamy taste because it so perfectly on the money. I even resteeped this tea a second time because I enjoyed it so much. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Teajo Tropical Mango

Teajo does not list the ingredients on their website but I could definitely see pieces of mango among the black tea as well as some kind of flower petals. The leaves smelled promisingly sweet and fruity. I brewed this tea using my Zarafina tea maker. The liquor was a little on the light side for a black tea but had the same aroma as the leaves.

I am sorry to say that there was nothing tropical about this tea. It was weak even as a straight black tea. I’m a strong believer that in order to make a good blended tea you have to start with a quality base. This tea lacked any real flavor but left a bitter aftertaste. They claim that this is one of their most popular black teas but it just didn’t do anything for me. I would not recommend this tea.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tea Guys Papaya Ginger

Tea Guys lists the ingredients as including white tea, organic green tea, organic lemon myrtle, ginger, citrus peel, pineapple, anise, papaya, pomegranate, natural flavors, marigold and jasmine. The dry tea had a dazzling array of colors and a sweet aroma comparable to that of honey. The liquor was a light lemony yellow. I brewed this tea using my Zarafina tea maker, set on strong white.

I’ve been impressed with every Tea Guys blend I have tried and this selection is no exception. The ingredients blend beautifully together to create a complex palate that evokes a tropical vacation. The combination of the fruit, spices and flowers complement the tea rather than masking its flavor. That is very difficult to achieve with white tea, especially with an ingredient list that is so complicated. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hou De Double Fish Aroma Cup Set

I have always been intrigued by the idea of aroma cups because aroma is one of my favorite qualities of tea. First the tea is poured in the aroma cup, the tasting cup is placed on top and then they are inverted so the tasting cup is on the bottom. The aroma cup is slowly lifted up, allowing the tea to flow into the tasting cup. The residual tea left in the aroma cup enables you to truly savor the scent of the tea.

I was drawn to this particular set because keeping aquarium fish are another one of my passions besides tea. I love the look of the blue fish against the white porcelain. I especially like how the fish design is added to the inside of the tasting cups as well as the outside.

Monday, November 3, 2008

TeaGschwendner Pineapple Mango


TeaGschwendner lists the ingredients as including black tea, pineapple and mango pieces, sunflower, rose and mallow blossoms, and natural flavor. I brewed this tea using my Zarafina tea maker, set on strong black. The dry leaves had a sweet, fruity aroma. The brightness of the fruit and flowers against the dark leaves was stunning. The liquor was a surprisingly pale for a black tea and the mango aroma was very apparent.

The taste was that of a classic black tea perfectly complimented by the tartness of the fruit. It was refreshing and light, a perfect desert tea. I always say that any good flavored tea has to start with a good quality base tea and it seems as though TeaGshwendner is one company who has gotten that right. I’ve had several of their teas and everyone made a very enjoyable cuppa. It is no wonder this tea was a top five finalist at the World Tea Championships. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Art of Tea No.4


I ordered this magazine from Hou De Asian Art & Fine Tea. I was amazed that they actually bubble wrapped it so bravo to them for wonderful packing. It was a tad expensive for a magazine but so completely worth it. It is jam packed full of information and insightful articles. I especially love how they have several authors cover the same topic, each one giving you a slightly different perspective. This issue also featured a puehr tasting that kept me turning pages. While the translations to English could be a bit wonky, they were easily understandable. Even if it were not in English, it would be worth it just for the amazing photographs. At over one hundred pages, I was able to spend several nights curled up reading with a good cup of tea. I would definitely recommend this magazine and I am sure I will be purchasing previous issues soon.
I rate this magazine a 10.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura

I picked up this fantastic little book in the tea aisle at Wegman’s. Unfortunately this edition doesn't seem to be widely available but I love how it is packaged. The sleeve ensures that the book does not become damaged in transport. I appreciated this a lot as I read this book during my train commutes to and from work. Part philosophy and part history, this book offers an amazing window into the world of Japanese tea.

However, it is not so much about tea itself but about the way of life that surrounds tea culture. He refers to it as “the way of tea” and I do not think Mr. Okakura could have summed it up any better. Reading this book is part of what truly started me on my tea journey. It reveals the deeper significance of art, nature, meditation and refinement that is now associated with the Japanese tea ceremony. I have since read it many times over and fear I may need to get a new copy if this one wears out. I would definitely recommend this book.

You can find out more about this book here

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Well, I threw my costume together in about three hours of sewing and adding velcro. I'm a girl scout leader and I wore this to our Halloween party on Wednesday. It was definitely a hit with the girls and their parents. The girls all think I have a "problem" because I drink so much tea so it was perfect. Everyone loved the tea bags tied in hair. I finally found a use for all the Lipton my mom has sitting around the house :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

In Pursuit of Tea Aroma Cup Coaster


These coasters have a beautiful dark stain that shows off the natural grain of the wood. They have just enough room for a tasting cup and aroma cup to fit side by side. They allow an elegant presentation while also preventing spills. I love using them when I have tea with guests. They are very easy to clean and have not stained despite heavy use. A quick wipe with a soft cloth is enough to keep them looking like new.

I do wish that it was stated what type of wood the coasters were made of. I’m not sure if that would have influenced by decision but it would be nice to know if the wood used was sustainably harvested. Since most of our teaware comes from outside of the United States, I like to stay conscious of the impact my purchases have. That aside, I would definitely recommend these coasters.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hamilton Beach Two Quart Electric Iced Tea Maker

Photo: Hamilton Beach
I grew up drinking instant supermarket brand iced tea. Once I graduated to loose leaf teas I need something more. Making tea by the cup was not practical because I tend to drink the stuff by the gallon. When I saw this iced tea maker on sale at the drug store, I thought I would give it a try. The assembly instructions were a little difficult to understand but once I got past that hurtle it was very easy to use. The directions say to fill part of the pitcher with ice but my father did not appreciate my empting every ice cube tray in the house just for a pitcher of iced tea.

Luckily, the tea is fine without the added ice. I just have to let it cool off in the refrigerator a bit longer than usual. The two quart size is perfect for me since I am usually the only one who drinks it. I’ve made several different kinds of tea, including herbals like rooibos, but black always seems to come out the best. I usually use about five teaspoons of dry whole leaves. I love to add a bit of mint to make it even more refreshing. Overall, I’ve been very satisfied with it and I would definitely recommend this tea maker.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

In Pursuit of Tea Porcelain Sharing Pitcher

Photo: In Pursuit of Tea
In Taiwan and China, teas sometimes served Gong Fu style. Successive brews of loose tea are poured into small ceramic tasting cups to be shared and appreciated with friends. This ceremonial drinking style is meant to focus our attention on the sensory experience of the tea and to relax the mind. Pitchers such as this one are used when brewing tea using a yixing teapot or gaiwan. It is often called a fair cup because it is used to distribute the tea equally into each cup. The tea is decanted into the pitcher to ensure that the taste will taste the same. If it were poured directly from the pot, each cup could have a different taste due to variances in steeping time.

I ordered the handless version of this pitcher because I loved its simple lines. It pairs beautifully with my gaiwan, which is also white but with blue accents, without taking away from its beauty. This pitcher is actually slightly smaller than my yixing teapot but that is quickly remedied by pouring a cup or two before filling the pitcher. The mouth is just three fingers wide so I do have to have to be cautious when I am cleaning it.

You can find out more about this pitcher here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Numi Organic Tea Signature Glass Tea Pot

I ordered this pot when I had just gotten started discovering tea. I originally ordered it to use for flowering tea but have since used it for everything from puerh to loose leaf blacks, greens and whites. It is a great looking pot and its elegant lines make it appear to be very delicate. In fact, my family started taking bets on when I would break it since I tend to be rather accident prone. It has proven to be very sturdy, easy to clean and versatile. The removable strainer is very convenient.

It holds just enough tea to have a cup for myself and a cup to share with a friend. However, it is a little short for some varieties of flowering teas. These blooms would definitely be better off in a taller pot. It seems that the pitcher style pots are more practical for this application. While a pot that is not made of glass would do the same job, I love how this one enables me to view the leaves as they unfold.

You can find out more about this teapot here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Boulder Tea Kabuse Sencha

Photos: Boulder Tea
Sencha is made from the tender top two leaves and is the most popular green tea in Japan. At first I was afraid that I would not like this tea because my previous experience with sencha was a bad one. The dry leaves smelled incredibly clean and fresh, like fresh vegetables or lawn clippings. They had a beautiful emerald green color to them. That color grew even more vivid when they expanded after brewing. I prepared this tea using my Zarafina tea maker, set on strong green. The liquor had a bright, almost neon green quality to it.

The aroma of this tea was fresh and vegetal, very similar to that of the dry leaves. The first few sips were slightly astringent but subsequent sips were much easier on the taste buds. It was light, sweet and very refreshing. It had an almost minty quality to it as well. I have to say that the only thing that put me off was the accumulation of dusty bits of leaf at the bottom of my cup. However, all sencha that I have tried had this issue it is probably just me being weird about it.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Teaguys Tease Chocolate Delight


Photo: Teaguys
This tea was an absolute treat for the senses. The dry ingredients had so many different colors and textures. Teaguys list the ingredients as including black and green teas, cocoa beans, barley, apple, yogurt, and other natural flavors. When I first opened the package, I was hit with the amazing aroma of this tea. I immediately flashed back to childhood memories of the tour ride at Hershey’s Chocolate World. The marketing geniuses at Hershey fill the air with the aroma of cocoa so that you are craving the stuff by the time you get to the gift shop. The liquor was a little bit lighter than a typical black tea, with a slight reddish tinge to it. I brewed this tea using my Zarafina tea maker set on strong black.

I would like to give this a perfect 10 but I think the name is a bit of a misnomer. Being named Chocolate Delight, I expected the tea equivalent of a cup of hot cocoa. Would this tea by any other name taste as sweet? I have to say yes. I think the description they gave on the back of the package summed it up perfectly “Think more Aztec than Hershey’s”. With that being said, this was a delicious black tea. It had a rich and nutty taste with just a touch of creaminess. The second infusion was a bit different, it actually smelled and tasted like mocha. My inner chocoholic thoroughly enjoyed this tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mighty Leaf Organic African Nectar

Photo: Mighy Leaf
I have always been a fan of Mighty Leaf because their silky tea bags always feel like a luxury. I like that they are individually wrapped as well. I always throw one in my bag before heading off to a late night class. They list the ingredients of this tea as including rooibos leaves, natural tropical flavors, natural flavors, hibiscus flowers, rose petals, mallow blossoms and marigold flowers. I loved the look of this tea, all of those bright colors mixed in with the rooibos leaves.

The liquor was a deep reddish color and had a floral aroma. This tea was surprisingly traditional, a classic rooibos taste with just a hint of tropical flavoring. Mighty Leaf managed to find a perfect balance, where the rooibos isn’t overwhelmed but is complemented by other ingredients. It was relaxing and invigorating at the same time.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Teajo Vanilla Bean Green

Photo: Teajo
Teajo does not have an ingredient list on their website but this tea obviously contains both green tea and vanilla beans. I also noticed some yellow and blue flower petals. The aroma was reminiscent of vanilla but in a syrupy sweet way. I brewed it using my Zarafina Tea Maker set on strong green. I do wish they listed the ingredients since I always like to know what went into a particular tea.

This tea was a little darker than I would expect from a green tea. It tasted slightly vegetal but the vanilla was a little overwhelming, almost too sweet. The second and third infusions were much better because it lessened the sweetness. For someone with a sweet tooth, it might be ideal but it was not really for me. I would recommend this tea to the right person but I probably wouldn’t buy it for myself.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Seven Cups Huang Zhi Xiang Dan Cong Oolong 2007

Photo: Seven Cups
According to Seven Cups, this tea is made from the oldest Dan Cong bush, which is seven hundred years old. It is harvested in the middle of March and the picking standard is two or three slightly open leaves. I brewed this tea using my Sunrise Pear yixing teapot, also from Seven Cups. The liquor was a light honey color and has a sweet, floral aroma.

The taste of this tea was delicate and sweet in such a way that I struggled to describe it when I sat down to write this review. It was mellow with just a hint of that characteristic Oolong flavor that I love so much. I was able to get eight very good infusions from about a tablespoon of this tea. I bought it on sale but even at full price it is an excellent value.



Sunday, October 12, 2008

Seven Cups Sunrise Pear Yi Xing Pot

Ever since I started my obsession with tea I have wanted to get a Yixing teapot. After months of debate, I finally decided on the Sunrise Pear pot from Seven Cups. Their customer service was amazing and it shipped very quickly. The pot came in a plain brown box but inside was a bright pink and yellow silky drawstring bag. The bottom of the bag was padded with foam to protect the pot as well. It came with a certificate of authenticity which was nice since I consider a purchase like this one to be an investment. This is a smaller pot, just right for personal use. I find myself admiring its elegant shape whenever I use it.

The design on the pot invokes an image of the sun rising over water. This is created by a method called “jiao ni” and is accomplished by mixing clay and using it to create a natural landscape design without painting on the surface. I seasoned this pot according to the directions on Seven Cup’s website. It took most of the day but it was worth it because my first cup of tea was absolutely perfect. Subsequent steepings have been even better. I think I'm in love :). I will have a review of their Oolong tea that I used in it forthcoming.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Adagio Teas Casablanca Twist Green

Photo: Adagio Tea
Ever since I joined Teaviews I have been hearing about the virtues of Casablanca Twist and I jumped at the chance once a sample was available. Adagio lists the ingredients as including Darjeeling green tea and peppermint. I could tell I would love this tea just by how it smelled. Both the try leaves and the final product have a refreshing minty smell that I wish could be bottled. I brewed it using my Zarafina tea maker set on strong green. The liquor was a deep golden color.

This is exactly what a mint tea should be. The mint definitely took prevalence over the green tea, in fact I could barely taste the green tea. I would normally consider that a bad thing, if it weren’t for the fact that this tea was so incredibly refreshing. It was cooling and refreshing like no other tea I have tasted. I have brewed straight mint leaves and it wasn’t nearly as good. I think the green tea dramatically improves the taste and crispness of this blend.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tea by Christine Dattner

I found this book in Sur La Table, a gourmet cooking store. I was immediately drawn to it because of the beautiful packaging. It features two hard cover volumes; The History of Tea and The Taste of Tea. Both of them are enclosed in hard cover holder and tied off with a ribbon. The photographs are vivid and beautifully illustrate the story of tea. The History of Tea was a book that I could not put down. I love reading about the long history that has led to the teas we drink today. This brief introduction is perfect for tea beginners and I love that the author separated the content by country.

The Taste of Tea is a perfect companion to The History of Tea. It explains the process of making tea as well as the different blends that are unique to each tea growing region. The beautiful pictures of each variety are paired with tasting notes. These are really useful when I come across a tea that I have never tried before. I find myself returning to both of these books again and again, especially when writing reviews about new and foreign teas. The only thing that author left out was pu-erh tea. This tea has grown increasingly popular and it deserves more than just a glancing mention. I would have appreciated some discussion of tea ware as well. These two things aside, I would definitely recommend this book.

You can find out more about this book here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mighty Leaf Pear Caramel Truffle

Photo: Mighty Leaf
When a fellow Teaviews reviewer offered this tea up for grabs, I jumped on it because I had meaning to try the Mighty Leaf Chocolate Truffle line for some time. Mighty Leaf lists the ingredients as including black tea, pear, caramel, cacao nibs, chocolate chips and flavors. The aroma of the dry leaves was heavenly, chocolaty and sweet in just the right proportions. I brewed this tea using my Zarafina tea maker, set on strong black. The liquor was a deep red and smelled just as delicious as the leaves did.

I wish I could say the same for the taste. I don't know why but most chocolate teas that I have tried came off as bitter rather than a sweet indulgence. I could not taste any of the pear or caramel. Perhaps it was the combination of cacao nibs and chocolate chips that ruined this blend. The bitterness was still there but was slightly reduced with a second steeping. I am glad that I was able to try a sample before springing for the sampler pack.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Introduction

Hi! My name is Nicole and in case you didn't already know, I am crazy about tea. I'm twenty four and I've lived in New Jersey for all of my life. Tea is one of my newest passions and I'm excited to start exploring. I have always enjoyed the standard Lipton black tea while having late night chats with my mother. When the time came for me to go away to college, I stated to branch out and try some the herbal teas in the grocery stores. One day, I discovered flowering teas in a magazine. That opened up the flood gates and now I have at least three cups of tea a day whenever I can. I now have two overflowing shelves full of tea and teaware. I've just purchased my first yixing pot so Oolong is the favorite of the moment. I love trying new teas and adding to my collection. I am a reviewer for Teaviews: http://www.teaviews.com . It's a great site and anyone who loves tea should check it out. I'll be posting about the different teas and teaware I try as well as tea houses in my area. I hope someone will enjoy reading what I have to say.