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.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Rice Cups On Their Way

Well, I finally caved and ordered a pair of "rice" cups off of ebay. I've been fascinated with the style for some time and thanks to the folks on Teachat have become quite fond of them. There are small cutouts in the porcelain that are filled with glaze, letting the light shine through your drink and your cup. They aren't super fancy but I wasn't looking to spend a whole lot. I cannot wait until they get here all the way from England.

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.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Andao Wooden Tea Tray

Andao Tea
I tend to be a bit accident prone so when I ordered my first gaiwan, I knew I would need something to catch the inevitable spills. This tea tray is one of my favorite tea accessories and I always use it when serving tea for guests so that I have a chance to show it off. It is made of bamboo and has a fairly dark stain. The thing I like most about it is the depth of color. It can appear differently depending on the lighting in the room. Its beauty is in its simplicity. Compared to many of the trays available, it was also relatively inexpensive. As a tea newbie, I am always on the look out for inexpensive but high quality tea ware.

I have found this tray to be easy to clean and extremely durable. A rub with a soft towel quickly eliminates any water spots or tea stains. I have accidentally left tea in it and it suffered no ill effects. After months of almost constant use, it still looks as good as it did the day I received it. I have heard that bamboo trays can have issues with leaks and cracking but I have never had any problems. I love avoiding the usual clean up duties, all I have to do is empty the tray when I am done. It also saves my hands from having to carry extremely hot cups of tea.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Andao Ancient Mountain Porcelain Drinking Cup

Photo: Andao Tea
I purchased a set of four of these cups for use with the matching gaiwan that is also available from Andao. The first thing that struck me was the simple beauty of the blue mountain landscape design against the stark white of the cup. Having never seen tasting cups before, I found their diminutive size pretty comical. I couldn’t imagine using them very often because I tend to drink a lot of tea throughout the day. However, I now find myself using them more and more.

Their small size forces me to slow down and really savor the tea that I am imbibing. It is so relaxing to actually take that time to enjoy tea rather than gulping it and running out the door as was my usual practice. They are also great for sharing with my family members, most of whom find my tea habit bizarre and intriguing. Not as much tea is wasted since they can try just a small sip. Of course that is usually followed by the "eeewwww" face but that is whole other blog topic :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Andao Ancient Mountain Gaiwan

Andao Tea
A gaiwan is a traditional Chinese brewing vessel that consists of a saucer, bowl, and lid. The lid is the Gai and the bowl is the Wan. The lid allows the tea to be infused in the bowl as well as providing a way of straining the liquid from the leaves. This particular gaiwan is both beautiful and practical. The blue landscape against the white porcelain is striking. The red accents on the tree is icing on the cake, adding just enough detail to really make it stand out. The blue on white theme is carried into both the lid and saucer as well.

I love it because it enables me to make a small amount of tea rather than a large pot. I am the only loose leaf tea drinker in my house so it is unreasonable to make more than I can drink. I’ve used it to brew most types of tea and have had success with each and every one. I particularly like it for green tea. It has been tricky figuring out a pouring technique that minimizes spills and burned fingers. This a problem endemic to all gaiwans and beginners like myself. I am looking forward to a lot more cups of tea brewed and shared with the help of this gaiwan.

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.