Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tea Places: Mambo Tea House

 Every so often I scan TeaMap to see if there are any new places in my area. Recently I spotted the addition of Mambo Tea House in Rutherford, NJ. I was immediately intrigued because it is both a Latin restaurant and a tea house. The decor was an interesting mix of Asian and Cuban decor elements. I loved that they had a comfy couch with lots of pillows at our table. I’m not very familiar with Latin food being the picky eater that I am so I was a little hesitant when ordering. We went with the safe option and ordered the prix fix dinner. At $14.95 per person for a three course meal, you can’t beat it (dollar menu be damned). I had the chicken soup, Arroz con Pollo a la Espanola, and Flan de Coco. Mike and I both ordered coconut pouchong tea. An astute Twitter friend spotted that their tea brand was Adagio which was just fine by me.

The staff was very attentive and our food came out fairly quickly. The tea arrived in a plain white, no frills pot. They also gave us three miniature chocolate chip cookies on a tea bag holder which I thought was cute. The food was delicious and not spicy as I had feared. The portions were so large that we both brought home quite a bit. The tea was perfectly brewed and paired perfectly with the food. This is the kind of place where the meal lingers in a pleasant way. The atmosphere, food  and tea all convince you to stay longer than you had planned. The pictures I snapped are terrible since I took with my blackberry but you can get the idea. If you are every in my neck of the woods, this charming restaurant is definitively recommended.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Free Leaf Green Tea Rosebud

In the convenience store by work I had a neat tea find. It is basically a flowering tea on a string. So you get the benefits of the beauty  these teas have with the convenience of a tea bag. It didn’t exactly bloom, it just sort of puffed up. Flowering teas are how I started my own tea journey so I have a special soft spot for me. That being said, they are never made out of very good quality tea since that would sort of be a waste. While not super great tasting (way more rose than green tea), it was worth it just for the sake of my co-workers’ reactions. I manage a pet boutique so it was compared to the various things that come out of dogs. We all had a good laugh and I got some tea out of it too. These are made by Teance. Their shop is Berkley, CA has long been on my list of must-see tea places.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

New Starbucks Full Leaf Teas

I have a confession to make. One of my guilty pleasures in life is a tall chai latte from Starbucks. This can be controversial in certain circles as Starbucks is sometimes assigned a level of corporate evil reserved only for Wal-Mart and Teavana. But I was intrigued when I found out that they would be releasing a new line of Tazo full leaf tea bags.  There happens to be a location by my job so I picked up a cup of the China Green Tips. And the verdict is…”meh”. It wasn’t spectacular or special in any way. That being said, it also wasn’t terrible. I also tried the Awake black tea and that was decent as well.

I can definitely see them being a gateway drug to this addicting beverage we call tea. It’s also nice that since I live so close to NYC, I can now pretty much find a decent cuppa on every street corner. I’ve heard the coffee folks aren’t fans but then I really wouldn’t expect them to be. Monday I plan on trying to Darjeeling because I am wondering what the difference is between their full leaf and filter bags.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Teatulia Tulsi Infusion

Photo: Teatulia
Teatulia is one of my favorite companies. I love their values and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that my tea was grown in an environmental and socially responsible way. This selection was comprised of black tea blended with tulsi, also known as holy basil. According to their website the tulsi is grown in the same organic garden as the tea.  The silky pyramid bag had a spicy sweet aroma but was very different from chai or any other tea I have had. I brewed it using boiling water and steeped for about five minutes.

I haven’t tasted anything quite like this tea. The tulsi lends a very unique flavor. It was just the right amount of  spicy without being overbearing. Teatulia’s black teas are some of the best I have had and this one is no exception. I am glad that my sample consisted of several tea bags so that I can enjoy it a few more times. I plan to try it iced and I am sure that it will be just as delicious. I would definitely recommend this tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Norbu Tea Imperial Dian Hong Yunnan Black Tea - Spring 09

Photo: Norbu Tea
The leaves of this tea were long and needle shaped with various shades of brown. They had a sweet and malty aroma typical of yunnan teas. I prepared this tea gong fu style, with a gaiwan and boiling water. According to Norbu, the whole leaf and bud were hand picked, processed, and rolled by hand in the Spring Harvest period of 2009. The resulting tea maintained the same aroma and had a light mahogany color.

I struggled to describe this tea because it had a depth that I have not often found in black teas. It had a thick and creamy mouth feeling but went down smoothly. The taste was pleasantly rich and complex. It lasted several infusions, each one a little less astringent than the last. The leaves took some time to completely unfurl, reminding me of a dan cong oolong. I have been impressed by every Norbu offering I have tried thus far. I am not much of a black tea drinker but I would definitely recommend this tea.

It seems I’ve gotten lucky with this recent batch of samples, I don’t think there has been a single one that I didn’t enjoy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Two Leaves Tea Tamoyokucha Green Tea

Photo: Two Leaves Tea
I  picked this tea up from my local Morten Williams because I was in serious need of a decent tea to use at work. The bags were the silken pyramid shape that has become thankfully become quite common. Inside was a generous helping of leaves that resembled sencha in both appearance and aroma.  I brewed it using boiling water that was allowed to cooled slightly. I found it to be pretty forgiving as far as water temperature and steep time.  I’ve gotten caught up with customers several times and it didn’t become astringent or bitter.

The leaves expand quite a bit and it’s a bit surreal watching a bright green triangle floating in my cup. This tea is sweet and vegetal with a pleasant aftertaste. The only complaint that I might have is that this tea gives me caffeine jitters if I have more than one cuppa. I found that a bit odd since I often consume copious amounts of strong black tea without having that affect. I would definitely recommend this tea and plan to try some of their other selections the next time I need to restock.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Note: This company name has changed since the time of this review but to my knowledge the tea is the same.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tea Places: Mitsuwa Marketplace

I saw an ad for Mitsuwa  in Chopsticks NY Magazine some time ago and have been meaning to check it out. I’ve had some surprisingly good tea finds in local Asian markets so I figured it was worth a peak. My first impression was, this place is HUGE! Not only was there a supermarket with several kiosks and a food court but several specialty stores and a restaurant just outside the main building. The tea selection in the supermarket was decent but nothing special. If you are looking for an appliance like rice cookers, be aware that Bergen County has a blue light law which means that no appliances can be purchased on a Sunday. Weird, right?

My main reason for wanting to go is that Ito En operates a kiosk inside. Their green tea ice cream seemed very popular despite the freezing weather we had that day. The store in NYC is a much better option if you are actually looking to make something other than an impulse purchase. I was hoping to get a good cuppa oolong after dinner but was a little disappointed to see that they served bagged tea. It wasn’t terrible but I was at least expecting loose leaf in a filter bag. While I was there I picked up a tin of lavender sencha, a review of it will follow soon.

I loved the housewares store here and drove my boyfriend crazy wandering in circles with a silly grin on my face. Amazingly I managed to resist the urge to buy any teaware, though there was a lot to choose from. If it was Japanese they had it, kimonos to Hello Kitty. They also had some really nice furniture. If I ever win the lottery I plan to return with a bucket full of money so that I can finally convert a corner of my home to a mini tea house. The book store didn’t have too much for me since most of the books were in Japanese but I did find a book on Japanese tea ceremonies (again, review on its way).

All in all I am glad that I finally made the trek. It wasn’t mind blowing but it was still pretty awesome. It’s actually closer to home than I thought it was so I may become a more frequent shopper, much to the chagrin on my wallet.