Sunday, July 31, 2011

American Tea Room Arya Pearl First Flush Organic White Darjeeling Tea

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: sage green with lots of buds, smaller than a Chinese silver needle would be but still has some downy hairs                       
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale gold

This is one of the most complex white teas I have ever had. It was creamy, spicy and fruity with just a hint of grassiness. I was expecting a completely different experience, it tasted nothing like darjeeling and nothing like white tea. My second infusion was slightly more floral but just as delicious and nuanced. American Tea Room’s food pairing suggestions have me completely craving bread and olive oil right now. This tea is very pricy but it is a rare case where I think it is worth it. The sample size is an affordable way to give it a try. This is only the second white tea I've tried from India, the other being a silver needle from the Satrupa estate, but both have been stellar.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Chicago Tea Garden Ceramic Pot Pu-erh

Country of Origin: China, Yunnan Province, Kunming
Leaf Appearance: very small and dark with some golden tips
Ingredients: pu-erh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: amber

According to Chicago Tea Garden, this tea is aged in ceramic pots for ten years in a man-made cave. The earthy element of this tea was softer and more refined than most pu-erhs but there was a definite mossy quality to it. This was especially true of the leaves post-steeping. It was sweet with very little astringency. I did four sequential steepings but quite a few more could definitely have been squeezed out. This tea would be great for a beginner just starting to feel their way around the world of pu-erh because of its mellow taste and unintimidating appearance. It would also make a unique gift for that tea-fiend who has everything.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ice Brewed Tea

I'm sure most of you are experiencing the unbelievable heat that I've been having in New Jersey this week. I was craving a cup of tea but did not want to touch anything hot so I decided to try a cold brewing method that I had heard about, shinobi-cha. Using this method, a houjin is filled with ice cubes and gyokuro tea leaves. The tea is drank slowly as the ice melts. I wanted a bit more than my tiny houjin could hold so I decided to use my kyusu with sencha instead.

I'm incredibly impatient so I poured the tea in dribs and drabs as the ice melted rather drinking one larger cup. The first few pours were a little too strong and vegetal, even bordering on bitter. They reminded me very much of uncooked broccoli. Thankfully the tea mellowed out with each subsequent pour. The flavor was similar to that of hot brewed sencha but it was a bit stronger and more concentrated. I really enjoyed how brewing this way forced me to savor each sip, not something we often do with iced tea. I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Argo Tea Genmaicha

Genmaicha from Argo TeaCountry of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: dark green and flat tea leaves mixed with brown grains of rice and white kernels popped rice
Ingredients: sencha green tea, rosted rice and popped rice.
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Liquor: bright green and somewhat cloudy

This tea was aromatic, sweet and toasty. Whenever I made it at work my co-works would start asking who made popcorn. However, I think that is heavy on the rice for my tastes. Granted super high grade sencha would not be used by any company to make genmaicha but I would like to have more leaf. I found myself missing the vegetal element that sencha normally adds. The tea was packaged in a lovely little glass jar. My only concern about that is that there was nothing on the label indication the packaging would protect the tea from being damaged by UV light. All in all it wasn't a bad tea, I've just had better genmaichas. If you ever find yourself in the tragic situation of being stuck without tea in Chicago or New York be sure to check them out.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Boston Tea Company English Breakfast

Country of Origin: China and India
Leaf Appearance: small and dark with a strong, nutty aroma
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Liquor: dark reddish brown

This tea was packaged in a silk pyramid style tea bag. This was a “by the book” English breakfast. It was full bodied but mellow at the same time. There were notes of chestnut and a bit a smokiness with just enough astringency to add some briskness. There wasn’t anything particularly special about it but that is kind of the point, isn’t it? A blended tea like this is designed to give you predictable results so it lacks the nuances that you would find in a high end Keemum or Assam. I would definitely recommend this tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

American Tea Room American Beauty Organic

Country of Origin: none given
Leaf Appearance: colorful potpourri of flower petals mixed with pale green tea leaves and mint
Ingredients: white tea, roses, peppermint, lavender and jasmine
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Liquor: deep gold

For a blend that is primarily floral in appearance, this tea was surprisingly crisp and complex. It wasn’t perfumey but definitely had a strong floral element. The flavor most closely reminded me of fresh sage, a little sweet and vegetal. The white tea gets clobbered a bit and isn't really detectable but then it seems like it is only there as a base in the first place. The aftertaste was cooling with an almost tingly mouthfeel. This was a perfect mellow out for the night tea. Lavender always has that affect on me. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Runa Tea Peppermint Guayusa

Country of Origin: Ecuador
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green with a strong mint aroma
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Liquor: dark gold
Ingredients: organic Runa guayusa, organic peppermint

This herbal tea was just what the doctor ordered on a super hot summer day. Peppermint never fails to cool and refresh, even when served hot. It was strong but not medicinal. The guayusa was barely detectable as a light nuttiness in the background. That being said, it is rare to find a base tea that can manage to shine through a flavor powerhouse like peppermint. I’m finding that I really enjoy drinking guayusa after work, when I need a pick me up but not a jolt of caffeine that will just make me crash later. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Adagio Teas White Blueberry (Pyramid Bag)

Photo: Adagio Teas
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: white peony leaves with the occasional dried blueberry
white tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Liquor: brassy gold

This tea was packaged in a silky pyramid tea bag. It was very aromatic but the taste was clean, subtle and refreshing. The blueberry was really more of a vague hint rather full blown flavoring. As it cools it becomes even more enjoyable and would make a perfect iced tea, especially for summer. If you’re looking for a blueberry tea that will wow you this one probably isn’t it.  But if you’re looking for something light with just enough flavor to keep things interesting this tea is a great one.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Me" Tea

I love doing tea reviews but sometimes it can become like a job. I've been posting every other day religiously for a quite a while now. Unfortunately that often doesn't leave a lot of time for me to just enjoy tea. Every once in a while I have to take a step back and make time for what I call "me" tea. No reviews and no tasting, just my favorite tea brewed in favorite yixing pot. In this case it was the Huang Zhi Xiang Dan Cong Oolong from Seven Cups. I can't exactly explain why but this has been my absolute favorite out of all of the teas that I have had over the years. I think part of that bias is that it was the tea I used to season my first yixing. After a long day at work this tea session was exactly what the doctor ordered and something that I should indulge in more often. What's your "me" tea?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Authentic Teas Orient Blend

Leaf Appearance: mostly small, sage green leaf pieces. The roasted wheat looked a lot like Smacks breakfast cereal.
Ingredients:Roasted wheat, organic wild oregano, organic wild thyme, organic wild mint, organic wild elderflowers, organic wild St. John’s Wort flower, cinnamon, cloves
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Liquor: amber

This herbal teasan had a really interesting flavor profile. It was spicy and sweet with a cooling aftertaste. The roasted wheat added a nuttiness that stayed in the background and let the spice shine. The sweetness of the flowers kept the spice from becoming overpowering. Mixing this many different tastes can be tricky but this blend was very well balanced. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Check out this video to learn more about how Authentic Teas herbal ingredients are harvested:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Tea Deck by Sara Perry (Kindle Edition)

Tea Deck I recently purchased this book because it was on the sale in the Kindle store. It was informative and interesting but also a quick and light read. Each type of tea was discussed in depth, with easy to follow brewing recommendations and notes on flavor profiles. While it doesn’t cover every tea there is (and really what book could?), all of the important ones are touched upon. 

The thing that I loved the most was that it is very factually correct. I’ve picked up many a book on tea only to spend my time giggling over the inaccuracies. I think the paper version would probably make a perfect gift for the budding tea fancier. The recipes at the end sound absolutely delicious and I can’t wait to try them. Aside from not having color pictures, I thought that it would make a really decent intro to tea. I would definitely recommend this book.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

American Tea Room Organic Ancient Moonlight White Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: a mix of downy silver needles and broader white peony leaves, woodsy aroma
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 6 minutes
Water Temperature: 190 degrees
Liquor: brassy gold

Moonlight whites are probably my favorite kind of white tea. They are strong yet subtle and pack quite a bit of flavor. This one was no exception. It was fruity, floral and woodsy all at the same time with notes of melon and honeysuckle. There was just a bit of astringency and a sweet finish to each sip. It also made a very refreshing iced tea. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Boston Tea Company Organic Cranberry Lemon Black Tea

Country of Origin: China and India
Leaf Appearance: small and dark with green lemon grass stalks and pink rose petals
Ingredients: Premium Blend of Organic Chinese and Indian Black Tea, Organic Hibiscus, Lemongrass, Rose Petals, Cranberry and Lemon Flavor
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Liquor: pale reddish brown

This tea was packaged in a silk pyramid style tea bag. I was prepared to not like this tea since cranberry and lemon are probably my two least favorite flavors. I was really surprised with how much I liked it. The black tea was very mellow as was the cranberry-like flavor of the hibiscus. The lemon grass and lemon flavor provided a nice bit of citrus zing. The flavoring was very natural tasting and wasn’t over the top. There was just a bit of astringency, enough to give that mouth puckering feeling you would expect from cranberry. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Organic Cranberry Lemon Black Tea sample provided by Boston Tea Company

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Runa Tea Traditional Guayusa

Country of Origin: Ecuador
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green
Ingredients: Guayusa
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser.
Liquor: dark gold

This herbal tea was packaged in a silky pyramid tea bag. The flavor was mildly meaty and nutty with just a bit of sweetness. Many herbal teas are vegetal and bitter but this one is actually quite pleasant. According to +Runa Guayusa, this is because guayusa does not contain tannins. They are often responsible for the bitterness that we experience in teas. This plant has become popular because of its relatively high caffeine content. It is a member of the holly family grown in Ecuador that is a relative of Yerba Mate. I didn’t feel a jolt of energy but I did feel more alert after a long day at work. A touch of sweetener would be find but I would not recommend adding milk to this. Please let me know what you think of the new post format!

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Interview with Runa Tea

I recently had an opportunity to interview Anna from Runa Tea. They produce a nifty little herbal tea called guayusa. It seems as though it will be the next yerba mate (which it is actually related to) as far tea trends go. Keep an eye out for reviews of their tea soon!

    1. What is Guayusa?

    GUAYUSA (gwhy-you-sa) is a natural, delicious source of energy and nutrition from the Amazon. Brewed like an herbal tea, Guayusa offers clear and focused energy - what the native Kichwa people call “mental strength and courage.” A caffeinated holly leaf native to Ecuador, guayusa contains an exceptional balance of caffeine, antioxidants, vitamins, and amino acids for your whole body and mind.

    2. What are the health benefits of drinking Guayusa?

    Guayusa contains 50% more antioxidants than green tea and is full of polyphenols, flavonoids, and saponins. These compounds in guayusa offer a range of holistic health benefits from calming the nervous system to cardiovascular health.
    Some of the many compounds found in guayusa are:

    Polyphenols: Recent studies in respected US labs have confirmed that 1 cup of guayusa has 30% more polyphenols than a cup of green tea. Scientific studies have confirmed polyphenols' anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties, as well as their ability to boost the immune system and promote a healthy heart.
    Saponins: Studies have illustrated the beneficial effects on blood cholesterol levels, cancer, bone health, and stimulation of the immune system.
    Theanine: an amino acid compound that has been studied for its calming effects on the nervous system and for its ability to protect and restore the brain.
    o All 15 Essential Amino Acids, including relatively high amounts of:
     Leucine – the most important amino acid for muscle protein synthesis and body builders.
    o Important Minerals
     Potassium
     Magnesium
     Calcium
     Zinc
     Chromium
    o Key Vitamins:
     Vitamin D
     Vitamin C

    3. Where is your Guayusa grown and from whom is it sourced?
    Our Guayusa is grown on the land of local farmers in traditional forest gardens called chacras (or chagras), always in a natural rainforest setting with other native plants. To the foreign eye these areas would look like the rainforest, but are actually a diverse mix of food crops, herbs, hardwood trees, fruit trees, spices, and medicinal plants. The Kichwa people see farming as a process that takes place in harmony with the rainforest, and the diversity of their gardens reflects this attitude toward the natural world.
    Guayusa is always shade grown. It needs the shade of other trees to fully develop its rich leaves, and is thus perfectly designed to be grown in robust and diverse agroforestry systems. Runa plants guayusa with endangered hardwood trees, food crops, cacao, coffee, and other local plants, in order to maintain the ecological integrity of the rainforest while offering a variety of income sources to the farmers.

    4. How is guayusa processed into an herbal tea?
    Runa purchases fresh leaves from each family farm and then dries and mills the leaves in our processing facility in the small jungle community of Rucullacta, in the Napo Province of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The leaves are first withered (or pre-dried) on long troughs in order to allow the flavor to set in and to reduce the moisture content of the leaf.
    After the pre-drying process, the leaves enter industrial batch dryers that fully dry the leaves. Then, milling, sifting, and packing takes places, before large sacks of guayusa begin the long ride from Ecuador to the United States.

    5. What is your sustainable development strategy?
    Runa accomplishes this through three main work areas: economic development, social empowerment, and environmental management.
    Economic development – Runa has created a new market for guayusa. While widely consumed throughout indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon, farmers have never had access to sell guayusa on the international market. By creating a Fair Trade market for guayusa, Runa has generated an alternative income stream that continues to raise the standard of living of indigenous farmers. Runa pays an additional 15% social premium to the Napo Runa Artisan Association that funds a savings account used for community development projects. 
    Social empowermentFundación Runa, our non-profit partner, works with the Napo Runa Artisan Association of guayusa producers to promote democracy and transparency in the association. By strengthening the association, farmers have a democratic forum to organize themselves and vocalize their needs and demands. Fundación Runa also works with farmers at the household level to improve financial literacy and empower women to think as entrepreneurs. 
    Environmental management – Beyond our organic certification, Runa seeks to use guayusa as a vehicle for good environmental stewardship. Fundación Runa, our non-profit partner, works with farmers to research the impacts and benefits guayusa production has on the local environment. Fundación Runa also works with our communities to help design land management plans that designate conservation areas and forest reserves.

    6. Is there anything else you would like my readers to know about guayusa or Runa?

    In conversations, we occasionally hear some one introduce Runa by saying "and they employ 600 people on their farm in Ecuador." Pero No! We do not own any farmland and we do not employ farmers. Runa's model and social mission is to purchase guayusa at Fair Trade prices directly from independent family farms. We provide direct market access and technical assistance to farmers to sustainably plant, manage, and harvest guayusa. We empower farmers and provide new opportunities for their traditional products. In this way, we foster the local entrepreneurial spirit, build sustainable and transparent partnerships with the farmers, and proactively work together to break a long history of paternalism and exploitation that has negatively impacted these communities.