Wednesday, November 30, 2011

IFTA Global Tea Tasters Club - Winter Jin Syuan

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: tightly rolled, deep green
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale greenish gold

The International Tea Farms Alliance was very generous and sent me a sample pack from their Global Tea Tasters Club. I loved that they included information about each tea and the farms where they are produced. The first tea that I tried was this high altitude Alishan oolong from the Dignitea Farm. I was blown away by the quality of this tea. I haven't had an oolong that was quite this good in a long time. It was incredibly delicate but savory at the same time. It was buttery, floral and sweet with a slight vegetal note that reminded me of cucumber. I really enjoyed how slowly the leaves and the flavors unfurled. Each of my three infusions were subtly different and it definitely could have kept going for a quite a few more. I cannot wait to try the other two teas they sent.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Boston Tea Company Autumn Harvest

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: cornucopia of fall colors
Ingredients: Red Rooibos, Lemongrass, Apple Pieces, Cinnamon, Rosehips, Natural Apple and Cinnamon Flavor
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212  degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: reddish amber

If there was ever a tea that tasted like fall in a cup, this would be it. While I was drinking this herbal blend I felt like I should be hiking through an apple orchard. It was tart and spicy, bringing to mind apple pie or cider at Thanksgiving dinner. The woodsy taste of rooibos is perfect for fall teas. I was happy to find that the cinnamon was strong but not overwhelming. It was very sweet but the lemongrass provided a nice bit of contrast. I love iced teas with apple in them so I am anxious to pop some of this in my trusty iced tea maker. I've been very impressed by all of the teas that I've tried from Boston Tea Company so far.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Joy’s Teaspoon Ruby Red

/42-88-thickbox/ruby-red.jpg Country of Origin: not given
Leaf Appearance: small, short needles with lots of visible fruit pieces
Ingredients: rooibos tea, pineapple cubes, papaya cubes, mango cubes, flavoring, lemon granules, black carrot pearls, red and pink rose petals
Steep time: 10 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: deep reddish brown

One of the things I love about Joy's Teaspoon is that their teas never have an artificial taste to them, as so many flavored teas do. This herbal teasan was no exception to that rule. It was incredibly sweet and refreshing. The flavor was citrusy and reminded me very much of a grapefruit covered in sugar but without the usual acidity. I almost found myself wishing that it did have a bit of pucker to it. The pineapple, papaya mango added a great tropical touch. I was worried that the recommended steep time was a little long but it came out just right. I could tell that this would make an awesome iced tea in the summer. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Teavivre Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess” Oolong Tea

Country of Origin: China (Anxi, Fujian)
Leaf Appearance: dark green, very tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwain
Liquor: pale greenish gold

The leaves of this tea were relatively small and mostly broken. Although they did not appear perfect, I've found that is not really indicative of the quality of the tea. The mouth-feel was very thick. It was not quite like a milk oolong but there was an impression of creaminess. The taste was surprisingly light in comparison. It wasn't perfumy but the orchid aroma lingered on my palate for a long time. There was also a slightly sweet, vegetal note that almost reminded me of baby spinach or snow peas. This tea was very complex and I found it difficult to describe. I did three consecutive steepings in a gaiwan and it still had plenty of steam left. I love an oolong with staying power and this one certainly fit the bill.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Aiya Tea Premium Grade Matcha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: very fine, bright green powder
Ingredients: green tea
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: traditional (using a chawan and chasen)
Liquor: very dark green with lighter green foam

I have previously reviewed Aiya’s Ceremonial Grade Matcha so this was a great opportunity to compare the two. For starters, the premium grade seemed to be a brighter shade of green. The flavors were fairly similar although the premium grade was smoother and slightly less vegetal than the ceremonial. Another difference that I found really interesting was the the premium grade did not foam up quite as much. Given the higher price tag of this version, it's not something that I would drink on a regular basis but for a special occasion tea this matcha is spot on. If you've never made matcha before and need some guidance, their site has some helpful hints. Aiya also makes a cooking grade matcha that I definitely think will be necessary for my culinary adventures.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Adagio Teas Golden Monkey (Pyramid Bag)

Adagio Tea Golden Monkey Black Tea 15ctCountry of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: mottled brown, twisted
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic mug
Liquor: very dark

This tea was packaged in a silky pyramid tea bag and is part of the Artisan Comfort Gourmet Tea Collection. The first thing that impressed me was the amount of large, unbroken leaves in the sachet. Many companies use lower quality leaves in the their tea bags but this one looked exactly like the picture of the loose leaf version on Adagio's site. The flavor of  this tea was spicy and surprisingly sweet. The primary flavor was toasted chestnut but there were also hints of cocoa. The malty, peppery aftertaste added a bit of contrast at the end of each sip. There was some astringency but not so much so as to make it unpleasant. I've just recently run out but this has become my morning wake up tea at work. I think that I'm going to have to restock soon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Butternut Chai Chocolate Chip Muffins

Aside from tea, baking is another one of my many obsessions and I love combining the two. Green tea is normally my tea of choice for that since it is so easy to add matcha to just about anything. Last year, a recipe was posted on T Ching for Butternut Chai Chocolate Chip Muffins. I've been meaning to make them ever since and finally got around to it the other day. It uses chai tea concentrate to add a really nice spicy flavor. I didn't have Rishi's concentrate on hand so I used Tazo's from Starbucks and it worked just as well. I probably used too little squash but I wanted to have some leftover to make soup later in the week. I thought that these were delicious and now the gears are turning trying to come up with other ways I can use chai concentrate in my baking. Do you bake with tea? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rishi Tea Green Tea Chai

Green Tea Chai, Organic Fair Trade ChaiCountry of Origin: not given
Leaf Appearance: very green, more lemon grass visable
Ingredients: Organic cardamom, organic Fair Trade Certified™ green tea, organic lemongrass, organic ginger, organic licorice root, organic black pepper and organic peppermint.
Preparation Method: boiled 1.5 cups of water and 1 cup of milk, added tea, simmered for 5 minutes and strained
Liquor: greenish off-white

I think that I might have liked this tea if I had not followed Rishi's preparation recommendations. I just couldn't get over the stomach churning combo of green and herbal teas with milk. The color of the tea post-steeping was also a really unappetizing greenish off-white color. The dominant flavor here was lemon grass, with licorice coming in as a close second. The peppermint added a bit of sweetness that was tempered by the pepper and ginger. On the plus side, the spices did clear up my sinuses a bit. If I come across this tea again, I will definitely have to try it sans dairy because that was the main issue for me. I love chai but this blend was just not for me.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Yumi Yumi Octopus Creature Cup

Octopus Creature CupI have a major teaware addiction but I’ve been trying to cut back due to lack of space and funds. I just couldn’t resist when this unique and wacky cup was offered on the flash sale site What could be better than eight arms coming at you from inside of your teacup? The artist also makes a really cute version with a sea otter. These handmade cups are microwave and dishwasher safe. I cannot wait for it to get here so that I can do a little deep sea tea drinking. In case you want one for yourself, the title of this post is a link to the Etsy shop where they are available.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cost Plus World Market Mountain Wulong

World Market® Organic Mountain Wulong Loose Leaf Tea | World MarketCountry of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small and curled, dark but mottled appearance
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: amber

This tea was floral and malty with notes of apricots and a subtle sweetness. There was a bit of dryness at the end of each sip but it wasn't overly astringent. Overall it was a very enjoyable cup and I'm looking forward to trying it iced as well. While this was not the best oolong I've ever had, this tea is really inexpensive so it would make a great daily drinker. You would be hard pressed to beat $9.99 for just over 2oz of decent loose leaf tea. I really appreciated that this tea is organic and fair trade certified. I think it behooves every tea drinker to practice a little bit of social responsibility when we can.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Village Tea Company Spicy Route Chai

Country of Origin: not given
Leaf Appearance: small, very fine
Ingredients: Black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger root, pepper, clove
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: brought 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of milk to boil and poured over pouch
Liquor: very dark brown

This tea was packaged in a biodegradable pyramid bag. I don’t normally add anything to my tea but I followed Village Tea Company’s preparation instructions for the first round. Chai is the only tea that I can stomach with milk and it worked well here. I added a touch of a orange blossom honey to this as well. I also tried this tea straight but I liked it better the "traditional" way. The spice was definitely on the forefront of the flavor palate with this blend. It wasn't overwhelming but it was just enough to make a warm and cozy cup. The addition of the pepper gave it a nice little kick. I prefer my chai to be a little more “teaish” but this version was well done. I'm not enjoying the arrival of cold weather at all but at least it lends itself well to sipping some chai.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tea for Me Please on goodreads

Being a major bookworm I have found myself addicted to goodreads. It’s basically social networking for the literary minded. You can keep track of what books you read, rate them and see what your friends are reading. I try to read everything on the subject of tea that I can get my hands on and my collection is slowly growing. In honor of my love for tea I've created a list on goodreads called Tea for Me Please. I've included on it all of the tea books that I have read so far. Lists on this site involve community voting so I would love to see some other books added.

Feel free to add me on goodreads too if you would like by clicking the button below!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Joy’s Teaspoon Enchanted Forest

Country of Origin: not given
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green with lots of color from the flower petals
Ingredients: green tea, green mate, coconut shreds, flavoring, rose petals and cornflower blossoms
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: bright greenish yellow

This blend was quite decadent and aromatic. I thought that the fruity and floral flavors played off of each other really well. The coconut shreds added an almost candy-like element but it wasn’t artificial tasting. Overall this was a very balanced cup with very little astringency. The almond flavoring brought a subtle, almost creamy smoothness. I resteeped this tea a second time and it was just as delicious, if not more so. I have been really impressed with all of the teas that I have tried from Joy’s Teaspoon so far. I also have to add that I LOVE their sample tins. I'm saving all of my empties so that I can re-purpose them to make lip balm with a group of preteen Girl Scouts.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Boston Tea Company Pumpkin Spice

Country of Origin: Sri Lanka and China
Leaf Appearance: small and dark tea leaves. spices and petals added a punch of fall color
Ingredients: Ceylon Black Tea, Exotic Spices, Sunflower Petals, Natural Pumpkin Flavors
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: deep reddish brown

Halloween has just passed and Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. What better way to get in the mood than with pumpkin pie in a cup? That’s exactly what this tea tasted like. It had just the right amount of spice and a pleasant earthiness. I found it a little too astringent so I will probably steep for closer to three minutes next time. This is a perfect chilly weather tea and a great alternative to chai. I really enjoyed it after battling our first snow storm of the season here in New Jersey. I do wish that I knew what "exotic spices" were used. Cinnamon and clove are the fairly obvious choices but I always like to know what I'm drinking. That minor complaint aside, I would definitely recommend this tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.