Monday, December 31, 2012

A Year In Tea: 2012

Photo: bogdan
I can hardly believe that another year has come and gone. 2012 was a continuation of my amazing journey with the leaf. Tea for Me Please celebrated four years of tea and fun. I filmed my first video blog and published my first article in an online magazine. I also wrote a guest blog for Tearroir and made the leap to launching an email newsletter. World Tea East and the New York Coffee and Tea Festival were both highlights. Tea even helped me to get through Hurricane Sandy. Out of curiosity I took a count and I reviewed a grand total of 151 teas in 2012. The blog was visited by nearly 6,900 visitors from 108 different counties. Thank you all for reading what I have to say about tea! It really means the world to me.

Every year around this time, I try to recognize all of the tea companies who have generously shared their products with me and the world. You keep this blog ticking!


Adagio Tea
Aiya Tea
Art of Tea
Bigelow Tea
Boston Tea Company
Celestial Seasonings
Cha Teas
Daintree Tea
David's Tea
Gorreana Tea
Handmade Tea
Harney & Son's
Hayes Tea
Hortissimo
iHeartTeas
Inko's
Jenier Teas
Joy's Teaspoon
Le Palais des Thés
Little Red Cup Tea Co.
MarieBelle
McNulty's Tea & Coffee Co.
Mellow Monk Tea
Min River Tea Farm
Mountain Rose Herbs
Norbu Tea
Our Home Tea
Peony Tea Shop
Persimon Tree Tea Company
Rishi Tea
S.D. Bell's Natural Leaf Tea
Stash Tea
Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company
Synergy Drinks
Teas Etc
Tea Forté
Tea Magazine
Teavivre
The Devotea
The Foreign Office
The Tea Room
The Tea Spot
Tiesta Tea
Wanja Tea of Kenya
Wild Tea Qi

Sunday, December 30, 2012

David's Tea Coco Chai Rooibos

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: varied shades of brown, peppercorns added a nice punch of color
Ingredients: rooibos, coconut, cinnamon, ginger root, cardamom, cloves, pink peppercorns, artificial and natural flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: cloudy red

I sampled this tea as part of my David's Teas 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. The aroma of the dry leaves and liquor was very strong. It filled my kitchen with the smell of festive spices. It tasted exactly like Big Red chewing gum. That is not necessarily a bad thing. I used to be a pretty big fan of cinnamon gum. However, this herbal blend didn't quite live up to its name. It was all woodsy sweetness and cinnamon. I couldn't even taste the coconut beyond a sweetness in the finish of each sip. When I think chai, I expect to have a bit more of a kick and I want to be able to taste all of the spices. That did not happen here. If this tea was named differently I might have liked it a lot more. Since it is rooibos based, this would make a decent before bed sip. I can't explain why but I just love the way pink peppercorns in look in tea. They don't seem to add much as far as flavor but they do lend a nice punch of color.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Guest Post: Sourcing Tales- How We Found our Dancong

Today I am featuring a guest post from Derek Chew. 

Sourcing Tales- How We Found our Dancong

One morning, in a room in Guangdong province….

“Okay, let me see your notes. You ranked B first, C second and A third. I actually picked B first also but A second. So which is which?”

“A is labeled 2, B is labeled 3 and C is labeled 1. I’m guessing B is from Mr. Huang?”

“Let me see, 1 is from Huang, 2 is from Lin and 3 is from Chen”

“No kidding?”

“Yeah, I would have thought that with all his awards, Huang would…… Anyway, let’s eliminate the other 2 and carry on.”

That was what transpired when my wife and I went to Guangdong to source for our Dancong. Does our exchange sound cryptic?

Allow me to explain.

Because sourcing for is the lifeblood of our business, we need to be objective. We realized very often subconsciously our brain tells us certain teas are better than others before we try it.

It can be reasons like packaging, prices or the vendor. Whichever the case, we approach a tea, often with preconceived notions and hence there’s a placebo effect.

That is all fine if you are drinking for leisure or just buying 50g or so but in our case, we need to get the best quality within a certain price range.

We used blind tasting to eliminate the biasness. I would label the teas while my wife would then place them in a receptacle and use a new set of labels before handing to me to brew.

This way both of us would not know which tea came from which vendor and approach the tea entirely based on its own merit.

Bearing in mind this was conducted a day after literally drinking hundreds of infusions of Dancong and purchasing quite a bit of samples.

Without knowing which vendor each sample came from, I would brew them in exactly the same way- almost 1/2 full, boiling water, infused for 3 minutes. The resultant brew is extremely bitter but all the flaws of the tea surface.

Where flash infusions are often insufficient to assess the merits of teas, prolonged infusion with high heat and large quantities will separate the good ones from the mediocre ones. Doing it blind will prevent our prejudices from clouding our judgment.

This is especially so since genial personalities may not be the best producers or have the best teas. While we may like Huang personally for his interesting anecdotes but his teas, when put to the acid test, came in second.

Of course before we started we were worried that Producer X (who shall remain anonymous since there are not THAT many Dancong producers) who was somewhat a pain to deal with would have the best tasting tea but thankfully that was a conundrum we did not have to face on that occasion.

That morning we repeated that another 2 rounds before settling on our Dancong.

Not every tea was selected in this manner but we found this method is very useful for us to mercilessly select the highest quality teas.

Of course the day before, we continue to sit with the producers and listen to their fascinating tales but the reality of sourcing is often less story-telling and more ruthless objectivity than people realize.

Having said that, next Spring Harvest I will still visit Huang again, perhaps if we bring in a new type of Dancong, his version might bring something a different element to the table.

If not, I can still listen to his stories.

Author Bio:

Derek Chew owns and operates Peony Tea S. – an online tea shop that specializes in loose leaf tea from China and Taiwan that are free from additives.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Walk In The Village

A few months ago I was invited on a walking food tour of the GreenwichVillage by my friend Mario. You might know him from his web series, On the Go with Mario. Terri from Try Anything Once also joined in on the fun. The tour was given by Adriana Trigini Tours. Our guide Nikki was knowledgeable, fun and fabulous. It was quite an experience and I definitely recommend it if you are ever visiting New York City (or even if you are a local).



Our first stop of the day was Il Cantuccio, a traditional Italian bakery and sandwich shop. They specialize in contucci, a biscotti-like creation from the city of Prato. The chocolate and fig flavored ones were to die for. While we enjoyed our cookies, we were able to watch their artisans at work as they crafted handmade focaccia bread. I enjoyed a cup of Numi jasmine green tea at this stop.


Right next door we were treated to some amazing Swedish candy at Sockerbit. This was not a run of the mill candy shop. The entire space was blindingly white and sparkling clean. The brightly colored candy and friendly owners made it especially cheerful. Everything we tasted was delicious but my favorite was probably the salted liquorish.


The next stop was so delicious that I forgot to take a picture of it! We had  these amazing arancini (balls of cheese and rice that were breaded and fried) and soppressata (a spicy cured meat) at Faiccio's Italian Specialties. The shop was too small for us to explore inside but I will definitely be returning. According to their sign, they have been there for over 100 years. I have walked past this place many times and never noticed it until our stop on the tour. It goes to show that there are gems hiding under our noses every day.

As if all of that wasn't enough, we feasted on brick oven pizza at Numero 28 Pizzeria. I live in the land of pizza in New Jersey but I have never had anything quite like this. It was doughy, yet light and altogether incredibly delicious. I was amazed at how little grease there was. 




In addition to all of the amazing food, we also got to see some wonderful sights that we might not have noticed otherwise. There were so many secret gardens tucked behind the brownstones and old fashioned buildings. We also spotted the building that was used as the outside of Monica's apartment on the sitcom Friends! The best thing about the walking tour was that we took our time and noticed things that we never would have seen otherwise. It was a great break from the usual hustle and bustle of the city. I felt like I wasn't even in Manhattan.


For desert we stopped into Popbar for some delicious gelato on a stick. I had the banana with dark chocolate and it was heavenly. I was amazed at how creamy yet light it was. I also picked up a couple of tea sticks while we were there. My review of the Pomegranate White Tea is already posted and there will be an upcoming one about the Jasmine Green Tea soon.


Mario is a tea lover like myself so our last stop of the day was McNulty's Tea & Cofee Co. This place was like stepping into a time machine. When you order your tea it is hand measured on an old fashioned scale and your bag is stamped with a rubber stamp. Every tea is displayed in large glass jars. It was a truly sensory experience as everyone in the group shared which ones they thought smelled amazing.

I'd really like to thank Mario and Adriana Trigini Tours for a really great day. Make sure to watch the video of episode seven of On the Go with Mario below, you'll spot me in a few scenes :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Handmade Tea Krampus Brew

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: tightly rolled, juicy cherries
Ingredients: gunpowder green tea, dried cherries, cinnamon, and cloves
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method:
Liquor: gold

I'm always raving about +Handmade Tea's blends but they really are just that good. The December offering was one I wish I could buy by the pound. It featured a smoky gunpowder green tea base. It was smooth and sweet with just the right amount of astringency. The cherries added a hint of tart sweetness. Although they were dried, they had a deliciously juicy look to them. I've only seen cherries used in a few teas but they worked really well in this one. The cinnamon and cloves added a comforting and festive touch as well as a cooling aftertaste. My monthly shipments usually keep me company at work and I have a feel this one will be gone very quickly. Oh and in case you didn't know, Krampus "is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish bad children during the Yule season."

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

David's Tea 24 Days of Tea

When I saw this tea advent calendar from David's Tea, I just knew that it had to be part of my holiday preparations this year. The cardboard box was festive and it smelled amazing. The combination of all of the teas inside was intoxicating. I had already reviewed a few of the teas but many of them were new to me. I struggled with exactly how to handle this on the blog since I didn't want to dedicate an entire month to just one company. Instead, I'll be regularly updating this post and linking reviews as they get published.

  • Day 1 - Buttered Rum - I've had this one before. It tastes exactly like what I would imagine buttered rum to taste like. Heavy on the coconut.
  • Day 2 - Chocolate Rocket - One of my favorite flavored yerba matés. It's delicious and gives me a real burst of energy.
  • Day 3 - Coco Rooibos Chai - I found myself wishing that this tea had been more authentically chai.
  • Day 4 - Salted Caramel - A decadent treat. I could smell the sticky sweetness of this tea before I even took my first sip.
  • Day 5 - Cream of Earl Grey - a decent Earl Grey but the vanilla flavoring came off as artificial
  • Day 6 - Glitter & Gold - Mesmerizing swirls of gold in a cinnamon and orange flavored black tea. Check out my video!
  • Day 7 - Crème Brûlée - a very yummy rooibos based rendition of my favorite dessert.
  • Day 8 - Organic Breakfast - a plain and simple breakfast tea
  • Day 9 - Hot Lips - all hot cinnmamon and chili pepper spice
  • Day 10 - Organic Detox
  • Day 11 - Sleigh Ride - a fruity and festive blend that was more Christmassy than it seemed.
  • Day 12 - Forever Nuts - I found myself thinking, "Where's the nuts?"
  • Day 13 - Green and Fruity - woodsy and slightly fruity green tea
  • Day 14 - Goji Pop - not my cup of tea. It was so cloyingly sweet that it made me nauseous
  • Day 15 - Japanese Sencha
  • Day 16 - North African Mint
  • Day 17 - Checkmate - surprisingly rich and complex, like a less astringent Darjeeling
  • Day 18 - Toasted Walnut
  • Day 19 - Read My Lips - chocolate minty deliciousness
  • Day 20 - Kiwi's Big Adventure
  • Day 21 - Sweet Dreams
  • Day 22 - The Skinny
  • Day 23 - Vanilla Oolong
  • Day 24 - Santa's Secret
All in all, this was a great buy. I was able to get at least three cups from most of the tins. They wouldn't be good for long term storage since they have clear lids but they would be an adorable way to share tea with friends.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Tea Spot Red Hot Chai

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: small, needle-like shape and reddish color
Ingredients: rooibos, ginger root, cinnamon, cardamon and cinnamon, ginger & vanilla flavor
Steep time: 7 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: mesh infuser and ceramic teacup
Liquor: brick red

This blend is part of The Tea Spot's Holiday Brews collection. As soon as I opened the packet, I was hit with lots of spicy aroma. It was sweeter and softer than your traditional chai. The vanilla complimented the rooibos really well and helped to hide the rooibos aftertaste that I'm not a big fan of. There was still a slightly earthy flavor and the spice was everything that it should be. Cinnamon was definitely a dominant flavor the the ginger and cardamon shined through as well. Overall this was really good cup of tea that would make a perfect late night sip since it's caffeine free. A latte style drink might be night but I probably wouldn't add just straight milk to this.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

iHeartTeas Winter Frost

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small and dark with flecks of cinnamon
Ingredients: black tea, cinnamon bark, natural cinnamon flavor, natural vanilla flavor, candy cane pieces, natural candy cane flavor, peppermint leaves
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

This was a comforting and festive cup of tea. The flavors all worked well together and none of them overpowered the others. I really enjoyed that the cinnamon was soft and sweet rather than super spicy. The vanilla added a really pleasant hint of creaminess while the mint and candy cane provided a cooling aftertaste. I did find myself wishing for more candy cane pieces but that probably would have thrown the balance off. The base black tea was earthy and sweet but subtle enough to provide a stage for the other ingredients to shine. Overall this was a well put together blend that brought the flavors of the season to mind without being over the top. This the second blend that I've tried from +iHeartTeas and I've been very impressed with both of them.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tazo Joy

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: dark and twisted, fairly large in size
Ingredients: black tea, green tea, oolong tea, natural flavors
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: reddish brown

This particular blend is a seasonal Christmas offering at Starbucks and a recent favorite of mine. Here is what Tazo has to say about it:
Tazo® Joy™ is a festive, full-leaf tea blending rare Darjeelings and Oolongs with fragrant Nuwara Eliya teas from Ceylon. Green teas from China and Assam black teas from India add further texture and complexity to a fine tea that's a joy to share with friends – or to enjoy yourself.
The first thing that impressed me that this was truly a full leaf tea bag. The leaves were fairly large in size and they had plenty of room to expand in the sachet. Darjeeling was definitely the dominant flavor. A peachy undertone lent an interesting fruity softness. Although Tazo doesn't hint at what the natural flavoring might be, there is just a bit of cinnamon spice in the finish. The flavoring really was very faint and I thought it was well done. There was some astringency but it wasn't bitter at all. It's not available all year but I definitely see myself grabbing another tin before the holidays are over. My one qualm is that they are packaged in a bulky metal tin. It's fine for gifting but for personal use, I'd much rather have a large package that is more eco-friendly.

I don't normally mix tea blogging and my personal life but in a way, picking up this tea was a tribute to a dear friend. Niramon was one of the most amazing people that I've ever know and she left this world too soon. This was her favorite tea and I think of her every time I drink it.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

David's Tea Sleigh Ride

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: rather nutty
Ingredients: apple, hibiscus blossoms, candied pineapple, candied papaya, beetroot pieces, cinnamon stick pieces, raisins, coconut, roasted almonds, popped rice, artificial flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: pinkish red

I sampled this tea as part of my David's Tea 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. I was excited to try this blend ever since I sniffed a sample in their Bleecker Street shop. It was full of tart, fruity sweetness and comforting spice. Apple and cinnamon were the dominant flavors but I was still able to taste the individual components. Each sip brought to mind mulled wine, apple cider and sweet holiday treats. Although it wasn't super present in the taste, the popped rice was reminiscent of old fashioned popcorn garland. I have a love-hate relationship with hibiscus but it worked well here. At first glance, this blend did not seem very Christmassy but it turned out to be a festival fruit punch. I can imagine this being just as delicious iced as it was hot. It might even be a good candidate for infusing in vodka for seasonal cocktails. I'm usually not very big on herbal teas but I will definitely consider keeping some on hand for late night sipping since it is caffeine free.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide

Christmas is almost here, which reminds me that I've been meaning to put together a holiday gift guide for tea lovers. So far I've got ten really great gifts added to my Pinterest board that is embedded below. I'll be continually adding to it so be sure to follow me on Pinterest!.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

T-We Tea Chai That

Country of Origin: Tanzania, India
Leaf Appearance: small and dark, strong spicy aroma
Ingredients: Tanzanian black tea, Assam, Nilgiri, ginger, sweet cinnamon, smoked peppercorn, ground clove, cardamom, star anise, cocoa nibs
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method:
Liquor: dark brown

I attended a shopping event called Unique NYC and was beyond excited when I spotted a tea company among all of the hand crafted goods. Their packaging was adorable and the gent at the booth, Christopher, was super friendly and helpful. They are based in San Francisco and blend all of their teas themselves. I selected this chai blend along with a tin of Guurl Grey (review coming soon). This tea was rich and earthy with plenty of spicy kick. The finish was somewhat sweet and almost cooling. It was hearty enough to stand up to milk and sugar but I was able to drink it just fine on its own. There was plenty of astringency but not so much as so to be unpleasant. This particular blend isn't available on their website just yet but you can find out more about them at the link below.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Homemade Chai Lattes

It's been getting progressively chillier which means that I am craving chai more and more often. My boyfriend isn't a tea drinker but he recently discovered that he enjoys chai as well (jumps for joy!). I decided to try making us some chai lattes. The first step was to simmer the tea in two cups of water and two cups of milk. It's important not to scald the milk or it will keep getting a rather gross film on top. I didn't want to make them too strong so I let it steep for about 15 minutes. Straining the tea into the teacups was a little tricky but I had a small sieve with a handle that helped a great deal.

I don't own a steamer or espresso machine so to add a little foam I tested out a technique I saw at David's Tea. I poured milk into a chawan (tea bowl) and whisked it as though I were making matcha. It wasn't quite the real thing but it was foamy and helped to cool the tea off to the perfect drinking temperature. Just a teaspoon of sugar and some cinnamon on top finished it off nicely. You won't often see me sweeten my tea but with chai it can help the flavors pop. I was really happy with the way these turned out. Chai and its warming spices are like comfort food for me in the winter and a big mug of it hit the spot. Do you make tea lattes at home? I'd love to hear about your technique!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Art of Tea Starry Night

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small and dark, white tea star is adorable
Ingredients: Organic black loose leaf tea, white loose leaf tea, natural flavors
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: dark amber

It's rare that a tea can be described as adorable but this one was exactly that. I loved the stars made out of white tea. While not really apparent in the flavor profile, they were a unique addition. It was fun to watch them unfurl, much like a flowering tea. The base Assam was malty and earthy but subtle enough to let the flavoring shine through. I was happy to find that it was't overpowering or artificial tasting. Vanilla is like comfort food for me and it lent a subtle creaminess to this tea. I'm usually not one for adding anything to my teas but I found myself craving just a touch of almond milk. The soothing vanilla and mellow taste would make this blend a great evening tea. This is the first tea that I've reviewed from Art of Tea and if this one is any indication, I'm sure that I'll love the rest of their offerings.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mountain Rose Herbs Oolong Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, somewhat twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: dark amber

This tea was nutty and faintly floral with a hint of peach. There was a lingering sweetness in the finish of each sip. I did find it a little one dimensional because it lacked the complexity that I would normally expect from an oolong. I could see myself drinking this at work but it isn't something that I would reach for at home. My main complaint about this tea is that they simply call it oolong. That is akin to saying saying red wine rather than Merlot or Pinot Noir. There are many different types and cultivars of oolong. My inner tea nerd would like to see it listed in a more detailed way. I've enjoyed all of the other teas from Mountain Rose Herbs that I have tried and know them to be a trustworthy company so I'm not overly concerned about it.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Tea Companion by Jane Pettigrew

I picked up a copy of this book on a trip to Teavana a few months ago. While not a heavy tome, it covers just about every topic that a newbie to tea would need to know about. The book is written in the two sections. The Story of Tea focuses on how tea came to be, it's history and how it is produced. I especially enjoyed the grading terminology chart and the section on tea equipage. It's written in a no nonsense style but also comes across as very approachable.

The second section is a directory of teas from around the globe. It is a feast for the eyes because the liquor as well as the dry and steeped leaves for each tea are attractively displayed. I love that Jane addresses even the little known growing regions like Georgia and the Azores. With most tea books, I find inaccurate facts or some other glaring omission. I can honestly say that it was one of the most comprehensive and factually accurate books on tea that I have ever read. Even if you know your stuff, this book is a great resource and one that I would definitely recommend to any tea drinker.

You can find out more about Jane Pettigrew here.

 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Giveaway: Celestial Seasonings Sleeptime Snooz Berry Natural Sleep Aid

Country of Origin: not given
Ingredients: Valerian root extract, Relora (Magnolia officianalis bark extract and Phellodendron amurense bark extract), Chamomile flowers extract, L-theanine, Lemon balm leaf extract, Hops extracr, Jujube seed extract, Melatonin, Purified Water, Evaporated Cane Juice, Citric Acid, Natural Sweetener (Stevia Extract) and Natural Berry Flavor with Other Natural Flavors (Soy Lecithin)
Preparation Method: bottled
Liquor: brown

I'm a big fan of Celestial Seasonings kombucha and green tea energy shots so I jumped at the chance to try their new Sleepytime Natural Sleep Aid. These caffeine free shots are designed to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and wake up feeling refreshed. While I don't have trouble sleeping often, it can be hard to turn my mind off after a long and stressful day. I also have restless legs from time to time. The berry flavor seemed liked the safest bet as that was my favorite in the other lines.

Following the directions on the label, I took the shot 30 minutes before I planned to go to sleep. The taste left a little to be desired but that being said, valerian is the first ingredient and it is a very bitter and stinky herb. The cane juice and stevia helped to soften that a bit. It wasn't intolerable though since this shot is not designed to be consumed on a very regular basis.

Sleep came quickly and without the usual tossing and turning before I settled in. The next morning I was a bit groggy (getting up at 6:00AM on a Wednesday will do that to anyone) but I felt like I had gotten a solid night of sleep. I can definitely see myself to turning to these when the holiday season at work has me exhausted. They are certainly worth a try for anyone who needs help with getting to sleep.

Thank you to everyone who entered our giveaway and congratulations to the winners! I'll be contacting you shortly. Entries are now closed.


Make sure you visit their Sleepytime Facebook App too where you can download a $1 off coupon for Sleepyime Snooz Shots!

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Adagio Teas Masala Chai

Photo: Adagio Teas
Country of Origin: Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: dark, lots of cloves and ginger pieces
Ingredients: Ceylon sonata tea, cardamom pods, ginger root, cloves, black tea, cinnamon bark, natural cinnamon flavor
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: dark brown

Winter is on its way which means I'm drinking more and more chai. This version from Adagio Teas was bold and spicy. The cinnamon and ginger definitely dominated but I was still able to taste the black tea underneath. It's a little milder than some other chai teas I have tried since they opted to use Ceylon instead of the traditional Assam. While not overly astringent, I still prefered it with a touch of milk and sugar. If you are a fan of chai lattes (and who isn't?) try boiling this in a sauce pan with milk instead of water. You'll get a creamy, spicy treat. Whole milk develops a bit of a film because of the fat content. I just pull it off but if it bothers you, try using skim milk. This particular blend is inexpensive so it's great to keep around the house for when the mood strikes on chilly days.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Peony Tea Shop Anxi Iron Goddess (Traditional)

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark green, tightly curled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale gold

The first infusion of this tea was somewhat more delicate than other Tie Guan Yins that I have tried. However, it wasn't weak or lacking in flavor. There were floral notes of orchid and a hint citrus. This tea was charcoal roasted and that comes through in a subtle toastiness. The finish was sweet and lingered long after each sip. Those flavors evolved and became more pronounced with each subsequent infusion. The mouthfeel was smooth and the leaves unfurled to be quite large. I brewed this in a gaiwan as well as in a glass teapot. Both methods produced excellent tea but I preferred the gaiwan version. I really enjoyed this tea and finished the whole bag while hunkered down during Hurricane Sandy. Derek, the owner of Peony Tea Shop, was kind enough to write a guest post for this blog a few months ago. He's very knowledgeable and I definitely suggest checking out his blog.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Serengeti Tea Jasmine Green Tea Stick

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark green
Ingredients: green tea, jasmine blossoms
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic tea cup
Liquor: deep gold

This was a run of the mill jasmine green tea. It was vegetal with a hint of floral sweetness. It was not very aromatic and the scenting is subtle so I wouldn't suggest adding sugar or honey. You may remember that I previously reviewed the Pomegranate White Tea Stick from this companie. I had completely forgotten to check out the leaves inside before throwing that one out. I made it a point to open it up this time and all I can say is, those poor leaves! They were very compacted and it is obvious that they had very little room to expand. It is so important that tea leaves have some leg room, otherwise you'll never get the full flavor out of them. I must declare this to be an emergency tea. While it did not taste bad, I'd take a loose leaf version over it any day.

You can find out more about this tea here.

One a side note, today is the first day of my Advent Calendar from David's Tea! You can follow all of teas and my experiences with them on Instagram under #24daysoftea :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Adagio Teas Pai Mu Tan (Pyramid Bag)

Photo: Adagio Teas
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: varied shades of green, silver needles mixed throughout
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 7 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: brassy gold

Pai Mu Tan, also known as White Peony, is one of my favorite kinds of white tea. This rendition came packaged in an individually wrapped pyramid bag. It was floral and with notes of melon that lingered in the sweet aftertaste. The finish was slightly dry but there was no astringency. Although full bodied for a white tea, I would recommend against using any sweeteners. I used my Breville One-Touch Tea Maker to heat the water for this review but I have also had luck steeping this at work by shutting off the electric kettle just before it reaches boiling. The Silver Needle was slightly more enjoyable but this was still a very nice cup of tea. I've really enjoyed Adagio's line of pyramid bags because they make it so easy to make loose leaf tea on the go. I always keep my tea wallet stocked with them.

You can find out more about this tea here.

One a side note, I've been playing around with the look of the blog a bit. I'd love to know what you think!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Handmade Tea November Bouquet

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: potpourri with small and twisted black tea mixed in
Ingredients: Fujian black tea, rose petals, jasmine flowers, lemon balm
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

This tea certainly was a bouquet as the name implies. Some of the rose petals were quite large and when I looked closely, I realized that they were actually entire flowers. The smell of the dry leaves was very strong, reminiscent of potpourri. This gave me some hesitation since I'm not a big fan of floral teas. Thankfully the floral element was much more subtle in the taste of the tea. The black tea provided an earthy and somewhat fruity background that tempered the sweetness of the jasmine and rose. I thought that lemon balm added a pleasant citrus bite in the finish. Handmade Tea never fails to surprise me every month. Their hand crafted blends make me step outside of my comfort zone and explore ingredients that I might otherwise avoid. I definitely suggest subscribing, especially if you are new to tea.

You can subscribe to Handmade Tea here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christine Eats Tippsy Tea Time Truffles

I was in Whole Foods picking up some Celestial Seasonings Kombucha Energy Shots when I spotted an inviting pink box of tea and liquor infused truffles. They were rather expensive but what is life without the occasional indulgence? Right off the bat I loved the snazzy polka dot patterns and fun colors. The flavors that were included in my box from left to right are:

Milk Chocolate Chamomile Tea and Honey Jack Daniels

White Chocolate English Breakfast Tea and Whiskey

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Tea and Bailey's Irish Cream

These were unbelievably decadent. The ganache in the centers was super creamy but not too sweet. My favorite of the three was the white chocolate truffle. The tea was just barely detectable but it makes a great excuse to eat chocolate. All of the flavors complimented each other really well. Even my non-tea loving boyfriend (still working on that) agreed that they were delicious. These would make a really sweet gift for a tea loving friend. If I see them again, I might just have to buy more. I don't see the tea infused flavors listed on her website but I've tweeted Christine Eats to see if they still make them. I'll update once I hear back.

You can find out more about Christine Eats here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

David's Tea Organic Persian Apple

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: lots of fall colors, great pop of pink from the rose petals
Ingredients: Green tea, apple, pistachio, almond, rose petals. With natural and organic flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: mesh infuser and ceramic teacup
Liquor: bright, somewhat cloudy yellow

David's Tea used a lot of nut based ingredients in their fall collection for 2012. At first I was skeptical but they do add some very interesting flavors. There were definitely a lot less tea leaves than nuts or apple pieces in this blend. It was vegetal, fruity, floral and toasty all at once. That's quite a combination! There was some astringency but it was within my tolerance level. This tea does not need any sweeteners at all. I gave into temptation and tried eating one of the pistachios. Oddly enough, it seemed to have absorbed the scent of the rose petals. It wasn't very tasty on its own but it worked well in the tea. I've really enjoyed the fall collection and I cannot wait to see what they come up for their holiday collection. I'm sure many of them will be on my Christmas wish list.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bigelow Tea Pumpkin Spice

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: dark, very fine leaf particles with some visible spices
Ingredients: black tea, natural pumpkin flavors with other natural flavors (soy lecithin), cinnamon, licorice root, clove, ginger, pumpkin flakes
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: reddish brown

Thanksgiving is over but the flavors of the season were still with me while I drank this tea. Its strong aroma caught the attention of everyone around me as soon as I opened my teabag. The taste was rich and robust with lots of warming spice. It was practically pumpkin pie in a teacup. I'm usually not a fan of licorice but it's hidden under the other spices so I didn't mind it here. The ginger and nice bite to the finish of each sip. I loved that the flavoring of this tea didn't taste artificial at all. The pumpkin flakes probably had a lot to do with that. Sweeteners aren't necessary but this blend could probably stand up to a splash of milk. This tea usually isn't available year-round so I always try to snap some up this time of year. Bigelow posted a delicious sounding recipe for cupcakes infused with this tea and I couldn't resist whipping up a batch. They were smash hit in my house and I've included it below in case you would like to give it a try.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Tea Concentrate:
13 tea bags Bigelow Pumpkin Spice Tea*
1 ¼ cups boiling water
Cupcakes:
1 ¾ cup sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained, discard liquid
½ cup tea concentrate
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded carrots
Frosting:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, slightly soft
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 tablespoons tea concentrate
3 ½ cups confectioners' sugar
Makes 24 cupcakes
Prep Time:   15 minutes     Baking Time:  20 minutes

Instructions:

Place tea bags in a 2-cup glass measure.  Add 1 ¼ cups water.  Steep tea for 10 minutes.
Squeeze all liquid from tea bags into cup.  Discard tea bags.  (About 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons tea concentrate.)
Heat oven to 350 F.  Spray 2 (12-cup) muffin tins with baking spray; alternatively use paper liners set aside.
In large mixing bowl add sugar, vegetable oil and eggs.  Mix at high speed, scraping bowl often, until thick and creamy (1 to 2 minutes).
Add mandarin oranges, ½ cup tea concentrate, vanilla, and orange zest.  Continue mixing, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1 minute).
In medium bowl stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. 
Add flour mixture to tea mixture.  Continue mixing, at low speed, until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes).
Add carrots; mix well.
Place batter in muffin cups filling about ½ to ¾ full.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from oven; cool.
Meanwhile, in medium mixing bowl place cream cheese and butter.  Mix at high speed, scraping bowl often, until light and creamy (1 minute).  Add 2 tablespoons tea extract.  Mix well.
Add confectioners' sugar; continue mixing, scraping bowl often, until soft and creamy (1 to 2 minutes).
Frost top of each cupcake with frosting.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Win Free Tea for a Year from The Tea Spot

Who wouldn't love free tea for a year? The Tea Spot is offering a Facebook contest where you can enter for a chance to win a seasonal tea club of your choice. The Tea Spot is a philanthropic loose leaf tea company based in Boulder, Colorado. They produce handcrafted loose leaf teas and Steepware® while donating 10% of all profits to cancer wellness programs.

The Tea Spot will be offering site-wide discounts on Cyber Monday and exclusive discounts year round to our newsletter members who can sign up here. (Anyone interested will need to be subscribed to the newsletter by Sunday evening to receive the Cyber Monday deal)

While you are at it, don't forget to enter my giveaway for a prize pack from Best International Tea. Contest ends November 30th!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Devotea 1910: English Breakfast

Country of Origin: China, India, Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: small, dark
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: mesh infuser and ceramic tea cup
Liquor: bright reddish brown

Based on a blending recipe from 1910, it was strong and briskly refreshing. There were notes of smoke and malt along with a rich earthiness. It really does come across as an old fashioned tea. There was nothing extraordinary about it but I think that's the point. Sometimes you just need a simply good cup of tea. It would stand up well to milk and sugar but it was mellow enough that I enjoyed it straight. I paired this with some apple, cranberry and walnut oatmeal. The two went together very well. This was another excellent breakfast tea from The Devotea. I'm a bit sad because this is the last of my stash from my favorite Aussie tea blender. It's hard to choose but I think his Two Tigers blend was my favorite.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tea Places: La Maison du Macaron

I have been craving macaroons lately but hadn't been able to get to New York due to all of the craziness caused by Hurricane Sandy. I finally made the trek yesterday and stopped into La Maison du Macaron on west 23rd street. The cozy little shop had a rainbow colored case full of delicious sounding pastries. Their tea menu was small but I loved that they noted which estates and regions each tea was from. I selected the sencha along with three macaroons (pumpkin, pink champagne and lavender).

The seating area was small and a little crowded but comfortable. The staff was friendly but a little harried as the shop was fairly busy. My sencha was loose leaf but was served in a large fill-your-own style tea bag. I didn't mind because there was plenty of room for the leaves to expand. It was vegetal, sweet and the perfect day for a beautiful fall day. Macaroons are always expensive but sometimes it's nice to indulge a little, especially when tea is involved. I used to work really close to this location and it's a good thing they were not open back then because I would have been broke! I'll definitely be returning the next time I am in the area.

You can find out more about La Maison du Macaron here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Teavivre Organic Superfine Dragonwell Green Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: flat, jade green
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot
Liquor: pale yellowish green

This tea was vegetal and buttery with notes of toasted chestnut. The aftertaste was sweet and lingered in my palate. A pleasant crispness in the finish kept things interesting After steeping, I was amazed at how many bud sets I saw. That is indicative of a higher quality tea and I rarely see it in a dragonwell. The leaves were so plump and juicy, they looked as though they had just been plucked today. My second infusion was just as delicious as the first. I'm such an oolong lover that sometimes neglect my greens. This was a great reminder of all of the great green tea I've been missing out on. Teavivre posted a video touring the beautiful tea garden where this is grown so I've included it below. I'd give anything to travel to China and see places like that in person. I'll get there someday.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Giveaway: Best International Teas


Earlier in the week I reviewed an excellent English breakfast from S.D Bell's. Now I'm working with Best International Teas to offer a giveaway. The winner will receive one box each of English Breakfast, Lady Londonderry and China Green Lemon & Mint.

You can enter:

-By email
-Like/Follow either Best International Tea or myself on Facebook and Twitter
-Pin the contest on Pinterest
-Send a tweet about the contest

Just use the widget below. Entries will be accepted until November 30th and the winner will be announced on December 1st. Good luck everyone!

For an additional chance to win, check out the giveaway over at Tea Happiness.

Thank you to everyone who entered! The winner was Brian F. I've got another contest in the works soon so keep an eye out :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Tea Lovers Guide to Starbucks

The name Starbucks is generally synonymous with coffee but there are plenty of tea treats to be had, both on and off of the menu. In general Starbucksoffers Tazo's line of teas.

Bagged Teas - these are available hot or as a shaken iced tea. The teas with asterisks are available as lattes. You can also ask for lemonade to be added to an iced tea if you are craving an Arnold Palmer style drink.

Awake - blend of black teas from India and Sri Lanka*
Calm - chamomile blossoms, lemon balm leaf, pink rose petals, spearmint and sarsaparilla
Refresh - peppermint, spearmint and tarragon
Earl Grey - black tea and bergamot*
Passion - hibiscus, lemongrass, rose hips, mango and passion fruit
Green Tea - green tea, mint, lemongrass and lemon verbena
China Green Tips - Mao Feng green tea (not available as a latte)
Orange Blossom - jasmine green tea, goji berries and tangerine peel
Vanilla Rooibos - rooibos, vanilla and cinnamon*

Lattes - these are available hot and iced. I prefer mine unsweetened.

Chai - spiced black tea blended with steamed milk
Matcha - sweetened matcha green tea blended with steamed milk

While their tea may not be the greatest, in many places it is the best that is available. I must confess that I have a major matcha latte addiction. It's a great pick-me-up while I'm waiting for the bus home from work. Is there anything that I missed? Tell me your favorite Starbucks tea drink in the comments!

Postscript: This post was written weeks ago and was already cued to go live today when the tea world got some very exciting news. Starbucks has purchased Teavana for $620 million dollars. To read more about that ground breaking deal, check out this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Celestial Seasonings Berry ENERJI Green Tea Energy Shot

Country of Origin: not given
Ingredients: Purified Water, Evaporated Cane Juice, Natural Mixed Berry Flavor With Other Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Green Tea, Green Tea Extract (With Natural Caffeine From Green Tea), Natural Sweetener (Stevia Extract), Niacin (Niacinamide), Ginseng, B-Vitamin Blend (Vitamins B6 {Pyridoxine Hydrochloride}, B5 {Calcium Pantothenate}, B12 {Cyanocobalamine}) and Inositol
Preparation Method: bottled
Liquor: light brown

This is part of the brand new range of green tea energy shots from Celestial Seasonings. I am a huge fan of their Kombucha shots so I was really excited to give these a try. It was fruity and sweet but not overly so. It actually reminded me much more of apples than berries. This shot has 100mg of caffeine, which is just slightly more than a typical cup of coffee. I felt a little pep in my step but there wasn't a big rush of energy which was great because that also meant that there was no crash afterwards. Ingredients on labels are listed in order of volume and I was a little disappointed to see that green tea was the fifth ingredient on the list. I would have preferred that the tea be the first ingredient, as it is in the kombucha shot line. That being said, it won't stop me from enjoying these when I need a boost.

You can find out more about this energy drink here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Love Affair with Tea

I recently found a great new site called Tearroir that focuses on tea from a wine lover's perspective. Since I work in wine, we have a lot in common and collaborating seemed a natural fit. Today they are featuring a guest blog that I wrote for them detailing my love affair with tea. It was so much fun to look back on my journey with the leaf. It brought to mind how far I've come and how much I still have left to explore. I'd love to hear your story so please feel free to share either in the comments here or on Tearroir's site.

Check out my guest post here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

S.D. Bell's Natural Leaf Tea

Country of Origin: India and Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and twisted with some golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep brown

This was a very traditional English breakfast tea. My younger brother shared the pot with me since breakfast style teas are the only kind that he enjoys. It was full flavored with a bright, clean finish. Notes of earthy cocoa and a subtle maltiness rounded out the flavor profile. I actually felt it was astringent enough to be closer to an Irish breakfast tea. This blend was very strong, so much so that I made a rare exception and used milk and sugar. I would suggest using about half a teaspoon if you are only making one cup. I can definitely see myself making this on weekend mornings when I have the time to sit and really enjoy a cup. S.D. Bell's is based in Ireland and their importer, Best International Tea, is located in Elizabeth, NJ. I live right across the Newark Bay from there so it's great to help support a local company as well.

You can find out more about this tea here.

I'm working with Best International Tea to put together a giveaway for my readers. Check out the widget below to find out how to enter!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Drink My Tea and Eat It Too

While it isn't a habit for most American tea drinkers, Asian cultures have been eating their spent tea leaves for centuries. I was contemplating this recently while enjoying some gyokuro and decided to give it a try. We were having white rice with dinner (random boxed store brand) so I just mixed my leaves in when I was done steeping. The result was actually a lot more delicious than I had expected. It was refreshing and the tea helped to break up the starchiness of the rice.

I wouldn't suggest doing this with all tea as black tea would likely be quite bitter. It worked well in this instance because gyokuro is a shade grown green tea with a sweet taste  and hardly any astringency. It also helps that the leaves are relatively small in size. Have you ever eaten your tea leaves? Tell me about it in the comments, I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Meet the Tea: Matcha

A Google+ follower asked what matcha is, which inspired me to start a series that spotlights the different types of tea.

Matcha is a finely ground green tea that is produced in Japan. Tea bushes are covered about 20 days before harvesting. This slows growth and increases the production of amino acids. The leaves are laid flat to dry until they become somewhat crumbly. This is called tencha. The veins and stems are removed from the tencha and stone ground into matcha. It has a consistency similar to talc baby powder.

Matcha is traditionally prepared using a bamboo whisk (chasen), wooden spoon (chashaku) and a bowl (chawan). It is served as part of the Japanese tea ceremony, also known as Chanoyu. Matcha has become quite trendy and can be found in everything from smoothies, lattes and other drinks. I love baking with it because it is easy to add to almost any recipe. The possibilities are practically endless. Due to the labor involved, matcha can be quite pricey. However, a good bowl of matcha is an amazing experience and I consider it to be worth the expense.

Matcha is generally prepared using water that is about 175 to 180 degrees.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Storm in a Teacup

Photo by ToDryFor.com
New Jersey was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Sandy. I am still without power, heat or hot water but I consider myself lucky because there are many who lost much more than that. Atlantic City was badly damaged so the Coffee and Tea Festival has been postponed. I was disappointed but grateful that the storm did not hit while I was there. Thankfully the blog kept ticking since I had my posts scheduled ahead of time.

Tea and all of its trappings definitely helped me to weather the storm. I discovered that keeping my testubin (a Japanese cast iron teapot) under the covers with me was a wonderful way to keep warm. I spent a lot of hours reading and drinking lots of genmaicha.

Speaking of reading, I finally got around to finishing The Tea Companion by Jane Pettigrew. It was a fantastic read and I'll be posting a review of it soon. I also read the latest Tea Magazine and an issue of Art of Tea that I had been meaning to finish.

Since I didn't have internet, there were no tea reviews to write. I dug into my private stash and drank tea just for the heck of it. I forget to take breaks from reviewing sometimes and this was a great reminder that I should do it more often.

I've been touched by how many friends from the tea community tweeted and Google+'d to check on me. I hope that none of you were seriously affected. Things will hopefully start to get back to normal soon.

Addendum: If you are in the New York City area, Tea for Humanity is looking for volunteers and donations to bring tea to people staying in evacuation shelters.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

David's Tea Indian Summer

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: fruity potpourri?
Ingredients: apple, white Bai Mu Dan, carrot, lemongrass, hibiscus, blackberry leaves, acerola cherries, fig, pumpkin, watermelon, peony petals, artificial flavouring
Steep time: 7 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: deep red

This tea is part of the fall teas collection from David's Tea. At first I thought that the name was strange but Indian summer is a term for a period of unusually warm, dry weather occurring in late autumn. This blend was visually interesting as well. The fruit pieces are large and chunky, bringing to mind a bowl of potpourri. I have never seen whole dried cherries used in a tea before. I had a bit of a hard time getting this into the Breville's infuser basket but I had a lazy moment and stuffed in there anyway. From the deep red color to the sweet and tart taste, I was reminded more of fruit punch than tea. Apple, cherry and lemon were the dominant flavors. I was barely able to detect the white tea underneath all of that fruit. While this may not be everyone's cup of tea it was pretty tasty. It would be a great tea to keep around the house for children since it is sweet and low in caffeine.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Devotea Finbarr's Revenge

Country of Origin: India and Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and somewhat twisted
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: mesh strainer and ceramic teacup
Liquor: deep reddish brown

Argh, this tea's name makes me want to talk like a pirate. It wasn't quite the kick in the face that I had been expecting but that's a good thing in my book. It was brisk and crisp but surprisingly smooth. The Devotea doesn't reveal exactly what teas are in this blend beyond giving point of origin. However, I can definitely pick up Assam-like malty notes. These were tempered by a subtle floral sweetness. Although described as an Irish breakfast, it was not overly astringent. I enjoyed this blend a lot without adding anything but it could certainly stand up to milk and sugar if you wanted to do that. It was evening when I drank this tea but The Devotea's suggestion of pairing it with eggs and bacon immediately made me crave breakfast. Although almost all The Devotea's offerings are black tea blends, they each have a character of their own and that is not an easy feat to accomplish.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Numi Organic Tea Flowering Lavender Dream White Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: plump, bright green
Ingredients: white tea, lavender blossoms, hibiscus petals
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: deep gold

This tea was rich yet delicate and very floral. However, it wasn't a potpourri-like or overly perfumy taste. I loved that I was still able to taste the white tea underneath all of that flower power. The finish was a little dry but not unpleasant. Lavender always relaxes me so this was a great bedtime tea. The blossoms were very tiny and floated loosely so you may want to use a strainer if you don't want them to wind up in your teacup. I was a little disappointed because the hibiscus petals never unfurled. Defects can happen with any handmade tea like this but I didn't feel that it affected the taste at all. Just for fun, I made an animated gif of this tea blooming. My camerawork is a bit shaky since it kept floating out of frame but I think I might do this for all flowering tea reviews. What do you think?

You can find out more about this tea here.





Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wild Tea Qi Wild Snow Oolong

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: long, dark and somewhat twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 5 seconds and longer on each subsequent steep
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

Wild Tea Qi was kind enough to give me a sample of this tea when I visited their booth at World Tea East. I was a little perplexed that the directions stated that the first infusion should be three seconds. Thirty seconds has always been my go to number when using a gaiwan but I decided to take their word for it. Although light, the first infusion was surprisingly flavorful. There were notes of honeyed apricot and a pleasant toastiness with a lingering sweet finish. As I progressed through the infusions (of which I lost count) a more citrusy flavor come to the forefront. This was what I like to call an Energizer Bunny tea, the leaves just keep going and going...and going. Although I increased the steeping time, the tea remained smooth and had very little astringency. Wild Tea Qi recommended chewing the leaves. I tried it and they were mouth watering. That is quite fun to do around non-teaish folks because the reactions that you will get. Do you ever chew your tea leaves?

You can find out more about this tea here.