Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yama Glass Cold Drip Coffee and Tea Maker

My very thoughtful boyfriend bought me a Yama Glass Cold Drip Coffee and Tea Maker for Christmas. I've been wanting one ever since I saw one of these beauties in the Harney & Son's shop in SoHo. It's basically a really slow way to cold brew iced tea. I like it because cold brewed iced tea has next to no astringency. Not only does it make great tea but it's also a conversation piece because everyone thinks it is a bong or some sort of moonshine contraption. After some experimenting I've discovered that it works great for green and oolong teas, not so much for black or white. I've been using it quite often even though it's winter. I can definitely see us being BFF's once the summer heat returns.

I was incredibly nervous about this but here is my first dorky and awkward video blog (took me long enough, huh?).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Adagio Teas Red Bloom

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: tightly rolled, dark colored ball
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: Glass Teapot
Liquor: pale amber

As flowering teas go, this one isn't the most spectacular looking but it still puts on a pretty good show. My five year old cousin was enthralled. I felt that the quality of the tea was better than most though so perhaps it's a bit of a trade off. It is also one of the few I have tried that fully opens on the first steeping. The taste was mostly floral with some earthy undertones. There was a sweet, honey-like aftertaste that lingered after each sip. I love that this tea never gets bitter, even when the bloom is left sitting in the water. I would definitely recommend this tea. The bloom that I had looks a bit different from those pictured on Adagio's site so they may have changed the product slightly.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Handmade Tea Gavati

Country of Origin: China (for the two teas, not sure about the lemongrass)
Leaf Appearance:
Ingredients: oolong, black tea, lemongrass
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: deep gold/amber

This is my second monthly shipment from Handmade Tea. I have to say that I continued to be impressed by the packaging, the quality of the ingredients and the personal touches. What other tea company includes the owner's phone number in case you have any questions? I was actually a little hesitant about this blend because based on past experience, I'm not a huge fan of lemongrass. Happily, the flavor palate of this tea blew me away. The base oolong was very green and lightly floral. This was balanced by the earthy, smokey and peppery taste of the black tea. The lemongrass echoed that spiciness and added a touch of citrus sweetness. I never would have put these three ingredients together on my own but they complimented each other perfectly. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

DCI Tea Duckie Floating Tea Infuser

I received this adorable tea infuser as a Christmas present. It features a mesh infuser basket that attaches to the bottom of a floating yellow duck. How cute is that? The basket is small but I think it is deep enough to handle a larger leafed tea. I tend to use a lot of leaf so I'll just have to be careful not to over fill it. I love that it comes with a holder. I'm often at a loss as to where to put my infuser when the tea is done steeping. This little guy is definitely going to be keeping me company at work in the near future. My only qualm would be that the duck piece is made out of plastic but there are no assurances of it being BPA free. It's a not a big enough concern for me to stop using this infuser but it might be for someone else.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Smith Teamaker Méthode Pinot

Country of Origin: Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: very dark with some golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: reddish brown

The leaves of this black tea were aged in a Pinot Noir barrel. I'm usually a white wine kind of a girl but given that I work for a wine retailer my interest was definitely piqued. The flavor of this tea was incredible. It was fruity, floral and somewhat malty with an underlying earthiness. I was amazed at just how "grapey" it was. This tea was all of the things I enjoy about red wine with none of the tannic mouth puckering that I do not like. Special blends like this are usually only available in limited quantities at their Portland shop. I definitely recommend picking up some if you have the chance.

The Wall Street Journal recently did an article on the founder of Smith Teamaker. You can check it out here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Celestial Seasonings Kombucha Energy Shot Pomegranate Extreme

Country of Origin: not given
Ingredients:Organic Kombucha, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Guarana Extract, Citric Acid, Natural Pomegranate Flavor With Other Natural Flavors, Niacin (Niacinamide), Asian Ginseng, Rebiana (Sweetener from Stevia), B-Vitamin Blend (Vitamins B6 [Pyridoxine Hydrochloride], B5 [Calcium Pantothenate] and B12 [Cyanocobalamine]) and Inositol.
Preparation Method: bottled
Liquor: light brown

Since I don't like the taste of coffee I often wind up reaching for an energy drink when I need to get moving. I was really excited when Celestial Seasonings offered me a chance to give these a try. Despite all of my adventurous tea drinking, I have never taste kombucha before so I was also a little nervous. Kombucha is live, raw fermented black tea. I couldn't help but compare it to 5 Hour Energy. The bottles even look a little similar. The "tea" was a light brown color and slightly effervescent. The taste was sweet and a little fruity but had a pleasant bite to it. It's was a bit of an acquired taste but I actually prefer these to the taste of 5 Hour Energy. They didn't give a major jolt in energy but I definitely felt more alert when I drank it after a very long day at work. I love the fact that they are vegan and that the ingredients are generally considered natural. I'm definitely stocking up on these on my next trip to Whole Foods.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Teavivre Yunnan Dian Hong Golden Tip Black Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: golden (almost orange) in color, slightly twisted and curled
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 1 minute
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic gaiwan
Liquor: bright red

The first thing that struck me about this tea was how beautiful the leaves were. I've had Yunnan golden tips before but the color of this particular tea was really something else. They were also incredibly soft to the touch. The taste was peppery with a mild maltiness. Lingering notes of honey added a touch of sweetness and there was a slightly smoky in the finish. Although a brisk and refreshing sip, there was hardly any astringency. After three fully flavored infusions, this tea still had more to give. I've been really impressed with the selections that I've tried from Teavivre so far.  I would definitely recommend this tea.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Our Home Tea Chun Mee

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green and slightly curled
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 190 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic gaiwan
Liquor: greenish gold

Chun Mee, also known as "precious eyebrow", is a hand rolled green tea. The taste was smooth and buttery with mild fruity notes. The aftertaste was somewhat smokey and there was very little astringency. I prepared it in a gaiwan and was able to get several infusions out of a very small sample of leaves. That being said, this wasn't the best quality Chun Mee I've had. There were a lot of broken leaves and it wasn't quite as robust as I would have expected. That being said, for this price it was decent. I would recommend it for someone looking for a daily drinker or something to make iced tea with.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Jenier Teas Kenyan White Tea Matcha

Country of Origin: Kenya
Leaf Appearance: hard to describe, almost khaki in color?
Ingredients: white tea
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: traditional (using a chawan and chasen)
Liquor: olive

When I had the opportunity to try this white tea matcha I jumped at the chance. The dry tea powder smelled amazingly fresh and sweet. I had such a hard time describing the color. Chartreuse and khaki both came to mind but neither were quite right.It behaved very similarly to green tea matcha. It foamed up well and stayed suspended in the water easily. The taste was crisp, grassy and surprisingly astringent. Adding ice and a touch if honey helped immensely. If you are a fan of matcha then this is definitely worth giving try, if only just for the novelty of it. Given my penchant for cooking with tea, I'm sure that I will be adding this to cookies or some other baking project.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

IFTA Global Tea Tasters Club - Ruby Black Tea

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: very dark with a twisted and curled shape
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 1 minute
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: dark amber

This tea was part of the October Global Tea Tasters Club that is distributed by the International Tea Farms Alliance. The literature that was included with the shipment explained that it was grown at the Yuan Shiang tea farm in Nantou County, Taiwan. I really enjoyed having background information on the farmer and where the tea came from. This tea was crisp and nutty with hints of cinnamon. There was also a toastiness that almost reminded me of fresh baked bread. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Joy's Teaspoon Magic Moon

Country of Origin: not given
Leaf Appearance: dark with some green mixed in and colorful fruit pieces mixed in
Ingredients: black tea, green tea, papaya cubes, rose hip peel, flavoring, sunflower blossoms
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: amber

This tea was incredibly fruity with an almost candy like sweetness. Papaya was by far the dominant flavor while the base black and green teas stayed mostly in the background. There were also notes of apple and mango as well. I didn't feel that the sunflower blossoms added much to the flavor palate but they certainly provided a nice punch of color. A slight astringency provided balance against the strong flavors that might otherwise have been overwhelming. I'm not always a fan of fruit based teas but I've been continually impressed by the blends that I have tried from Joy's Teaspoon. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Numi Organic Tea Shooting Star Flowering Green Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark leaves with bright red flowers
Ingredients: green tea, amaranth and osmanthus
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: deep gold

This tea bloomed rather slowly and did not quite fully open on the first infusion. The osmanthus flowers were loose but thankfully they soon settled to the bottom of the teapot. Call me picky but I just don't like petals in my cup. The taste was delicately floral and sweet with a light, fruity aftertaste. Apricots and jasmine both came to mind but in an understated way. There was very little astringency, even after letting the bloom sit in the pot while I drank my first few cups. Comparing flowering teas to loose leaf is like making the same comparison to tea bags. You have judge them for what they and as flowerings teas go, this selection was very enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tiesta Tea Fruity Pebbles

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: mostly very green, somewhat flat leaves with visible fruit pieces
Ingredients: sencha green tea, Lung Ching, Pai Mu Tan white tea, papaya bits, pineapple bits, rose petals, strawberry bits
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: bright gold

After drinking all of those spicy Christmas blends last month I thought I would take a break and go with something fruity and this tea was exactly that. It was incredibly sweet, fruity and somewhat floral without being overdone. I'm not one for sweetening my tea so I love when a blend is naturally on its own. Papaya was probably the dominant flavor but I could taste all of the individual ingredients as well. There was a slight astringency that can be attributed to the inherent tartness of the fruit. Although I really enjoyed it, this would be a perfect summer tea. I'll definitely have to stock up on some once the weather finally warms up.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Celestial Seasonings Perfectly Pear White Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: mixed green and browns, very fine leaf particles
Ingredients: White tea and natural pear and vanilla flavors (contains soy lecithin)
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic mug
Liquor: bright, brassy yellow

Gasp! A tea bag, how could I? Every type of tea has its place and the convenience factor leads me to stray from my beloved loose leaf from time to time. This tea was packaged in a thin, papery tea bag. It was delicate, light and sweet. Somewhat floral and vaguely vegetal, it was a very mellow cup overall. The flavoring was faint but was just enough to add some interest to what otherwise by a flat flavor profile. The pear complimented the dryness of the white tea nicely and the vanilla came through as a lingering aftertaste. I would definitely recommend this tea. In fact, the rest of this box is making its way to my desk at work tomorrow.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Year In Tea: 2011

2011 was a great year in tea for me so I thought I would take a look back. Here are some of my favorite posts and moments.

I'm looking forward to a lot more tea and meeting more wonderful tea people in the year to come. Thank you to all of my readers, new and old, for coming along for the ride. You are my favorite part of running this blog!

Last but not least, I want to thank all of the wonderful tea companies who were generous enough to share samples with me. Without them, I'd have a lot less tea in my life and I wouldn't be able to post nearly as often as I do. To keep things fair, this list is in alphabetical order but I adore you all equally :)

Aiya Tea
Arbor Teas
Authentic Teas
Boston Tea Company
Chicago Tea Company
Cost Plus World Market
Hampstead Tea
International Tea Farms Alliance
Joy's Teaspoon
Min River Tea Farm
Obubu Tea
Rishi Tea
Runa Tea
Shanti Tea
Stash Tea
The East India Company
The Foreign Office
The Meaning of Tea
The Puritea
Tiesta Tea
Village Tea Company
Zhi Tea

I think that's everyone I've published reviews for this year. Please let me know if I missed you!