Monday, April 30, 2012

Stash Tea Guayusa and Chocolate

Country of Origin: Ecuador
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green with dark brown nibs
Ingredients: guayusa, cocoa nibs
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic cup
Liquor: greenish brown

This tea was simple yet decadent. The earthy guayusa played off of the richness of the cocoa really well. It was lightly sweet with a smooth mouthfeel. This tea would not stand up well to milk and sugar but I don't think either of them are necessary. Guayusa has quickly become one of my favorite herbs because it provides a boost of energy without the crash that you might normally associate with caffeine. I'm also a total chocolate addict so this tea was right up my alley. I've now tried several of the Guayusa offerings from Stash and I've enjoyed them all. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Adagio Teas Jasmine Pearls (Pyramid Bag)

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: tightly rolled, mottled green
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic cup
Liquor: very pale green

This tea features hand rolled pearls of jasmine scented green tea in a pyramid bag. Even though it was in a pyramid bag, it was still wonderful to watch the leaves unfurl. They appeared very small at first but quickly filled the tea bag. The taste was lightly floral with just a hint of vegetal astringency. It had a very smooth mouthfeel. I really enjoyed the fact that it wasn't perfumy or artificial at all. There was a lingering sweetness at the end of each sip. I'm a sucker for jasmine and this rendition is very well done. Overall I've been very impressed by the pryamid bag line from Adagio. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tea: A Brief History

I can't get enough of learning about the history of my favorite drink. That's why I'm super excited to share this guest post written by Simon Green from Whittard of Chelsea.

The Early Years
According to popular Chinese folklore, tea was first taken as a drink around the year 2737 BC. Legend tells us that a prodigious emperor was enjoying a bowl of boiling water under his favorite tree, when a couple of leaves from a nearby bush were blown into his drink, changing its color and aroma. We are told that he was pleasantly surprised by its new flavor and spread the word to his people.

Due to a lack of documentation and problems with translation (the Chinese character tʼu, used in early writings, refers to several different herbs as well as tea), teaʼs early history is difficult to detail with any authority. However, we do know its popularity created vast trade networks throughout China and the Far East, and in the fifth century spread across the China Sea to Japan.

Western Involvement
Tea was not brought to the West until late Sixteenth Century, the age of exploration and discovery, by Portuguese and Dutch merchants. It soon became a symbol of status and prosperity.

Britain, a nation now renowned for tea-drinking, became heavily involved in the trade towards the end of the 17th century, after King Charles II married a Portuguese princess. Over the next few decades the East India Company (a powerful British trade organization) gradually built up supply routes back to Britain. By 1750 the drink was so popular it had been christened ʻthe national drinkʼ of England.

The American Market
By this point, Great Britain was teetering on the peak of world dominance economically, militarily and commercially, overshadowing larger nations by monopolizing trade and strategic locations through superior naval power. The expanding empire created rich foreign markets for British goods, the largest of which were the Thirteen Colonies - the infant United States.

The trade route for tea was so long and bureaucratic, having to pass through London for administrative formalities, that when it finally reached American customers it was horrendously expensive. On top of this, to help finance the ongoing conflict with France, Westminster, knowing how popular the product was, massively increased the tax on it with the ʻTea Actʼ in 1773.

The colonies, who had resented heavy British taxation for years, were furious over the Act. They boycotted British products, buying instead Dutch smuggled tea or locally grown substitutes. When four English ships sailed into Boston later that year, they were met by an angry mob of locals who refused to allow any produce onto the shore. The situation escalated in December when a band of men, some disguised as Mohawk American Indians, boarded the ships and emptied the remaining tea overboard. This memorable incident became known as ʻthe Boston Tea Party.ʼ

London, in outrage, passed other laws limiting American rights (later known as the ʻIntolerable Actsʼ). This turned out to be the final nail in the coffin of American-British relations and in 1774 representatives of the colonies met together to discuss resistance. The united opposition of the colonies would lead to the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence, signed in July 1776, only three years after the Boston Tea Party.

Throughout history, peopleʼs passion for tea has been so pronounced that it has influenced events and forced change. The love of tea in Eighteenth Century America led to the creation of a free nation while its importance in the ancient Far East fashioned roads and industries which powered the region for centuries to come. Itʼs easy to forget all this when relaxing with a cup, but next time you do, have a think about the significance of our favorite drink in shaping todayʼs world.

Brought to you by Whittard of Chelsea, British tea and coffee merchants since 1886. We love fine tea, great coffee and luxurious hot chocolate and are dedicated to bringing our customers the very best from around the world.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tiesta Tea Red Rose Rooibos

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance:somewhat dusty, small needle-like with mixed in flower petals
Ingredients:rooibos tea, linden blossoms, rose petals, orange bits, lemon bits
Steep time:7 minutes
Water Temperature:205 degrees
Preparation Method:Breville One-Touch Tea Maker

I've enjoyed several other selections from Tiesta Tea but this tea was little disappointing. The taste was flat and although it was citrusy, it lacked the zing that I was expecting. The flower petals really didn't add much as far as flavor but the dry tea had a potpourri-like look to it. I was even missing the characteristic sweet, woodsy taste of the rooibos. I'm not huge fan of "red tea" to begin with but this blend did nothing for me. I really couldn't spot the fruit bits so I think that may be where the problem lies. They might have been better off using whole peels or even just orange and lemon zest. I would probably not recommend this tea.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cooking with Tea: Matcha Chocolate Chip Scones

Obubu Tea shared a recipe for Matcha Chocolate Chip Scones and I just had to give it a try. My dough came out quite a bit stickier than theirs which made it hard to handle. The matcha I used was a little stale so that could have been part of the problem. Thankfully, the finished product was delicious and that is what matters the most. Normally any baked goods with matcha in them don't go over well with the family but they all loved these. Chocolate pairs really well with green tea and these are a great example of that. What's your favorite way to cook with tea?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wild Tea Qi Ancient Phoenix Fermented Puer Mini-Discs

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: very dark brown, coin-like shape
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds for first infusion, 8 seconds for subsequent infusions
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: dark amber

I picked up a pack of these at the New York Coffee and Tea Festival because I thought that they were the perfect size to stick in my tea wallet. The first infusion was paler than I had expected and while it did taste good, the taste was very mild. The leaves fully released from their compressed shape on the second infusion and along with them came an explosion of flavor. It was much darker with an earthy and rich flavor. There were notes of a licorice and cocoa with a sweet, woodsy aftertaste. I did about eight infusion before I couldn't drink anymore but the leaves still had a lot more to give. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Inko's Unsweetned Honeysuckle White Tea

Country of Origin: not listed
Ingredients: white tea, filtered water, honeysuckle extract, citric acid
Liquor: deep gold

Now that the warmer weather is finally here I find myself drinking more and more iced tea. I was really excited when I saw that my local supermarket has started stocking Inko's. The unsweetened honeysuckle is one of my favorites. It is incredibly fragrant while also being light and refreshing. The honeysuckle added just a hint of sweetness and did not taste artificial at all. I really like that their products are packaged in glass bottles (although I'm not sure that is a good idea for the accident prone like myself) rather than plastic. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

David's Tea Organic Crème Brûlée

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: needle-like, flowers gave it a potpouri-ish look
Ingredients: green and red rooibos, safflowers, calendula marigold, artificial and natural flavoring
Steep time: 7 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: reddish brown

Crème Brûlée is probably one of my most favorite desserts so I couldn't resist picking up a sample of this blend on my last visit to David's Tea. They pretty much hit the flavor nail on the head. It was sweet and creamy with notes of caramel and vanilla. Although the taste was rich and decadent, it was still light and refreshing. I don't think that this tea would take milk or cream well but a touch of sweetener might help bring out the flavors a bit more. I've had a few tea incarnations of Crème Brûlée and this one was second only to my all time favorite, Golden Moon Sugar Caramel Oolong.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Adagio Teas Wuyi Oolong (Pyramid Bag)

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, twisted shape
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic mug
Liquor: light gold

This tea came packaged in a silky pyramid tea bag and was part of the Artisan Comfort Collection. The taste was earthy and nutty with notes of honey. There was just a hint of floral sweetness in the finish. Despite the pale color, it was actually rather robust and savory. Overall it made for a very complex and delicious cup. As you might expect, the loose leaf version is better but it was still very good. I love a high roasted oolongs and my tea wallet is often stocked with these. Typical of an oolong, you can resteep for a second cup that is almost as good as the first. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Aiya Tea Premium Gyokuro

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: dark, needle-like
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 122 degrees
Preparation Method: Houjin
Liquor: bright yellowish green

Whenever the weather starts turning warm, I get a craving for Gyokuro. It's vegetal flavor just screams spring. Aiya Tea has recently launched a line of loose leaf teas, including this premium Gyokuro. It was light and sweet with just enough astringency to add a refreshing crispness. I love a tea that is both delicate and savory. I could have used a gaiwan or teapot but I really prefer to make gyokuro in houjin. I've included a picture of mine below as an example. It really concentrates the flavor and is perfect for making tea for one. After three full infusions, I felt that I still could have gotten more out of these leaves. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Teas Etc Orange Vanilla White Chocolate

Country of Origin: not listed Leaf Appearance: small, dark leaves with large orange slices Ingredients: black tea, white chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter,milk powder, soya lecithin, natural vanilla), orange slices, natural flavor Steep time: 5 minutes Water Temperature: 212 degrees Preparation Method: Breville One Touch Tea Maker Liquor: dark reddish brown
I'm a total white chocolate addict so I was super excited to try this tea. When I first opened my sample, I was surprised to see whole orange slices. I've seen lots of blends with bits of orange peels but I had never seen whole slices being used before. The dry leaves had a strong citrusy aroma as well. The flavor was understated and very well done. I loved that it wasn't overly sweet or artificial tasting. The white chocolate added a nice creaminess and paired very well with the orange. The base tea was smooth with just the right amount of astringency. I would definitely recommend this tea. These aren't necessarily flavors that I would have thought to put together on my own but they worked very well together. I've had a few blends from Teas Etc and they have all been very well thought out.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Synergy Drinks GT's Original Raw Kombucha

Country of Origin: not listed
Ingredients: organic kombucha
Preparation Method: bottled
Liquor: deep gold

I've always been terrified of kombucha but my recent success with the Celestial Seasonings Energy Shots made me want to explore it a bit more. Kombucha is a drink that is made from fermented tea. Although this bottled version isn't flavored, I was amazed at how wonderfully fruity and sweet it was. It was lightly effervescent and really refreshing. The culture gathered at the bottom grossed some of my family out but for some reason it did not bother me. Kombucha is loaded with beneficial bacteria so I was really happy that I actually like it. I'll definitely be trying more varieties in the future. Maybe I'll even get brave enough to make my own some day.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hortissimo Houji-cha Latte

Country of Origin: not given
Leaf Appearance: light brown powder
Ingredients: as stated on their site "powder T with milk and creamy foams"
Steep time: instant
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic mug
Liquor: milk chocolaty brown

Every once in a while I stumble upon a tea that I love but cannot locate or that I am unable to replicate at home. This tea was a case of both. At the New York Coffee and Tea Festival I was offered a "houjicha cappuccino" by a very sweet girl from a company that I did not recognize. It was really more of a latte but it turned out to be one of the yummiest and most unique things that I tasted there. It had a wonderfully nutty flavor while also being full of foam and everything that I love in a matcha latte. I thought that it was the perfect tea based latte for a chronic coffee drinker.

They were selling little sample packets so I snapped up one of the houjicha and one of the matcha. However, I was a little crestfallen when I tried to make it at home. There was no foam and the taste was weak. Then I realized that the instructions on the package were a bit odd. It said to use 1 tsp of powder when it really meant for you to use the entire packet. You've got to love awkward translations. I made another attempt using much more powder and it was infinitely better.

After all of that, I tried to find the tea while I was writing up this review but it was next to impossible to find it. The distrubtor on my sample is listed as Iconnel Spa out of of Denver, CO. Apparently they are owned by Hortissimo. I'm still entirely sure but both sites have a spammy look and the same annoying background music. I was pretty disappointed because it's a product that has some real potential. Hopefully I will have better luck with the matcha version.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Celestial Seasonings Kombucha Energy Shot Berry

Country of Origin: not given
Ingredients: Organic Kombucha, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Guarana Extract, Natural Mixed Berry Flavor With Other Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, 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

This review makes me a little sad because I've finished the last of my stash of kombucha shots. I just can't say it enough, I love these things! The berry is probably my favorite out of the three flavors available. It was the least tart and had a pleasant, sweet flavor. It tasted most like blueberries but I couldn't really identify exactly what the mix of berries was. I prefer these so much more over other energy shot type products that I have tried. If you're picky about texture, make sure that you shake the bottle really well before taking your "shot. It is a natural part of kombucha to have strands of culture collect on the bottom. Otherwise these are perfect for the health conscious tea lover in need of an energy boost.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Teavivre Yunnan White Peony (Bai MuDan) Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: mix of downy buds and bright green leaves
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale yellow

This tea was delicate, sweet and floral with a mild grassy undertone. There was also a slight vegetal aspect that reminded me of cucumbers. I love white peony because it offers everything that I love about silver needle with a tiny bit more oomph. My second infusion was just as good, if not a bit stronger than the first. Neither infusion had any astringency to speak of, making this a very smooth and refreshing cup of tea. The heat in my apartment is out of control this time of year so I also cold brewed this and it was amazing. I've been thoroughly impressed with all of the teas that I've tried from Teavivre and this one was no exception.