Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Celestial Seasonings Decaf White Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, green and brown
Ingredients: decaffeinated white tea, natural white tea essence 
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic mug
Liquor: deep gold

I'm not one for decaf tea since I'm pretty much immune at this point. However, I know lots of fellow tea drinkers who do have an issue with caffeine so I decided to give this a try. The first thing I noticed was that the paper filter tea bags had very strong aroma. I'm guessing that has something to do with the essence that was added. The taste was sweet with vegetal and floral notes. It had a smooth mouthfeel and lingering sweet aftertaste. As far as decaffeinated teabags go, this one was much better than I expected it to be. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Handmade Tea Chase-Mallow

Country of Origin: Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: dark black, with greenish brown and red mixed throughout
Ingredients: black tea, St. John's Wort, hibiscus
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: reddish brown

This tea was herbaceous and citrusy with a woodsy sweet finish. The black tea base was mild and provided and excellent stage for the other ingredients to really stand out. I was hesitant about the hibiscus since I'm usual not a fan but it worked well here. The lower water temperature may be the secret to that. I've never encountered St. John's Wort in a tea before but it had a really nice lemony flavor. There was some astringency but just enough to give it a pleasant crispness. I would definitely recommend this tea. Caleb, the owner of Handmade Tea, does awesome tasting videos for each month's blend and I've included the video for this one below.

You can purchase a Handmade Tea subscription here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Legends of the Leaf: The Origin of Tea

Tea has been around for such a long time that all kinds of wonderful myths and stories have evolved to explain its origins. I love learning about the history of tea so I thought that I would share a few of my favorites.

In China, legend has it that tea was discovered in 2737 B.C. by the somewhat mythical emperor Shennong. The discovery was quite by accident. A servant was boiling his drinking water when a leaf from a wild tea bush fell into it. The emperor drank the infusion before he realized what had happened and there you have it, the first cup of tea.

Another version tells of the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, who had taken a vow to meditate for nine years straight. After five years he gave in to exhaustion and fell asleep. He was so furious with himself that he cut off his eyelids and threw them on the ground. A tea tree sprouted from the spot where they had landed and with the help of that plant he was able to successfully complete his meditation.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Adagio Teas Mango Mate Tea

Country of Origin: Argentina
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green with strong fruity aroma
Ingredients: yerba mate tea, natural mango flavor, marigold flowers
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 150 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: brassy gold

The dry leaves of this tea were incredibly aromatic. It wasn't exactly like mango fruit but reminded me very much of mango flavored Italian ice. The tea itself was woods and sweet with the mango coming through as mellow fruity notes. I enjoy yerba mate because it feeds my caffeine addiction but sometimes it can have a bitter edge that I find unpleasant. The mango flavoring in this blend tempered that astringency and gave the tea a smooth finish. I have a feeling that this tropical blend would be just as great if it were iced. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tea Places: Ten Ren Lafayette

On a recent trip to NYC I happened upon a little tea shop, Ten Ren's Tea and Ginseng Co., at 138 Lafayette Street. It was small but well stocked with many different kinds of Chinese and Japanese tea. There was also plenty of herbal teas such as Ku Ding, lavender and ginseng. They served bubble tea but I didn't partake since that isn't really my thing.

The staff was quiet and unobtrusive. I wasn't in a buying mood that day and they just let me do my thing. I was most attracted by the teaware. They had a small army of yixing pots that were fairly inexpensive, especially for the city. I was also very excited by the tiny gaiwans that I spotted in a glass case. There was a station with a table that is presumably used for tea ceremonies. I'm really curious to see their other locations and will definitely be trying to stop in again soon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Joy's Teaspoon Sunny Passion

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: flat, deep green
Ingredients: China Sencha, Lung Ching, green Yunnan, Pai Mu Tan, flavoring, mango cubes, pineapple flakes, rosebuds
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: deep gold

I wasn't sure what to expect from this blend since it was a mix of several different varieties of green and white tea. The aroma of the steeped tea alone was enough to make my mouth water. I was also happy to find that I had never tasted a fruitier or juicier tasting tea than this one. It was sweet without being overdone and the pineapple provided just the right amount of tartness. Something tells me that this tea would be absolutely heavenly when prepared as an iced tea. Joy's Teaspoon offers samplers of sample tins that lets you try all of their great teas without breaking the piggy bank. I definitely recommend that you check out.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A World of Information on is a free site where anyone can rate and review tea. It was founded by fellow tea drinker and blogger, Alex Zorach. One of my favorite features is the Regions section. You would be hard pressed to find such a wealth of information in one place. Not only is it a great way to learn about where your tea came from but it also makes it super easy to browse teas and tea reviews from specific regions. Each region's page includes facts about that country and the styles of teas produced there as well as the most popular teas that were grown there. The site is a constant work in progress and new information is added frequently. I love that herbal teas are included since these often get forgotten or snubbed because they are not "real tea". If you haven't check it out yet, I definitely suggest that you do. Add some reviews while you are it!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Numi Organic Tea Mint Pu-erh

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, mottled green
Ingredients: organic green puerh, organic Moroccan mint
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: amber

This tea was packaged in a paper filter teabag. I've had puerh and mint combinations that I have really enjoyed. Unfortunately, this was not one of them. The mint was overwhelming and the combination of that with the barnyard-y puerh gave me the overall impression that I was drinking mothballs. The weird thing is that some people might enjoy that but it just didn't float my boat. I think that this blend would have been so much better if they had used a darker, more robust base tea. For example, Rishi makes an awesome vanilla mint puerh. The difference is that they used a much darker puerh and added spices to balance the mint. I would probably not recommend this tea.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chicago Tea Garden Large Leaf from Old Trees Pu-erh

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: large, very dark. somewhat leathery
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep reddish brown

This tea was earthy with a sweet finish. The mouthfeel was very smooth and there was very little astringency. Notes of dark chocolate replaced the "forest floor" taste that is normally associated with aged tea. I'm always amazed at how many infusions can be had from a good quality puerh such as this one. After doing five, I was very tea logged but felt like I had just barely scratched the surface. The leaves weren't even close to unfurling completely. Overall, I've been very pleased with the puerhs that I have sampled from Chicago Tea Garden. It is the category of tea that I am least comfortable with but all of their offerings have been very tasty and user friendly. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tea Magazine

For a long time I had been searching for a magazine that was designed for for tea drinkers like myself. The only publications that I could find were really about joining the Red Hat Society and hosting stuffy tea parties. When I was at the New York Coffee and Tea Festival I discovered that Tea Magazine would be relaunching and reinventing itself. The preview of their new cover was enough to sell me on it and I subscribed right then and there.

I could not wait to dive in when the March/April issue arrived in my mailbox. I loved the colorful format and the wide variety of articles. There was everything from an introduction to Pintrest to an essay from James Norwood Pratt. I found a lot of the stories to be thought provoking and informative. The QR codes that were sprinkled throughout made it very handy to check something out on my phone while reading. It looks like they are off to a fantastic start and I cannot wait to see how the magazine evolves as it grows into this new skin. If you love tea, this magazine is definitely worth giving a read.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Handmade Tea Garden Rooibosch

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: small, mixed green and brown
Ingredients: green rooibos, elderflower, orange peel
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: amber

I was really excited to try this blend because I have never tried green rooibos. It was nutty with a smooth mouthfeel. I'm not the biggest fan of red rooibos but I really enjoyed this more delicate rendition. It meshed well with the other ingredients but was still strong enough to stand on its own. The elderflower added just a hint of floral sweetness while the orange peel came through as a pleasant zing in the finish. This was a unique and well crafted blend that was just as delicious iced as it was hot. I definitely suggest subscribing to this monthly service. I always look forward to my shipments and I have thoroughly enjoyed ever single tea that I've received.

I need to give a huge shout-out to Handmade Tea. The post office lost my April shipment and when I asked about it, Caleb got me a replacement lickety split. Nothing beats great customer service and he's got it down-pat.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teavivre True Love Flower Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: mottled green, tight ball shape
Ingredients: silver needle green tea, marigold, globe amaranth and jasmine
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: bright gold

This tea was slow to unfurl but the flowers hidden inside were really beautiful. It was very light and floral with Jasmine being the dominant taste, typical of a flowering tea. The liquor was a really bright gold that caught the light in an amazing way when I poured it into my double walled glass tasting cups. I suggest using a taller glass for this tea. My glass teapot is a little squat and there wasn't quite enough room for the floating strings of flowers. As far as flowering teas go, this selection was pretty high quality. I would definitely recommend it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Adagio Teas White Blueberry

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: mix of downy needle-like and broad dark green
Ingredients: white tea, blueberries, natural blueberry flavor
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: deep gold

I was a huge fan when I tried this tea in a pyramid bag so I could not wait to try the loose leaf version. As soon as I opened the bag I was hit with the blueberry aroma. The flavor was fruity with a tart dryness at the end of each sip. It was strong yet subtle and still allowed the white peony base to shine through. The blueberries in the tea itself were few and far between but the flavor was still there. I loved that it wasn't artificial tasting or overly sweet. I will be stocking up some of this for making iced tea once summer is here. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Our Home Tea Honeybush

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: very small, reddish brown
Ingredients: honeybush
Steep time: 7 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: pale reddish brown

This tea was sweet and smooth with a nice roasty, honey-like flavor. There was no astringency to speak of and the clean finish made for a really refreshing cup of tea. Both the dry leaf and steeped tea were incredibly aromatic. While similar to rooibos, honeybush is in fact a different species of plant. It's hard to put my finger on it but I very much prefer Honeybush. I think it is because it is more mild and yet complex at the same time. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Random Cups of Tea

Life can get really busy and sometimes I have to get my tea fix whenever and however I can. Unfortunately that also means not always being able to take the time to really enjoy what I'm sipping. Every once in a while, there is a cup that will surprise me and make me stop to take that contemplative tea time without realizing it. I'm going to share one such cup because it's important to remember to indulge every once in a while.

I had just finished a long day working in Manhattan when the oh so wonderful Sunday subway schedule made my commute home even longer than I had expected. I wound up hoofing it through SoHo. As I was rushing down Broadway I suddenly spotted the sign for Harney & Son's. I debated outside for a few seconds but it didn't take long to convince myself to head inside for a spot of tea. The day was getting late so I had to settle for a cup to go. I settled on their "snow dragon" green tea and grabbed a few macaroons before hitting the pavement again.

Before the tea was even cool enough to sip, I immediately noticed the incredible aroma. I found myself slowing my pace more and more. The taste was delicately sweet with nutty and vegetal notes. It was just what the doctor ordered for a not-quite-yet-but-almost-there spring day. Before I knew it I was sitting down in park, completely absorbed in this cup of tea and those delicious macaroons. When I was done I felt completely refreshed and renewed.

I wasn't supposed to stop for tea or even be in that neighborhood that day. It was an reminder that sometimes it's the unplanned cups of tea that matter most. When was your last random cup?