Saturday, March 31, 2012

Le Palais des Thés Thés Des Moines

Country of Origin: not given
Leaf Appearance: dark and twisted with bright yellow petals
Ingredients: black tea, green tea, aroma, calendula petals, vanilla pods
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: deep amber

Le Palais des Thés describes this tea as being inspired by an ancient recipe from a Tibetan monastery. In fact, it's name is French for "tea of the monks". This tea was like a more sophisticated version of earl grey. The citrus flavor was strong yet light and refreshing. I generally dislike bergamot so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The vanilla was subtle but added a really nice creaminess. The base blend of black and green teas provided a mellow stage for these flavors to really shine. Their combination of smokey and grassy flavors balanced each other well. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Tea Room Black Masala Chai Milk Chocolate Bar

It's not often that I review food but tea + chocolate = awesome. I picked up this sweet treat from the Capital Teas booth at the New York Coffee and Tea Festival. I'm happy to say that it was positively delicious. Imagine really creamy hot chocolate mixed with chai tea in solid form and that would be exactly what this tasted like. The spices were very nicely balanced, present but not overdone. I love that all of the ingredients are organic. The Tea Room offers several other tea infused flavors and they also make tea infused truffles. My inner baker is really curious about how the tea is incorporated into the chocolate. I would love to try my hand at making own tea chocolates some day.

Ingredients: organic unsweetened chocolate, organic cane sugar, organic cacao fat, organic dry whole milk, organic black tea, organic cardamom, organic cinnamon, organic pepper, organic clove, soy lecithin added as emulsifier

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tavalon 3 & 5 Minute Sand Timer

One of the new toys that I picked up at the New York Coffee and Tea Festival was this nifty tea timer from Tavalon. They had loaned us one for our pre-festival tweetup and I knew that I just had to have it. I loved the simple, clean design. It features two hourglasses, one that runs out after 3 minutes and one that runs out after 5 minutes. Those are generally the most common steep times for tea so this will definitely come in handy. I've timed it and it is actually pretty accurate. It's become a bit of a conversation piece in my house as several people have mistaken the hourglasses for salt and pepper shakers. It's perfect for when I'm not using a digital tea maker.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Handmade Tea Balché

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, curled and twisted
Ingredients: Yunnan black tea, cacao nibs, cinnamon and guajillo chili peppers
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: deep reddish brown

I've been impressed by every shipment that I've received from Handmade Teas but March's offering terrified me. Chili peppers in tea? I am a very picky eater and I do not usually like anything much hotter than cinnamon or a tiny bit of garlic. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the peppers used in this blend were more fruity and sweet than they were flame inducing. The cacao and cinnamon added a decadent richness that helped balance the little bit of kick that was there in the finish of each sip. Yunnan is probably one of the few teas that could stand up to such a strong, complex mix so it was an excellent choice. It's smokiness was a perfect compliment to the other ingredients. If you haven't already subscribed to Handmade Teas then I definitely suggest that you do. You would be hard pressed to find tea blends that are as unique and well thought out.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Boston Tea Company Pomegranate Dream

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark green, similar to dragonwell but coarser
Ingredients: Green Tea, Raspberry Pieces, Natural Pomegranate Flavor
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: pale gold

Boston Tea Company did not give brewing recommendations so I decided to wing it and used the default green tea setting on the trusty Breville. This tea was fruity, sweet and very refreshing. Pomegranate was the predominant flavor while the green tea provided a grassy, mellow background. It was interesting because although there was not any astringency to speak of, there was still the sweet tartness that you would expect from pomegranate and raspberry. I love a naturally sweet tea and this one certainly fits the bill. I think that it would make a phenomenal iced tea. I would definitely recommend this tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Throat Tamer

Country of Origin: not given
Leaf Appearance: small, green with brown flecks
Ingredients: chamomile, licorice, ginger, tilia estrella, slippery elm, spearmint, west Indian lemongrass, natural lemon flavor and other natural flavors
Steep time: 6 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method:
                                                          Liquor: bright yellow

Sleepytime has always been one of my favorite teas from Celestial Seasonings so I was excited when I had a chance to try the throat tamer version. The taste was very similar to the old standby, just a bit more lemony and with an added sweetness from the licorice. I'm not a huge fan of licorice in my tea but it wasn't offensive or overdone. Chamomile always helps me knock out for the night and this blend was no different. My asthma has had me coughing up a storm lately and this really did help. One of the worst things about being sick is loosing sleep so if you are an insomniac with a sore throat then this tea is definitely for you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Norbu Tea Awabancha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: large, leathery and greenish brown
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale greenish yellow

Awabancha is a fermented green tea that is made by pickling and drying the tea leaves. I have to admit that I was kind of terrified to try this. I have never and probably will never liked pickled foods. But I figured, this is tea so it can't be that bad, right? I started off with doing a quick pre-wash to soften the leaves as Norbu suggested on their site. I immediately noticed an odd vinegary aroma. After steeping for 3 minutes, I was glad to find that I was not sipping a cup of pickle juice. It was surprisingly mellow with a mild citrus tang at the end of each sip. There was a slight vegetal aspect, but it taste more like seaweed than the typical nutty, roasty flavor you would expect from a green tea. The aftertaste was salty but not so much so as to make it unpleasant. This is probably not a tea I would drink all of the time but it was definitely an experience. If you're feeling adventuresome, give it a try.

P.S. This is my 400th post! Can you believe it? Time flies when you are having fun :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stash Tea Black Forest Cake Pu-er

Country of Origin: not given
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with the a few visable cocoa nibs and hibiscus petals
Ingredients: pu-erh tea, natural milk chocolate flavor, natural dark chocolate flavor, cherry pieces, almond oil, vanilla extract, hibiscus, organic cocoa nibs
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic mug
Liquor: reddish brown

I have a major sweet tooth, especially for baked goodies, and this tea was right up my alley. I wouldn't say it tasted exactly like cake but the basic flavor elements of a black forest cake were all there. The puerh provided a mellow yet rich base for the chocolate flavoring. It was very well done, not overbearing or artificial tasting. The hibiscus and cherry pieces combined to provide a pleasant tartness while the almond and vanilla added a subtle creaminess.There was a sweet aftertaste that lingered for quite some time. This tea paired well with milk and a spot of sweetener but was just as good without it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mellow Monk Top Leaf Green Tea

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: dark green, slightly curled
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 170 degrees
Preparation Method: clay teapot
Liquor: bright green

This tea was incredibly light, sweet and refreshing. The taste was vegetal but not in the grassy way that you would expect from sencha. It reminded me very much of sugar snap peas. A buttery finish and notes of citrus added a complexity that made this tea everything that I could ask for. There was no astringency and the aftertaste was cooling with an almost minty quality. After three steepings, I was very full of tea but definitely felt like the leaves still had more to give. This was quite honestly one of the best green teas that I have ever tasted. That says a lot considering that I have reviewed 64 other green teas. I also cold brewed this in my Yama Glass Tea Maker and it was delicious iced as well.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Joy's Teaspoon Mahalo

Country of Origin: not given
Leaf Appearance: dark green, needle shaped
Ingredients: green tea, pineapple cubes, mango cubes, flavoring, safflower, sunflower blossoms
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor:deep gold

From the colorful flower petals to the super fruity taste, this tea was a much needed tropical break from the winter blues. The dominant element was pineapple and the mango provided a balancing sweetness that kept it from becoming overly astringent. I have a feeling that this would be amazing as an iced tea. The sencha stayed in the background but rounded out the flavor palate with a pleasant vegetal finish. This blend was naturally sweet on its own so it would be perfect for those who prefer to add sugar or honey to their tea. I've yet to try a selection from Joy's Teaspoon that I did not enjoy and this one was no exception. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time by Katrina Avila Munichiello

I have been meaning to pick up A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time by Katrina Avila Munichiello ever since it was released but never got around to it reading it until now. It's a collection of essays from tea people that come from many different walks of life. As someone whose life has been immensely changed by love of the leaf, this book was right up my alley. I think what I enjoyed the most about this book was that it was not just a regurgitation of facts. The essays were about experiences, thoughts and feelings that are real and relatable.

Although I had come across one or two of them before, most of the material was new to me. Some of them were from familiar names like owners of my favorite tea retailers. Others were from historic texts, such as the writings of Robert Fortune. Together, they all beautifully illustrate the connectedness and sense of belonging that many of us feel when sipping our favorite cup of tea. It took me a less than a week to read it but it is still quite a substantial read. I definitely suggest checking this book out if you have the chance. It would also make a perfect gift for your favorite tea aficionado.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

David's Tea Glitter & Gold

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark black with lots of gold balls and specks of silvery sugar crystals
Ingredients: black tea, sugar crystals, gold sugar balls, vanilla, orange peel, cloves, natural and artificial flavoring
Steep time: 6 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: reddish brown

I'm not one to go for sugary blends but I just couldn't keep eyes off of this tea on a trip to one David's Teas' NYC shops. The dry tea was really beautiful to look at because of the gold sugar balls and silvery sugar crystals. Once I added the hot water, my pot was filled with a cloud of iridescent shimmer. It was so mesmerizing that I practically forgot to drink it. I had a lot of difficulty describing it so I took a short video that you can see below. The base tea was nutty and mild with very little astringency, even when my second steep was a bit too long. Cinnamon was the dominant flavor but a hint of citrus came though at the end of each sip. I definitely recommend giving this a try and suggest using a glass pot and cups so that you can really enjoy the show.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Our Home Tea Dragon Well

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: flat, dark green
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 190 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: very pale, yellowish

This tea was sweetly vegetal and nutty but also very subtle. There was a barely there floral aspect that added a nice bit of interest. The liquor was particularly pale, even for a green tea. It had a buttery finish with a clean and light aftertaste. There was slight astringency but not enough to make it bitter. Overall, a very refreshing cup of tea. This was a fairly run of the mill dragon well. It was everything that it should be and there was nothing out of the ordinary. Don't let that fool you, this would still make a very good daily drinker. My philosophy is that extraordinary teas are for special occasions. Most of the time a good basic cup of tea is all you need and that is what a tea like this offers. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Gorreana Tea Hysson Green Tea (Chá Verde)

Country of Origin: Portugal
Leaf Appearance: small and variegated, light green
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: bright yellowish gold

This tea is special because it was grown on the only tea plantation left in Europe. Located off the coast of Portugal on the island of Sao Miguel, this estate is known for its organic teas. From what I've heard, there are very few insects their so pesticides are not necessary to keep the tea plants healthy. The first thing that struck me about this tea was how incredibly bright yellow the liquor was. The taste was vegetal with notes of chestnut and lemon. There was a sweet finish to each sip that brought to mind crisp fruit like apples or pears. Overall, it was a very light and refreshing cup that indulged my penchant for drinking tea from unique countries of origin. I definitely suggest giving it a try.

Gorreana Tea has generously offered a coupon code for my readers. Just use the code NYFEST to receive 10% off of your order!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tea Places: David's Tea - Bleecker Street

After an amazing dinner at Peanut Butter and Co., my boyfriend and I stopped by David's Tea's Bleecker Street location for an tummy settling cup of tea. I've been meaning to check them out ever since the Canadian based retailer opened their two NYC shops. The space was very modern but soothing at the same time. They had a huge selection of loose leaf teas, both flavored and traditional. The staff wasn't pushy but they were all very friendly and helpful.

They had a nice comfy couch in their seating area and we were able to take a load off and enjoy our tea. I had the strawberry white tea and Jason had the pure chai. It wasn't crowded at all and I loved that they had fun music playing but didn't blast it at an obnoxious level. After oogling the teaware, Jason treated me to some samples so there will be a bunch of reviews in the works. If you are ever in the village and in need of a tea fix, I definitely suggest you check this place out.