Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hayes Tea Dragonwell

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: flat, dark green
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 1 and 1/2 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale green

This tea was your typical dragonwell, otherwise known as Long Jing. The first thing that I noticed was the wonderfully fresh fragrance of the dry leaves. The steeped tea was mellow and sweet with a vegetal taste that reminded me very much of asparagus. There were notes of a chestnut and a buttery mouthfeel. My second infusion was just as strong as the first. Although they were very flat in shape, the leaves practically seemed to come back to life post steeping because they were so plump and green. This tea is very inexpensive so it would be a perfect daily drinker. I tried this in my cold drip tea maker and it was wonderful iced as well. Hayes Tea is brand new so they are only offering two types of tea but it looks like they are off to a great start.

You can find this tea here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Devotea Two Tigers

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

This tea was full bodied but it was still very pleasant without needing to add milk and sugar. It was malty and floral with a nice smokiness in the background. The aftertaste was sweet and lingering. There was a decent amount of astringency but only enough so as to add a refreshing briskness. This was a great wake up tea so I will definitely be bringing the rest of my stash to work. This would make an excellent iced tea, especially with just a touch of orange blossom honey. My favorite part of drinking blends from The Devotea is trying to figure out what teas they are comprised of. It can be hard to tell but I would venture to guess that there was Darjeeling of some sort and maybe even some Keemun. Give it a try and let me know your guess in the comments section!

You can find this tea here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Teas Etc White Monkey

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: silver tips mixed with darker leaves, curled shape
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: gold

The first thing that that I noticed about this tea was the leaves. It almost resembled a white peony except the silver tips were curled in delicate spirals. I have a penchant for playing with my leaves and these were fascinating. The taste was sweet and vegetal with floral notes but there was a round, earthiness that I've never experienced in a white tea before. It's rare that I describe a tea as delicious but that is what this one was. I just couldn't get enough of it. This tea was very unique in that it wasn't quite like silver needle and it wasn't quite a white peony. It was a whole other monkey! The leaves had staying power too. I was able to get two good steepings and one that was a somewhat less strong, but still delicious pot of tea. If you are a fan of white tea then I definitely suggest you give this one a try.

You can find this tea here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Peony Tea Shop Jade Oolong

Country of Origin: Nantu, Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: dark green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 45 seconds
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale gold

This tea was delicate and floral with a lingering sweet but clean aftertaste. There was also some very faint vegetal notes, almost like fresh baby spinach. It had a buttery mouthfeel and there was no astringency to speak of. I was able to get five fairly uniform infusions before becoming utterly tealogged. I tend to shy away from green oolongs (they upset my stomach sometimes) but this one had a nice balance to it. Once unfurled, the leaves were very large in size. They were the kind of leaves that you just can't help but play around with between steepings. I love tactile teas and this was definitely one of them. Peony Tea Shop is a fairly new company to me but I'm very impressed with this offering and I'm looking forward to trying others in their catalog.

This tea was part of an interesting conversation during a Tea Geek Google + hangout. The tea of the week was Fo Shou (aka Buddha’s hand) but since I did not have any in stock, I chose this tea as it was the most similar tea that I had on hand. Apparently jade oolong is a cultivar that originates in Nantu, Taiwan but it is also used as a general term for a rolled oolong from Taiwan, primarily dong ding. This certainly gave us some food for thought and sparked some wonderful debate on terroir. Is a jade oolong a jade oolong when grown outside of Nantu? We found a lot of comparisons to the world of wine on this topic. When purchasing a jade oolong, buyer beware. You may want to make sure of its origin to make sure that you are getting the real thing.

You can find this tea here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Handmade Tea Yerbaberry Mint

Leaf Appearance: woodsy potpourri
Ingredients: roasted yerba maté, organic chocolate mint and elderberries
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: dark brown

This month's shipment from Handmade Tea was exciting because it contained two ingredients I had never tried before, chocolate mint and elderberries. I love that tiny tins of each ingredient are included so that I can taste them separately. I'm not a huge fan of yerba maté because it can be bitter at times but the roasting took the edge off, leaving a pleasant nuttiness without the bite that I was expecting. The elderberries had a subtly fruity raisin-like taste. The chocolate mint was of course minty but it had an earthy sweetness that definitely brought chocolate to mind. I'm surprised that it is not used in tea more often because it had a really ice flavor.

Once I had tasted each of the individual ingredients, it was time to give the blend a try. It had a strong, earthy aroma that followed through in the taste. The tasting notes that were included mentioned a tobacco aftertaste but it reminded me very much of liquorice. I've never actually taste tobacco so that may be the reason that I don't see the connection. The mint came through in the finish and added a refreshing cooling feeling. Along with the tasting notes, information was included about the family-run farm in Bedford, PA called Goodness Grows where the chocolate mint was sourced. I love knowing that my purchase helped support a local company. This blend was another great one and I can't recommend Handmade Tea's subscription service enough. Their teas never fail to surprise and delight. 

You can subscribe to Handmade Tea here.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Numi Organic Tea Flowering Dragon Lily White Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: bright green with deep orange flowers
Ingredients: white tea, osmanthus petals, orange lily blossoms
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: gold

Flowering teas are a sort of guilty pleasure for me. The taste isn't always so great but gosh darn it they are pretty! This one had a light apricot taste and a smooth mouthfeel. That flavor likely came from the osmanthus petals. It unfurled fairly quickly but was still elegant and fun to watch. I suggest taking the tea bundle out of the water once it has fully bloomed because this one got bitter fairly quickly. It's against my better judgement to use such hot water for white tea but I always try to follow the vendors directions when reviewing a tea. Despite the bitter turn, this was a fairly good selection made with high quality leaves. I would probably recommend this tea.

Purchase this tea here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cha Teas Spring Mint

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green
Ingredients: organic green tea, mint flavor
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: gold

This was your run of the mill mint green tea. The quality was ok, but there was not really anything to make it stand out from the sea of other teabags out there. The taste was mildly vegetal with very little astringency. I do wish that they had used actually mint leaves instead of flavoring. I find that extracts are hardly ever as good as the real thing, especially when it comes to peppermint or spearmint. They also tend to mask the flavor of the base tea. In a pinch, this teabag would do. I sometimes turn to these sorts of teas when I am in need of mint to soothe an upset stomach. I just might keep the rest of this tea in my emergency stash at work.

You can find this tea here.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An Interview with Little Red Cup Tea Company

Last month I reviewed the Lu Mei Green Tea from Little Red Tea Cup Co. They are a brand new company who is off to a great start. I recently had an opportunity to interview Martin Connelly, one of their co-founders.

Q: What inspired you to start Little Red Cup Tea Co.?

A: You could say the seeds of the Little Red Cup Tea Company were sown the first time our family visited China, in 1992. That might be disingenuous, since I was six at the time, but it is certainly fair to say that we started a tea company because of our family's abiding interest in China, and not the other way around. China is where I started drinking tea regularly, and as such, my sensibilities towards the drink have been informed by what I saw around me growing up in Beijing.

A classic Chinese greeting is "qing zou, he cha" — sit down, have some tea (which, in this case, is tea, fruit, some crackers, and anything else the host might have to offer).  Tea is what you offered guests, what you drank alone — a constant part of life, really.  And the teas we've chosen to offer reflect that. These are not fancy teas; they do not need to be contemplated to be appreciated. But you can brew them by the pot, and they'll get you through the day.

Q:I noticed that you only sell unflavored teas (other than jasmine). Why is that?

All of our teas are whole leaf, loose, and unscented (with the exception of Jasmine) because that's how you drink tea in China — and I know we're bucking the trend on that one. Blending and scenting teas is a great way to add local flavor, but really, every time I have a green tea flavored with mango and hibiscus, I want to spit it out. Jasmine is scented, but it's also the most common tea in Beijing, and more than anything else, it tastes like home. We were willing to make an exception for that.

A: Why is it important that the tea we drink is organic and fair trade?

Our tea is all organic (even the jasmine flowers are grown organically) because we really believe it's better for everyone. Organic agriculture is better for the land, better for the farmers, and ultimately better for the consumer. Sure it costs a little more, but knowing that we're contributing to sustainable agriculture practices in China is totally worth it. It is also, without a doubt, great to know that when you pour boiling water over our teas, you won't be steeping pesticides, too.

The goal of sustainability is also the reason we're registered with Fair Trade USA and paying premiums on each pound of tea we sell. Those premiums largely go toward helping families with the cost of school, and we couldn't be happier to contribute positively in the communities we've chosen to work with in north eastern Jiangxi Province.


Q: Do you have a favorite type of tea? Why is it your favorite?

A: I tend to go through phases — one week I'll drink our Gunpowder, another our Black.  There's generally a pot on my desk, but I couldn't begin to pick a favorite. Ok. I could. Our black is really good.

Q: What has been the most challenging part of starting a new business?

A: I mentioned that we got into the tea business because of an abiding love for China and Chinese culture. We did not get into the industry because we were entrepreneurial whizzes — and running a new company has been more difficult that I'd have imagined.  The pure volume of decisions that have to be made — from whom, for instance, will we source our sample bags? — is breathtaking. And then there's the fact that as an online business, we have no window-front for people to stop and look into.

But I think we're offering something that sets us apart, and I hope that we'll find a base of customers that appreciates what it is we're trying to do. At the heart, our tea is a celebration of China — of Chinese tea culture, and Chinese popular culture too. I like to say that it's a revelation, if not a revolution — and I like to think that for someone who's been drinking Twinings or Red Rose every day, that's not just a cute tag line.   

Finding our customers has been hard, surely, but we're getting there. We're not quite six months into business, and we've mailed tea to most of the states in the union. We can only hope those customers welcome their guests with a pot of our tea, and help us to spread the name.


I definitely suggest that you give their teas a try. I've been very impressed by what I've seen so far.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Adagio Teas Masters Collection: Wuyi Da Hong Pao

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: long, dark and twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: amber

Da Hong Pao, otherwise known as Big Red Robe, is an oolong tea that originates from the Wuyi Mountains in the Fujian Province of China. This tea was a lovely example. It was complex yet approachable. There were notes of honey and peach with a subtle gravely spiciness in the finish. There was a hint of astringency but overall it was a very smooth cup of tea. I did five or six consecutive infusions and the flavor did not fade at all. It's no secret that I'm a big oolong fan and I tend to favor darker varieties like this one. Interestingly enough, there were some negative reviews of this tea on Adagio's site. The steep times and water temperatures that some of those folks listed were all over the place. I think a lot of those can be chalked up to inexperience. A tea like this demands to be prepared in a gaiwan or at least an yixing, otherwise you will not get everything that the leaves have to give.

Purchase this tea here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Legends of the Leaf: Tie Guan Yin

Tie Guan Yin is a tightly rolled oolong that originated in the Anxi Province of China. This type of tea requires a high degree of skill to produce because there are many complex steps of rolling and roasting. It is named after Guanyin, also known as the Goddess of Mercy, Bodhistattva that usually depicted as being female. Legend has it that there was once a poor farmer who cared for a rundown temple that held an iron statue of Guanyin. One night she appeared to him in a dream and told him to look in a cave behind the temple for a treasure. Inside, he found a single tea seedling. He shared cuttings of this plant with his neighbors and his village prospered. There are many different versions of this story but the basic story is generally the same. To this day Tie Guan Yin has a close association with tea, especially oolong. I've even spotted statues of her in Teavana! What is your favorite tea legend?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Persimmon Tree Chocolate Banana

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: mostly brown, lots of visible fruit pieces
Ingredients: organic fair trade rooibos, organic cacao nibs, organic apple bits, organic banana chips, pink peppercorn
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: deep reddish brown

This herbal blend was incredibly decadent, a perfect dessert tea. It was creamy and sweet with chocolate being the dominate flavor. The apple actually stood out a bit more than the banana but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I've had a lot of banana themed blends that wound up way too sticky sweet whereas this one was right where it needed to be. The finish was clean and refreshing with no astringency. I'm not sure what influence if any the pink peppercorns had on the flavor profile but they were a cheery visual addition. I wouldn't add milk to this tea but sweetener could help accentuate the flavoring. Overall it was a very well balanced tea and definitely worth giving a try.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Aiya Tea Matcha Infused Genmaicha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance:
Ingredients: sencha, toasted brown rice, matcha
Steep time: 1 minute
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: clay teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: cloudy, deep green

This is tea is a great example of what is sometimes referred to as "super green" genmaicha, so named because the tea is dusted with matcha. It smelled so fresh and toasty at the same time. That is also exactly what it tasted like. It was smooth and vegetal with a mild, sweet aftertaste. There was not astringency to speak of but it was still very crisp and refreshing. I really enjoyed the warm, roasted taste of the brown rice. If there was ever a tea that could be described as cozy, genmaicha fits that bill for me. I opted for a mesh infuser with this one because of the short recommended steep time. It worked out well but I was definitely left wishing for more tea! Once again, Aiya Tea impresses me with another authentic and high quality Japanese tea.

Purchase this tea here.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hortissimo Matcha Latte

Country of Origin: not given
Leaf Appearance: bright green powder
Ingredients: as stated on their site "powder T with milk and creamy foams"
Steep time: instant
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic mug
Liquor: deep green

Some of you may remember the somewhat dubious Houjicha Latte that I reviewed from this company back in April. I was digging through my tea stash and happened upon the matcha counterpart and decided to give it a shot. As I had previously learned, although the package said to use a teaspoon of powder they really wanted me to use the whole packet. The results were infinitely better this time around. The taste was creamy and lightly vegetal, not exactly like the Starbucks matcha lattes that I'm addicted to but yummy nonetheless. Their website has not changed and it still strikes me as confusing and a little spammy looking. And can I just say, I HATE websites with background music. Although it might not be my first choice, this is a good on-the-go alternative to making a traditional latte.

Purchase this tea here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Devotea Lord Petersham

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

Lord Petersham is a black tea hand blended by my Australian friend Robert, otherwise known as The Devotea. This tea was smooth with a complex flavor palate and boy did it pack a punch. There were notes of chestnuts and spice with a citrusy bite in the middle of each sip. There was definitely Assam in this blend but it was hard to pin point the other teas. It was rather tannic but not so much so as to make it unpleasant. Although I'm usually pretty immune to caffeine, I got a serious case of the jitters after drinking two cups. If you are in need of a breakfast brew to perk you up this one would be a great choice. This blend would stand up very well to both milk and sugar but is drinkable without either addition. I would definitely recommend this tea.

Purchase this tea here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Gift of Tea's White Spring Tea

I had always heard about my friend Jo's lovely tea parties but had never gotten a chance to experience one for myself until her annual White Spring Tea. First, I have to have a laugh at myself. My tea addled brain immediately assumed that "white spring tea" meant that we would be drinking white tea when it actually meant that everyone would be wearing white. Wardrobe malfunctions aside, I had a truly amazing time. The tea and food was fantastic and the company even better.

As the guests were arriving we had the opportunity to peruse vendor tables and helped ourselves to some delicious iced tea and a spread of fruit. The tables were laid out with beautiful centerpieces and place-settings. Everyone at the party was treated to Lord Petersham,a black tea from from The Devotea as well as an accompanying video from the company's master tea blender Robert Godden.


After the video, the whole party participated in a Google + hangout with Robert so that he could answer any questions that we might have. The afternoon was filled with fascinating conversations with people who are just as enthusiastic about tea as I am. Among them were Tiffany of Tea by Tiffany, Darlene of The Tea Enthusiasts ScrapbookSara of Sara's Tea Caddie, Erica from The Tea Fields and Michelle of Reflections in Tea.

There many others but I am very bad with names so apologies if I missed you! Once the food was finished, we were all invited to try our hands at blending our own tea. Glasses on each table were filled with green tea, white tea and all sorts of goodies gave us a lot to choose from. I wound up making a lavender white tea with cornflowers. It wasn't bad but I overdid the lavender a little bit.


All in all it really was a wonderful way to spend the day. I went home a little over-caffeinated but happy as a clam. It's not often that I get to share tea with like-minded folks so I savor it whenever I get the chance. Jo of A Gift of Tea is certainly the hostest with the mostest and I can't wait to attend her next event.








Sunday, July 1, 2012

Harney and Sons Bangkok (Pyramid Bag)

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: flat, dark green
Ingredients: green tea, lemongrass, vanilla, coconut and ginger
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic mug
Liquor: pale gold

Harney's describes this tea as being Thai inspired and I would say that is pretty spot on. It was tropical without being overly sweet or fruity. The base green tea was light and vegetal while the coconut and vanilla dominated the flavor palate. The lemongrass and ginger came through as a mild aftertaste. There was a tiny bit of astringency but that added a refreshing dry finish to each sip. The leaves practically exploded in the pyramid bag after steeping. I could not believe how much bigger they got. Overall this was a very nice tea, especially for one that I picked up at Duane Reade! I would definitely recommend this tea.

Purchase this tea here.