Thursday, August 30, 2012

Handmade Tea Mighty Aphrodite

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: dark and twisted, rosemary resembled pine needles
Ingredients: lapsang souchong, rosemary, rosehips
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and metal strainer
Liquor: deep brown

Named after the Greek goddess of love and beauty, this blend from Handmade Tea was mighty indeed. It was full of smoky, earthy goodness. The base tea of lapsang souchong brought to mind summer evenings sitting around a campfire. The dried rosemary even looked like pine needles, a visual reminder of that same memory. Their flavors echoed each other nicely but they were both discernible in the flavor profile. The rosehips added a fruity, tangy sweetness in the finish of each sip. None of the components overwhelmed the others but they all came together very well. Once again, another tea hit out of the ballpark. It is amazing what Caleb accomplishes without adding artificial flavoring. All of his blends are crafted from just three ingredients and there seems to be a story to each one. If you want to learn more about this great company or subscribe, follow the link below.

You can subscribe to Handmade Tea here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tea Places: Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company

One of the things I love about NYC is that sometimes I'll stumble upon awesome tea shops that are right under my nose. That is exactly what happened when I found Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company. I had just had dinner at my favorite sandwich spot, Peanut Butter & Co., when I spotted this sweet little shop just down the block. I've been in this neighborhood many times but had never spotted this store until that day. Right away I loved the historic store front and rustic furnishings. Apparently it was a mob hangout many years ago. How cool is that? There was a lot of space to walk around which was great since I can be a bit of a bull in a China shop.

In addition to an extensive tea list, this place is a foodie's dream. They had every spice that you could think of and even some that I had never heard of. The owner was pleasant and knowledgeable. I have a habit of wandering tea shops lost in my own little tea world and he just let me do my thing. They were having a tea tasting the next day but unfortunately I was unable to attend. I picked up some milk oolong and a much searched for bottle of tea seed oil. That's right, cooking oil made from Camellia Sinensis seeds! Reviews for both will be coming soon. I found a great write up about them from the New York Times but you can also find out more about them on their website. If you are ever in the Village and looking for something a little different than your standard chain stores, I definitely suggest checking this place out.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tea Tech: Teavana Perfect Tea Touch

Having not yet succumbed to the lure of the iPhone, I've decided to do a tea tech series on Android apps that tea drinkers might find useful. All of the apps in this series are being tested on my HTC Droid Incredible 2.

Teavana Perfect Tea Touch was one of the first tea apps that I installed. I chose it mostly because it was a brand name that I recognized. It features a tea timer, tea blender and store locator. You are also able to browse their catalog and even purchase tea. While others might find these extra features useful, the timer is really the only thing that I use. It does exactly what I need but also has a decent steeping leaves animation and cheesy background music to boot. The tunes vary based on the type of tea that you select, soothing Asian inspired music for white tea and uptempo African inspired music for Rooibos. The best part is that this app is free!

Teavana can be a bit of a controversial name in tea but they obviously had the resources to put together a very decent app. It's not cheap or easy to do that and so far I haven't been able to find one that can beat it. I definitely suggest giving this one a try.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Adagio Teas Silver Needle (Pyramid Bag)

Photo: Adagio Teas
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: sage green, tons of silvery down
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: pale gold

I was excited to give the pyramid bag rendition of this tea a try since I had already tried the loose leaf counterpart. I loved how large and downy the leaves were. It's rare to see such a high quality white tea in a teabag. Perhaps it was because the leaves were more restricted, but this version was noticeably more delicate. The dominant flavors were vaguely vegetal, bringing to mind cucumber. It was smooth and sweet with just a hint of floral sweetness. There was a unique mineral taste in the finish that I really enjoyed. Overall it was a soft, mellow cup but had enough complexity to keep me interested. There was no astringency but it was still very refreshing. I had a stash of these at work and I miss them sorely as they were a great way to make a very decent cup of tea when I'm on the go. I'll definitely need to stock up the next time that I place an order.

You can find this tea here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Epi Tea Launches Line of Biodegradable Tea Sachets

Today marks the grand opening of Epi Tea's online store. They are a new brand that specializes in biodegradable pyramid tea sachets. The tea is packaged in The company's founder Kyle is a 19 year old sophomore at the University of Delaware. Their goal is to be a strong a leading force behind the movement to give America its own unique and flourishing tea culture. They believe that tea is ready for a revolution, and they aim to be a part of America's formation of a tea culture of its own. A big part of that philosophy is being social integrated in order to connect with tea drinkers. They are crowd sourcing ideas for new blends on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. You can find out how to join the conversation here. I love their modern packaging and customer focused business plan. I'll be reviewing samples and writting on a guest post for their blog so you'll definitely be seeing their name pop up here again soon. You can find out more of them here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our Home Tea Temple of Heaven Gunpowder Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark green, small rolled shapes
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot
Liquor: dark gold

That picture isn't rabbit pellets, it's green tea! The leaves are hand rolled into those tiny balls.This tea was basically your run of the mill "gunpowder" green tea. It was vegetal and faintly smokey with a sweet finish. There was no astringency and it was overall a very smooth cup. The taste was a little flat though. It was not as full bodied as I would have liked and the  flavor profile was not very complex. I think part of that may have to do with where this tea is grown. Every version of this tea I have had was grown in its traditional home of Zhejiang Province. This particular example was grown in Guangdong Province. While the two regions are not terribly far from each other, I am of the belief that geography can have a big affect on taste. Guangdong is actually much better known for its oolongs. I also made this tea in my Hamilton Beach Iced Tea Maker and threw in some fresh mint leaves. It was a refreshing taste of Morocco and I much preferred it to the hot cup that I had previously.

You can find this tea here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

David's Tea Chocolate Rocket

Country of Origin: Brazil
Leaf Appearance: mixed colors, many small pieces
Ingredients: roasted yerba maté, cocoa, almonds, roasted chicory root, raspberries, natural and artificial flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: deep reddish brown

Being the chocoholic that I am, I couldn't pass up picking up a sample pack of this herbal blend when I stopped into David's Tea's shop in New York City. The ingredients were so varied that I really wasn't sure what to expect. All I knew was that it sounded delicious. I am so glad to report that my prediction was as accurate as can be. My first sip was nothing but chocolate. The next one was roasty and nutty. The following sip was woodsy and the sip after that was fruity and sweet. This was the everlasting gobstopper of tea! I drank two cups and the flavors continued to rotate in and and out. It was really quite an experience.

Since the base tea for this blend is yerba maté, it packed a bit of a caffeine punch. I drank it before hitting the gym and lets just say that I now know where the rocket part of the name comes from. I did notice that I had more energy and stamina than I normally do. I loved that I didn't have to choke down a nasty energy drink to get that extra boost. Even if you aren't a fan of yerba maté, I definitely suggest checking this tea out if you ever have the chance. I wouldn't add milk to this tea but if you prefer yours on the sweet side, a tiny bit of sweetener probably work well.

You can find this tea here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Aiya Tea Organic Matcha Infused Sencha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, powdery
Ingredients: sencha, matcha
Steep time: 1.5 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: bright green, cloudy

This offering from Aiya Tea combined my two favorite kinds of green tea. I jumped at the chance to try it because although most have us have seen "super green" genmaicha, I had never seen a sencha prepared the same way. It was brisk, sweet and incredibly fresh tasting. This tea was practically spring in a teacup. It wasn't vegetal or grassy but tasted the way that grass clippings smell. There was no astringency to speak of and it was very smooth. I loved the neon green affect that the sencha added to the liquor.

All of Aiya's products are organic, which I think is particularly important with matcha since you are consuming the whole leaf. They are also Kosher and Halal certified. This isn't something that I often see listed on a companies website but it is a big consideration for many tea drinkers. They have a video on their website explaining their company history and how matcha is made that I definitely suggest viewing when you have a chance. The teas that I've sampled from Aiya Tea have been some of the highest quality Japanese teas that I've had the pleasure of drinking.

You can find this tea here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Favorite Tea

 This post is my contribution to the Blog Carnival as presented by the Association of Tea Bloggers for our 1st Annual Tea Blogger's Choice Awards. Our theme for this carnival was "Favorite Tea".

Many of my dear tea friends have joined in on the party. You can see their posts here:
                                                           Scandalous Tea
                                               The Devotea's Tea Sprouts
                                                        Notes on Tea
                                                        Joy's Teaspoon
                                                   Black Dragon Tea Bar
                                                     The Cup That Cheers
                                               The Tea Enthusiast's Scrap Book
                                                      Gongfu Girl
                                                  Teaspoons and Petals

I've had A LOT of tea over the years and I can be a tough customer to impress because of that. There are a select few who have earned the right to be called my favorite teas. What are your favorite teas? Let me know in the comments section! My nominations for the Tea Blogger's Choice awards will be a mix of my own favorites and those of my readers.

Black

Two Tigers from The Devotea is one of my favorite black teas because it is wonderfully complex. I can't quite put my finger on exactly what tea is in this blend but that is part of the fun.

Oolong

I recently reviewed Peony Tea Shop's Phoenix Dancong and I was blown away. It was so amazing that I did something I've never done before. I kept the leaves to resteep the next day! They were just too good to throw away just yet.

Green

The Lu Mei from Little Red Tea Cup Co. was a straightforward green tea but it is a very good one, especially for the price. It's also organic and fair trade certified. What's not to love? It was as fantastic iced as it was hot.

White

White tea is generally pretty generic but White Monkey from Teas Etc really knocked my socks off. The taste was unique and the leaves were fascinating to look at. I've never experienced anything quite like it.

Flavored

I tend to lean towards unflavored tea but my sweet tooth was really excited when I had Stash's Black Forest Cake Pu-er. It really does taste like its namesake and I could not get enough of it.

I could not decide on an unflavored puerh or herbal tea since I have not had much of either of those lately.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Peony Tea Shop Phoenix Dancong - Heavenly Fragrance

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: long, dark and twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

This tea was everything that I could ever ask for in a dancong. The first things I noticed about this tea were the size and aroma of the dry leaves. I could not believe how large they were and the smell was absolutely intoxicating. I could see where the name "heavenly fragrance" came from because it was the kind of smell that I'd like to bottle up for a rainy day. The taste was bright and floral with a buttery finish. A light mineral sweetness lingered in my palate after each sip. I performed three consecutive infusions and the last was just as strong as the first. The leaves seemed to come to life as they unfurled. I was surprised at how green they were as I had expected them to be much darker.

I drink a lot of tea but very once in a while, a truly great tea crosses my path and this was one of them. It was so good that it made me do something that I have never done before. I kept the leaves to re-infuse the next day! I got pulled away after just three infusions and I felt guilty throwing out such beautiful leaves before they were done. Saving leaves is standard practice for many tea lovers but its not something I ever felt a need to do until now. This tea just as good on my subsequent infusions, the number of which I actually lost count. If you are a lover of oolongs then I definitely suggest that you give this tea a try.

You can find this tea here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Le Palais des Thés Thé Du Hammam XL Iced Tea Bag

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green with bright flower petals
Ingredients: green tea, rose, berries, orange flower, green dates
Steep time: 1 hour
Water Temperature: room temprature
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: deep gold

Given how hot it has been this summer, I jumped at the chance to try the new line of iced tea bags from Le Palais des Thés. When I first opened the package I was fascinated both by the size of the tea bags (easily more than double a normal bag) and the quality. They were made out of muslin rather than the usual paper and had an extra long string, perfect for brewing in a taller container. They were so fancy looking that I almost felt bad throwing them out when I was done. The instructions said to steep the bag in room temperature water for 30 to 60 minutes. I prefer my iced tea on the strong side so I opted for the longer brew. Each bag makes two cups of iced tea, which was perfect for a solo drinker such as myself. I used my little glass teapot but any carafe or pitcher would work just as well.

 This blend was named after the Turkish baths and it certainly evoked decadence. It was fruity and sweet with just the right amount of tartness. The green tea was mellow and mildly vegetal. It stayed in the background and let the other ingredients shine. Dates are a new tea ingredient for me but I thought that they added a really nice touch. The rose and orange blossom provided a pleasant perfumed aftertaste. No sweetener was necessary but it wasn't overdone either. This was probably one of the most refreshing iced teas that I have ever had. I'm down to my last bag of this and I will be so sad to see it go. I try not to buy tea since I'm usually over stocked with samples but I may need to make an exception in this case. When I do restock, I'll definitely have to give one of their delicious sounding recipes a try. This one in particular really struck my fancy.


You can find this tea here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Steepster Meetup at David's Tea

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending a Steepster Meetup at David's Tea on Bleecker Street in New York City. I arrived first so I treated myself to an iced cup of their Yun Cui green tea. It definitely hit the spot on such a hot day. Our group was small but there tons of tea chatter and sample swapping. I love meeting with fellow tea lovers since it is not something I get to do often. They "get it" where someone who isn't as into tea as we are just wouldn't understand. The staff at David's tea were awesome as always and their enthusiasm was positively infectious. I picked up a sample of a great sounding Darjeeling and cleaned out most of my work stash. On my way to the meetup I discovered a sweet little tea shop on my way here and there will be some posts in the near future about that. In case you are wondering, I'm the second from the left in the black dress :)


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Stash Tea Peach Cobbler Herbal Tea

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: mottled mix of dark green and brown
Ingredients: organic guayusa, orange peel, cassia, honeybush, natural caramel flavor and natural peach flavor
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic cup
Liquor: amber

The aroma of this tea was incredible. It struck me as being slightly more like apple cobbler but I was blown away by how "baked" it smelled. The taste was oh so juicy and sweet without being syrupy. The cassia (aka Chinese cinnamon) gave it a perfect touch of home baked goodness. Even though the fruit was definitely the dominant flavor, there was a subtle earthiness in the background that kept it from becoming overwhelming. After drinking this herbal tea, I really wanted a slice of pie! It had a very interesting blend of ingredients and I think they really came together and delivered. I've had several teas from Stash's guayusa dessert tea line and they have all been delicious.

You can find this tea here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cha Tea Pure Green

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

This tea was light and vegetal with subtle nutty notes. The leaves had a very fresh aroma and there was hardly any astringency. As far as bagged green teas go, this one was above average. I don't think it would stand up well to sweeteners but it wasn't bad at all. I have tried the Spring Mint from this company and it was ok but nothing all that great. I like this plain version much better because I was actually able to taste the base tea. Another thing I really liked is that the tea is organic and their paper teabags are non-chemical bleached. That's important because I definitely don't want insecticides or bleach in my tea!

You can find this tea here.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tiesta Tea KokoMaté

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, mottled green and brown
Ingredients: organic Yerba maté, rooibos, coconut fruit, cinnamon
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: deep, brownish red

The first thing that struck me about this tea was the strange translucent brick color of the liquor. Its aroma was very heavy on the coconut and had just a hint of woodsiness. The taste was sweet and fruity but well balanced. I thought that the cinnamon was a nice touch that added a subtle spiciness to the finish. The coconut and rooibos helped to cut the bitterness that is usually association with yerba maté. This tea was an interesting paradox because it contained both caffeine free rooibos and energy boosting yerba maté. I felt slightly more awake but there wasn't a rush like I would feel when drinking straight maté. Not only was this herbal blend very well done but it is also extremely inexpensive. I would definitely suggest giving it a try.

You can find this tea here.