Saturday, September 29, 2012

Handmade Tea Lambington Brew

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: 
Ingredients: Assam black tea, oolong, lemon peel, cacao nibs and coconut
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: reddish brown

I always look forward to my monthly shipment from Handmade Tea and  they really knocked it out of the park with September's blend. The blend of black tea and oolong was really interesting. It was earthly but with a subtle sweetness which took away a lot of the astringency of the Assam. My first few sips were all about the chocolate and coconut. It was rich and complex with a pleasant aftertaste. As it cooled, the lemon moved to the forefront. The included tasting notes summed it up as a "lemonade mouth-party". That is a pretty spot on description. I just couldn't get enough of this tea. In fact, I've been neglecting the pile of samples I have waiting to be reviewed because of it. Not only was this tea amazing but it also had the cutest label that I have ever seen. It was created by Lauren Fagan. It's probably getting annoying because I say this every time I review one of their teas, but I really do suggest subscribing. You won't find a service quite like it anywhere else.



You can subscribe to Handmade Tea here.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tea Blogger's Choice Awards 2012

You may recall from my "Favorite Tea" post that the Association of Tea Bloggers would be presenting the 1st Annual Tea Blogger's Choice Awards. The results are finally in! I believe that this award is really special because it was voted for democratically by the tea blogger community. My very talented boyfriend designed and donated the logo for the award. Did your favorite teas make the cut? Not all of mine did but I've certainly discovered a few that are on my wish list. In addition to this award, the ATB will be selecting "Best of Show" exhibitors at the upcoming Coffee and Tea Festival Atlantic City. It's going to be a great event and I hope to see some of you there!

Tea Bloggers' Choice Awards Winners 2012

Unblended/Unflavored Black : Teavivre Yunnan Dian Hong Golden Tip

Blended/Flavored Black: Harney and Sons Earl Grey Supreme

Unblended/Unflavored Green: Den's Tea Gyokuro Kin

Blended/Flavored Green: Aiya Tea Matcha Infused Sencha

Unblended/Unflavored Oolong: Teavivre Jin Xuan Milk Oolong

Blended/Flavored Oolong: Naivetea Lychee Oolong

Unblended/Unflavored White: Rishi Silver Needle Premium

Blended/Flavored White: Art of Tea Coconut Creme White Tea

Unblended/Unflavored Puerh: Rishi Ancient Puerh Classic

Blended/Flavored Puerh: Stash Black Forest Cake Puerh

Herb Blend: David's Tea Chocolate Rocket

Single Herb: David's Tea Spearmint

The Association of Tea Bloggers is an international organization that promotes professional blogging practices and the sharing of product and industry information among members and tea drinkers.

 The Association was created in 2009 and has over 100 member bloggers that represent the US and countries in Asia, Europe and South America. Members participate in online activities to promote tea retailers and retailer initiatives that give back to the tea community. Members are also expected to adhere to a code of conduct, which helps assure their tea blogging content is relevant, factually accurate and up-to-date.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

iHeartTeas Yixing Tumbler

I love my yixing teapots but they aren't exactly something that I can take on the road with me. When I saw this tumbler I just had to have it. It is coated in Teflon and then lined with yixing clay. I started the process of seasoning it by filling it with boiling water and allowing it too cool to room temperature. Then I poured a generous amount of oolong leaves in the tumbler and filled it with boiling water again, this time letting it sit overnight. I selected the Nantou Si Ji Chun from In Pursuit of Tea since I had quite a bit of that tea on hand. I dumped out the leaves and the tea the next day, rinsed it and then it was ready to go.

The included strainer made it fairly easy to remove the leaves. It was a little hot to the touch and hard to pick up once the leaves had unfurled but I have a high heat tolerance so that wasn't a huge deal. While not leak proof, I would feel fine wedging this into my purse so that it was in an upright position. It retained heat fairly well but the lip cooled off enough that I was able to safely drink out of it even when the tea is pretty steamy. I cannot wait to see how the patina will develop and change over time. It is a process that I rarely get to see happen inside of my own teapots but this travel mug's shape will make it easy to see.

You can find out more about this tumbler here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tea Forté Skin Smart Cherry Marzipan

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, green with some visible rooibos
Ingredients: organic green tea, organic rooibos, natural cherry flavor, organic raspberry leaves, natural almond flavor, natural flavoring (berry), organic acerola cherry extract, other natural flavoring (superfruit berry)
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic mug
Liquor: deep gold

The version of this tea that I tried was an eco teabag from Teaforte's Skin Smart line. The ingredients are purported to be antioxidant amplifiers and this particular blend is for corrective repair. We all know how I feel about health benefits, schmealth benefits but does it taste any good? I was surprised to find that this was a pretty decent cup of tea. It was tart, sweet and somewhat nutty with cherry being the most dominant flavor. I would consider this a dessert tea but I love that it isn't loaded up with sugar. If you like to sweeten your tea, I think a touch of agave is all this one would need. It isn't something that I would reach for on a regular basis but I'd be pretty happy if a restaurant or hotel was offering it. I am interested in trying the loose leaf version now, though the ingredients are different so they would probably not taste exactly the same.

You can find this tea here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mountain Rose Herbs Jasmine Pearl

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: tightly rolled, lots of silver tips
Ingredients: green tea, silver needle white tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: gold

This tea was very delicate, especially for a jasmine tea. The taste was lightly floral with vegetal notes and a hint of vanilla. I thought that the blending of green and white tea added a nice balance. The jasmine scenting was light so the base teas were able to stand out. It still smelled incredible but wasn't overly perfumy. The leaves danced in the water as they unfurled and they were beautiful to watch. I made a pitcher of iced tea and it was delicious. I loved that this tea is organic and packaged in a very eco-friendly way. The pretty fliptop box was made from recycled materials and whitened without bleach. The tea leaves themselves were in a bag that is made from plant cellulose. I've never had tea from this company before but now I'm really excited to try their other selections.

You can find this tea here.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Serengeti Tea Pomegranate White Tea Stick

Country of Origin: China, Germany Egypt and USA
Leaf Appearance: not visible and I forgot to check, sorry folks!
Ingredients: white tea, hibiscus, berry fruit blend, natural flavors
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: pale red

While on a walking tour of the Village in NYC (more on that soon!) I found these tea sticks at a nifty little gelato shop called Popbar. I had seen similar products in magazines but had never tried them for myself. Serengeti Tea's website doesn't say exactly what they are made of but it did say that they are "composed of advanced food safe materials". I thought that they resembled aluminum foil. When I added the water, bright pink streams of tea began pouring out of holes in the infuser. It was a fascinating and oddly beautiful to watch. The tea itself was a little on the bland side. Pomegranate was the dominant flavor but I really couldn't pick up the white tea in the background. I did like that it was fruity without being overly tart or sweet. While this might not be something that I would reach for all of the time, I can definitely see tea sticks coming in handy around the office or when traveling. Each stick is individually wrapped so I might just keep one in my person as an emergency tea stash. You never know when you might need a cup!

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Little Red Cup Tea Company Bai Mu Dan

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, somewhat broken
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: deep gold

I often reach for white teas like this one on a really hot day due to the lower steeping temperatures. This tea was both delicate and refreshing, just what the doctor ordered. There were notes of fruit with a sweet, somewhat vegetal finish. The aroma was floral but that did not really come through in the tea itself. This was not the best white peony that I've had but it was still very good. I tried this in my cold drip iced tea maker and a really interesting oatmeal-like flavor appeared out of nowhere. It was a very close tie with the hot version and I will definitely be making this iced again.

I shopped around and a similar white peony from another retailer costs twice as much. One thing that has impressed me about Little Red Cup Tea Co. is how inexpensive their teas are. If you are looking for daily drinkers, their selection is a great way to go. I love that this tea is both organic and fair trade certified. There are a lot of arguments about whether those titles mean anything but I think they are close as possible to what we look for in a "safe" tea to drink.

You can find this tea here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rishi Tea Organic White Peony

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: mixed, lots of downy buds
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: Tavalon Gravity Pot
Liquor: deep gold

This was one of the highest quality white peonies that I have ever had and the best part is that it came off of the sale rack at Whole Foods! I grabbed a tin to keep in my work stash but I quickly realized that it was much too nice to waste on hasty office prepping. I think the secret was the high percentage of buds compared to most other renditions of this tea. It was complex with layered notes of chestnut and honey. The finish was woody with a hint of floral sweetness. There was no anstringency but this was still a very full bodied cup of tea. The dry leaves have such a wonderful aroma, I just couldn't keep my nose out of the tin. This is tea is a really close tie with the White Monkey from Teas Etc for my favorite white tea. I'm not surprised at all that Rishi is completely out of stock on it.

You can find this tea here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sullivan Street Tea and Spice Company Milk Oolong

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: dark green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 45 seconds
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale gold

A few weeks ago I published a review of Sullivan Street Tea and Spice Company. While I was there I picked up an ounce of this tea since it isn't something that I normally see on store shelves, especially at such an inexpensive price. The dry leaves had a strong aroma but it wasn’t quite the distinctly milky smell that I was expecting. It started off sweet and vegetal but ended in an odd cheese-like flavor. I found the aftertaste a bit cloying and unpleasant. My favorite milk oolong thus far is the offering from American Tea Room that costs a great deal more. I really tried to keep preconceived notions and biases from influencing my impression of this tea but it just was not what I want out of a milk oolong. While I don't think it's necessary to pay top dollar, you do get what you pay for to a certain extent when it comes to high end teas. I didn't enjoy this particular tea but I'm looking forward to trying more teas from the their catalog in the future.

You can find this tea here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Norbu Tea 2009 Lao Mansa Sheng Puerh

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, compressed
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep gold

Puerh is sort of the last frontier of tea for me. I haven't explored it much and I find it slightly intimidating. This is the first sheng, or raw, puerh that I have tried. The taste was a pleasant surprise as it was very different from shu, also known as cooked puerh. It was mellow with floral notes and a lingering, sweet aftertaste. I could not believe how green and plump the leaves were after steeping. If it were not for the unusual aromatics, I would have thought this was an oolong on first sight. A subtle earthiness developed with each infusion but it was not anywhere near the "forest floor" feeling that many associate with puerh. This tea is almost gone but what they have left is 40% off so I definitely suggest checking it out, especially if you are new puerh.

I really love Norbu's site because they tell you so much about their tea. The cake my sample came from was compressed on 4/13/09. You just don't see that sort of information listed on many retailer's websites. I also appreciate their honesty. They explain on the product page that the last two cases of cakes were an incorrect weight so they adjusted the price accordingly. I'm not sure that every tea seller out there would have been so forthcoming.

You can find this tea here.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Little Red Cup Tea Company Jasmine Green Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark green, few petals mixed in
Ingredients: green tea, jasmine flowers
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: deep gold

This tea was sweetly floral with a pleasant, vegetal finish. There was lots of jasmine flavor but it was not overpowering. A slight creaminess in the mid-palate added a nice softness. There was some astringency but only so much so as to make it brisk and refreshing. The liquor was such a gorgeous golden color that I was very glad I had prepared this tea in a glass teapot. The leaves were every bit as aromatic as they should be. I definitely caught myself sticking my nose into the bag more than once. Jasmine tea is something that I love but don't get to indulge in often. That being said, I've had plenty of examples where the flavoring was overdone to mask a lower quality base tea. Thankfully that was not an issue with this rendition from Little Red Tea Cup Co. I also loved drinking tea from a company I trust that I know is organic and fair trade.

You can find this tea here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Peony Tea Shop Golden Oolong

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

Peony Tea Shop describes this tea as marrying the aftertaste of dong ding and the floral aroma of jade oolong. I don't think I could have summed it up more perfectly myself. It was delicate but incredibly aromatic. Floral and vegetal notes led into a honey-like aftertaste. There was a slight creaminess, not exactly like a milk oolong, but smooth and sweet nonetheless. These flavors became more pronounced as the tea cooled so I think this would be excellent iced. Some Taiwanese oolongs are too green for me but this one was just right. I did five consecutive steepings but I kind of lost count after that. Each one was as refreshing as the last. The gold color of the liquor deepened as I went along but the flavor was barely affected. It took the leaves a long time to unfurl fully but they were beautiful to look at once they did.



You can find this tea here.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tea In England

Today I'm featuring a guest post that is an introduction from a brand new blog called Tea in England. I'm not very familiar with British tea rituals so I can't wait to read Denise's insider perspective.
Hi! My name is Denise and I am the author of Tea in England, a charming new tea blog about my life in England. 
I love England and have been an Anglophile all my life. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I don’t exactly know how that happened, but suspect that Rex Harrison in “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” had something to do with it. 
I also love tea, but not just drinking it - I am fascinated with its history, ceremony, and the entire English tea experience. 
The only way I could eventually get around the whole tea/Anglophile thing was to marry a tea-drinking Brit and move to England. So I did! 
The longer I live here, and the more I travel across this Land of Hope and Glory and Tea, the more I discover that in one way or another almost everything in England has a tea connection. Some are fairly obvious, others are pretty darn obscure – all of them are exciting. 
After two years of posting these unique finds and experiences on my personal Facebook page, I decided that it was time to start sharing it with the rest of the tea-drinking-England-loving world, so I created Tea in England 
If you love tea and you love England, you will love reading Tea in England.
Denise is a graduate of the UK Tea Council Tea Masterclass, a London Destination Specialist, and owner of Tea in London tours. She lives in a small village in Surrey and loves tea, custard creams, and the Sunday papers.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Tea Places: Bosie Tea Parlor

I was recently invited to a tweetup at Bosie Tea Parlor. It was named after a lover of Oscar Wilde and is nestled in the West Village of New York City. This hidden gem combines both the French and British high tea service into a truly decadent culinary, tea themed adventure. The owner, Nicky Dawda, was very knowledgeable and he explained how they source their teas and how their pastries are made. They are one of the few places I've been to who have a tea master on staff. Kiley Holliday is the youngest female Tea Master in the U.S. Their pastry chef, Damien Herrgott, was recently named one of the top ten pastry chefs in Amercan by the Dessert Professional magazine so I knew that I was in for a real treat.



Our welcome cocktail was a delicious Apple Berry Bliss Tea-mosa. It was made with prosecco, strawberry puree and an apple and hibiscus tea. This was the first tea cocktail that I've ever had but it is definitely something I want to explore more.








The first course consisted of tea sandwiches. They were simple yet tasty. The three flavors we were offered were egg salad, curried chicken and cucumber with cream cheese and dill.








Next came a course of mini quiches. The Lorraine were my favorite since they had bacon :)





An assortment of decadent desserts followed. My favorite was the Isaphan which was made from rose macaroon, rose butter-cream and lychee topped with the juiciest raspberry I've ever seen.







As if all of that wasn't enough, we were offered a plate of amazing macaroons along with cups of plum oolong and chocolate mint rooibos.






Although the others in attendance were not tea bloggers there was still plenty of talk about my favorite subject. I definitely have to thank Charu from Butterfly Diary for inviting me and Bosie Tea Parlor for being such gracious hosts. I cannot wait to bring my boyfriend here for brunch as Nicky's description of their french toast made my mouth water.

You can find out more about them here.