Thursday, November 29, 2012

Adagio Teas Pai Mu Tan (Pyramid Bag)

Photo: Adagio Teas
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: varied shades of green, silver needles mixed throughout
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 7 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: brassy gold

Pai Mu Tan, also known as White Peony, is one of my favorite kinds of white tea. This rendition came packaged in an individually wrapped pyramid bag. It was floral and with notes of melon that lingered in the sweet aftertaste. The finish was slightly dry but there was no astringency. Although full bodied for a white tea, I would recommend against using any sweeteners. I used my Breville One-Touch Tea Maker to heat the water for this review but I have also had luck steeping this at work by shutting off the electric kettle just before it reaches boiling. The Silver Needle was slightly more enjoyable but this was still a very nice cup of tea. I've really enjoyed Adagio's line of pyramid bags because they make it so easy to make loose leaf tea on the go. I always keep my tea wallet stocked with them.

You can find out more about this tea here.

One a side note, I've been playing around with the look of the blog a bit. I'd love to know what you think!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Handmade Tea November Bouquet

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: potpourri with small and twisted black tea mixed in
Ingredients: Fujian black tea, rose petals, jasmine flowers, lemon balm
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

This tea certainly was a bouquet as the name implies. Some of the rose petals were quite large and when I looked closely, I realized that they were actually entire flowers. The smell of the dry leaves was very strong, reminiscent of potpourri. This gave me some hesitation since I'm not a big fan of floral teas. Thankfully the floral element was much more subtle in the taste of the tea. The black tea provided an earthy and somewhat fruity background that tempered the sweetness of the jasmine and rose. I thought that lemon balm added a pleasant citrus bite in the finish. Handmade Tea never fails to surprise me every month. Their hand crafted blends make me step outside of my comfort zone and explore ingredients that I might otherwise avoid. I definitely suggest subscribing, especially if you are new to tea.

You can subscribe to Handmade Tea here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christine Eats Tippsy Tea Time Truffles

I was in Whole Foods picking up some Celestial Seasonings Kombucha Energy Shots when I spotted an inviting pink box of tea and liquor infused truffles. They were rather expensive but what is life without the occasional indulgence? Right off the bat I loved the snazzy polka dot patterns and fun colors. The flavors that were included in my box from left to right are:

Milk Chocolate Chamomile Tea and Honey Jack Daniels

White Chocolate English Breakfast Tea and Whiskey

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Tea and Bailey's Irish Cream

These were unbelievably decadent. The ganache in the centers was super creamy but not too sweet. My favorite of the three was the white chocolate truffle. The tea was just barely detectable but it makes a great excuse to eat chocolate. All of the flavors complimented each other really well. Even my non-tea loving boyfriend (still working on that) agreed that they were delicious. These would make a really sweet gift for a tea loving friend. If I see them again, I might just have to buy more. I don't see the tea infused flavors listed on her website but I've tweeted Christine Eats to see if they still make them. I'll update once I hear back.

You can find out more about Christine Eats here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

David's Tea Organic Persian Apple

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: lots of fall colors, great pop of pink from the rose petals
Ingredients: Green tea, apple, pistachio, almond, rose petals. With natural and organic flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: mesh infuser and ceramic teacup
Liquor: bright, somewhat cloudy yellow

David's Tea used a lot of nut based ingredients in their fall collection for 2012. At first I was skeptical but they do add some very interesting flavors. There were definitely a lot less tea leaves than nuts or apple pieces in this blend. It was vegetal, fruity, floral and toasty all at once. That's quite a combination! There was some astringency but it was within my tolerance level. This tea does not need any sweeteners at all. I gave into temptation and tried eating one of the pistachios. Oddly enough, it seemed to have absorbed the scent of the rose petals. It wasn't very tasty on its own but it worked well in the tea. I've really enjoyed the fall collection and I cannot wait to see what they come up for their holiday collection. I'm sure many of them will be on my Christmas wish list.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bigelow Tea Pumpkin Spice

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: dark, very fine leaf particles with some visible spices
Ingredients: black tea, natural pumpkin flavors with other natural flavors (soy lecithin), cinnamon, licorice root, clove, ginger, pumpkin flakes
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: reddish brown

Thanksgiving is over but the flavors of the season were still with me while I drank this tea. Its strong aroma caught the attention of everyone around me as soon as I opened my teabag. The taste was rich and robust with lots of warming spice. It was practically pumpkin pie in a teacup. I'm usually not a fan of licorice but it's hidden under the other spices so I didn't mind it here. The ginger and nice bite to the finish of each sip. I loved that the flavoring of this tea didn't taste artificial at all. The pumpkin flakes probably had a lot to do with that. Sweeteners aren't necessary but this blend could probably stand up to a splash of milk. This tea usually isn't available year-round so I always try to snap some up this time of year. Bigelow posted a delicious sounding recipe for cupcakes infused with this tea and I couldn't resist whipping up a batch. They were smash hit in my house and I've included it below in case you would like to give it a try.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Tea Concentrate:
13 tea bags Bigelow Pumpkin Spice Tea*
1 ¼ cups boiling water
Cupcakes:
1 ¾ cup sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained, discard liquid
½ cup tea concentrate
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded carrots
Frosting:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, slightly soft
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 tablespoons tea concentrate
3 ½ cups confectioners' sugar
Makes 24 cupcakes
Prep Time:   15 minutes     Baking Time:  20 minutes

Instructions:

Place tea bags in a 2-cup glass measure.  Add 1 ¼ cups water.  Steep tea for 10 minutes.
Squeeze all liquid from tea bags into cup.  Discard tea bags.  (About 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons tea concentrate.)
Heat oven to 350 F.  Spray 2 (12-cup) muffin tins with baking spray; alternatively use paper liners set aside.
In large mixing bowl add sugar, vegetable oil and eggs.  Mix at high speed, scraping bowl often, until thick and creamy (1 to 2 minutes).
Add mandarin oranges, ½ cup tea concentrate, vanilla, and orange zest.  Continue mixing, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1 minute).
In medium bowl stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. 
Add flour mixture to tea mixture.  Continue mixing, at low speed, until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes).
Add carrots; mix well.
Place batter in muffin cups filling about ½ to ¾ full.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from oven; cool.
Meanwhile, in medium mixing bowl place cream cheese and butter.  Mix at high speed, scraping bowl often, until light and creamy (1 minute).  Add 2 tablespoons tea extract.  Mix well.
Add confectioners' sugar; continue mixing, scraping bowl often, until soft and creamy (1 to 2 minutes).
Frost top of each cupcake with frosting.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Win Free Tea for a Year from The Tea Spot

Who wouldn't love free tea for a year? The Tea Spot is offering a Facebook contest where you can enter for a chance to win a seasonal tea club of your choice. The Tea Spot is a philanthropic loose leaf tea company based in Boulder, Colorado. They produce handcrafted loose leaf teas and Steepware® while donating 10% of all profits to cancer wellness programs.

The Tea Spot will be offering site-wide discounts on Cyber Monday and exclusive discounts year round to our newsletter members who can sign up here. (Anyone interested will need to be subscribed to the newsletter by Sunday evening to receive the Cyber Monday deal)

While you are at it, don't forget to enter my giveaway for a prize pack from Best International Tea. Contest ends November 30th!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Devotea 1910: English Breakfast

Country of Origin: China, India, Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: small, dark
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: mesh infuser and ceramic tea cup
Liquor: bright reddish brown

Based on a blending recipe from 1910, it was strong and briskly refreshing. There were notes of smoke and malt along with a rich earthiness. It really does come across as an old fashioned tea. There was nothing extraordinary about it but I think that's the point. Sometimes you just need a simply good cup of tea. It would stand up well to milk and sugar but it was mellow enough that I enjoyed it straight. I paired this with some apple, cranberry and walnut oatmeal. The two went together very well. This was another excellent breakfast tea from The Devotea. I'm a bit sad because this is the last of my stash from my favorite Aussie tea blender. It's hard to choose but I think his Two Tigers blend was my favorite.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tea Places: La Maison du Macaron

I have been craving macaroons lately but hadn't been able to get to New York due to all of the craziness caused by Hurricane Sandy. I finally made the trek yesterday and stopped into La Maison du Macaron on west 23rd street. The cozy little shop had a rainbow colored case full of delicious sounding pastries. Their tea menu was small but I loved that they noted which estates and regions each tea was from. I selected the sencha along with three macaroons (pumpkin, pink champagne and lavender).

The seating area was small and a little crowded but comfortable. The staff was friendly but a little harried as the shop was fairly busy. My sencha was loose leaf but was served in a large fill-your-own style tea bag. I didn't mind because there was plenty of room for the leaves to expand. It was vegetal, sweet and the perfect day for a beautiful fall day. Macaroons are always expensive but sometimes it's nice to indulge a little, especially when tea is involved. I used to work really close to this location and it's a good thing they were not open back then because I would have been broke! I'll definitely be returning the next time I am in the area.

You can find out more about La Maison du Macaron here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Teavivre Organic Superfine Dragonwell Green Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: flat, jade green
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot
Liquor: pale yellowish green

This tea was vegetal and buttery with notes of toasted chestnut. The aftertaste was sweet and lingered in my palate. A pleasant crispness in the finish kept things interesting After steeping, I was amazed at how many bud sets I saw. That is indicative of a higher quality tea and I rarely see it in a dragonwell. The leaves were so plump and juicy, they looked as though they had just been plucked today. My second infusion was just as delicious as the first. I'm such an oolong lover that sometimes neglect my greens. This was a great reminder of all of the great green tea I've been missing out on. Teavivre posted a video touring the beautiful tea garden where this is grown so I've included it below. I'd give anything to travel to China and see places like that in person. I'll get there someday.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Giveaway: Best International Teas


Earlier in the week I reviewed an excellent English breakfast from S.D Bell's. Now I'm working with Best International Teas to offer a giveaway. The winner will receive one box each of English Breakfast, Lady Londonderry and China Green Lemon & Mint.

You can enter:

-By email
-Like/Follow either Best International Tea or myself on Facebook and Twitter
-Pin the contest on Pinterest
-Send a tweet about the contest

Just use the widget below. Entries will be accepted until November 30th and the winner will be announced on December 1st. Good luck everyone!

For an additional chance to win, check out the giveaway over at Tea Happiness.

Thank you to everyone who entered! The winner was Brian F. I've got another contest in the works soon so keep an eye out :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Tea Lovers Guide to Starbucks

The name Starbucks is generally synonymous with coffee but there are plenty of tea treats to be had, both on and off of the menu. In general Starbucksoffers Tazo's line of teas.

Bagged Teas - these are available hot or as a shaken iced tea. The teas with asterisks are available as lattes. You can also ask for lemonade to be added to an iced tea if you are craving an Arnold Palmer style drink.

Awake - blend of black teas from India and Sri Lanka*
Calm - chamomile blossoms, lemon balm leaf, pink rose petals, spearmint and sarsaparilla
Refresh - peppermint, spearmint and tarragon
Earl Grey - black tea and bergamot*
Passion - hibiscus, lemongrass, rose hips, mango and passion fruit
Green Tea - green tea, mint, lemongrass and lemon verbena
China Green Tips - Mao Feng green tea (not available as a latte)
Orange Blossom - jasmine green tea, goji berries and tangerine peel
Vanilla Rooibos - rooibos, vanilla and cinnamon*

Lattes - these are available hot and iced. I prefer mine unsweetened.

Chai - spiced black tea blended with steamed milk
Matcha - sweetened matcha green tea blended with steamed milk

While their tea may not be the greatest, in many places it is the best that is available. I must confess that I have a major matcha latte addiction. It's a great pick-me-up while I'm waiting for the bus home from work. Is there anything that I missed? Tell me your favorite Starbucks tea drink in the comments!

Postscript: This post was written weeks ago and was already cued to go live today when the tea world got some very exciting news. Starbucks has purchased Teavana for $620 million dollars. To read more about that ground breaking deal, check out this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Celestial Seasonings Berry ENERJI Green Tea Energy Shot

Country of Origin: not given
Ingredients: Purified Water, Evaporated Cane Juice, Natural Mixed Berry Flavor With Other Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Green Tea, Green Tea Extract (With Natural Caffeine From Green Tea), Natural Sweetener (Stevia Extract), Niacin (Niacinamide), Ginseng, B-Vitamin Blend (Vitamins B6 {Pyridoxine Hydrochloride}, B5 {Calcium Pantothenate}, B12 {Cyanocobalamine}) and Inositol
Preparation Method: bottled
Liquor: light brown

This is part of the brand new range of green tea energy shots from Celestial Seasonings. I am a huge fan of their Kombucha shots so I was really excited to give these a try. It was fruity and sweet but not overly so. It actually reminded me much more of apples than berries. This shot has 100mg of caffeine, which is just slightly more than a typical cup of coffee. I felt a little pep in my step but there wasn't a big rush of energy which was great because that also meant that there was no crash afterwards. Ingredients on labels are listed in order of volume and I was a little disappointed to see that green tea was the fifth ingredient on the list. I would have preferred that the tea be the first ingredient, as it is in the kombucha shot line. That being said, it won't stop me from enjoying these when I need a boost.

You can find out more about this energy drink here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Love Affair with Tea

I recently found a great new site called Tearroir that focuses on tea from a wine lover's perspective. Since I work in wine, we have a lot in common and collaborating seemed a natural fit. Today they are featuring a guest blog that I wrote for them detailing my love affair with tea. It was so much fun to look back on my journey with the leaf. It brought to mind how far I've come and how much I still have left to explore. I'd love to hear your story so please feel free to share either in the comments here or on Tearroir's site.

Check out my guest post here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

S.D. Bell's Natural Leaf Tea

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

This was a very traditional English breakfast tea. My younger brother shared the pot with me since breakfast style teas are the only kind that he enjoys. It was full flavored with a bright, clean finish. Notes of earthy cocoa and a subtle maltiness rounded out the flavor profile. I actually felt it was astringent enough to be closer to an Irish breakfast tea. This blend was very strong, so much so that I made a rare exception and used milk and sugar. I would suggest using about half a teaspoon if you are only making one cup. I can definitely see myself making this on weekend mornings when I have the time to sit and really enjoy a cup. S.D. Bell's is based in Ireland and their importer, Best International Tea, is located in Elizabeth, NJ. I live right across the Newark Bay from there so it's great to help support a local company as well.

You can find out more about this tea here.

I'm working with Best International Tea to put together a giveaway for my readers. Check out the widget below to find out how to enter!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Drink My Tea and Eat It Too

While it isn't a habit for most American tea drinkers, Asian cultures have been eating their spent tea leaves for centuries. I was contemplating this recently while enjoying some gyokuro and decided to give it a try. We were having white rice with dinner (random boxed store brand) so I just mixed my leaves in when I was done steeping. The result was actually a lot more delicious than I had expected. It was refreshing and the tea helped to break up the starchiness of the rice.

I wouldn't suggest doing this with all tea as black tea would likely be quite bitter. It worked well in this instance because gyokuro is a shade grown green tea with a sweet taste  and hardly any astringency. It also helps that the leaves are relatively small in size. Have you ever eaten your tea leaves? Tell me about it in the comments, I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Meet the Tea: Matcha

A Google+ follower asked what matcha is, which inspired me to start a series that spotlights the different types of tea.

Matcha is a finely ground green tea that is produced in Japan. Tea bushes are covered about 20 days before harvesting. This slows growth and increases the production of amino acids. The leaves are laid flat to dry until they become somewhat crumbly. This is called tencha. The veins and stems are removed from the tencha and stone ground into matcha. It has a consistency similar to talc baby powder.

Matcha is traditionally prepared using a bamboo whisk (chasen), wooden spoon (chashaku) and a bowl (chawan). It is served as part of the Japanese tea ceremony, also known as Chanoyu. Matcha has become quite trendy and can be found in everything from smoothies, lattes and other drinks. I love baking with it because it is easy to add to almost any recipe. The possibilities are practically endless. Due to the labor involved, matcha can be quite pricey. However, a good bowl of matcha is an amazing experience and I consider it to be worth the expense.

Matcha is generally prepared using water that is about 175 to 180 degrees.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Storm in a Teacup

Photo by ToDryFor.com
New Jersey was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Sandy. I am still without power, heat or hot water but I consider myself lucky because there are many who lost much more than that. Atlantic City was badly damaged so the Coffee and Tea Festival has been postponed. I was disappointed but grateful that the storm did not hit while I was there. Thankfully the blog kept ticking since I had my posts scheduled ahead of time.

Tea and all of its trappings definitely helped me to weather the storm. I discovered that keeping my testubin (a Japanese cast iron teapot) under the covers with me was a wonderful way to keep warm. I spent a lot of hours reading and drinking lots of genmaicha.

Speaking of reading, I finally got around to finishing The Tea Companion by Jane Pettigrew. It was a fantastic read and I'll be posting a review of it soon. I also read the latest Tea Magazine and an issue of Art of Tea that I had been meaning to finish.

Since I didn't have internet, there were no tea reviews to write. I dug into my private stash and drank tea just for the heck of it. I forget to take breaks from reviewing sometimes and this was a great reminder that I should do it more often.

I've been touched by how many friends from the tea community tweeted and Google+'d to check on me. I hope that none of you were seriously affected. Things will hopefully start to get back to normal soon.

Addendum: If you are in the New York City area, Tea for Humanity is looking for volunteers and donations to bring tea to people staying in evacuation shelters.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

David's Tea Indian Summer

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: fruity potpourri?
Ingredients: apple, white Bai Mu Dan, carrot, lemongrass, hibiscus, blackberry leaves, acerola cherries, fig, pumpkin, watermelon, peony petals, artificial flavouring
Steep time: 7 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: deep red

This tea is part of the fall teas collection from David's Tea. At first I thought that the name was strange but Indian summer is a term for a period of unusually warm, dry weather occurring in late autumn. This blend was visually interesting as well. The fruit pieces are large and chunky, bringing to mind a bowl of potpourri. I have never seen whole dried cherries used in a tea before. I had a bit of a hard time getting this into the Breville's infuser basket but I had a lazy moment and stuffed in there anyway. From the deep red color to the sweet and tart taste, I was reminded more of fruit punch than tea. Apple, cherry and lemon were the dominant flavors. I was barely able to detect the white tea underneath all of that fruit. While this may not be everyone's cup of tea it was pretty tasty. It would be a great tea to keep around the house for children since it is sweet and low in caffeine.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Devotea Finbarr's Revenge

Country of Origin: India and Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and somewhat twisted
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: mesh strainer and ceramic teacup
Liquor: deep reddish brown

Argh, this tea's name makes me want to talk like a pirate. It wasn't quite the kick in the face that I had been expecting but that's a good thing in my book. It was brisk and crisp but surprisingly smooth. The Devotea doesn't reveal exactly what teas are in this blend beyond giving point of origin. However, I can definitely pick up Assam-like malty notes. These were tempered by a subtle floral sweetness. Although described as an Irish breakfast, it was not overly astringent. I enjoyed this blend a lot without adding anything but it could certainly stand up to milk and sugar if you wanted to do that. It was evening when I drank this tea but The Devotea's suggestion of pairing it with eggs and bacon immediately made me crave breakfast. Although almost all The Devotea's offerings are black tea blends, they each have a character of their own and that is not an easy feat to accomplish.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Numi Organic Tea Flowering Lavender Dream White Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: plump, bright green
Ingredients: white tea, lavender blossoms, hibiscus petals
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: deep gold

This tea was rich yet delicate and very floral. However, it wasn't a potpourri-like or overly perfumy taste. I loved that I was still able to taste the white tea underneath all of that flower power. The finish was a little dry but not unpleasant. Lavender always relaxes me so this was a great bedtime tea. The blossoms were very tiny and floated loosely so you may want to use a strainer if you don't want them to wind up in your teacup. I was a little disappointed because the hibiscus petals never unfurled. Defects can happen with any handmade tea like this but I didn't feel that it affected the taste at all. Just for fun, I made an animated gif of this tea blooming. My camerawork is a bit shaky since it kept floating out of frame but I think I might do this for all flowering tea reviews. What do you think?

You can find out more about this tea here.





Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wild Tea Qi Wild Snow Oolong

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: long, dark and somewhat twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 5 seconds and longer on each subsequent steep
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

Wild Tea Qi was kind enough to give me a sample of this tea when I visited their booth at World Tea East. I was a little perplexed that the directions stated that the first infusion should be three seconds. Thirty seconds has always been my go to number when using a gaiwan but I decided to take their word for it. Although light, the first infusion was surprisingly flavorful. There were notes of honeyed apricot and a pleasant toastiness with a lingering sweet finish. As I progressed through the infusions (of which I lost count) a more citrusy flavor come to the forefront. This was what I like to call an Energizer Bunny tea, the leaves just keep going and going...and going. Although I increased the steeping time, the tea remained smooth and had very little astringency. Wild Tea Qi recommended chewing the leaves. I tried it and they were mouth watering. That is quite fun to do around non-teaish folks because the reactions that you will get. Do you ever chew your tea leaves?

You can find out more about this tea here.