Monday, December 31, 2012

A Year In Tea: 2012

Photo: bogdan
I can hardly believe that another year has come and gone. 2012 was a continuation of my amazing journey with the leaf. Tea for Me Please celebrated four years of tea and fun. I filmed my first video blog and published my first article in an online magazine. I also wrote a guest blog for Tearroir and made the leap to launching an email newsletter. World Tea East and the New York Coffee and Tea Festival were both highlights. Tea even helped me to get through Hurricane Sandy. Out of curiosity I took a count and I reviewed a grand total of 151 teas in 2012. The blog was visited by nearly 6,900 visitors from 108 different counties. Thank you all for reading what I have to say about tea! It really means the world to me.

Every year around this time, I try to recognize all of the tea companies who have generously shared their products with me and the world. You keep this blog ticking!


Adagio Tea
Aiya Tea
Art of Tea
Bigelow Tea
Boston Tea Company
Celestial Seasonings
Cha Teas
Daintree Tea
David's Tea
Gorreana Tea
Handmade Tea
Harney & Son's
Hayes Tea
Hortissimo
iHeartTeas
Inko's
Jenier Teas
Joy's Teaspoon
Le Palais des Thés
Little Red Cup Tea Co.
MarieBelle
McNulty's Tea & Coffee Co.
Mellow Monk Tea
Min River Tea Farm
Mountain Rose Herbs
Norbu Tea
Our Home Tea
Peony Tea Shop
Persimon Tree Tea Company
Rishi Tea
S.D. Bell's Natural Leaf Tea
Stash Tea
Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company
Synergy Drinks
Teas Etc
Tea Forté
Tea Magazine
Teavivre
The Devotea
The Foreign Office
The Tea Room
The Tea Spot
Tiesta Tea
Wanja Tea of Kenya
Wild Tea Qi

Sunday, December 30, 2012

David's Tea Coco Chai Rooibos

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: varied shades of brown, peppercorns added a nice punch of color
Ingredients: rooibos, coconut, cinnamon, ginger root, cardamom, cloves, pink peppercorns, artificial and natural flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: cloudy red

I sampled this tea as part of my David's Teas 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. The aroma of the dry leaves and liquor was very strong. It filled my kitchen with the smell of festive spices. It tasted exactly like Big Red chewing gum. That is not necessarily a bad thing. I used to be a pretty big fan of cinnamon gum. However, this herbal blend didn't quite live up to its name. It was all woodsy sweetness and cinnamon. I couldn't even taste the coconut beyond a sweetness in the finish of each sip. When I think chai, I expect to have a bit more of a kick and I want to be able to taste all of the spices. That did not happen here. If this tea was named differently I might have liked it a lot more. Since it is rooibos based, this would make a decent before bed sip. I can't explain why but I just love the way pink peppercorns in look in tea. They don't seem to add much as far as flavor but they do lend a nice punch of color.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Guest Post: Sourcing Tales- How We Found our Dancong

Today I am featuring a guest post from Derek Chew. 

Sourcing Tales- How We Found our Dancong

One morning, in a room in Guangdong province….

“Okay, let me see your notes. You ranked B first, C second and A third. I actually picked B first also but A second. So which is which?”

“A is labeled 2, B is labeled 3 and C is labeled 1. I’m guessing B is from Mr. Huang?”

“Let me see, 1 is from Huang, 2 is from Lin and 3 is from Chen”

“No kidding?”

“Yeah, I would have thought that with all his awards, Huang would…… Anyway, let’s eliminate the other 2 and carry on.”

That was what transpired when my wife and I went to Guangdong to source for our Dancong. Does our exchange sound cryptic?

Allow me to explain.

Because sourcing for is the lifeblood of our business, we need to be objective. We realized very often subconsciously our brain tells us certain teas are better than others before we try it.

It can be reasons like packaging, prices or the vendor. Whichever the case, we approach a tea, often with preconceived notions and hence there’s a placebo effect.

That is all fine if you are drinking for leisure or just buying 50g or so but in our case, we need to get the best quality within a certain price range.

We used blind tasting to eliminate the biasness. I would label the teas while my wife would then place them in a receptacle and use a new set of labels before handing to me to brew.

This way both of us would not know which tea came from which vendor and approach the tea entirely based on its own merit.

Bearing in mind this was conducted a day after literally drinking hundreds of infusions of Dancong and purchasing quite a bit of samples.

Without knowing which vendor each sample came from, I would brew them in exactly the same way- almost 1/2 full, boiling water, infused for 3 minutes. The resultant brew is extremely bitter but all the flaws of the tea surface.

Where flash infusions are often insufficient to assess the merits of teas, prolonged infusion with high heat and large quantities will separate the good ones from the mediocre ones. Doing it blind will prevent our prejudices from clouding our judgment.

This is especially so since genial personalities may not be the best producers or have the best teas. While we may like Huang personally for his interesting anecdotes but his teas, when put to the acid test, came in second.

Of course before we started we were worried that Producer X (who shall remain anonymous since there are not THAT many Dancong producers) who was somewhat a pain to deal with would have the best tasting tea but thankfully that was a conundrum we did not have to face on that occasion.

That morning we repeated that another 2 rounds before settling on our Dancong.

Not every tea was selected in this manner but we found this method is very useful for us to mercilessly select the highest quality teas.

Of course the day before, we continue to sit with the producers and listen to their fascinating tales but the reality of sourcing is often less story-telling and more ruthless objectivity than people realize.

Having said that, next Spring Harvest I will still visit Huang again, perhaps if we bring in a new type of Dancong, his version might bring something a different element to the table.

If not, I can still listen to his stories.

Author Bio:

Derek Chew owns and operates Peony Tea S. – an online tea shop that specializes in loose leaf tea from China and Taiwan that are free from additives.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Walk In The Village

A few months ago I was invited on a walking food tour of the GreenwichVillage by my friend Mario. You might know him from his web series, On the Go with Mario. Terri from Try Anything Once also joined in on the fun. The tour was given by Adriana Trigini Tours. Our guide Nikki was knowledgeable, fun and fabulous. It was quite an experience and I definitely recommend it if you are ever visiting New York City (or even if you are a local).



Our first stop of the day was Il Cantuccio, a traditional Italian bakery and sandwich shop. They specialize in contucci, a biscotti-like creation from the city of Prato. The chocolate and fig flavored ones were to die for. While we enjoyed our cookies, we were able to watch their artisans at work as they crafted handmade focaccia bread. I enjoyed a cup of Numi jasmine green tea at this stop.


Right next door we were treated to some amazing Swedish candy at Sockerbit. This was not a run of the mill candy shop. The entire space was blindingly white and sparkling clean. The brightly colored candy and friendly owners made it especially cheerful. Everything we tasted was delicious but my favorite was probably the salted liquorish.


The next stop was so delicious that I forgot to take a picture of it! We had  these amazing arancini (balls of cheese and rice that were breaded and fried) and soppressata (a spicy cured meat) at Faiccio's Italian Specialties. The shop was too small for us to explore inside but I will definitely be returning. According to their sign, they have been there for over 100 years. I have walked past this place many times and never noticed it until our stop on the tour. It goes to show that there are gems hiding under our noses every day.

As if all of that wasn't enough, we feasted on brick oven pizza at Numero 28 Pizzeria. I live in the land of pizza in New Jersey but I have never had anything quite like this. It was doughy, yet light and altogether incredibly delicious. I was amazed at how little grease there was. 




In addition to all of the amazing food, we also got to see some wonderful sights that we might not have noticed otherwise. There were so many secret gardens tucked behind the brownstones and old fashioned buildings. We also spotted the building that was used as the outside of Monica's apartment on the sitcom Friends! The best thing about the walking tour was that we took our time and noticed things that we never would have seen otherwise. It was a great break from the usual hustle and bustle of the city. I felt like I wasn't even in Manhattan.


For desert we stopped into Popbar for some delicious gelato on a stick. I had the banana with dark chocolate and it was heavenly. I was amazed at how creamy yet light it was. I also picked up a couple of tea sticks while we were there. My review of the Pomegranate White Tea is already posted and there will be an upcoming one about the Jasmine Green Tea soon.


Mario is a tea lover like myself so our last stop of the day was McNulty's Tea & Cofee Co. This place was like stepping into a time machine. When you order your tea it is hand measured on an old fashioned scale and your bag is stamped with a rubber stamp. Every tea is displayed in large glass jars. It was a truly sensory experience as everyone in the group shared which ones they thought smelled amazing.

I'd really like to thank Mario and Adriana Trigini Tours for a really great day. Make sure to watch the video of episode seven of On the Go with Mario below, you'll spot me in a few scenes :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Handmade Tea Krampus Brew

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: tightly rolled, juicy cherries
Ingredients: gunpowder green tea, dried cherries, cinnamon, and cloves
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method:
Liquor: gold

I'm always raving about +Handmade Tea's blends but they really are just that good. The December offering was one I wish I could buy by the pound. It featured a smoky gunpowder green tea base. It was smooth and sweet with just the right amount of astringency. The cherries added a hint of tart sweetness. Although they were dried, they had a deliciously juicy look to them. I've only seen cherries used in a few teas but they worked really well in this one. The cinnamon and cloves added a comforting and festive touch as well as a cooling aftertaste. My monthly shipments usually keep me company at work and I have a feel this one will be gone very quickly. Oh and in case you didn't know, Krampus "is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish bad children during the Yule season."

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

David's Tea 24 Days of Tea

When I saw this tea advent calendar from David's Tea, I just knew that it had to be part of my holiday preparations this year. The cardboard box was festive and it smelled amazing. The combination of all of the teas inside was intoxicating. I had already reviewed a few of the teas but many of them were new to me. I struggled with exactly how to handle this on the blog since I didn't want to dedicate an entire month to just one company. Instead, I'll be regularly updating this post and linking reviews as they get published.

  • Day 1 - Buttered Rum - I've had this one before. It tastes exactly like what I would imagine buttered rum to taste like. Heavy on the coconut.
  • Day 2 - Chocolate Rocket - One of my favorite flavored yerba matés. It's delicious and gives me a real burst of energy.
  • Day 3 - Coco Rooibos Chai - I found myself wishing that this tea had been more authentically chai.
  • Day 4 - Salted Caramel - A decadent treat. I could smell the sticky sweetness of this tea before I even took my first sip.
  • Day 5 - Cream of Earl Grey - a decent Earl Grey but the vanilla flavoring came off as artificial
  • Day 6 - Glitter & Gold - Mesmerizing swirls of gold in a cinnamon and orange flavored black tea. Check out my video!
  • Day 7 - Crème Brûlée - a very yummy rooibos based rendition of my favorite dessert.
  • Day 8 - Organic Breakfast - a plain and simple breakfast tea
  • Day 9 - Hot Lips - all hot cinnmamon and chili pepper spice
  • Day 10 - Organic Detox
  • Day 11 - Sleigh Ride - a fruity and festive blend that was more Christmassy than it seemed.
  • Day 12 - Forever Nuts - I found myself thinking, "Where's the nuts?"
  • Day 13 - Green and Fruity - woodsy and slightly fruity green tea
  • Day 14 - Goji Pop - not my cup of tea. It was so cloyingly sweet that it made me nauseous
  • Day 15 - Japanese Sencha
  • Day 16 - North African Mint
  • Day 17 - Checkmate - surprisingly rich and complex, like a less astringent Darjeeling
  • Day 18 - Toasted Walnut
  • Day 19 - Read My Lips - chocolate minty deliciousness
  • Day 20 - Kiwi's Big Adventure
  • Day 21 - Sweet Dreams
  • Day 22 - The Skinny
  • Day 23 - Vanilla Oolong
  • Day 24 - Santa's Secret
All in all, this was a great buy. I was able to get at least three cups from most of the tins. They wouldn't be good for long term storage since they have clear lids but they would be an adorable way to share tea with friends.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Tea Spot Red Hot Chai

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: small, needle-like shape and reddish color
Ingredients: rooibos, ginger root, cinnamon, cardamon and cinnamon, ginger & vanilla flavor
Steep time: 7 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: mesh infuser and ceramic teacup
Liquor: brick red

This blend is part of The Tea Spot's Holiday Brews collection. As soon as I opened the packet, I was hit with lots of spicy aroma. It was sweeter and softer than your traditional chai. The vanilla complimented the rooibos really well and helped to hide the rooibos aftertaste that I'm not a big fan of. There was still a slightly earthy flavor and the spice was everything that it should be. Cinnamon was definitely a dominant flavor the the ginger and cardamon shined through as well. Overall this was really good cup of tea that would make a perfect late night sip since it's caffeine free. A latte style drink might be night but I probably wouldn't add just straight milk to this.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

iHeartTeas Winter Frost

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small and dark with flecks of cinnamon
Ingredients: black tea, cinnamon bark, natural cinnamon flavor, natural vanilla flavor, candy cane pieces, natural candy cane flavor, peppermint leaves
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

This was a comforting and festive cup of tea. The flavors all worked well together and none of them overpowered the others. I really enjoyed that the cinnamon was soft and sweet rather than super spicy. The vanilla added a really pleasant hint of creaminess while the mint and candy cane provided a cooling aftertaste. I did find myself wishing for more candy cane pieces but that probably would have thrown the balance off. The base black tea was earthy and sweet but subtle enough to provide a stage for the other ingredients to shine. Overall this was a well put together blend that brought the flavors of the season to mind without being over the top. This the second blend that I've tried from +iHeartTeas and I've been very impressed with both of them.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tazo Joy

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: dark and twisted, fairly large in size
Ingredients: black tea, green tea, oolong tea, natural flavors
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: reddish brown

This particular blend is a seasonal Christmas offering at Starbucks and a recent favorite of mine. Here is what Tazo has to say about it:
Tazo® Joy™ is a festive, full-leaf tea blending rare Darjeelings and Oolongs with fragrant Nuwara Eliya teas from Ceylon. Green teas from China and Assam black teas from India add further texture and complexity to a fine tea that's a joy to share with friends – or to enjoy yourself.
The first thing that impressed me that this was truly a full leaf tea bag. The leaves were fairly large in size and they had plenty of room to expand in the sachet. Darjeeling was definitely the dominant flavor. A peachy undertone lent an interesting fruity softness. Although Tazo doesn't hint at what the natural flavoring might be, there is just a bit of cinnamon spice in the finish. The flavoring really was very faint and I thought it was well done. There was some astringency but it wasn't bitter at all. It's not available all year but I definitely see myself grabbing another tin before the holidays are over. My one qualm is that they are packaged in a bulky metal tin. It's fine for gifting but for personal use, I'd much rather have a large package that is more eco-friendly.

I don't normally mix tea blogging and my personal life but in a way, picking up this tea was a tribute to a dear friend. Niramon was one of the most amazing people that I've ever know and she left this world too soon. This was her favorite tea and I think of her every time I drink it.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

David's Tea Sleigh Ride

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: rather nutty
Ingredients: apple, hibiscus blossoms, candied pineapple, candied papaya, beetroot pieces, cinnamon stick pieces, raisins, coconut, roasted almonds, popped rice, artificial flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: pinkish red

I sampled this tea as part of my David's Tea 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. I was excited to try this blend ever since I sniffed a sample in their Bleecker Street shop. It was full of tart, fruity sweetness and comforting spice. Apple and cinnamon were the dominant flavors but I was still able to taste the individual components. Each sip brought to mind mulled wine, apple cider and sweet holiday treats. Although it wasn't super present in the taste, the popped rice was reminiscent of old fashioned popcorn garland. I have a love-hate relationship with hibiscus but it worked well here. At first glance, this blend did not seem very Christmassy but it turned out to be a festival fruit punch. I can imagine this being just as delicious iced as it was hot. It might even be a good candidate for infusing in vodka for seasonal cocktails. I'm usually not very big on herbal teas but I will definitely consider keeping some on hand for late night sipping since it is caffeine free.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide

Christmas is almost here, which reminds me that I've been meaning to put together a holiday gift guide for tea lovers. So far I've got ten really great gifts added to my Pinterest board that is embedded below. I'll be continually adding to it so be sure to follow me on Pinterest!.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

T-We Tea Chai That

Country of Origin: Tanzania, India
Leaf Appearance: small and dark, strong spicy aroma
Ingredients: Tanzanian black tea, Assam, Nilgiri, ginger, sweet cinnamon, smoked peppercorn, ground clove, cardamom, star anise, cocoa nibs
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method:
Liquor: dark brown

I attended a shopping event called Unique NYC and was beyond excited when I spotted a tea company among all of the hand crafted goods. Their packaging was adorable and the gent at the booth, Christopher, was super friendly and helpful. They are based in San Francisco and blend all of their teas themselves. I selected this chai blend along with a tin of Guurl Grey (review coming soon). This tea was rich and earthy with plenty of spicy kick. The finish was somewhat sweet and almost cooling. It was hearty enough to stand up to milk and sugar but I was able to drink it just fine on its own. There was plenty of astringency but not so much as so to be unpleasant. This particular blend isn't available on their website just yet but you can find out more about them at the link below.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Homemade Chai Lattes

It's been getting progressively chillier which means that I am craving chai more and more often. My boyfriend isn't a tea drinker but he recently discovered that he enjoys chai as well (jumps for joy!). I decided to try making us some chai lattes. The first step was to simmer the tea in two cups of water and two cups of milk. It's important not to scald the milk or it will keep getting a rather gross film on top. I didn't want to make them too strong so I let it steep for about 15 minutes. Straining the tea into the teacups was a little tricky but I had a small sieve with a handle that helped a great deal.

I don't own a steamer or espresso machine so to add a little foam I tested out a technique I saw at David's Tea. I poured milk into a chawan (tea bowl) and whisked it as though I were making matcha. It wasn't quite the real thing but it was foamy and helped to cool the tea off to the perfect drinking temperature. Just a teaspoon of sugar and some cinnamon on top finished it off nicely. You won't often see me sweeten my tea but with chai it can help the flavors pop. I was really happy with the way these turned out. Chai and its warming spices are like comfort food for me in the winter and a big mug of it hit the spot. Do you make tea lattes at home? I'd love to hear about your technique!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Art of Tea Starry Night

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small and dark, white tea star is adorable
Ingredients: Organic black loose leaf tea, white loose leaf tea, natural flavors
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: dark amber

It's rare that a tea can be described as adorable but this one was exactly that. I loved the stars made out of white tea. While not really apparent in the flavor profile, they were a unique addition. It was fun to watch them unfurl, much like a flowering tea. The base Assam was malty and earthy but subtle enough to let the flavoring shine through. I was happy to find that it was't overpowering or artificial tasting. Vanilla is like comfort food for me and it lent a subtle creaminess to this tea. I'm usually not one for adding anything to my teas but I found myself craving just a touch of almond milk. The soothing vanilla and mellow taste would make this blend a great evening tea. This is the first tea that I've reviewed from Art of Tea and if this one is any indication, I'm sure that I'll love the rest of their offerings.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mountain Rose Herbs Oolong Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, somewhat twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
Liquor: dark amber

This tea was nutty and faintly floral with a hint of peach. There was a lingering sweetness in the finish of each sip. I did find it a little one dimensional because it lacked the complexity that I would normally expect from an oolong. I could see myself drinking this at work but it isn't something that I would reach for at home. My main complaint about this tea is that they simply call it oolong. That is akin to saying saying red wine rather than Merlot or Pinot Noir. There are many different types and cultivars of oolong. My inner tea nerd would like to see it listed in a more detailed way. I've enjoyed all of the other teas from Mountain Rose Herbs that I have tried and know them to be a trustworthy company so I'm not overly concerned about it.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Tea Companion by Jane Pettigrew

I picked up a copy of this book on a trip to Teavana a few months ago. While not a heavy tome, it covers just about every topic that a newbie to tea would need to know about. The book is written in the two sections. The Story of Tea focuses on how tea came to be, it's history and how it is produced. I especially enjoyed the grading terminology chart and the section on tea equipage. It's written in a no nonsense style but also comes across as very approachable.

The second section is a directory of teas from around the globe. It is a feast for the eyes because the liquor as well as the dry and steeped leaves for each tea are attractively displayed. I love that Jane addresses even the little known growing regions like Georgia and the Azores. With most tea books, I find inaccurate facts or some other glaring omission. I can honestly say that it was one of the most comprehensive and factually accurate books on tea that I have ever read. Even if you know your stuff, this book is a great resource and one that I would definitely recommend to any tea drinker.

You can find out more about Jane Pettigrew here.

 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Giveaway: Celestial Seasonings Sleeptime Snooz Berry Natural Sleep Aid

Country of Origin: not given
Ingredients: Valerian root extract, Relora (Magnolia officianalis bark extract and Phellodendron amurense bark extract), Chamomile flowers extract, L-theanine, Lemon balm leaf extract, Hops extracr, Jujube seed extract, Melatonin, Purified Water, Evaporated Cane Juice, Citric Acid, Natural Sweetener (Stevia Extract) and Natural Berry Flavor with Other Natural Flavors (Soy Lecithin)
Preparation Method: bottled
Liquor: brown

I'm a big fan of Celestial Seasonings kombucha and green tea energy shots so I jumped at the chance to try their new Sleepytime Natural Sleep Aid. These caffeine free shots are designed to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and wake up feeling refreshed. While I don't have trouble sleeping often, it can be hard to turn my mind off after a long and stressful day. I also have restless legs from time to time. The berry flavor seemed liked the safest bet as that was my favorite in the other lines.

Following the directions on the label, I took the shot 30 minutes before I planned to go to sleep. The taste left a little to be desired but that being said, valerian is the first ingredient and it is a very bitter and stinky herb. The cane juice and stevia helped to soften that a bit. It wasn't intolerable though since this shot is not designed to be consumed on a very regular basis.

Sleep came quickly and without the usual tossing and turning before I settled in. The next morning I was a bit groggy (getting up at 6:00AM on a Wednesday will do that to anyone) but I felt like I had gotten a solid night of sleep. I can definitely see myself to turning to these when the holiday season at work has me exhausted. They are certainly worth a try for anyone who needs help with getting to sleep.

Thank you to everyone who entered our giveaway and congratulations to the winners! I'll be contacting you shortly. Entries are now closed.


Make sure you visit their Sleepytime Facebook App too where you can download a $1 off coupon for Sleepyime Snooz Shots!

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Adagio Teas Masala Chai

Photo: Adagio Teas
Country of Origin: Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: dark, lots of cloves and ginger pieces
Ingredients: Ceylon sonata tea, cardamom pods, ginger root, cloves, black tea, cinnamon bark, natural cinnamon flavor
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: dark brown

Winter is on its way which means I'm drinking more and more chai. This version from Adagio Teas was bold and spicy. The cinnamon and ginger definitely dominated but I was still able to taste the black tea underneath. It's a little milder than some other chai teas I have tried since they opted to use Ceylon instead of the traditional Assam. While not overly astringent, I still prefered it with a touch of milk and sugar. If you are a fan of chai lattes (and who isn't?) try boiling this in a sauce pan with milk instead of water. You'll get a creamy, spicy treat. Whole milk develops a bit of a film because of the fat content. I just pull it off but if it bothers you, try using skim milk. This particular blend is inexpensive so it's great to keep around the house for when the mood strikes on chilly days.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Peony Tea Shop Anxi Iron Goddess (Traditional)

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark green, tightly curled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale gold

The first infusion of this tea was somewhat more delicate than other Tie Guan Yins that I have tried. However, it wasn't weak or lacking in flavor. There were floral notes of orchid and a hint citrus. This tea was charcoal roasted and that comes through in a subtle toastiness. The finish was sweet and lingered long after each sip. Those flavors evolved and became more pronounced with each subsequent infusion. The mouthfeel was smooth and the leaves unfurled to be quite large. I brewed this in a gaiwan as well as in a glass teapot. Both methods produced excellent tea but I preferred the gaiwan version. I really enjoyed this tea and finished the whole bag while hunkered down during Hurricane Sandy. Derek, the owner of Peony Tea Shop, was kind enough to write a guest post for this blog a few months ago. He's very knowledgeable and I definitely suggest checking out his blog.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Serengeti Tea Jasmine Green Tea Stick

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark green
Ingredients: green tea, jasmine blossoms
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic tea cup
Liquor: deep gold

This was a run of the mill jasmine green tea. It was vegetal with a hint of floral sweetness. It was not very aromatic and the scenting is subtle so I wouldn't suggest adding sugar or honey. You may remember that I previously reviewed the Pomegranate White Tea Stick from this companie. I had completely forgotten to check out the leaves inside before throwing that one out. I made it a point to open it up this time and all I can say is, those poor leaves! They were very compacted and it is obvious that they had very little room to expand. It is so important that tea leaves have some leg room, otherwise you'll never get the full flavor out of them. I must declare this to be an emergency tea. While it did not taste bad, I'd take a loose leaf version over it any day.

You can find out more about this tea here.

One a side note, today is the first day of my Advent Calendar from David's Tea! You can follow all of teas and my experiences with them on Instagram under #24daysoftea :)