Thursday, February 28, 2013

Matcha Hot Chocolate from Oh, How Civilized

Photo: Jee Choe
Oh, How Civilized
When Jee of the fabulous blog Oh, How Civilized posted a recipe for matcha hot chocolate, I could not resist whipping myself up a batch. I have a big weak spot for both matcha and white chocolate so the ingredients suited me perfectly. The store I went to was out of the recommended Lindt brand so I had to settle for Godiva vanilla bean white chocolate. The white chocolate melted easily into the milk and some vigorous whisking dissolved the last of the matcha.

What a decadent treat! It was thinner than I though it might be but it was still rich in flavor and texture. Even without marshmallows, it was very sweet but still had that fresh matcha taste to it. I learned my lesson though, I won't use vanilla bean chocolate next time. My cup was left with a ton of bean particles leaving the last few sips rather gritty. Otherwise, this was a fantastic recipe and one that I will definitely be revisiting.

You can find out more about this recipe here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

David's Tea Organic Detox

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: varied greens and browns
Ingredients: rooibos, sencha, ginger, lemongrass, juniper berries and natural lemon flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: brassy gold

I sampled this tea as part of my David's Tea 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. It was a mostly herbal blend that basically tasted like a lemony rooibos. All in all it was a rather blah cup of tea. There was no astringency but the aftertaste came across as medicinal. It's rare that I strongly dislike a tea but that is what happened here. I tried to be objective about this tea despite my reservations. Health benefits are not why I drink tea so detoxing is not something that I am necessarily interested in. The description on David's Tea's website does not give very much information on what exactly it was designed to. It would have be helpful to have a breakdown of the role of each of the ingredients as I've seen on many other "detoxification" teas.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

iHeartTeas Green Tea & Lemongrass Lip Balm

I usually scoff at beauty products with tea ingredients because it's usually a minor part of the formula that is used solely for marketing purposes. However, I have fallen in love with this lip balm from iHeartTeas. Made by hand in Illinois by Rachel, this lip balm contains actual powdered tea. I've been using it for a few months now and I am very impressed. I love the fresh lemony scent and it makes my lips super soft. It isn't too waxy or greasy and I love that the ingredients are not chemically and artificial. The tiny tin it is packaged in features a sliding lid and it is perfect for stowing in my purse. Her Green Tea & Cocoa version is definitely on my wish list once I have finished this tin.

Ingredients: avocado oil, calendula wax, green tea butter (prunus amygdalus dulics (sweet almond) oil (and) camellia sinensis leaf powder (and) hydrogenated vegetable oil), olive oil, lemongrass essential oil, flavoring

You can find out more about this lip balm here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Handmade Tea Sweet Potato Pie

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: small and dark with lots of marshmallows and sweet potato pieces
Ingredients: oolong, sweet potato pieces, marshmallows
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: dark amber

The Formosa oolong base of this tea was earthy and sweet with no bitterness or astringency. The tasting notes that accompanied it described the taste as raisiny and I can definitely see that connection. The sweet potatoes added a meaty thickness while the sweet marshmallows rounded out the flavor profile. I was worried that they might make things too sweet but this blend had great balance. The only other time that I've had marshmallows in tea was when I reviewed the Toasted Marshmallow from David's Tea. This blend is probably one of the most unusual that I've tried. Though, I've come to expect the unexpected when it comes to Handmade Tea. I normally share my Handmade Tea tins with everyone at work since I always have so many tea samples to get to but I think that I'll be keeping this one for myself.

You can find out more about Handmade Tea here.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Le Palais des Thés - Columbus Avenue

Even though it was their first location in New York City, I did not get to visit Le Palais des Thés on Columbus Avenue until just recently. This shop is quite a bit smaller than the Price Street location. It did have the same light and airy aesthetic which helped to keep it from feeling claustrophobic. The selection isn't as large but all of the basics and most popular blends were there. They did have out their usual daily sample offering which was nice as that is one of my favorite things at their other store. I had run out of Darjeeling (tragedy!) so I picked up a bag of their Margaret's Hope 2nd Flush.

The store had only one person staffing it that day since it is so tiny but she managed to juggle several customers easily. I really enjoy that their staff is always friendly and helpful but never pushy. While I was making my purchase, she generously offered a sample and let me choose from several different kinds (I opted for the Grand Yunnan Imperial). I really appreciated that because I've been to tea shops where they throw random samples into my bag that are usually not suited to my tastes. There aren't many places nearby where you can buy loose leaf tea so a nice little shop like this was definitely needed.

You can find out more about this tea place here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

David's Tea Organic Japanese Sencha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: small, sage green
Ingredients: sencha green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 165 degrees
Preparation Method: kyusu
Liquor: pale green

I sampled this tea as part of my David's Tea 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. I was really happy to pull out an unflavored tea after a string of herbal teas that I did not enjoy. The taste was mellow and vegetal with a hint of fruity sweetness. There was no astringency or bitterness to speak of. I prepared this tea in a kyusu and my second infusion was just as delicious. It wasn't the highest quality sencha that I've had but it was very decent for the price. As I'm writing this review, I'm cold drip brewing the rest of the sample and I cannot wait to try it. I can definitely see myself picking up a bag in the summer for that purpose. Iced sencha is a truly refreshing treat, even when the weather isn't hot outside. I prefer my green tea to be on the subtle side and sencha is one of my favorites.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Art of Tea Chocolate Monkey

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: reddish brown, needle-like
Ingredients: Organic Fair Trade South African Rooibos, Organic South African Honeybush, Organic Cacao Nibs, Organic Apple Bits, Organic Banana Bits, Organic Pink Peppercorn, Chocolate Seeds, Natural Flavors
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

This tea was decadently delicious. I am usually not a fan of rooibos but the chocolate and banana accented it perfectly. It was well balanced and sweet without being overdone. I prefer my flavored teas to be a little more laid back and this one fit the bill. I was still able to taste the woodsiness of the rooibos and honeybush underneath. The pink peppercorns never seem to affect the flavor of tea but they certainly look great next to the deep red leaves. I've seen some banana blends fall flat and I think that the apple really helped maintain the fruity sweetness that was needed. This herbal blend is caffeine free and there was no astringency. It was an excellent desert tea that I can definitely see myself reaching for it after dinner. It might even satisfy my sweet tooth so that I don't indulge as much as I would otherwise.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Tea Lover's Guide to Google+

Social media is an integral part of the tea world because it helps us to connect and share information. Google+ seems to be a bit of a last frontier for most people. The complaints that I hear most often about this platform are that it is confusing and boring. Once you've learned the ropes, it is neither of those things. Rather than explain how to use G+, I wanted to give some tips that will make it a much friendlier place for tea lovers. If you aren't familiar with Google+ and how it works, I suggest checking out the book What the Plus! Google+ For the Rest of Us by Guy Kawasaki.
  1. Circle, Circle Circle - A common mistake people make on G+ is that they don't circle anyone. Circling is the equivalent of following someone on Twitter. It will be a very boring place if you don't connect with anyone. Google allows you to specify how much each of your circles can see so you don't have to share all of your posts publicly if you do not want to. Start by adding people you already know and work your way up from there. If you are a blogger you may want to make sure that your posts are shared publicly, otherwise they may be missed.
  2. Interact - The best way to find new people to circle is to join in the conversation. Comment on posts that interest you. Never be intimidated if you feel that others are more knowledgeable than you are. Tea people are usually a pretty friendly lot and they will be happy to help you learn.
  3. Communities - Communities are a great way to meet G+er's who share your love for tea. Here are some of my favorite. Due to the proliferation of spam in some of the communities on G+, a bunch of like-minded tea lovers are banding together on a community with the same name as this blog and you are welcome to join us.
  4. Hangouts - Hangouts are a fun way to do group video chats. These enable you to share a cup of tea with friends across the country and even around the globe. To get started, you might want to check out the weekly hangouts offered by Tea Geek and Tea for Ten.
  5. Don't spam people! Just as with Twitter and any other form of social media, no one likes a spammer. Don't overdo self promotion and PLEASE don't use the option to email your posts to everyone in your circles.
I think that Google+ will really revolutionize the tea community once it catches on. Feel free to add me on Google+. You can also circle the G+ page for Tea for Me Please. I share my blog posts on both my personal profile and the blog's page so it's a great way to keep up to date on what is going on here as well.

P.S. If you have a blog that is hosted on Blogger, you can mention G+ profiles in your posts. Like this: +Tea for Me Please , +Nicole Martin .

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Little Red Cup Tea Company Keemun Black Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot and infuser basket
Liquor: reddish brown

This was a fairly typical Keemun, malty and somewhat smoky yet mellow. It was brisk but not bitter because the astringency was balanced by fruity notes and an almost floral aroma. I wouldn't recommend using milk or sugar with this tea as a lot its nuances would be masked. This would make a great morning tea for those who find English breakfast style blends too harsh. I've increasingly become a fan of Chinese black teas for this reason. As is the case with all of Little Red Cup Tea Co.'s offerings, this tea is organic and fair trade certified. In case you missed it, check out the interview that I did with Martin, one of the co-founders of this great little company. I'm a little sad because this is the last of the sampler I had purchased of their teas. My favorite out of the five teas that they offer is their Lu Mai green tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

David's Tea Toasted Walnut

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: deep green teaves and lots of nut bits
Ingredients: sencha green tea, nut brittle (sugar, hazlenut), candied pineapple (pineapple, sugar), coconut rasps (coconut, coconut fat, sugar), almond flakes, walnut bits and artificial flavoring
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: gold

I sampled this tea as part of my David's Tea 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. The dry leaves smelled amazing. It didn't taste quite as nutty as I would have liked but it is a hard flavor to pull off well. The pineapple and coconut were definitely the dominant flavors but the sencha was still vegetal underneath it all. There was no astringency but there was a bit of tart, grassy finish. Although this blend had many sugary ingredients it wasn't overly sweet. It was a decent tea but I'm not sure that I would purchase it again. I really enjoy many of David's Teas blends but they often fall short of expectations because of the names of the blends. This tea is named Toasted Walnut and that is exactly what I was expecting. I might have liked it a lot more if it had been called something else. That seems a bit biased but sometimes with buying tea online, all we have to go by is the name.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sunday Afternoon Tasting with Tealet

Yesterday I had an opportunity to taste some really wonderful teas. Jo from A Gift of Tea, Darlene from The Tea Enthusiasts Scrapbook and I met up with Elyse and Michael from Tealet. It was great to speak with people who are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about tea. I am a big fan of their mission to bridge the gap between tea farmers and tea drinkers. You might remember that I enjoyed their Kyobancha a few weeks ago. Keep an eye out for more reviews of their awesome teas. Despite the cold and blustery New York City weather, the focus of this tasting was on Hawaiian grown teas.

The first tea we tasted was an oolong grown by Onomea Tea Company. It was very different from any oolong with I've tried before. It was floral as one might expect from an oolong but with an interesting underlying spiciness. The pleasant, sweet aftertaste lingered in my palate even several minutes after finishing my last sip.
Next up was a black tea that was also grown by Onomea Tea Company. It was full bodied with notes of fruit and caramel.There was no bitterness or astringency at all. Darlene felt that it reminded her of Ruby 18 (a Taiwanese black tea) and Jo noticed a really nice minty quality. I agreed on both counts and felt that it had the same subtle hint of spice that we detected in the oolong.

Last but not least was a green tea from Mauna Kea Tea. The leaves were beautiful to look at and the aroma of the steeped tea was nothing short of intoxicating. The flavor was light and fresh with a nice fruity sweetness. We did three infusions and the leaves still looked like they could have gone for one more round. Out of everything we sampled, this one was definitely my favorite.

Elyse also brought along a bar of Madre Chocolate. It was dark chocolate blended with green tea leaves and roasted rice. What a treat for a tea loving chocoholic such as myself! The cacao and vanilla used to make it are both grown in Hawaii and the tea is sourced from one of Tealet's farmers in Japan.

I will definitely be looking for these teas once they are available on Tealet's site and I'm excited to see where Hawaiian grown tea goes in the future. I think there will be plenty of demand once the word gets out about how unique they are.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Meet the Tea: Darjeeling

I haven't done an installment of Meet the Tea in a while so I thought I'd pick it back up again with one of my favorite types of tea.

Darjeeling is tea that is grown in the Darjeeling region of India. It's a fascinating region due to its history and the socioeconomic issues that affect the tea industry there. Tea was first planted in 1841 and continued through a bit of agricultural espionage done by Robert Fortune on behalf of the East India Company. For those interested, I highly recommend reading the following books on the subject:

The Darjeeling Distinction by Sarah Besky
For All The Tea in China by Sarah Rose

While several types are produced there, the name is generally synonymous with black tea. Sometimes called the Champagne of teas, Darjeeling is known for its distinctive muscatel taste. The naming system teas from this region can be quite complicated. They are usually named for both the season it was harvested and the estate where it was grown. I love 1st Flush teas but only when they really fresh. Otherwise, 2nd Flushes are my go to. I love exploring the different estates because the tea really does change depending on where it is grown.

1st Flush - harvested in mid-March after the spring rains
2nd Flush - harvested in June before the monsoon season begins
Autumnal Flush - harvested in autumn after the rainy season

Have you ever seen a series of letters at the end of the name of a tea? These abbreviations denote the grade of leaves used to make the tea. Orange Pekoe is usually used to describe a black tea consisting of whole leaves of a particular size. Fannings and dust are the lowest grades and they are used to produce tea bags.

SFTGFOP - Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
FTGFOP - Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
TGFOP - Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
FTGBOP - Fine Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
TGBOP - Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
FBOP - Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
BOP - Broken Orange Pekoe
GFOF - Golden Flowery Orange Fannings
GOF - Golden Orange Fannings
D - Dust

Darjeeling is generally prepared using 212 degree water and steeped for 3 to 5 minutes. Greener 1st flush teas will usually do well at slightly cooler temperatures.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Nature's Tea Leaf Buddha Hand Oolong

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

Nature's Tea Leaf calls the flavor of this tea audacious but I found it to be a lot more subtle than that. It was delicate and sweet with floral and mineral notes. A fresh, vegetal element came to the forefront with each subsequent infusion. The mouth-feel was buttery and there was no astringency to speak of. That being said, I prefer my oolongs to have a lot more body and complexity but it was still a decent tea. I might be more inclined to drink this in the summer since it is very light. They recommended icing it in the product description and I think that I may prefer it that way. The leaves were really fun to play with after steeping because they were absolutely massive. Buddha hand oolong is named after its resemblance to the leaves of the fingered citron. It is made in the same style as Tie Guan Yin and for some vendors the names are interchangeable.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

David's Tea North African Mint

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: mostly green with light brown pieces
Ingredients: organic cardamom, peppermint, ginger, Japanese style Hojicha green tea, licorice root, fennel, clove and black pepper
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep gold

I sampled this tea as part of my David's Tea 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. This blend was way too doctored up for my tastes. All you really need for Maghreb style tea is green tea and mint. Gunpowder green tea is typically used and I really missed that smoky element. The warming spices took away from the cooling mint. I also tend to dislike licorice because of it's cloying aftertaste. The Hojicha was barely detectable underneath all of that conflict. I'm normally a big fan of North African style mint tea but this is not really a traditional version. There are plenty of reviews on Steepster from folks who enjoyed this blend and just like with any tea, it's a matter of personal taste. This one was simply not for me.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Teamotions Lemon Vanilla Green Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small green leaves, somewhat twiggy
Ingredients: Yunwu Green Tea, Green Rooibos, Lemongrass, Ginger, Lemon Myrtle, Oatstraw, Lavender, Ashwagandha, Natural Flavors
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: deep gold

Teamotions teas are designed to promote emotional well being and this particular blend is meant to restore happiness and joy. Nothing makes me happier than a cup of tea so it was already off to a great start. The dry leaves smelled absolutely delicious. It was refreshing and sweet with a gentle vegetal undertone. The lavender and vanilla had their usual calming and soothing affect. Lemongrass isn't one of my favorite tea ingredients but it worked well here. I had never seen oatstraw or ashwagandha in a tea before but they did not seem to have an affect on the taste. The sample that I had tried was in a generously filled pyramid teabag but it is sold as loose leaf on their site. So far I have really enjoyed the teas that I've tried from Teamotions. Their concept of adaptogen teas is not one that I've seen elsewhere and it will be interested to see where it goes.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery

This book was recommended to me some time ago by Michele Brody while I was attending A Gift of Tea's White Spring Tea. I finally got around to reading it and I am so glad that I did. While not necessarily about tea, Chado is woven artfully throughout the story. It tells the story of an orphaned American girl who is taken in by the daughter of an important tea master. The story is very compelling, especially if you have a passion for tea. How often do you see Rikyu discussed in a fictional novel?

It was accurate both concerning history and tea. I loved all of the descriptions of tea houses, ceremonies and tools. Everything is described so vividly and in such detail you almost believe that you almost believe this family did exist at one point in time. My one qualm is that there are few adult scenes that seemed a bit too contrived and out of place from the rest of the story. Otherwise, this might have been a wonderful book to share with a budding tea lover. Nevertheless, it was a great read and I would definitely recommend if have an interest in tea and Japanese culture.

You can find out more about this book here.


Monday, February 11, 2013

David's Tea Salted Caramel

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance:small and dark, flecked with brown bits and something somewhat yellowish (presumaby the sea salt)
Ingredients: black tea, coconut, caramel bits, English toffee bits, sea salt, natural and artificial flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep reddish brown

I sampled this tea as part of my David's Teas 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. I could smell the sticky sweetness of this tea before I even took my first sip. I was happy to find the taste a little more mild than the aroma. The caramel and toffee wasn't overwhelming but they were definitely there. There was a really nice creaminess in the finish of each sip. The base black tea was somewhat malty but still had a pleasant earthiness and brisk astringency. The saltiness came through almost as an aftertaste. I couldn't really pick up the coconut but that was ok by me as there was already a lot going on flavor-wise. This was a great desert tea that certainly satisfied my sweet tooth. While this blend was more than fine on it's own, I could see it taking a spot of milk nicely. I might go with something light like an almond milk rather than my usual whole milk. The flavoring was very well done and I definitely see myself ordering a latte the next time I'm in one of David's Tea's NYC shops.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Squirting Frog Tea Pet

I've had this adorable frog tea pet for a while and finally got around to filming a video. Most tea pets are just figurines that sit on your tea table but this one is special because it squirts water! It is made out of yixing clay but I'm not really sure how it works. I'm assuming it is some kind of heat transfer because the water that he shoots is always cool. Even with a slotted tea table, it can get quite messy but it makes for a fun tea session. Do you have any tea pets? I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Tea Travel

I've rarely gone very far from New Jersey but it's always been a dream of mine to travel the world exploring my passion for tea. There are so many places to choose from that it I don't even know where I would start. Here are the top five destinations on my wish list (in no particular order):

The Charleston Plantation - This plantation, owned by Bigelow,  is located in South Carolina. It is home to 127 acres of tea plants and a working tea factory. I'd love to visit during their annual harvest festival. This one seems the easiest since it's not TOO far of a drive from home.

Hawaii - Beautiful islands and beaches plus all of the tea plantations springing up there? I can't think of a reason not to go to Hawaii as soon as possible. Some of the farms I've been looking at are Mauna Kea Tea, Moonrise Tea and Cloudwater Tea.

China - I've wanted to travel to China ever since I first became interested in tea. Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas runs tours every year that sound like a once in a lifetime experience. Although not inexpensive, they seem to be pretty all inclusive once you arrive in China.

World Tea Expo - Viva Las Vegas! I've never been able to go but the World Tea Expo is certainly the place to be for everyone in the tea world. I'd really like to attend this year, especially since a little birdie told me that The Devotea will be there.

Portugal - Not many people are aware but there is a gorgeous tea plantation on São Miguel Island, off the coast of Portugal. It is the oldest tea farm in Europe. I've sampled and enjoyed some of their tea. It would be a real treat to see it being made in person.

Have you done any tea traveling? I'd love to hear about it! If you're interested in writing a guest post about your tea travel experience, shoot me an email at :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

iHeartTeas Sweet Velvet Fog

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and somewhat twisted
Ingredients: black tea, natural caramel flavor, natural vanilla flavor, natural cream flavor
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep reddish brown

Usually the way that a tea smells gives a good indication of what it will taste like. The dry leaves of this tea certainly gave me high hopes because their aroma was incredibly sweet and creamy. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed. The flavoring was not very loud but just sort of misted in and out of my palate. I can see where the fog part of the name came from. I was able to taste the caramel, vanilla and cream in turn. Overall it was a very comforting cup of tea and one that I will definitely been revisiting. This is the third blend that I have tried from iHeartTeas and they have all been exceptionally well put together. In addition to her wonderful teas, Rachel makes a line a tea infused bath products that is fantastic. My green tea and lemongrass lip balm goes everywhere with me.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

David's Tea Forever Nuts

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: chock full o'nuts
Ingredients: apple, almond, cinnamon, beetroot and artificial flavors
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 because I had been pleasantly surprised by David's Tea's Banana Nut Bread, which is another blend composed mostly of nuts. Unfortunately it was not meant to be. It tasted like lightly flavored apple cinnamon water. I found myself thinking, "Where's the nuts?". It was odd how pink the liquor was. The beetroot must have caused that but it looked almost like hibiscus tea. I try not to be overly negative when writing reviews but this blend was not my thing at all. It's a neat concept for a tea, just poorly executed.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tea Places: Bellocq Tea Atelier

Bellocq has been on my to do list for a while and I finally made my way there last weekend. From the outside, it was a very plain and unassuming brick warehouse. The moment I stepped in the door, I was transported to wonderland for tea lovers. The entryway was decorated in the style of an enchanted forest. All of the teas were displayed in a way that made them easy to touch and smell. It definitely did not feel like any tea place I've ever shopped in. The back room was so beautiful that it looked like it could be a set for a magazine spread. We were there so early that the tea wasn't ready yet but I think it would be so relaxing to sit and enjoy a sip of tea.

The tea selection wasn't enormous but there was something for everyone. The owner was enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. I had heard that the teas are very expensive but I've seen worse. I generally expect to pay a bit of a premium for this kind of atmosphere, beautiful packaging and very good quality leaves. I wound up purchasing 2 ounces of White Wolf and 1 ounce of an unusual green tea called Tai Ping Hou Kui. When I declined a shopping bag, my teas were tied together with an adorable yellow ribbon. I will definitely be visiting this charming shop again soon.

You can find out more about this tea place here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tealet Kyobancha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: dark, flaky
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: clay teapot
Liquor: amber

This is the first tea that I've tried from Tealet as well as my first Kyobancha. It is a unique green tea that is made from leaves and stems that matured over the winter months. I thought that the flaky appearance of the leaves resembled fish food or dried seaweed. The flavor was mellow and refreshing with a pleasant roasted quality. It had a natural woody sweetness to it as well. There was no astringency at all. The taste was so light that I would strongly recommend against using any type of sweetener. As Elyse explains in the video below, Kyobancha has very little caffeine. I wasn't feeling very well the day that I sampled this tea and it was just what I needed. If the rest of Tealet's teas are anything like this one I will be a happy camper. I love how they photograph their teas to simultaneously show the dry leaves, wet leaves and liquor.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tea and Chocolate

Instagram: @harneysoho
Harney & Son's SoHo shop has become a favorite spot for my boyfriend and I. We definitely had to stop in this past weekend because they were having a tea infused chocolate tasting with Chocolate in Chelsea. Cathy, the chocolatier was super friendly and her creations were delicious. Jason was pleasantly surprised to find that he enjoyed the matcha chocolate because he usually isn't a fan of it. Even though it wasn't tea infused, I think my favorite was the lemon basil. It was a perfect balance of savory and sweet. After we had our fill, we sat down for some tea and sweets. The cafe was pretty busy but we were able to grab a table after a short wait. There's nothing like a hot cup of tea on a chilly day, especially when it is accompanied by vanilla scones.

You can find out more about this tea place here.

I had the Da Hong Pao
Jason stuck with his favorite, Choco Nut
I had the vanilla scones and Jason had some peanut butter macaroons

Sunday, February 3, 2013

David's Tea Read My Lips

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with lots of chocolate chips and cheery red lips
Ingredients: black tea, peppermint, dark chocolate, red lip sprinkles, pink peppercorns, natural and artificial flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

I sampled this tea as part of my David's Tea 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. Intrigued by the fun lip shaped sprinkles, I was happy to find that this tea was a decadent treat. The base black tea was earthy and sweet. It paired well with the creamy and rich dark chocolate. Nothing goes together better than mint and chocolate so the peppermint was a welcome addition. I loved the pleasant cooling affect it gave to the aftertaste. The peppercorns (and probably the flavoring too) added a mild but spicy kick to the end of each sip. I shared some with my boyfriend and he was just as crazy over it as I was. This was an incredibly well crafted blend. All of the individual ingredients stood out but complimented each other at the same time. This definitely one tea that I will be stocking up on.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Adagio Teas Ooooh Darjeeling

Photo: Adagio Teas
Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: dark brown, very twisted and curly with some downy buds
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic infuser mug
Liquor: deep amber

I've been ogling this tea on Adagio's site for some time and when I saw it finally become available, I just had to grab some. It is an oolong tea that was grown in the Darjeeling region of India. The dry leaves were very unusual. They were twisted and curly with lots of downy buds mixed in. They were quite large in size as well. The taste was an interesting mix of both oolong and Darjeeling. It was earthy and sweet with fruity notes of apricot along with a subtle muscat taste that I would expect from a typical Darjeeling. The leaves were also a lot of fun to play with after steeping. I found the most perfect little bud set and I just had to Instagram it. It is strange how little known India is for oolong tea because I have had some really excellent ones, especially from Darjeeling.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Top 5 Valentine's Gifts for Tea Lovers

Finding a perfect Valentine's Gift for your favorite tea lover is not always easy. Here are my top five suggestions (and hints to my own Valentine).

Tea Infused Chocolates from Arbor Teas

Nothing says Valentine's Day like a gift of chocolate and these tea infused truffles sound absolutely amazing.

Love Petals Gift Set from Adagio

This set of three Valentine's inspired teas offers a little bit of everything with a white tea, black tea and rooibos blend. There's enough to make about 50 cups of tea so your love will get lots of use out of it.

Golden Celebration Gyokuro from Hibiki-An

Special occasions call for special teas. This gyokuro comes with three packets of edible gold flakes that can be sprinkled each cup of tea after brewing. It would be a perfect drink to share after dinner with your sweetheart.

Inside Out Hearts Cup Set from Yedi Houseware

I actually got this set of adorable heart shaped cups for Christmas this year but I think they would make a perfect Valentine's Day gift. The pink and red cups are perfect for a tea party for two.

A Tea Reader by Katrina Munichiello

Nothing goes together better than tea and books and most tea lovers I know are avid readers. Your Valentine will love this collection of essays from tea people that come from many different walks of life. They all beautifully illustrate the connectedness and sense of belonging that many of us feel when sipping our favorite cup of tea.

If you'd like to bookmark any of these ideas, feel free to repin them from my Pinterest board that is embedded below.