Friday, May 31, 2013

Tea Places: Physical Graffitea

I just can't seem to go to New York City without stopping somewhere along the way for tea. My latest adventure brought me to Physical Graffitea, located on St. Marks off of 1st Avenue. This place has been on my to do list for a while. It has a bit of rock and roll history because the building was featured on the cover the Led Zeppelin album Physical Graffiti. The space is small but welcoming. I loved the exposed brick wall and fun murals. The classic music they had playing was fun and uplifting.

The staff were friendly, helpful and unobtrusive. I'm incredibly indecisive and they gave me plenty of time to go through the extensive tea list. I eventually selected a pot of Jade Cloud and couldn't resist a couple of matcha cookies to go alongside it. The teaware was classic and simple.The leaves were in a mesh infuser and I was able to remove them at my choosing. One of my biggest pet peeves is tea rooms that cram tea into a fill your own tea bag so I really appreciate that. You know that I couldn't leave without taking some tea with me so I grabbed 2oz of Ancient Emerald Lily. I'm not in this part of the city often but I will definitely make it a point to stop in again.

It's important to note that they do not have a public restroom. This isn't a big deal for me but you should find a potty spot before heading inside :)

You can find out more about this tea place here.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Handmade Tea Iced Lemon Mint

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with lots of lemon peels and bits of mint
Ingredients: Panyang Congou black tea, lemon peel, peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

I am a complete mint addict, especially once the warmer weather comes around. Caleb at +Handmade Tea  must be a mind reader because this blend was right up my alley. The base black tea was sweet and earthy yet mellow. It provided the perfect stage for the lemon peel to add just a bit of citrusy zing. The mint really came through at the end. The refreshing and cool finish lingered long after each sip. I loved how he used three different kinds of mint because they each added something different. Wintergreen is not something that I've experienced in tea often but I'd recognize that brisk freshness anywhere. This tea was very enjoyable hot but I could not wait to try it iced. I used my Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker and it was absolutely perfect. The mint really popped once the tea was cold. You could sweeten this a bit if you wanted to but it isn't necessary at all.

You can find out more about this tea subscription service here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Instagram for Tea Lovers and June Photo Challenge

If you read this blog regularly you know that I love all things social media, especially when I can combine it with my love of tea. Instagram is quickly becoming one of my favorite mediums. It's quick and simple to use, especially when I am on the go. Once of my favorite things is that language barriers do not present an issue because you are communicating primarily in pictures. I've been able to connect with tea lovers all over the world. You can follow me @teaformeplease

Here are some do's and don'ts for using Instagram:

Do

  • Match your Twitter and Instagram name to make it easy for people to find you
  • Be social! Just like any other form of social media, you should be interacting more than you are posting content. Comment and like other's photos frequently
  • Share your tea experiences. Shots of leaves dancing in water or unfurled oolongs after a few steeps are always popular.
  • Use hashtags. This helps people who might interested in your topic to find your photos. #tea is one that I use regularly.
  • Try to stay on topic to attract the most followers. I have a separate personal account where I post non-tea related pics.
  • Mention brands and followers in your posts. All you have to do is use the @ symbol followed by their username, just like twitter.

Don't

  • Post the work of other people and claim it as your own
  • Use unrelated hashtags just to get more views, likes or comments
  • If you are a brand, don't use it as an advertisement. Share your tea experience with your followers in order to turn them into customers.
  • Ask people to follow you. This is behavior can come across as rude and off-putting 
  • Post photos that weren't taken with your mobile device. It's cheating!

I use a helpful site called Statigram that helps me to keep track of statistics for my Instagram account. Here are some fun snapshots of my stats that I was able to download. Click on them to see larger, easier to read versions.




For the month of June, I will be running my first Instagram Photo Challenge. I will be posting the image below on June 1st. Join me in posting a picture for each day! Make sure that you use the hashtag #teaformeplease so that I can see your entries. I will be posting the best of them at the end of the month.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Art of Tea French Lemon Ginger

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: mottled green and red, twiggy
Ingredients: Organic Lemongrass, Organic Fair Trade South African Rooibos, Organic South African Honeybush, Organic Ginger, Organic Lemon Verbena
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: amber

This herbal teasan was just the thing for unwinding before bed. Its citrus notes were balanced well by the earthy and woodsy tastes of rooibos and honeybush. The ginger came through as a mild spiciness in the finish. I'm not a very big fan of lemongrass or lemon verbena but they worked well here. The mouth-feel had a soft, almost creamy quality and there was not bitterness or astringency. A sweet aftertaste lingered in my palate long after each sip. Overall this was a very soothing cup. I would not recommend adding sweeteners because they really wouldn't be necessary. My throat had been scratchy thanks to allergies and post nasal drip. It felt significantly better after finishing a cup of this tea. Art of Tea's blends are always well put together and this one was no exception.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Yogic Chai Original Masala Chai

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with lots of visible spices
Ingredients: Organic Assam Tea, Organic Green Cardamom, Organic Cinnamon, Organic Cloves & Organic Ginger
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: stove top
Liquor:

This tea was a blast from my tea review past. I wrote about it way back in 2008 when I was a staff reviewer on Teaviews.com. Many teas have crossed my path since then and yet it still holds the title of best chai in my book. I finally remembered to pick some up when they announced that their teas are now available on Amazon. I excitedly brewed some in the classic stove top style for my boyfriend and I. I'm not usually one for adding milk to tea but I very much prefer my chai this way. The taste was just as earthy, sweet and super spicy as I had remembered. Just a touch of sugar really helped the flavors pop. It's tempting to use extra leaf but be forewarned, this is very powerful stuff! You would be hard pressed to find a more comforting yet invigorating cuppa and I'm not at all surprised that this blend was named North American Tea Champion in the chai category three years in a row. This Jersey girl loves that Yogic Chai is based in the Garden State. They even have a cafe in the lobby of the Montclair train station so make sure you stop in if you are ever in that neck of the woods. I REALLY wish that my work commute brought me through there.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Norbu Tea 2005 Zhong Cha "Menghai Gushu" Sheng Puerh

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

This tea was fairly robust compared to other sheng puerhs that I've had. It wasn't quite the forest floor taste that you would get from shu but it had a definite earthy quality. There was an underlying sweetness that helped to keep the taste balanced. The mouth-feel was thick and a pleasant astringency led to a dry finish. The leaves were large and mostly intact. I was even able to spot a few complete bud sets. Older tea always makes me a bit contemplative and this one had me reminiscing about where I was in 2005. Tea for Me Please wasn't even in existence yet! Both the tea and I have come a long way. Buying aged puerh can be an iffy experience. Disreputable vendors will still sell stale, poorly stored tea. I LOVE that Norbu states on the product page where the tea was stored in China and exactly when it was brought to the United States.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sometimes You Just Need a Girly Teacup

When I first started this blog, I wrote frequently and excitedly about my latest teaware acquisitions. That has slowed down quite a bit over the years, mostly because I'm practically out of shelf space. Most of my teaware is of Asian origin so there's lots of yixing, gaiwans and tiny gongfu cups. Very few pieces are western style and most are handleless. When I spotted this Royal Albert Polka Rose pattern teacup, it was love at first sight. It was so girly and sweet that I just had to have it.

The picture makes it look blue but it is really a nice mint color. Whenever I use it, I feel like I'm holding a breath of spring. It instantly puts me in a good mood. I have to confess that I even bought a dress because it is the same color. I've got plans to shoot a new head shot for the blog wearing the dress and holding my new favorite teacup. Have you ever had a teacup that you fell in love with? Tell me about it in the comments and make sure that you include a link to a picture of it too. The one that I like the most will win a free copy of 19 Lessons on Tea!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Moleskine Passions Tea Journal

After years of begging and pleading with countless emails and tweets, Moleskine finally created a Passions journal for tea lovers. The journal itself is stylish and well appointed in typical Moleskine fashion. The sleek black hardcover is embossed with tea kettles, teacups and other tea related things. There are tabbed sections to record tasting notes, recipes, places and websites as well as for tracking your collection. I could do without the recipes section but there are plenty of tea lovers who will use and enjoy that part.

The introduction gives a very decent basic education on tea and I have found the vocabulary list very helpful. Who knew that tea could be biscuity? The tasting pages remind me very much of wine tasting worksheets and they are perfect for those who like to get seriously nerdy. The one thing that I would change is to have the section further divided by tea type. The three cloth bookmarking ribbons makes it easy to pick up from where I left off. I'm only using it to record unflavored, very high quality teas since those are the ones that I want to remember the most. This journal is a perfect gift to earn brownie points with your favorite tea lover.

You can find out more about this tea journal here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tiesta Tea Passion Berry Jolt

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with colorful petals
Ingredients: black tea, marigolds, cornflowers, raspberry and passion fruit flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: dark brown

Although the name suggested a powerful sip, this tea was fairly mellow. The raspberry and passion fruit were definitely at the forefront of the flavor profile. It was fruity and sweet without being overdone or artificial. Assam provided a rich and earthy background but it wasn't bitter or overly astringent. Many berry flavored teas are overly tart and I was glad that did not happen here. The cornflowers and marigolds didn't add much as far as taste but they lent a nice punch of color to the leaves. A touch of sweetener might be nice but I wouldn't recommend adding any sort of milk or cream to this blend. All of the teas that I've tried from Tiesta have been great so far. Their packaging is fun and colorful. I really enjoy that they give the option of buying your tea in a pouch, tin or bulk bag.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Peony Tea Shop Shan Li Xi

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

This tea was full of floral taste. It wasn't quite the perfumy orchid quality that you would find in an Alishan but it was still very powerful. The finish was sweet and lingered long after each sip. It was bolder and richer than most Taiwanese oolongs that I have tried. There was no bitterness or astringency and the mouth-feel was very smooth. Once unfurled, the leaves were large and mostly whole. There was many complete bud sets with leaves still attached to the stems. I did at least six consecutive infusions and the floral notes became more intense each time. I love a tea with staying power and this one definitely had that. +Peony Tea S.  never disappoints, especially when it comes to oolong. Derek, the owner, is very knowledgeable and he has penned several guest posts for this blog. In case you missed them, here's the links:

The Legend of the 7 Sons Cake
Sourcing Tales - How We Found Our Dancong
Fujian Province - The Mecca of Chinese Tea

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mauna Kea Tea Organic Premium Green Tea - 2013 1st Flush

Country of Origin: United States, Hawaii
Leaf Appearance: dark green with some white tips, very curled and twisted
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot
Liquor: very pale green

Ever since tasting Hawaiian grown teas with the folks from +Tealet I have been craving Mauna Kea's green tea. I finally bit the bullet because I did not want to miss out on this year's 1st flush. The taste was rather hard to describe. It was delicate and vegetal with a refreshing fruity sweetness. There was a slight roasted quality that reminded me of Tie Ping Hou Kui. The mouth-feel was smooth and buttery with just a touch of astringency. A faint underlying spiciness rounded out the flavor profile. I've noticed this in most of the Hawaiian teas that I've tasted. I love a tea that stays with you and this one lingered on my palate in the best way. What really made this tea for me was the aroma of the leaves after steeping. It was truly one of the most aromatic green teas that I have ever had. I just couldn't keep my nose out of the teapot. I did three consecutive infusions and the leaves were definitely not done. One day I really hope to visit their farm and see the fields that produced this fantastic tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Planetary Design Tea Tumbler

I won this tea tumbler at the Tea Magazine tweetup at the New York Coffee and Tea Festival. Unlike most travel mugs I've used, it combines both an infuser basket and French press. I had my doubts about the design because I was concerned about oversteeping. That had always been a problem for me with press style tea makers in the past. However, the press compressed the leaves into the solid part of the chamber which removed them from the water. I really enjoyed that both the interior of the mug and the infuser are stainless steel. There is nothing worse than having a plastic taste in my tea. The lid locks into place and appears to be fairly airtight. It stayed warm for several hours, so much so that it was almost too hot at first. This tumbler will definitely make it easier to take tea with me when I'm running out the door in the morning. I won't have to worry about removing leaves or figuring out what to do with them anymore. It was also very easy to clean, which is always important.

You can find out more about this tea tumbler here.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

David's Tea Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: lots of visible fruit pieces
Ingredients: Apple, hibiscus, raisins, carrot, yogurt bits, beetroot, strawberry, rhubarb, artificial flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: travel mug with infuser
Liquor: deep red

This tea was tangy, sweet and somewhat creamy. Strawberry was definitely the dominant taste. Although the flavoring is strong it did not come across as overdone. It reminded me very much of strawberry flavored greek yogurt. This is the first time that I had ever tasted anything with rhubarb in it but their site explains that is where the tartness comes from. Hibiscus is one of my least favorite ingredients but the other elements helped to balance out the taste. Adding just a touch of sweetener took the edge off even more. Herbal blends aren't really my thing so I wouldn't be likely to buy this (I got a sample with a recent order). Overall it was fairly refreshing and I can imagine it making a really good iced tea. David's Tea's site suggested using this to make sangria. I'd definitely be willing to give that a try.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Darjeeling TeaXpress 2012 Darjeeling First Flush Giddapahar China Special

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, varied brown and green
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: amber

The leaves of this tea were really beautiful. They had a nice twisted shape to them and the varied shades of brown and green were lovely. The taste was light and fruity with a pleasant underlying spiciness. There was also a fresh vegetal and almost floral element that came to the forefront as it cooled. The muscatel taste that Darjeeling is known for was there but it was more delicate than what you might find in a 2nd flush. There was a mild astringency but only enough to add a clean and refreshing finish. I've really enjoyed all of the teas that I've tried from +DarjeelingTea Xpress so far. One of my favorite things about them is that their website provides a lot of background information on both the tea and the estates. For example, I did not know that Giddapahar is also known as Eagles Cliff.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

On Being the Office Tea Person

I've worked in the crazy world of retail for most of my adult life. A little less than two years ago, I left the insanity behind for my first desk job. I was giddy with the thought of being able to make a cup of tea whenever the need called. I even had hopes of sharing my passion for tea with my coworkers. Unfortunately, I soon found that I was surrounded by coffee lovers. I brought in an old electric kettle from home along with my perfect steeper, a mug and lots of leftover tea samples. We have hard water at the officer which makes tea taste rather flat so I don't usually bring in anything too fancy. I generally drink three to four cups a day while I'm at work and they really help to keep my going.

Occasionally my tea gear has garnered curiosity but usually not much more than a second look. It has been interesting to see the assumptions that people made about me due to my tea habit. Many thought that I must be some kind of health nut (they had apparently not seen the snack hoard inside of my desk). And then, it happened. The staff in our order department started asking me about tea. I obliged by bringing in a few samples for them to try. They even borrowed my tea duck! When I bring in a new batch of samples (about once a month), there is genuine excitement to see what tasty teas their might be.

Admittedly their tastes do favor the flavored, sugary blends but I have gotten raves about Hayes Tea's Dragonwell and Teas Etc's White Monkey. They've also loved just about everything from David's Teas that I have brought in. Just as my co-workers expose me to new and better wines, I hope that I am doing the same when it comes to tea. They will probably still drink their daily cups of Joe but it feels good to spread a little love of the leaf. Are you the office tea person? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

An Accidental Vintage Find

My mother recently attended a card party and won me a very cool vintage find. She was aiming for a tea themed gift basket but accidentally placed her tickets in the cup for a basket containing four teacups instead. They weren't quite my usual style but I still thought that they were cute. Then I glanced at the stamp on the bottom and my heart skipped a beat. Along with a picture of what looked like an elephant, they were emblazoned with "Handpainted Made in Occupied Japan".

I'm not a teaware expert but I knew that these were not just cups that someone had picked up from a department store. A quick Google search revealed that after World War II, half of the Japanese exports to the United States were required to have this stamp. It was used from 1945 through April 25th, 1952. I found a very helpful porcelain collector site called Gotheborg.com that listed many of the maker's marks from this time period. I believe that my cups are from the Tashiro Shoten Ltd porcelain shop in Yokohama.

These are by far the oldest pieces in my collection. I don't think that I will be using them often due to their age and the fact that they are hand painted. Perhaps some day there will be a very special occasion where I will decide to pull them out. For now, I'm happy to just admire the tiny details of their design and contemplate how far they must have traveled all of these years.



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jalam Teas Nan Nuo Mountain Sheng Puerh

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

I'm always amazed at how social media connects the tea community. A recent experience with +JalamTeas was a great example of that. I had never hard of this company before but I saw a tweet about a Google+ Live hangout that they would be doing with their founder, Jeff Fuchs. I jumped at the chance to join in. We had some technical difficulties but made due by having one of the people in the hangout Skype with Jeff so that everyone could hear. I was blown away by the information that he shared about the latest shipment of their monthly tea club. It was a raw puerh that he sourced himself in Yunnan. I've included the video below if you want to take a peek.

And now on to the tea itself. I received a 100 gram cake, which is a pretty sizable portion. It's a good thing that tea like this can age for a bit or it might go to waste. The first that I noticed was how large the leaves were. They weren't as compressed as they appeared because I was able to break it easily with my hands. After a quick rinse, I started my infusions at 30 seconds and gradually increased as I went along. The leaves unfurled quickly and they were very large. I don't recall having ever seen quite so many buds in a puerh before. It was mellow and sweet with notes of honey, straw and mushroom. I'm generally not a fan of fungi but in this case it was a good thing. Although it was fairly light I did so many infusions that I lost count. I have to say that I am in awe of all of the background information that Jalam Teas provided about the tea. It's not often that I get to see pictures and videos of exactly where the tea I drink came from. Overall it was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend checking them out.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Everlasting Teas High Mountain Jin Xuan

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

Everlasting Teas was one of the standouts for me when I attended the New York Coffee and Tea Festival. Even though I had promised myself that I wouldn't buy anything, I couldn't resist picking up a canister of this tea. It was sweet and vegetal with really nice creamy and nutty notes. The company describes it as tasting like popcorn and I can certainly see that connection. It became increasingly more popcorn-like with each infusion. I got to four infusions before becoming tea logged but there were definitely quite a few rounds left. The leaves were fascinating to play with once they unfurled. There were so many complete bud sets with whole leaves. I'm always amazed by that considering how much rolling an oolong will go through during processing. I am so glad that I had an opportunity to speak with Alan and Sammy from Everlasting Teas about how they source their teas. They travel to Taiwan every few months and hand select their teas from small family farms. At the festival I tasted several of their teas and they were all exceptional.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Norbu Tea Xi Hu Long Jing - Spring 2012

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: flat, sage green
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 165 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: very pale gold

Long Jing, otherwise known as Dragonwell, is one of my favorite green teas. The quality of this type of tea can vary widely and fakes abound in the marketplace. Dragonwell is simply not Dragonwell if it does not come from Xi Hu. This tea is in fact an authentic Long Jing and it was very fresh, even though it was from last year's crop. The taste was sweetly vegetal with nutty notes and a lingering finish. The mouth-feel was slightly thick and there was just a tough of astrigency. I did at least five infusions in a gaiwan and all of them were equally flavorful. I love Norbu Tea's candid and helpful steeping recommendations. I didn't have a high ball glass on hand to drink the tea "grandpa style" as they suggested but it seemed to work just as well with a standard rocks glass. It is always fun to watch the leaves dance in the water as I wait for them to sink to the bottom.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Zentboutique Premium Bai Hao Oolong

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: dark, curly and twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

This tea goes by many different names but most know it as Oriental Beauty. It is unique because farmers actually encourage pests (specifically the tea green leafhopper) to feed on the the plants. This starts the oxidation of the leaves while they are still on the bush and adds a sweet taste to the resulting tea. This version from Canadian based Zentboutique was excellent. It was earthy with notes of honey and peach. An almost citrus-like sweetness lingered long after each sip. The mouth-feel was smooth and there was no bitterness or astringency to speak of. I did three consecutive infusions and it could definitely have kept going to several more. I'm an oolong junkie and teas like this make me very happy. This is the first tea that I've tried from Zentboutique and I'm really excited to try the other samples that I have from them.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Drink Me Lemony Tea

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: small, reddish and woody
Ingredients: rooibos, lemon grass, lemon flavor
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep reddish brown

Etsy seller Ashleigh Wilson recently connected with me on Twitter and offered me some samples to try. I'm not a big fan of rooibos or herbal teas but sometimes even I need something caffeine free for late night sipping. It was woodsy, earthy and sweet. The lemon flavor was strong but not overpowering. Sometimes rooibos blends make me nauseous because they are so cloyingly sweet but I'm happy that did not happen with this one. I can see myself reaching for this when I'm feeling under the weather because the lemon was very throat soothing. In addition to their line of herbal teas, eatdrinkme also offers customized porcelain mugs. Although they are based in the UK, their shipping rate and prices are very reasonable. I wish Ashleigh the best of luck in the future. She is off to a great start.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

David's Tea Vanilla Oolong

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: dark, somewhat twistle with lots of bright yellow petals
Ingredients: oolong, green tea, lemon myrtle, marigolds and natural flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 200 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. It was a bit hard to describe but it basically tasted like what I imagine oolong infused custard would take like. There were floral and vegetal notes along with lots cream. A bit of citrus bite in the finish provided good balance and a sublte toastiness gave it a pleasant baked quality. The flavoring is heavy but it worked well here. It didn't come off as artificial, which is hard to execute in vanilla blends. I was happy that I will still able to taste the base teas underneath it all. It was plenty sweet all on its own so I would not recommend using sugar or any other additives. Overall it was a very comforting cup of tea that I would readily return to. I think that I prefer David's Teas Orchid Oolong to this blend though.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

SerendipiTea Fu Man Chu

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and slightly twisted
Ingredients: Jasmine Petals (Organic), Pouchong (Organic), Pu-erh (Organic)
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

My friend Jo of A Gift of Tea raved about this tea so much that I just had to give it a try. The ingredient list sounded like such an odd combination. Jasmine is seldom seen outside of green teas. Pouchong and puerh are also pretty opposite when it comes to taste. I steeped the leaves for five minutes and that seemed to be a sweet spot for me. Any longer than that would make the tea too astringent. The taste was complex and incredibly well balanced. It was sweet, vegetal, floral and earthy all at once. None of elements overpowered the others but they all sort of danced in and out of the forefront. There was enough astringency to balance the sweetness of the jasmine but not so much so as to make it bitter. As it cooled, the puerh began to dominate the flavor profile. This tea lent itself perfectly to nibbling on a bit of white chocolate. I wouldn't recommend adding any sort of milk or sweetener as that would likely throw off the intricate balance of this blend.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Le Palais des Thés Sencha Ariake (Gourmet Tea Bag)

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green
Ingredients: sencha green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 165 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: very pale

This tea was grown in the province of Kyushu, which is the third largest island of Japan. The taste was delicately vegetal and sweet with no bitterness. There were light floral notes along with a slight roasted element that lent a nice bit balance. It wasn't nearly as grassy as other senchas that I have had. I can see this tea going over well with those who don't like a very vegetal green tea (like my boyfriend). I loved that it came packaged in their signature woven teabag. I keep a few Le Palais des Thés tea bags in my purse and they always get oohs and aahs when I take them out at a restaurant or a friend's house. I think that I will definitely have to try the loose leaf version of this tea soon. The warmer weather is on its way and I'll be cold steeping lots of green tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Wanja Tea of Kenya Orange Pekoe Black Tea

Country of Origin: Kenya
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and somewhat twisted
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

This was a bold and aromatic tea that would be a perfect cup to wake up with. There were floral and fruity notes with a lingering honey aftertaste. The finish was slightly astringent and full of tannins but it never became overly bitter. It would take milk and sugar well but I think that it stands just as easily on it its own. Three minutes may seem light for a black tea but I think steeping any longer would overdo it. It's exciting to see higher quality loose leaf teas coming out of Kenya. Wanja Tea is one of the several retailers now working to support small, family owned tea farms. I previously reviewed their Purple Tea and enjoyed it very much. Contrary to popular belief Orange Pekoe is a grade of tea leaves and is not an actual type of tea. While the term is sometimes applied to generic black teas, it generally refers to a medium-grade tea consisting of many whole leaves of a consistent size.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Peony Tea Shop Alishan Jin Xuan

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

Milk oolongs are a tricky thing. There are a lot of fakes out there and it is important to buy from a retailer that you trust. Having already tried several of Peony Tea Shop's teas, I did not hesitate to give this one a whirl. This tea was full of orchid-like floral sweetness. The creaminess and milky flavor were there but they were not as in your face as you might expect. I consider this a good thing because any tea I have had that was extremely milky had been artificially flavored. The mouth-feel was thick and very smooth but the finish was still light and refreshing. I was able to do many infusions and all of them were equally delicious. If you make this tea, do yourself a favor and get a gaiwan if you don't already have one. A tea like this really should be prepared "gongfu style". All of the little subtleties that make it amazing would be lost if the leaves were just thrown into a western teapot.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Verdant Tea Silver Buds Yabao

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: large, silvery buds
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 208 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: very pale, almost clear

This very unusual tea has been on my wishlist for some time. It is a puerh that is made out of compact winter buds. The owner of Verdant Tea posted an interesting story about the sourcing of this tea on Steepster. Only a few buds can be taken from each tree, which explains why it is so expensive. I bought a sample size for $2.75. That isn't too bad considering my usual Starbucks drink costs a good deal more. Verdant Tea's steeping instructions called for 5 to 8 second infusions. Due to allergies my nose is always a bit stuffy, making it nearly impossible for me to taste such a light taste so I went for my standard 30 seconds. The taste was subtle yet complex and it was very difficult to describe. It was very sweet with an interesting piney tingle. Verdant Tea's site describes a heavy spiciness but I found that aspect rather mild. I've never had a tea that made my mouth water quite so much as this one did. The finish had a pleasant creaminess for the first few infusions. There was no bitterness or astringency. Although this tea was very delicate, it had amazing staying power. I started this tea in the evening and continued steeping it on into the next day. There were so many infusions that I simply lost count. This isn't a tea for drinking every day but it is definitely an experience that every tea drinker should have.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Norbu Tea Gu Zhu Zi Sun Green Tea - Spring 2012

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: jade green, small and needle-like
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 170 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: very pale, greenish

According to Norbu's website the name of this tea means "purple bamboo shoot" because while still on the bush, the leaves of this cultivar have a purplish hue and are thought resemble the shape of bamboo shoots. Prior to steeping, it had a wonderfully fresh aroma. I was reminded of opening a fresh bag of sugar snap peas (even before I read that descriptor on Norbu's site!). The taste was very delicate yet complex and flavorful. It was vegetal and slightly floral with a thick mouth-feel. I could almost compare it to a very nice olive oil because of the greenness of it. There was no astringency or bitterness and the sweet aftertaste lingered long after each sip. I was able to get at least five infusions using my gaiwan. It's rare to see a green tea with so much endurance, especially one this delicate. The camera on my phone wasn't cooperating but this tea was comprised almost entirely of perfect bud sets. After a few infusions, they looked like they had just been plucked.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Art of Tea Velvet Tea

Country of Origin: Not Listed
Leaf Appearance: deep red, needle like
Ingredients: Organic Fair Trade Rooibos, Organic Mint, Organic Apple, Organic Cacao Nibs, Ground Chocolate* (sugar, cocoa-processed w/alkali, unsweetened chocolate, soy lecithin, vanilla), Natural Flavors
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

My inner chocoholic does a happy dance as soon as I see chocolate in an ingredient list so I was very excited to try this herbal blend. At first the aroma was all vanilla but my senses were eventually flooded with the all of the other components as well. It had a strong chocolate flavor but was not nearly as sweet as I had been expecting. The woodsiness of the rooibos and cacao nibs provided a balancing earthiness. Although the mint was barely detectable, it was just enough to leave a clean finish. The mouth-feel was smooth and almost creamy with no bitterness or astringency. I'm not usually one to add anything to my tea but I could see a splash of soy or almond milk working well here. The flavored teas that I have tried from Art of Teas have all been exceptionally well put together and this one was no exception.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Meaning of Tea's Making of Tea

I'm a big fan of Scott Chamberlin Hoyt's film The Meaning of Tea and it's accompanying book. Making of Tea has been on my wishlist for a while so I couldn't resist picking up a copy when I saw The Meaning of Tea booth at the New York Coffee and Tea Festival. It is a silent film that follows the process of making Oriental Beauty oolong from leaves in the field to the final tea cup. They show every step of the journey including picking, withering, rolling and baking. The fact that there was no narration allowed the tea to really be the star of the film. At only 11 minutes long, it's short but captivating for anyone who is passionate about tea. I definitely found myself wanting to take part in the steaming cups of tea that were the finished product.

You can find out more about this film here.