Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tea Places: Le Palais des Thés - Prince Street

I'm a big fan of the French tea retailer Le Palais des Thés and I was beyond excited when I learned that they would be opening up shop in New York. I'm just a hop, skip and a jump across the Hudson River so it makes stocking up extra convenient. I have yet to visit their Columbus Circle location but I stopped into their Prince Street store last weekend. Although not a huge space, it felt light and airy with lots of glass fixtures. I love that in addition to the large tins behind the counters, they have leaves of all of their blends available for sniffing. The staff was extremely friendly, offering me a cup of tea as soon as I walked in the door on a very chilly day. I found them to be very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Although I promised myself that I wouldn't buy anything, I wound up picking up 3oz of their Grand Cru Dong Ding. I am now madly in love with this tea and my review will be coming shortly.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending their grand opening. It was very crowded but it was great to see so many people excited about tea. I was glad to see some of tea friends there including Sara of Tea Happiness, Jo of A Gift of Tea, Darlene from The Tea Enthusiast's Scrapbook and Mario from On the Go with Mario. One of my favorite parts of the evening was getting to meet the president of Le Palais des Thés, François-Xavier Delmas. I have been an avid reader of his blog, Discovering Tea, for some time. Sadly, I forgot my camera at home but I did grab a few pictures with my phone. There was a photographer at the event and I will be sure to update once those pictures are available.

You can find out more about this tea place here.













François-Xavier Delmas, Mario and I

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

David's Tea Checkmate

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: interesting mix of varied leaves, coconut pieces were fairly large
Ingredients: black tea, white tea, coconut, Roman chamomile flowers, artificial flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 208 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep amber

I sampled this blend as part of my David's Tea 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. The smell of the dry leaves was intoxicating. I found myself sticking my nose in the tin over and over again. The taste really surprised me with its richness and complexity. It almost tasted like a less astringent version of Darjeeling. I think that the floral notes from the chamomile had a lot to do with that. The coconut added a touch of sweetness but it was subtle and worked well with the other elements. There were notes of chocolate in the finish that lingered in my palate. I've enjoyed my experience with this calendar because it's forced me to try teas that I might have avoided otherwise. David's Teas can been hit or miss for me but every once in a while, I'll find a tea that is really masterfully blended. This is one that I will definitely be buying more of.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Adagio Teas Oolong Goddess (Pyramid Bag)

Photo: Adagio Teas
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: pale yellow

This was a fairly mellow tie guan yin. It was sweet, floral and vaguely vegetal. The mouth-feel was very smooth and there was no astringency to speak of. I think that the flavors would have become more pronounced if I had the time to re-steep. Milk and sugar are definitely no-no's for this one. It is just too delicate to mask the taste with additives. I love that Adagio's website features an interview with the tea farmer as part of their Roots campaign. This tea was packaged in an individually wrapped pyramid teabag. While some might turn up their nose at the idea of an oolong tea bag, this is full leaf tea with more than enough room to expand. Almost all of their loose leaf teas are available in pyramid bag form and it's a great way to make tea on the go.

 You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Handmade Tea Kava Paw-Paw

Country of Origin: Africa
Leaf Appearance: dark red, small and needle-like. giant chunks of fruit
Ingredients: honeybush, kava-kava root, dried papaya
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

For those of you that aren't familiar with Handmade Tea, it is a monthly subscription service. Each shipment includes a brand new blend along with individual tins of the ingredients. Tasting everything separately and then together is a great way to build your palate. This month's blend was interested because I have never tried kava-kava or dried papaya in a tea. Honeybush is a close cousin of rooibos and I actually prefer because it has a rounder, woodsier flavor. The kava-kava added a subtle earthiness but left an odd tongue tingling sensation. I could not believe how big and juicy the papaya chunks looked. They certainly added fruity sweetness but it wasn't too over the top. All of the ingredients in this blend complimented each other well. I don't often reach for herbal teas but this one was very nice.

You can find out more about Handmade Tea here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Art of Tea Jasmine Pearls

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: jade green, tightly rolled balls
Ingredients: organic green tea, organic jasmine flowers
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: greenish gold

This was a fairly run of the mill jasmine pearl. It was delicate and vegetal yet full of jasmine aroma. The finish was somewhat dry but there was no bitterness. I always brew this type of tea in my glass teapot because I love to watch the leaves unfurl. It was obvious that the green tea used was very high quality because there were so many bud sets. That is unusual because lower quality leaves are often used in scented teas. Jasmine is very sweet on its own so I wouldn't recommend adding anything to this tea. I love that both the green tea and the jasmine flowers are organic. I've often wondered if the flowers used for scenting teas are organic because there wouldn't be much point in having organic tea if it's been covered with pesticide laden flowers. This is the third tea that I've tried from Art of Tea and so far I've been very impressed.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

David's Tea Hot Lips

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: green, somewhat flat with small red flecks and bright peppercorns
Ingredients: green tea, cinnamon, safflower, pink peppercorn, chili pepper, natural flavoring
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: brassy gold

This tea was all hot cinnamon and chili pepper spice. I'm usually a sucker for cinnamon tea but this blend just did not do it for me. The spices and flavoring were so overwhelming that they completely masked the green tea. They actually burned a bit. If the base had been a black tea, I might have like it a lot more. That being said, I am not someone who enjoys spicy food. If you are a glutton for palate punishment then this blend might actually be for you. This incident reminded me of one of my first tea reviews from back in my Teaviews days. The offending brew was Yogic Chai's Mexican Sweet Chili. It was so spicy that my sinuses revolted so I rated it a 4 out of 10. Another reviewer who grew up in Southern California rate the same tea a 9 out of 10. He thought it tasted like home. The moral of the story is that everyone's tastes are different so don't just take my word for it!

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

19 Lessons On Tea by 27Press

When 27Press asked me to take a look at their tea guide, I jumped at the chance. I'm always up for a light read on my favorite subject and 19 Lessons On Tea was exactly that. If you are just starting to explore tea, it's a handy and factual guide. I love that it isn't overly formal and dry. It was well organized and thorough without overloading the reader with information. They even acknowledge that yellow tea exists (unlike many other books that I've read)! The tea quotes at the start of every chapter are also a nice touch. This book will be free on Amazon from January 24th to January 28th so make sure that you snatch up your copy. I've added it to my tea book list on Good Reads. Feel free to vote for your own favorite books!

You can find out more about this book here.
  on Square Market

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wild Tea Qi Ancient White Bud Bar Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: compressed blocks, covered in downy hair
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 1 minute
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic gaiwan
Liquor: pale gold

I tasted the loose leaf version of this tea at World Tea East and had not been able to get it out of my mind since. I finally made the leap to purchase a bar and I am so glad that I did. If there was ever a tea that could be described as transcendent, this would be it. The tea was clean and fresh with no astringency at all. It was incredibly floral yet delicate with a sweetness that lingered long after each sip. It was unbelievably aromatic from the first infusion to the last (I was able to get at least five). It was a struggle to describe this tea because I have never experienced a white tea remotely like this. I love that Wild Tea Qi gives background information on the farmers who produce their teas. The story of Chen Mi's family and their fight to keep their tea trees during the cultural revolution made me appreciate the tea even more. Check out the video Wild Tea Qi made about this tea below.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Teamotions Vanilla Earl Grey

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance:
Ingredients: Earl Grey Black Tea, Black Congu Tea, Black Breakfast Blend, Neem leaf, Tulsi, Lavender, Cornflowers, Natural Flavors
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: reddish brown

I'm usually not a fan of Earl Grey because I dislike bergamot. This was the first tea that I had ever tried from Teamotions and it was definitely not your everyday Earl Grey. The base black tea was a robust and earthy and while the signature Earl Grey flavor was there, it did not have the typical overpowering burn. The neem, tulsi and lavender added a wonderful richness while the vanilla flavoring lent a creamy element in the middle palate The floral sweetness and creamy taste already provide anything that you might want from a cup of tea so I wouldn't recommend using milk or other additives. The sample that I had tried was in a generously filled pyramid teabag but it is sold as loose leaf on their site. Teamotions teas are designed to promote emotional well being and this particular blend is meant to improve mental function. It certainly was a soothing and relaxing cup of tea. I will definitely be reaching for this when I need to stay focused on a stressful day at work.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

David's Tea Organic Cream of Earl Grey

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and somewhat twisted. lots of colorful petals
Ingredients: black tea, cornflowers, natural vanilla and bergamot flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep reddish brown

I'm not a very big fan of Earl Grey so I was a little disappointed when I pulled this out of my David's Tea 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. When I first opened the tin, I was greeted with cheery cornflower petals and a strong citrus and vanilla aroma. It smelled very good so I started to get my hopes up a bit. The base black tea was earthy and brisk. I was happy to find that the bergamot was not overly strong or oily feeling. The vanilla lent a bit of creaminess but it came across as artificial tasting. It seems like they used an extract but I think that I would have enjoyed it a lot more if actual vanilla beans had been used. This blend could easily stand up to milk and sugar if you were so inclined. If you love Earl Grey you might just really enjoy this tea but it just didn't do it for me. Of course, that doesn't stop me from imagining Captain Picard ordering "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" as I drank it :)



You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Matcha Factory Ceremonial Matcha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: bright green, very fine powder
Ingredients: green tea
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: traditional, using a bamboo whisk
Liquor: deep green

I was really excited to try this sample from Matcha Factory because I don't often get to indulge in a bowl of matcha. The aroma when I opened the bag was incredibly fresh. I always sift my matcha and this one went through the sieve much more quickly than other matcha that I have tried. Preparing it in the traditional way, it foamed up nicely and had a wonderfully rich, dark green color. The taste was creamy, sweet and vegetal. It was everything that a good bowl of matcha should be. I've never tried this company before but I was impressed. Their website has some excellent sounding recipes that I will definitely have to give a try. For those of you not familiar with this type of tea, check out my first installment of Meet the Tea: Matcha. Matcha is often touted for its health benefits but I drink it simply because I love the way it tastes. It also provides an excellent pick me up since it's relatively high in caffeine for green tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tea Forté Skin Smart Cucumber Mint

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green
Ingredients: organic green tea, Fair Trade Certified™ organic green tea, organic spearmint leaves, organic marigold flowers, natural blueberry flavor, organic basil leaves, natural cucumber flavor, organic blueberries Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic mug
Liquor: brassy gold

The version of this tea that I tried was an eco teabag from Teaforte's Skin Smart line. The ingredients are purported to be antioxidant amplifiers and this particular blend is for youth recovery. As far as tea bags go, this blend was actually quite tasty. It was vegetal with fruity notes and a cooling, minty finish. The cucumber and blueberry flavors were pretty prevalent and I was glad that the mint was not overdone. I'm not one to drink something because of health benefits so I wouldn't necessarily drink this because I'm in need of a fountain of youth. However, if I was staying at a hotel and this was offered with my continental breakfast I wouldn't hesitate to grab one. I was skeptical about how the whole Skin Smart line would taste but having tried three of them, I have to say that they are pretty decent.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Teavivre Taiwan Monkey Picked Tie Guan Yin

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, tightly rolled. very fragrant
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

The dry leaves of this tea were incredibly fragrant. As soon as I opened my sample my senses were flooded with their sweet, floral smell. The taste was sharp, vegetal and nutty with notes of orchid that echoed the same floral aroma I noted in the dry leaf. There was a citrus finish to each sip that I found very refreshing. The mouth-feel was smooth and buttery with no astringency. With each infusion, the flavor profile grew just a bit sweeter and somewhat less vegetal. I did three consecutive steepings but the leaves definitely could have kept going for several more. I love how much information Teavivre lists on their site about each tea. Very few vendors list the exact harvest date or pesticide test results. That kind of openness says a lot about Teavivre as a company and the products they sell.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Tea Spot Holiday Spice

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with scattering of peels
Ingredients: black tea, orange peel, cinnamon, clove oil and spices
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

This blend is part of The Tea Spot's Holiday Brews collection. Better late than never as they say. I'm always in the mood for a spicy tea anyway. Orange was definitely the dominant flavor but the spices and base black tea still stood out on their own. It was earthy and sweet with some astringency but it wasn't bitter. Overall it was a well balanced cup that definitely brought to mind the tastes and scents of the holiday season. I enjoyed that the flavoring was done just right, not too much and too little. This particular blend is a limited edition but is still listed on their sight so you can grab some if you hurry. This is the second tea that I've tried from The Tea Spot and I've really enjoyed both of them. I'm also a big fan of their Steep & Go.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Aiya Tea Organic Gyokuro

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, needle-like
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 122 degrees
Preparation Method: Hagi Glazed Houjin
Liquor: very pale green, almost clear

I was really excited to try this tea because I really enjoyed Aiya's Premium Gyokuro. The dry leaves were a deep, rich green and they had a very fresh aroma. It was delicately sweet and vegetal. The flavor almost reminded me of tender asparagus. There was no bitterness and the aftertaste was clean and refreshing. Gyokuro is normally one of my favorite teas to drink in the summer but this was a bit of sunshine on a gloomy winter day. I love the fact that it is organic. Pesticides are a big concern for someone who drinks tea as much as I do. I've now tried several of Aiya's offerings and I've been very impressed. Matcha, Sencha and Gyokuro are not inexpensive teas and it's nice to know that the quality is what it should be. Lately I've become a fan of eating my gyokuro leaves after steeping. It is a common practice in Japan but you might get some odd looks here in the states. This time around I drizzled it with a bit of oil and a pinch of salt.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2013 Tea Calendar by Lindsey Goodwin

When I saw Lindsey Goodwin's 2013 Tea Calendar on LuLu.com, my inner tea geek just had to have it. Not only is it full of 14 beautiful photographs from Lindsey's travels but each month lists harvest dates, festivals and other important tea events. There is also a recommended tea for each month that is tailored to the season. Luckily, I already have some Yan Cha ready for this month's recommendation. I've never really seen anything quite like this calendar and I'm so glad that I decided to purchase it. The year has only just begun so it's not too late to grab a copy for yourself (or a tea loving friend).

You can find out more about Lindsey and this calendar at Copy & Taste

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tea Forté Skin Smart Honey Yuzu

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green
Ingredients: Fair Trade Certified™ organic green tea, organic orange peel, natural grapefruit flavor, natural honey flavor, organic flower pollen mixture, (organic safflower, organic marigold,organic rose), natural yuzu flavor, natural flavoring (citrus)
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: deep gold

The ingredients are purported to be antioxidant amplifiers and this particular blend is for natural renewal. I'm not one for health benefits, schmealth benefits so that wouldn't be an extra incentive for me to purchase this tea. The version that I tried was an eco teabag from Teaforte's Skin Smart line. When I saw this tea my first thought was, "What the heck is yuzu?". Apparently it is a sour citrus fruit common in Asia. The flavoring of this blend was very mild. It tasted like a run of the mill green tea bag with a bit of orangey zip in the finish. The citrus flavor and dry finish actually made my tongue tingle a bit. The pollen came through as a barely there note of honey. I was happy that it wasn't overly sweet despite having lots of fruit and honey flavoring. While I definitely wouldn't choose it over loose leaf, this wouldn't be a bad option to keep in my purse for tea related emergencies.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

David's Tea Green & Fruity

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: brown and green, needle-like
Ingredients: green and red rooibos, apple, mango, papaya, with artificial and natural flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 208 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: amber

I sampled this tea as part of my David's Tea 24 Days of Tea advent calendar.The taste was somewhat woodsy and slightly fruity. The flavoring was not very strong and I found the blend a bit boring. It probably could have used a longer steep time but it didn't interest me enough to play around with it. Green rooibos is softer and more subtle than its oxidized red counterpart. I think I might have enjoyed this blend more if it had been made with just the red version. Admittedly I'm not a huge fan of rooibos, green or red, but I normally do enjoy fruity blends that feature it. While I wouldn't buy this tea again, I think it would make a decent iced tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Guest Post: How I Fell In Love with Green Tea

Today I'm featuring a guest post written by Ricardo Caicedo. His blog, My Japanese Green Tea, is fairly new but it has quickly become one of my favorites.

My first encounter with green tea happened thanks to my dad. Occasionally, he would take the family to a Japanese restaurant, and he would order green tea because "it is good for digestion".

The remarkable thing was that when I was young, that was one of the few Japanese restaurants in Colombia, and possibly the first. It still exists today, it's named Hatsuhana.

I think my dad was ahead of his time when it came to foreign food. Back then, most Colombians his age wouldn't dare try sushi, let alone drink green tea.

At the time, I didn't think much about green tea, or any other tea. I thought it tasted ok, but wouldn't want to drink it everyday. I didn't even like coffee, my country's national beverage. I still don't, by the way.

Contact with Japanese culture during college

I was fortunate enough to study in the University of Miami. There I met people from all over the world. Most of my friends were Japanese, because a university from Japan had an exchange program with the engineering department where I studied.

Spending time with my Japanese friends, I learned about their culture and food. I noticed that green tea was an important part of their culture, they even had a ceremony for it. Still, I never thought about brewing my own green tea, as they did.

Later on, I started taking Japanese classes and even had a Japanese girlfriend! Because of that, I got to visit Japan on a one-month trip.

Green tea in Japan

I quickly found that in Japan, green tea is everywhere. You'll get it for free in many restaurants, there's bottled green tea in vending machines, and green tea ice cream is popular too. I later realized that the green tea used in food was matcha.

My girlfriend's parents were very kind to me. One of the things they gave me as a gift was a Japanese tea called genmaicha. It's still my favorite type of green tea, a wonderful blend of green tea leaves and roasted rice.

I tried many types of Japanese green tea, such as sencha, houjicha and kukicha. I was amazed with the fact that each one had it's own distinctive taste and brewing method! I must confess that I was so ignorant about green teas until then, that I thought that they were all basically the same.

Sharing my passion for Japanese green tea

Years later, after living in Japan for a year and finally reaching an acceptable level of Japanese, I decided to write a blog about Japanese green tea.

It seemed like a crazy idea at first. All other tea blogs wrote about tea in general. Why would anyone read my blog, being so specialized? What if most people preferred other types of tea?

Eventually, I convinced myself that it wasn't such a bad idea. Besides, I drink green tea 90% of the time. I couldn't write a blog about tea in general even if I wanted to.

Now I know that plenty of people read my blog. Every now and then, I receive emails from readers with questions about Japanese teas!

My goal is not that you'll drink green tea every day. I just want to share my experiences with you, in case you're at least slightly interested in drinking Japanese green tea, and even if you'll only do so when visiting a Japanese restaurant.

About the author: Ricardo Caicedo is a blogger from Colombia. His dream is that his blog, My Japanese Green Tea , will one day become the best place to find information about Japanese teas.




Saturday, January 12, 2013

Chah Dragon Well

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: bright green, flat shape
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: gold

The taste of this tea was incredibly light and refreshing. There were notes of chestnut and spring greens along with a buttery mouth-feel. Its sweet aftertaste lingered long after each sip. The finish was a little dry but there was no bitterness. My second steeping did not loose any flavor. Many teas sold as Dragonwell (aka Long Jing) are not actually the real thing. This tea is authentic because it was grown in Zhejiang Province and because it is contains only the tender shoots, two leaves and a bud. Dragonwell is made by shaping the leaves in a wok. It is one of those teas that is impossible to oversteep as long as your water isn't too hot. It is also great for cold brewing. This is the first tea that I've tried from Cha and I can't wait to try some of their other offerings.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Teavana Green Embossed Lotus Infuser Mug

My secret Santa gave me this infuser mug from Teavana along with a couple of teas that will be reviewed soon. I've actually had a similar type of cup before but gave it away to a friend. Not only is this one a good deal prettier but it includes the all important saucer. I like to use it to hold the infuser after steeping since it really prevents me from spilling tea everywhere. I'm way too clumsy to perch it on the lid as pictured. The holes in the infuser are a little big but it worked very well for larger leaved teas like Ooooh Darjeeling from Adagio (also a review coming soon).

The porcelain was the elusive perfect thickness that keeps the tea hot but allows it to cool enough so as to be comfortable for drinking. Oddly enough the feature that I enjoyed the most was the handle. It has the most ingenious design. There is a bend in it that makes a perfect knuckle rest while also keeping your skin away from the hot teacup. I would definitely recommend it to any tea drinker, just keep your leaf size in mind. Something like rooibos (or most herbal teasans for that matter) would fall right through the strainer. Now to fight the urge to buy it in more colors...

You can find out more about this infuser mug here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

David's Tea Organic Breakfast

Country of Origin: India, China, Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: small, black and somewhat twisted with a few golden tips
Ingredients: Darjeeling, Yunnan black tea, Ceylon black tea
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 Teas 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. This was a plain and simple breakfast tea. The taste was brisk and somewhat malty with a bit of Darjeeling sweetness. There was also a hint of smoke in the finish. I was hoping for something more rich and complex but it wasn't a bad cup of tea by any stretch. This tea was astringent enough to stand up to milk and sugar but it wasn't overtly bitter. I thought that it was relatively mild for a breakfast tea but there are plenty of tea drinkers who would prefer that. The teas used to make this blend are organic and biodynamic. Biodynamic farming is an interesting practice. I'm don't believe that it affects the actual taste of the tea but I am glad to know that there are no chemical pesticides or fertilizers used.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Teavivre Jasmine Silver Needle

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: straight and fat, covered in downy hair
Ingredients: jasmine scented white tea
Steep time: 40 seconds
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: very pale

Most jasmine scented teas that I have come across were green teas so I was intrigued by this white tea rendition. It was mellow and sweetly floral but not intensely so. I was happy to find that the jasmine scenting was not perfumy or heavy. The finish was slightly dry but there was no bitterness and it had a smooth mouth-feel. I was able to get many infusions from this tea and the flavors evolved and grew stronger each time. I gave up after round four but I probably could have squeezed another one in. This would make an excellent cold brewed iced tea in the summer. Plain and simple silver needle is still my preference but this was an interesting break from the norm. I love that Teavivre provides detailed information about how this tea was scented and where it comes from. They even give a short profile of the farmer who produced it.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Art of Tea Monkey Picked White Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: twisted, covered in downy hair
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale gold

This was a wonderfully delicate yet complex white tea. The aroma of the leaves, both before and after steeping, as intoxicating. There were floral and nutty notes along with a slightly vegetal, sage-like finish. The aftertaste was sweet and lingered in my palate. This is a tea to take your time with so that you don't miss the subtle nuances. The second infusion was grassier but still delicious and refreshing. With both steepings, the mouth-feel was soft and smooth with no astringency. I love that this tea is USDA organic. I drink such a high volume of tea that pesticides are a major concern of mine. The value of such designations is debatable but I believe that it is better than not knowing anything. Monkey picked is a term that is used to denote high quality tea but there are lots of legends connected to the name. For more on that, check out this great blog post from Gongfu Girl.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Saturday Tea at Harney & Son's SoHo

This past weekend my boyfriend and I stopped into Harney & Son's SoHo shop for a spot of tea. He isn't really a tea person but I'm slowly converting him to the dark side. The cafe was very crowded but we were able to grab two seats at the tea bar. Jason was a bit overwhelmed by the large tea menu but he insisted on making his selection without any assistance. It's been interesting to watch his development as a tea drinker since he's more of a coffee kind of guy.

He opted for the Choco Nut, a flavored black tea, along with a wedding almond and peanut butter macaroon. I selected Scent of the Mountains, an unflavored sencha green tea, as well as a lavender and matcha macaroon. Jason did quite well with his selection. It was very chocolaty and paired perfectly with his macaroons. I've had Scent of the Mountains several times before and it's a sweet, vegetal and comforting cup of tea. The staff here is friendly and attentive, but a little harried.

In trying each other's teas we discovered that Jason absolutely hates sencha. I'm still trying to put my finger on what is that causes his disdain but I believe it is the grassy element. So far he has not been a fan of any floral or grassy teas that he has tried. He does enjoy most black teas and he has discovered a love for Darjeeling and Chai. Tea will never be a passion for him as it is for me but it is nice to be able to share a pot of tea from time to time. Does your significant other indulge in tea with you? How do their tastes differ from yours? I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

David's Tea Goji Pop

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: lots of chunky fruit pieces
Ingredients: apple pieces, goji berries, hibiscus blossoms, rosehip peel, honeydew melon cubes (honeydew melon, sugar), marigold petals. with 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. The dry tea smelled amazing so I had high hopes. It reminded me of candy from my childhood like Fruit By The Foot. Unfortunately the taste was so cloyingly sweet that it actually made me nauseous. I've only had this happen to me a few times with tea and I have yet to figure out exactly what triggers it. The aftertaste was sour and metallic. It lingered in my palate for way too long. I think the downfall of this blend is likely to be the sweetened honeydew cubes or the artificial flavoring. When a tea has so much fruit in it already, I really don't think all those additives are necessary. I really disliked the taste of this blend. If you are really into fruit teas then you might enjoy it but I will not be drinking this again.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Making the Switch to Gongfu

Today I'm happy to share my guest post on Peony Tea Shop's blog. I'm telling the story of how I made the switch to gongfu. It is an important step in the journey of ever tea lover and I hope that my story encourages others to explore. Derek has written several guest posts for my blog and he is extremely knowledgeable about tea. I definite suggest giving the rest of his blog a read. While you are at it, check out his teas because they are phenomenal.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Nature's Tea Leaf Huang Shan Mao Feng

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: long, thin and varied shades of green
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 45 seconds
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale, almost clear

This was a truly wonderful green tea. It was vegetal with a sweet aftertaste. The flavor almost reminded of sugar snap peas. I thought that it was the perfect balance of delicate and full flavored. The mouth-feel was buttery and there was hardly any astringency. The aroma of the leaves after steeping was intoxicating. My nose was buried in my gaiwan the entire time. Being one to play with my leaves, I loved picking through and finding so many buds. I was able to get three really good steeps out of this tea but probably could have squeezed out a few more. This would be perfect for cold steeping in the summer. I've been neglecting my green tea and it was nice to have a reminder of how much I have left to explore. This is the first tea that I've tried from Nature's Tea Leaf but I was impressed by this offering.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Little Red Cup Tea Company Gunpowder Green Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 170 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot
Liquor: deep gold

This tea was vegetal and somewhat smoky with a cooling, dry finish. It sort of reminded me of fresh baby spinach. I found it somewhat astringent but it wasn't bitter at all. The leaves were quite a bit larger than I've seen in other gunpowder teas and they unfurled nicely. This would make a great morning tea for someone who prefers green tea over black. I would suggest against sweetening it as that would mask a lot of the nuances. This was another great selection from one of my favorite small tea companies. In case you missed it, I did an interview with Martin Connelly, one of their co-founders, earlier this year. Their teas are very fairly priced and they all organic and fair trade certified.

You can find out more about this tea here.