Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Matcha Popcorn

I've been wanting to try making matcha popcorn for a long time and finally got around to it when my mom unearthed our old air popper. First I popped half a cup of kernels. Every popcorn maker is different but that is the maximum capacity for mine. As they were popping, I whisked two teaspoons of matcha into four tablespoons of melted butter. It took quite a bit of tossing to get the popcorn evenly coated with the matcha butter mixture. A larger bowl would have been better to use for this purpose but I wanted to use glass as it was easier to clean.

The taste wasn't super bold but there was a nice vegetal sweetness to it. I was worried about using too much but I was still able to taste the popcorn and the butter. Once in a while I grabbed a piece with a bit too much matcha on it, leaving a dry aftertaste. Otherwise I would declare this experiment a success. Next time I think that I might try making it a few different ways. Matcha salt and using coconut oil as a healthier alternative to butter both come to mind. Have you ever used matcha to flavor popcorn? I'd love to hear how you did it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Handmade Tea Hoppiness is Happiness

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: deep green, needle like. lots of apricot pieces
Ingredients: pan fried green tea, apricots, common hops
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: very pale

Each month's shipment from +Handmade Tea brings an unexpected surprise and April was no different. I have never seen hops (yes, the kind used to make beer) in a tea before. The green tea was mellow and vegetal without no bitterness. Apricots are not usually something I enjoy but they added a fruity sweetness without being overwhelming. I was really glad that each ship includes mini tins of three ingredients because it allowed me to taste the hops on their own. They were grassy with a slightly bitter edge. The aftertaste was rather beerish. All together, the ingredients produced a pleasant and light tea. I could see this blend making a really good iced tea. There are a lot of tea subscription services out there and I'd love to try more of them but I just can't seem to give this one up. I feel like I'd be missing out on something.

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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Carpe Tea-em

Recently something happened that reminded me that I need to Carpe Tea-um. I was digging through my box of random leftover teas and to my dismay discovered a Ziploc bag containing what was left of my America Tea Room Arya Pearl First Flush White Darjeeling Tea. It was and still is one of the best white teas that I have ever had. I originally reviewed this tea close to two years ago and had put it there to stow it away for a special occasion. The trouble is that the special occasion never presented itself.

Hoping against hope, I steeped some in my glass teapot and was heartbroken to find that it was a dull and lifeless shadow of its former self. It had lost almost all of its aroma and brightness due to my negligence. It's not so much the expense that was upsetting but the thought that I had wasted such an amazing tea. I've talked with many fellow tea lovers who have had this same thing happen to them. We all tend to hoard and store away our very best teas. But then, what is tea for if not to drink it? There are certainly teas that can and should be stored long term, such as puerh, but most should be consumed within six months or so. From now on I vow to seize the tea and drink it whenever I darn well feel like it. Life is simply too short for bad tea. Have you ever had this happen to you?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Norbu Tea Hong Yu Ruby Black Tea - Spring 2012

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: large, dark and very twisted
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: bright orangish amber

I recently bought a bunch of sample sizes from Norbu and could not resist picking this one up. It had been way too long since I have had any of the infamous Ruby #18. The steeped tea had a malty aroma that almost reminded me of a Yunnan. The taste was very difficult to describe. The maltiness continued in the taste along with notes of chocolate, fruit and just a hint of spice. The sweet aftertaste was almost wine-like and lingered long after each sip. There was no bitterness or astringency whatsoever. This tea was wonderfully complex and it was just what I needed as a writing companion on a chilly night. I did four consecutive infusions in my gaiwan before it started loosing a bit of steam on the fifth. I don't often find black teas with that kind of longevity, especially ones that are as nuanced and delicate as this one. For many of my tea friends this is the penultimate black tea and it's easy to see why. I will definitely be sad to see this one go when I finish my sample but I will console myself with the thought that it makes room for another wonderful tea to cross my path.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Verdant Tea Golden Fleece

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: golden, twisted and curly
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale amber

Some of my tea friends and I were so excited when Verdant Tea released their Golden Fleece this year that we decided to do a virtual group tasting. Being a slightly silly sort, we dubbed this tasting the Fleece Feast. Google+ Hangouts are great for this because it allows everyone to join in even though we had tea lovers in the east coast, midwest and on the west coast. Much tea talk and laughter ensued. It was really interesting to hear my everyone's impressions on the fly, especially since we were all using different steeping styles. We all enjoyed the evening so much that we are agreed to do more joint tastings. We will all be blogging about our experience and I'll add the links to everyone's blog posts as they are published.

Now on to the tea. The dry leaves of this tea were definitely golden and they could certainly be called fleecy. They were so soft and fluffy that I just couldn't stop playing with them. They were very large with a twisted, curly shape. Although subtle for a black tea, it was full of complex flavor. I think that Geoff described the taste best when he called it a "honey malt teagasm". It was sweet with an almost chocolate-like richness. There was also an interesting biscuity quality, similar to the one I've noted in some silver needle teas. Heavy malt notes and a slight creaminess rounded out the finish. It was not bitter or astringent at all. I was surprised to find that it lacked the peppery taste that most golden needle type teas from Yunnan have. It's quite expensive and hard to get but this tea is a definite must try. For some different perspectives, make sure that you check out the blog posts written by everyone in the group.

+Jo J of Scandalous Tea
+Darlene Meyers-Perry of The Tea Enthusiast's Scrap Book didn't blog this time around but still joined in on the fun
+Rachana Rachel Carter of iHeartTeas



You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Persimmon Tree Compassion (Tie Guan Yin)

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark greenish brown, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: amber

The first thing that struck me about this tea was its strong roasted aroma. The taste was slightly floral and sweet with a pleasant nuttiness that echoed the toastiness I initially picked up on. It made for a very comforting cup, akin to what I might feel with a genmaicha. The finish was surprisingly crisp and almost cooling but there was no bitterness. My second infusion was just as delicious and I could tell that the leaves definitely had a lot more to give. This would be an excellent tea for someone who isn't a fan of very green oolongs. I love high roasted oolongs  because they can be very forgiving. Whether prepared gongfu style in a gaiwan or in an infuser basket on the go, you still get a great cup of tea. I've noticed that this is the case with most of the teas that I have tried from The Persimmon Tree. They have all been very "user friendly" teas that don't require a precise brewing. This makes them great for beginners or places like the office where conditions are not necessarily ideal.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Amoda Tea January Tea Tasting Box

When Canadian based Amoda Tea offered me a chance to try their monthly tea tasting boxes I jumped at the chance. I had heard really good things about their subscription service, especially from Erin of the awesome video blog Erin's Tea. The first thing that I noticed was how nice the packaging was. The three generously sized tea samples were wrapped in tissue paper with decorative twine. A colorful and attractive booklet gave tasting notes on each tea as well as info on the companies that they were sourced from. Each sample was from a different company. Each month allows you to explore new and different teas. This is the one thing that set this box apart from others that I have seen. The box I received was actually their January shipment and included Pistachio Ice Cream from Butiki Teas, Oolong Creme from Sloan Fine Tea Merchants and Chiran Sencha from O5 Teas. I'll be sure to link the reviews of those teas here once they have been published. Mother's Day is just around the corner and this would make a perfect gift for a tea lover. Sadly my own mom would rather have a box of green tea bags but c'est la vie.

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Seasoning Your Yixing

My first yixing, dedicated to Dancong
There comes a time in every tea lover’s life when they are faced with a dilemma. How do you season an yixing teapot? There are several different ways to do it and it’s hard to know which one is right for you and your teaware. Good quality yixing teapots can be a very expensive investment and many people are afraid of damaging their beautiful new acquisition.

The first step is deciding which tea to dedicate your pot too. I believe that you don’t need to be super specific but you should stick to a particular family (i.e. green oolongs, cooked puerh). My own personal pots are dedicated to specific teas that I have a special affinity for: Dangcong Oolong, green rolled oolongs (mostly Taiwanese) and raw puerh. Green and white teas are generally not something you should use in a yixing pot. The clay absorbs too much heat and will negatively affect the taste of your tea.

When I purchased my first yixing, many of the websites I found advised boiling it in a pot of  water with the chosen tea. This struck me as possibly dangerous for a delicate pot. Some versions recommended resting it on a slotted spoon but I still did not feel comfortable. While my pot wasn’t very expensive, I was fond of it and did not want to take any unnecessary risks. I finally found a method that works for me on the website for Seven Cups, a retailer based in Arizona.

Here are the steps as prescribed by them:


  1. Let temperature water sit inside for 4-5 hours
  2. Remove room temperature water and fill with boiling water. Let the pot sit until it reaches room temperature
  3. Empty the pot and place the leaves of the tea you would like to season the pot with inside. Fill with boiling water and let cool to room temperature again
  4. Repeat last step using the same leaves. Discard both tea and water once the pot is room temperature
  5. Your pot is officially ready to be used.

I have used this method for all of my yixing teapots and have not experienced any problems. All of pots seasoned up fairly quickly and they still produce wonderful tasting tea. How do you season your yixing? I’d love to hear about any other methods you might use.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Teavana Sevenberry Sangria Rooibos

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: shades of pinks, blues and browns
Ingredients: Green rooibos, hibiscus flowers, grapes, elderberries, artificial flavoring, black currants, blueberries
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 208 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep, dark red

I usually only buy teaware from Teavana as I prefer unflavored teas but I friend bought me this blend as a gift. The dry leaves as well as steeped tea had an incredibly strong aroma. For reason it had both my mother and I craving chocolate covered jelly rings. The taste was sweet and fruity with a tangy tartness. No sweeteners are needed at all with this blend. Hibiscus is definitely the dominant flavor and I wasn't really able to taste the rooibos underneath all of that flavoring. The tartness kept it from being too overwhelmingly sweet. I can definitely see this being a good iced tea for the summer, especially once watered down a bit with ice cubes. Knowing my own tastes and drinking habits, I probably wouldn't purchase this for myself but I wouldn't mind drinking some if it was offered.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Teavivre Taiwan Ginseng Oolong

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, grainy and tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea, American ginseng
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: brassy gold

The leaves of this tea had an unusual granular look to them. Teavivre's website explains that the ginseng is a powder that is added during roasting. I was still able to taste the floral notes of the oolong but everything was dominated by the sweet, somewhat grassy taste of the ginseng. The aftertaste was very strong and lingered long after each sip. This tea was actually a little strongly flavored for me. It just toes the line of cloyingly sweet. The finish was dry which also made it not as refreshing as I might like. I've really enjoyed most of Teavivre's teas but I would much rather drink their Monkey Picked Tie Guan Yin or Jin Xuan Milk Oolong. If you are a big fan of ginseng you might enjoy this one a lot more than I did.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sencha Naturals Green Tea Leaf Mints

I'm always on the look out for tea infused things to try and Sencha Naturals' line of breath mints really caught my eye. The company was founded by David Kerdoon after an inspiring trek through Asia in 2001. Their products are made in a solar powered facility in Los Angeles, California. I loved the idea of green tea mints and the fact that they are vegan, gluten free, sugar free and caffeine free. Their original flavor is made with organic green tea extract. According to Sencha Naturals' website, three mints has the same amount of antioxidants as a cup of tea. The taste was fresh and minty with a light, pleasant vegetal note. The eco-twist tube made it super easy to carry them in my purse.

I also tried the mango, pink dragonfruit, Bombay chai and Moroccan mint. The sweet and spicy chai was probably my favorite out all of them with dragonfruit being a close second. Overall I thought that they were really tasty and unique. Once I finish my variety pack tin, I will definitely be stocking up on more of the grene tea flavor. They sell a bulk pack that would be perfect for my desk at work. Since these mints are sugar free, it's important to note that the sweetener Xylitol is toxic to pets so your mints should be kept out of the reach of your furry friends.

You can find out more about these mints here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Persimmon Tree Vintage Black Tea

Country of Origin: India and China
Leaf Appearance: small and dark with some golden tips
Ingredients: Nilgiri black tea, Yunnan golden buds
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep reddish brown

This was a bright, brisk and well balanced black tea that would be perfect for breakfast. It went perfectly with my meal of bacon and sunny side up eggs. The fruity aromas of Nilgiri worked incredibly well with the spicy and malty notes of the Yunnan golden buds. I don't believe I've ever had those two teas together but they made a great pair. There was no bitterness but it had plenty of refreshing astringency. The lower recommended steeping temperature definitely helped with that. My second infusion wasn't quite as bold as the first but it was still very enjoyable. This wasn't harsh at all but it was still the kind of tea that really gets your day moving. In case you missed it, Ricardo over at My Japanese Green Tea did a great interview with The Persimmon Tree on his podcast.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Guinness World Records of Tea

Pondering about tea as I often do, I got to wondering what sort of world records have been set that involve tea. According the Guinness World Records website, tea itself holds the title of "oldest cultivated plant for drink". Here are some of the other records that they list:

Most Cups of Tea Made in One Hour: 725

Largest Tea Party: 32,681 participants

Largest Tea Cosy: 1924 squares, stands at 3.9 meters high and 11.1 meters in circumference

Largest Iced Tea: 912 US gal, prepared in a cup measuring 9 ft

Largest Cup of Tea: 4000 litres. The tea cup itself measured 10 ft in height and 8 ft in width.

Largest Collection of Tea Bag Tags: 839 tags

Largest Collection of Tea Bag Holders: 116 different tea bag holders

Largest Collection of 3-piece tea sets: 999 full sets, consisting of 2,097 individual pieces of porcelain

Largest Ceramic Teapot: 5 ft 10 in in height and 4 ft 11 in in diameter The teapot is made of purple sand and can hold 22 lb of tea each time. The cover of the pot weighs 132 lb.

Largest Simultaneous Tea Party: 280,246 participants at 6,062 locations

I'm a little surprised at how few records there were considering the popularity of tea. Perhaps I can set my own record for most cups of tea consumed :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Le Palais des Thés Thé des Amants (Gourmet Tea Bag)

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with visible apple chunks
Ingredients: black tea, apple, almond, cinnamon, vanilla and ginger
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup
Liquor: dark amber

I was given a sample of this tea when I visited Le Palais des Thés' Prince Street location in New York City. The first thing I noticed was that it was incredibly aromatic. As soon as I opened the foil pouch, the room was filled with the smell. Even through the woven tea bag, I was able to see the large chunks of apple. Upfront the taste was all sweet fruitiness but the cinnamon and ginger kicked at the end for a spicy, somewhat dry finish. There was just a touch of astringency but there was no bitterness to speak of. The base black tea was earthy and mellow, providing a perfect stage for the other ingredients to shine. This blend would work with a touch of sweetener if you prefer your tea that way but I wouldn't suggest using milk. The name translates to tea lovers, which I thought was quite appropriate because the people behind Le Palais des Thés are great lovers of tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Teavana Samurai Chai Mate

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: mottled mix of colors, stemmy looking
Ingredients: green mate, green rooibos, cinnamon, anise, cardamom, almond, papaya, pineapple, orange and lemongrass
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: gold

This tea was given to me as part of a secret Santa present. It was very heavy on the cinnamon but still fruity and light. All of the sweeter ingredients completely masked the astringency of the green mate. The finish of each sip left a tongue tingling feeling and a cloyingly sweet aftertaste. While not necessarily bad, this wasn't really my cup of tea. I'm a bit of a chai purist so I prefer a more robust and earthy tea. There are plenty of good reviews on Steepster so I believe it comes down to a matter of personal taste. In general, I find that I don't enjoy most of Teavana's flavored teas but I have enjoyed several of their unflavored teas.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker 2 qt

Ever since I first saw Takeya's Flash Chill Iced Tea Beverage System I have been wanting to give it a try. The tea maker itself is made out of BPA free acrylic. It looked great without being as fragile as a glass pitcher would be, especially for an accident prone person like myself. The design was unique in that the large infuser basket attaches directly to the airtight lid. It allowed plenty of room for leaves to expand but the fine mesh kept most leaf particles from escaping. The silicone handle made it easy to grip and comfortable to hold. I tested both Takeya's Green Mint Flash Chill Iced Tea as well as a few teas that I had around the house and they all came out excellent.

One of the things I love most about this system is that there are accessories that expand the options for steeping your tea. I have the fruit infuser and strawberries have been a big hit in my house. It twists easily into the lid, just as the infuser basket does. I cannot wait to try some of my other favorite fruits like raspberries, blueberries and maybe even a melon or two. The citrus juicer makes it easy to add a splash of citrus to your iced tea. They also sell a Thermo Jacket that looks like it would be great for summer barbecues.

The only down side for me is that it does require quite a bit of ice in order to truly flash chill the tea. I don't have an ice maker so I wind up emptying the ice cube trays, much to my father's chagrin. Other than that, I really could not ask for more from an iced tea maker. I will definitely be using it to make some of my signature Golden Monkey Black Tea Sangria soon.

You can find out more about this iced tea maker here.

Takeya will be generously giving away an iced tea maker to one of my lucky readers. Contest is open to U.S. residents only. Sorry international tea lovers! Use the widget below to enter:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Darjeeling TeaXpress 2012 Darjeeling Second Flush Goomtee Green Tea

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, mixed leaf sizes
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot and mesh infuser
Liquor: gold

It's not often that I get to try an Indian green tea, particularly one from Darjeeling, so I was really happy to spot this one in a recent batch of samples. The taste was fresh, clean and vegetal. There was no bitterness at all but the almost citrus-like aftertaste made for a refreshing finish. The leaves resteeped very well a second time. Overall it was an uncomplicated, pleasant cup of tea. I could see myself enjoying a tall glass of this iced on a warm day. This is the third tea that I've tried from +DarjeelingTea Xpress  and so far I've been very impressed. There is something to be said for being a specialist and Darjeeling is definitely their forte. My inner tea nerd loves that they list their teas alphabetically by plantation and the fact that they offer 10 gram sizes.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mellow Monk Frosty Garden Green Tea

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, needle like with some paler stems
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 165 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot
Liquor: yellowish green, somewhat cloudy

According to Mellow Monk's website, Frosty Garden™ is a shiraore (also known as karigane), a luscious sencha mixed with some leaf stems. This was my first time having this type of tea which made it doubly exciting. The leaves are very fine, so much so that they clogged the strainer of my glass teapot on the first attempt. I tried again in a ceramic teapot with a built in mesh strainer and that worked much better. The liquor had a lot of small leaf particles so I let those settle before taking my first sips. The taste was crisp and vegetal a cooling, almost citrusy aftertaste. There were nutty notes along with a slight creaminess. The mouth-feel was velvety smooth and there was no bitterness. It was sweet and less astringent than sencha so this would be perfect for those who don't like very grassy Japanese greens. You might remember that I reviewed Mellow Monk's Top Leaf Green Tea last year and loved it. It's hard to say which I prefer because they are both good in different ways but I think that I have to go with the Top Leaf.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Guest Post: The Legend of the 7 Sons Cake (Qi Zi Bing)

The Legend of the 7 Sons Cake (Qi Zi Bing)

The Qi Zi Bing is a ubiquitous sight in the homes of Puer lovers. From traditional stalwarts like Menghai, Xiaguan and Kunming Tea Factories to new upstarts like Haiwan and 6 Famous Tea Mountain Factory, there are no shortage of Qi Zi Bing on the market.

The name 7 Sons Cakes is an exotic one and given the proclivity of the Chinese for coming up with legends for everything, here is the legend of the 7 Sons Cake:

Long ago, in the village of Fengyang, there lived a couple who had 8 children. The sons were named Ai Lao, Bulang, Ji Nou (I think Puer fans can see a trend by now J), Ah Wa, Ai Ni (which means love of daughter, which wouldn’t be surprising given that this is the 5th son already), La Gu (which means to ‘pull a daughter’, following the trend of his older sibling) and Wu Liang (which means they have too many sons already).
Finally the couple’s stoic refusal to give up paid off and their youngest child was a daughter whom they named ‘Ha Ni’ (haha, finally a daughter).

Though that meant many mouths to feed, the couple was delighted at their many offspring. It was with great hardship- they sold tea, not exactly the most lucrative trade around J- that they brought the children up until they were of marriageable age.

The couple gathered their children in the main hall and began discussing their future. The father- like most traditional Chinese men- was desirous that his sons followed in his footsteps to continue the family business- notwithstanding the poverty factor- as he believed that tea was the best medicine and not only could it delight the masses, it was beneficial to them as well.

But the more they discussed, reality set in and the old man realized his paltry possessions would not amount to much when divided among his sons, especially if he wanted to buy land to grow tea. It seemed his dream would never be fulfilled and the depression coupled with his old age led to him falling into a coma.

His 7 sons ventured far and wide to search for a remedy for their father to no avail. The 7 th son- Wu Liang- travelled to a far off place eventually and saw a huge majestic tea tree. Thinking that it was his father’s lifelong obsession, even if it didn’t cure his father, at least it would make him happy, Wu Liang picked some leaves and brought them home.

True to the stuff of legends, the tea served from those leaves revived his father.

Inspired by the heroics of Wu Liang, the old man thought that though their family was unable to afford land his able bodied sons could travel to remote mountains and begin picking leaves.

So that’s how his family’s fortune turned around. The 7 sons diligently traveled into the remote mountains to pick tree and eventually went further and further. This brought about financial independence and by and by the 7 sons each got married and their offspring continued the family business.

As for the daughter, she stayed with her parents and the old man christened teas made by her “Nv Er Cha’ or literally Daughter’s Tea.

Though the sons eventually settled down elsewhere- in the mountains named after them- Ai Lao, Bu Lang, Ji Nuo, Ah Wa, Ai Ni, La Gu and Wu Liang, without fail they returned home each year to celebrate their father’s birthday.

In order to preserve their best tea in an optimal state, they compressed it into cakes and carried it on horseback. The old man’s heart burst with pride seeing those fine teas and the filialness of his sons. He wrapped the cakes carefully with bamboo leaves and stored it carefully at home, seizing any possibility to tell anyone that would care to listen that those were his sons.

That bamboo wrapped group became to be known as a ‘tong’ and the cakes as 7 Son Cakes in honor of that family.

Author Note:

Derek Chew owns and operates Peony Tea S.- a tea shop dedicated to helping tea lovers of all levels of experience find their perfect cup.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tazo Organic Chai

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: very small, dark. paper filter bag
Ingredients: black tea, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, cloves and star anise
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: dark brown

I received this tea as a birthday present from my sister. It was part of a gift set that included a cute mustard colored travel tumbler. I always try to drink loose leaf but sometimes tea on the go is a necessity. Tazo's teabags are usually fairly decent and this one was no different. It was earthy and spicy, a fairly classic chai. The ginger was definitely the dominant flavor but all of the other spices came through in turn. There was some astringency but only so much so as to make it brisk. It would certainly be able to stand up to milk and sugar but it was a pleasant cup of tea all by itself. It doesn't taste exactly the same as their chai concentrate but it was fairly close. It wasn't outstanding but I definitely wouldn't turn down a cup of this.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Le Palais des Thés Margaret's Hope T.F.G.F.O.P. Second Flush

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: dark, curly with lots of golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: amber

I had not had a Margaret's Hope Darjeeling for several years so I couldn't resist picking up some when I visited their Columbus Avenue shop. It was full bodied with fruity notes and a distinct peppery aftertaste. The signature muscatel of a Darjeeling is there but it is more subtle than what I've had from other estates. It wasn't bitter at all but it did have a refreshing astringency. According to Le Palais des Thés' website, this blend is 20% of this tea is made up of Assam leaves. That explains the extra bit of pep! This would make a perfect breakfast tea since it is on the strong side but isn't quite the kick in the mouth that you would get from an Irish Breakfast. The leaves resteep well so I often make myself a cup and then make a travel tumbler to go.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Norbu Tea Zhao Lu Bai Cha - Taiwan White Tea - Winter 2012

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: large, lots of stems and bud, bright green
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 45 seconds
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: very pale

Ever since Geoff at Steep Stories put the idea in my head, I've been trying to hunt down a Taiwanese white tea. I was running low on samples to review (GASP!) so I placed an order with Norbu Tea and happily discovered that they had one in stock. The dry leaves were pretty unusual. They were huge and most of them were still in whole bud sets. The taste was soft, light and delicate but grew stronger with each infusion. There were sweet vegetal and floral notes along with an interesting hint of melon. There was no bitterness or astringency, regardless of the how long the leaves were in the water. I did five infusions in my gaiwan and then also prepared it "grandpa style" because Norbu recommended it in their steeping guide. I think I actually preferred it that way because the leaves were really able to open up. This was a really exquisite tea that I will definitely be revisiting.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Tiesta Tea Fruity Pebbles

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark green, some visible fruit bits
Ingredients: Sencha green tea, Lung Ching, Pai Mu Tan white tea, papaya bits, pineapple bits, rose petals, strawberry bits
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: gold

This tea was smooth, sweet and mildly vegetal. The strawberry stood out for me the most but I was definitely able to taste the papaya and pineapple. The rose petals were very subtle but lent a nice bit of floral softness. Although this blend was named after one of my favorite breakfast cereals, there was nothing sugary or artificial about it. There was no bitterness and the finish was very refreshing. One of the things I love about Tiesta Tea is that they don't use flavoring in their blends. All of the sweetness comes from the fruit bits. It might not be as "in your face" as other companies but that is how I prefer my teas anyway. Something tells me that this would be amazing as an iced iced. The weather isn't quite cooperating here just yet but I might have to steep some anyway.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tealet Genmaicha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: dark green, somewhat flat with lots of genmai
Ingredients: Yanagi Bancha, toasted sweet mocha rice
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot
Liquor: greenish yellow, somewhat cloudy

I've always enjoyed genmaicha. It's my go to comfort tea on a cold day and it even helped me survive Hurricane Sandy. This particular rendition is probably the best one that I've ever had. The taste was nutty and sweet with a buttery mouth-feel. No wonder genmaicha is called popcorn tea! I couldn't resist snacking on a few pieces of popped genmai before steeping and they were delicious. I found this tea to be quite a bit sweeter than other genmaicha that I have tried. There was a light, refreshing astringency but there was no bitterness whatsoever. My second infusion wasn't quite as intensely nutty but it was still very tasty. This tea was sourced from the Obubu Tea Plantations in Kyoto. Elyse from +Tealet tells me that the  president and founder of Obubu, Akky, is quite a character. Make that you check out his grower profile to see his adorable video.

You can find out more about this tea here.

 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Wild Tea Qi Taoist Tea Crystal

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: like hardened lava
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep brown, cloudy

My curiosity got the better of me when I saw this puerh listed on Wild Tea Qi's site. I had never seen anything quite like it. The product description reads:

There is a special method for processing the Puer so that it is in a concentrated crystal like rock form. It has a number of health benefits that have been shown in studies to help stabilize blood sugar levels, as well as with diabetes. It has also been shown to be a great weight loss drink. It is very convenient as you simply place a small piece into water and mix until it is dissolved.

I wasn't sure exactly how to prepare it so I used my trusty gaiwan. The water almost immediately became a deep muddy brown. I think that I used too much crystal because tasted exactly how it looked. It was thick, muddy and astringent. The second time around I used less crystal and it was a vast improvement but still not exactly my cup of tea. I still found it very bitter although it was much more puerh-y than muddy on the second try. It's probably not something I would buy again but it was certainly an experience. That being said, if you are someone who loves very strong puerh you might enjoy this a lot more than I did.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Persimmon Tree Silver Needle

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: varied green, covered in downy hairs
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: gold

This tea was a classic silver needle. I loved the fuzzy and fluffy leaves. They almost sprung out of the canister when I opened it. The steeped tea was delicate and sweet with vegetal and floral notes. There was also a nice biscuity quality that made this a very comforting cup. That taste is one of my favorite things about silver needle and I was happy to find it in this one. The finish was clean and there was no bitterness or astringency. A second infusion proved just as delicious and I probably could have squeezed out at least one more. This would be a great tea to drink "grandpa style", meaning that you can just throw the leaves in your mug and drink at will. This type of white tea won't get bitter the way other kinds of tea might. I plan to bring the rest of my tin to work for that very reason. This is the second unflavored tea that I've tried from The Persimmon Tree and they have both been excellent.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why Tea Needs Room To Expand

Many tea beginners hear about how tea needs room to expand but I've been struggling with finding the best way to illustrate that. Both of the shots below were taken in my porcelain gaiwan. It is on the small side, holding about 1/3 of a cup of water. The first picture is the teaspoon of dry oolong leaves and the second is what they looked like after three infusions. You can see that they've unfurled and expanded quite a bit. This particular tea wasn't even that great of an example because I have had teas that expanded a good deal more. As tea steeps the natural flavors and aromas of the leaves are released. Now imagine cramming that same amount of leaves into a teabag or the small compartment of a novelty infuser. Your leaves will never reach their full potential when they are constricted. Let your tea stretch its legs or even try a side by side tasting. You will definitely see a difference.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Little Tea Book by Arthur Gray

Every once in a while I'll dig through the Amazon Kindle store to see if I can find any tea themed treasures. Recently I stumbled upon a book that I hadn't noticed before. The copyrite is dated 1903 so it's a fairly old public domain text. It gives a brief history of tea along with several poems and anecdotes along the way. Mention is made of puerh, bancha, gyokuro and several other types of tea that I would have thought would be unknown at the time. It's a short read at just 74 pages but it is definitely worth the read. Best of all, it's free! I found it hilariously old fashioned yet surprisingly relevant in many cases. Rather than drone on about it, I thought that I would share a few of my favorite quotes as examples.

"Since India has no record of date, or facts, on stone or tablet, or ever handed down a single incident of song or story - apart from the legend - as to the origin of tea, one is loath to accept the claim - if claim they assert - of a people who are not about practising the "black art" at every turn of their fancy." 
"A glance through this book will show that the spirit of the tea beverage is one of peace, comfort and refinement. As these qualities are all associated with the ways of women, it is to them, therefore - the real rulers of the world - that tea owes its prestige and vogue." 
"I don't think that milk was ever intended for coffee or tea. Who was the first to color tea and coffee with milk? It may have been a mad prince, in the presence of his flatterers and imitators, to be odd; or just to see if his flatterers would adopt the act."

You can find out more about this book here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Art of Tea Mandarin Silk

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: dark, long and somewhat twisted
Ingredients: Oolong Tea, Organic Lemon Myrtle, Organic Marigolds, Natural Flavors
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: brassy gold

The aroma of this tea was absolutely intoxicating as soon as the hot water hit it. I love a good vanilla oolong and this certainly smelled like one. The taste was sweetly floral with heavy doses of cream and a hint of citrus in the finish. I was definitely still able to taste the greenness of the pouchong base. The mouth-feel was thick yet smooth and there was no bitterness whatsoever. It's no wonder that this blend has won Best Flavored Oolong at World Tea East. I'm not one to sweeten my tea but a touch of a light sweetener like German rock sugar might make the flavors really pop. All of the flavored teas that I have tried from this company have been pretty outstanding. Art of Tea manages to balance their flavors well while still respecting the tea and letting shine in its own right.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Adagio Teas White Monkey Tea

Photo: Adagio Teas
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, very curly with downy hairs
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale gold

Despite it's name, this is actually a green tea. The dry leaves were super curly and there was a ton of silvery buds. The taste was very light and delicate, more similar to a white tea than most Chinese greens that I've experienced. It was vegetal and fresh tasting with a slight buttery note. The finish was somewhat dry but the lingering aftertaste was sweetly floral. This is the kind of tea I picture myself sipping for hours on a warm summer day. It would probably make an excellent iced tea as well. I was disheartened when reading the reviews of this tea on Adagio's site because it seems that many of those folks were tea newbies who simply were not used to a tea this delicate. When I first started drinking loose leaf tea, I could barely taste white tea at all. It's something that comes with time and I hope that they go back to this tea in the future because it will be an entirely different experience.

You can find out more about this tea here.