Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Handmade Tea Kiwifruit Cocoanut

Instagram: teaformeplease
Country of Origin: Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with large chunks of kiwi, varied pieces of coconut
Ingredients: black tea, coconut, kiwi
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

My monthly shipment from +Handmade Tea is always eagerly waited for and July's box did not disappoint. The accompanying tasting notes explained that this blend was inspired by a tea based cocktail that +Caleb Brown recently had.  Kiwi is not something I've been often in tea and when I have, it wasn't done well. I knew that this one would be different because the pieces were so large and did not contain any additional flavoring or sweeteners. The base black tea was earthy and fruity with a somewhat wine-ish aftertaste. I thought it was interesting that he used two different kinds of coconut, shredded as well as larger pieces. This added a touch of tropical sweetness but it was a subtle flavor. It was more like when I use coconut oil to cook than the candy bar coconut that we are usually used to. The kiwi was sweet but no overly so with a clean and very refreshing finish. All together it was very summery and tasty combination that I never would have thought of on my own.

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Zentboutique Si Ji Chun

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: very pale

This lightly oxidized high mountain oolong was very delicate yet complex at the same time. There were the floral and creamy notes that you would expect from Si Ji Chun along with an underlying spiciness. The mouth-feel was buttery and smooth with no astringency. An interesting brown sugar-like sweetness developed with each infusion. I used my very tiny gaiwan so I had more infusions than I was able to keep count of. This is what I love about oolong, talk about bang for your buck! My blog is pre-written several weeks ahead so the timing is a bit off but this tea was part of the March shipment for Zenboutique's tasting club. Also included in this shipment were Dong Ding, Bai Hao Premim, Mount Aberdares, Royal Golden Safari and Royal Tajiri. For $8.00 a month, you really can't beat that kind of variety. Their program is just getting started but everything that I've seen so far has been very promising.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tea of a Kind Ready to Drink Iced Teas

Although my plans of attending the World Tea Expo last month fell through, my name was on the media list so I received mass amounts of emails for every kind of beverage that you could think of. One of those that stood out was Tea of a Kind. They are a line of RTD (ready to drink) iced teas that are packaged using a unique pressurized bottle cap. They are available in Ginger Black Tea, Citrus Mint Green Tea and Pomegranate Acai White Tea. The "gizmo closure and delivery system" was pretty fun to watch the tea fall down and mix with the water below. The taste of all three was light and refreshing without being overly sweet. I enjoyed them all but the green tea was definitely my favorite. I loved that there are no preservatives beyond citric acid but I do wish that tea was a bit higher up on the ingredient list.

You can find out more about this iced tea here.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Happy Earth Tea Puttabong Organic 1st Flush

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: mottled brown and green, some golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep gold

This tea was somewhat fuller bodied than most of the 1st flushes that I've had from this year's crop. The taste was floral with just a hint of malt and a pleasant muskiness. It had a brisk astringency that added a bright and refreshing finish. The aftertaste was sweet and lingered long after each sip. I re-infused the leaves a second time and it was just as good as the first cup. Milk and sugar shouldn't be added to this tea at all. First flush teas act more like a green tea than a black tea (although they are closer to oolongs) so you would loose most of the flavor. According to +Happy Earth Tea's website, Puttabong is one of the largest and oldest tea estates in Darjeeling. I love that they provide information about which clonal varieties are grown at each estate. It makes my inner tea nerd happy. Sara over at Tea Happiness did a great interview with Niraj, owner of this great little company. He's definitely one of the nicest tea people around and I love his passion for one of my favorite types of tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Art of Tea Meyer Lemon 2QT Iced Tea Pouches

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, mixed greens and browns
Ingredients: Organic Green Tea, Organic Green Rooibos, Organic Lemongrass, Organic Rosehips, Natural Flavors
Steep time: 10 hours
Water Temperature: room temperature
Preparation Method: Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker
Liquor: deep gold

I know that I've probably said it often enough but I am really loving this iced tea line from +Art of Tea. The biodegradable pouches make it super easy to cold steep in the fridge, leaving me with less work and lots of iced tea to enjoy. This is the fourth flavor that I've tried and they have all been fantastic. The cheery, bright yellow label caught my eye while I was rummaging through my "things to be reviewed" box. Meyer lemon sounded like such a summery flavor, ideal for sipping while relaxing on a wrap around porch. I was happy to find that my instinct was correct. The taste was light and refreshing with lots of zing. Lemon was definitely the dominant flavor but it wasn't overdone or artificial tasting. The base combo of green tea and green rooibos was vaguely vegetal but mostly provided a mellow backdrop for the citrus to really shine. This blend had a natural sweetness to it so you won't need to add anything.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Blind Tasting: Dragonwell - Organic vs Organic Supreme

I haven't done a blind tasting in a long time and I thought now would be a perfect chance to do that since I happened to have two Dragonwells from +JING Tea. Both teas are organic but one of them is supreme grade. I'll be reviewing the teas individually after this and will be sure to post the links here once they are published. Before you get to the bottom of the post, see if you can guess which one is which. No cheating!

Featured in this post:

JING Tea Organic Dragonwell

I prepared both teas in porcelain gaiwans using the same parameters, 170 degree water and 30 second infusions.



Visually the samples were very similar. The leaves in Sample B were just slightly larger and there was a bit more leaf fuzz in sample A.

Sample A
Sample B

Close up shot of the leaf fuzz























Sample A
Sample B









Sample A
Sample B









Sample A
Sample B
The taste of these two teas was comparable at first. As I sipped (three infusions of each, can you say tealogged?), Sample A seemed to have a thicker mouthfeel and came across as nuttier with a lingering sweetness. Sample B was also sweet but had a tiny bit of a more vegetal taste and a thinner mouthfeel. A close examination of the leaves revealed that both contained an pretty equal amount of bud tips. Sample B appeared a bit larger and rougher around the edges.

And the verdict is......


Sample A is the premium! Did you guest correctly? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

David's Tea Santa's Secret

Country of Origin:
Leaf Appearance:
Ingredients: black tea, peppermint leaves, candy cane sprinkles, natural and aritifical flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep brown

This review is a little belated but I thought, why not celebrate Christmas in July? I sampled this tea as part of my David's Tea 24 Days of Tea advent calendar.  It intrigued me from the start because of the tiny candy canes. How much more festive can a tea get? The taste was a perfect combination of earthy, somewhat malty black tea and refreshing mint. There was a subtle hint of vanilla but it was just barely there. This tea was plenty delicious on its own but I think it would make a great latte as well. Just a touch of sweetener might even help the flavors to really pop. I was very much reminded of another blend by David's Tea called Read My Lips. It doesn't have the chocolate element but otherwise the two teas are very similar. Even though this review is being published way after Christmas (sorry for the backlog!), I'd be up for drinking this tea any time of year.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Podcast Episode 3: Interview with Tea Setter

I know that I've been lazy but I finally got around to filming another podcast episode. This time I did a quickie interview with +Matt Kitchen from the brand new company, Tea Setter. It's always great to meet new tea people and Matt really knows his stuff. I'll be publishing some reviews of his teas in the future and he'll be sharing a guest post here soon as well. In the meantime, take a look and don't be afraid to comment. We would both love to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tea Inspired NYC Meetup: Tea Ceremony

Photo: Instagram - teaformeplease
I recently joined the Tea Inspired NYC group on Meetup.com and my first event was a tea ceremony that was held at the offices of The Meaning of Tea. The space was absolutely beautiful and featured a tea garden that truly felt like an oasis in the city. The host, Scott Chamberlin Hoyt, and his friend Mei-Guey guided us through a series of Taiwanese teas. Their combined knowledge of tea and history sparked some lively discussions.

We started off the night with three infusions of very nice Bai Mu Dan and then moved on to a "honey black tea". That tea in particular piqued my curiosity because the leaves are bitter by leaf hopper insects, just as you would find with an Oriental Beauty oolong. It was obvious why it is called honey because that is exactly what it tasted like. Afterwards we tasted several different high mountain Dong Ding teas. Two of these were aged and they had a rich, earthy and comforting taste.

Seated on a cushion on the floor, I became rather tea drunk as the evening progressed. This hasn't happened in a while and although it felt a bit unsettling, I just couldn't resist taking another sip. Although there were a lot of us and the room was rather warm, it was wonderful to spend an evening with people who enjoy tea as much as I do. I'm looking forward to attending future events and meeting more tea lovers in my area. If you live in NYC (or New Jersey like me) and you love tea, I would definitely suggest checking it out.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Guest Post: Brewing White Tea, Precisely So

Have you ever wondered how to make a perfect cup of white tea? Today I'm exited to share a guest post from Samantha of Seattle Coffee Gear. It's wonderful to know that there are people in the coffee world who do their part to educate their customers about tea.
An exact recipe for a delicious cup of white tea is hard to find. There are brewing guidelines but the recipe can (and will!) change based on many variables. +Nicole Martin recently wrote about Silver Needle, the most popular white tea available. In legend white tea dates back 5,000 years and full scale agricultural production dates back to 1885. You can imagine in its long history that opinions on preparation differ.

Various guidelines quote anywhere from 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons of white tea per cup. This is not at all precise. Silver Needle and White Peony, both popular types of white tea, will fill a measuring spoon differently than a black tea based on their dried leaf shape. Due to this, a measuring spoon is not a very useful tool. Instead try weighing your tea on a digital kitchen scale (make sure to keep track of your findings in a notebook) for a few days to find your desired dosage. As a starting point, try a ratio of 3 grams of tea to 8 ounces of water. Silver Needle is more delicate, so the dosage may be increased compared to White Peony based on personal preference.

We immediately come to our next stumbling block. The water guidelines vary. Recommendations on commercially packaged white teas state the water temperature should be anywhere from 165F to 194F degrees. The only agreement I found was that the water has to be fresh filtered and it cannot be boiling. The goal is to steep white tea without “stewing” it since it is very delicate. A variable temperature kettle is indispensable in overcoming the lack of consensus regarding water temperature. For my own experimentation I used White Peony tea and 175F degree water. It all “boils down” to personal taste though. Your tea journey may lead you to a different conclusion.

In your cupboard of tea accouterments find a glass or porcelain teapot or teacup. It will not hold heat as well as heavier ceramic or cast iron pots and for once, this is a good thing. The heat should be allowed to escape. Even though white tea is fussy about temperature, it is not at all fussy about steep time. The timing of this gentle infusion varies from 1 to 4 minutes. Don't throw in the (tea) towel just yet! The reward is worth the careful accumulation of data for your own white tea brewing protocol.

How does a precise person deal with the imprecise, let's call it ephemeral, nature of white tea? A kitchen scale, variable temperature kettle and a stopwatch will allow your favorite cup of tea to be replicated time and again. However be prepared, just when you think you have everything under control, the 2nd infusion will have different variables!

Equipment List
  • High quality loose leaf white tea
  • Kitchen scale
  • Filtered water
  • Variable temperature electric kettle
  • Porcelain or glass teapots/teacups and infuser
  • Stopwatch
  • Notebook
+Sam Joyce  is a writer for +Seattle Coffee Gear and enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things coffee (and tea!)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Art of Tea Tropical Mate 2QT Iced Tea Pouches

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: mottled mix of browns and greens with bright pink hibiscus visable
Ingredients: Organic Yerba Mate, Organic Green Rooibos, Organic Jasmine Green Tea, Organic Schizandra Berries, Organic Hibiscus, Organic Tulsi, Natural Flavors
Steep time: 10 hours
Water Temperature: room temperature
Preparation Method: Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker
Liquor: pinkish amber

Since it's quite hot in New Jersey these days, I've been cold steeping all of my iced tea and this one lent itself perfectly. +Art of Tea 's biodegradable infuser pouches make it super easy and hassle free. This is what I refer to as a kitchen sink tea because the ingredient list seems to have everything in it but the kitchen sink. I wasn't sure how much I would like it because hibiscus has ruined many blends for me. I just don't like it's tart, astringent flavor. Thankfully the resulting tea was fruity, sweet and incredibly refreshing. I wasn't able to make out all of the individual components because they melded together perfectly. The hibiscus added a crisp finish but wasn't a huge part of the flavor profile. No sweetener is necessary here but a touch of agave wouldn't hurt. I'll definitely be drinking a lot of this blend in the coming months.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Peony Tea Shop Osmanthus Oolong

Photo: Peony Tea Shop
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: deep green tightly rolled, lots of tiny blossoms
Ingredients: Tie Guan Yin, osmanthus blossoms
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

I will admit that this was the very last sample that I tried from a recent batch of +Peony Tea S. teas because osmanthus is not one my favorite things. That bias is based on bad experiences in the past but I trust +Derek Chew and his tea selections so I gave it a go anyway. The bright yellow petals were very pretty floating in my gaiwan. After the recommended thirty second infusion I was relieved to find that the taste was not at all what I expected. It was sweetly floral of course but in a rather gentle way. Although the tea leaves were scented with the osmathus, it did not come across as overdone or perfumy. The vegetal notes of the Tie Guan Yin helped to break up the sweetness and round out the flavor profile. It had a thick, almost creamy mouth-feel with no bitterness. The combination of oolong and osmathus was much more complimentary than I thought it would be. This might not be something I would drink regularly but I just might have gotten over my fear of those tiny yellow flowers.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Teavivre Liu An Gua Pian Green Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: jade green, rolled needle-like shape
Ingredients: green
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: very pale gold

I was really excited to try this tea from +TeaVivre because I had never tried Liu An Gua Pian before. The dry leaves were fascinating because of their unusual rolled shape. I could not believe how fresh and whole they looked after steeping. The taste was very light and sweet with just a hint of zingy astringency in the finish. There were vegetal and floral notes along with a slight smokiness but those aspects of the flavor profile were very mild. Overall it was a complex yet delicate cup of tea and a very enjoyable experience. This would be a great tea for those who don't like the grassy quality that many green teas have. I always love browsing Teavivre's product pages while I'm sipping because of all of the background information they give. They explain that the unique taste of this tea comes from it being the only Chinese green tea that is made without any buds, new leaves or stems.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Zentboutique Royal Golden Safari

Country of Origin: Kenya
Leaf Appearance: dark, twisted with lots of golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup and mesh strainer
Liquor: dark amber

When we think of black tea from Kenya, CTC style tea bags are what normally comes to mind. This tea is proof that there is so much more to this growing region than that. The leaves were quite beautiful. Even after surviving the long journey from Canada they were mostly whole and large in size. There was so many golden tips that this could easily have been mistaken for a Darjeeling or Yunnan black tea. The taste was complex with earthy, chocolaty notes and a raisin-like sweetness. There was a mild briskness but it wasn't bitter at all. I resteeped the same leaves just a few minutes later and the result was just as good as the first time around. This is one black tea that I would not recommend using milk or sugar with. Doing so would just cover up all of those wonderful nuances. Although I used a simple metal strainer, this tea would definitely lend itself well to gongfu style brewing.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

SerendipiTea Buccaneer

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: mixed browns, lots of visible fruit pieces
Ingredients: Apple, Cacao Beans, Chocolate Bits, Chocolate Flavor (Natural), Coconut (Organic), Coconut Flavor (Natural), Cream Flavor (Natural), Indian Black Tea (Organic), Rooibos (Organic), Vanilla Flavor (Natural), Yogurt Bits
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: somewhat cloudy reddish brown

One would think that SerendipiTea made this blend just for me because it combines all of my favorite tea combinations. Their site describes this tea has a profusion of flavors and I would say that is pretty on target. The taste was complex and richly decadent. The black tea and rooibos provided an earthy base for the creamy, coconut-y, chocolaty whirlwind of flavors. It had just enough astringency to add a brisk finish but it wasn't bitter or off putting at all. I enjoyed this on a warm summer day but it would be perfect for a cozy winter evening. I wouldn't recommend using milk even though this is a black tea. A touch of sweetener would be acceptable if you felt the need. All of the blends that I have tried from this company have been masterfully blended and this one was no exception.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tea for Tyrants Gyokuro Superior

Photo: Tea for Tyrants
Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: deep dark green, needle-like
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 158 degrees
Preparation Method: kyusu
Liquor: pale green

When I saw the Kickstarter for Tea for Tyrants I just knew that I had to jump on the bandwagon. Their innovative concept of pairing tea with music was definitely something that I wanted to explore. The tea itself was everything that I love about Gyokuro. It was vegetal and sweet without any bitterness or astringency. The low steeping temperature made it perfect for a very warm summer morning. Although mellow, it had plenty of umami and I felt a jolt of alertness after drinking several cups. The music paired with this tea was So Far, So Good by Lovely Tyrants. It was a very relaxed song, perfect for sipping tea. I also have a Houjicha Bancha from them waiting in the wings and I can't to give it a try. If you purchase this tea, I highly recommend going for the 4oz package because the art on the collectible cards is lovely. I'll be keeping them long after all of the leaves are used up.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Art of Tea Classic Black 2QT Iced Tea Pouches

Country of Origin: China, India
Leaf Appearance: small, dark
Ingredients: organic black tea
Steep time: overnight
Water Temperature: room temperature
Preparation Method: Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker
Liquor: dark reddish amber

The name says it all, this really was a classic black tea. Being a blend of Yunnan and Nilgiri, this tea was smooth and sweet without being overly tannic. The taste was earthy with notes of honey and just a hint of maltiness. It was just brisk enough to be refreshing but I did not find it bitter at all. Cold steeping is always my favorite method of preparing iced tea and it worked very well with this one. I accidentally left it steeping longer than the recommended 8 to 10 hours but that did not seem to negatively affect the flavor. The biodegradable pouch was very generously filled and became quite large by the time that I removed it. I prefer all of my tea unsweetened but this one would handle being sweetened well if you were so inclined. I think that this iced tea would make a perfect base for experimentation. Try infusing it with fresh mint, sage, lavender or lemons. I'm even tempted to use it to make an Arnold Palmer.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Meet the Tea: Silver Needle

Silver Needle is one of my favorite kinds of teas. It is produced in the Fujian Province of China. Also known as Baihao Yinzhen, this tea is made only from hand picked buds. Each leaf is covered in downy white hairs. I typically steep it in a glass teapot so that I can watch the leaves dance. You can also use a gaiwan, any standard teapot or even a big mug. I do not recommend using yixing or other kinds of clay pots because these retain too much heat and can scald your tea. Following your tea retailer's directions is a good place to start but your water should be between 165 and 180 degrees.

One of the best things about Silver Needle that is very forgiving when it comes to steeping time. Three to five minutes is usually recommended but you can also steep this tea "grandpa" style. Just throw the leaves in a cup and add water. They won't get bitter, even if left for a long time. Delicate, floral, sweet, vegetal, nutty and biscuity are all descriptors that I've used for this tea. Many beginning tea drinkers struggle with this tea due to its very subtle taste. When you first start out, it may not taste like more than slightly flavored water. Over time as your tea drinking evolves, your palate will change and you will be able to pick up all of those subtle nuances. What's your favorite Silver Needle?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Verdant Tea Mi Lan Xiang Phoenix Mountain Dancong

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: long, dark and twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: orangish amber

This tea was decadent and fragrant with notes of honey, orchid and citrus. A gentle woody, spiciness in the finish kept it from being too sweet. I loved the way that taste lingered in my palate. The second infusion was even headier than the first. A fruitiness reminiscent of apricot and raisins came into the forefront in the fourth infusion. I stopped at five infusions but the leaves definitely had a lot more to give. For an oolong nut like me this was a cup of pure bliss. I could probably write an entire post containing nothing but descriptors for this tea but I'm just going to tell you that you really must try it for yourself. This incredibly complex tea is definitely one to take your time with. Use small cups and savor each sip. Verdant Tea created an excellent video on how to brew this tea and I've included it below in case you need any guidance.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Infusiast by Robert Godden

I picked up my copy of this book at A Gift of Tea's Spring White Tea. Every tea lover's favorite Australian, Robert Godden, was visiting New York City so I was lucky enough to get it signed and hear him read the introduction.  Having been a fan of his writings for a long time I was really excited to dive into it. Much like his own blog the book was at once knowledgeable, witty and a bit tongue in cheek. Each of the seven chapters offers anecdotes, facts and entertaining Robert-isms. It was a fairly quick but very enjoyable read.  

The historical insights were probably my favorite part. The heartbreaking story of Margaret's Hope and the trials and tribulations of Robert Fortune are among the themes touched on. One of the chapters features five of Robert's blog posts and that will give you a good idea of his usual style. The "Gratuitous Product Placement" boxes scattered throughout the pages are a great way to get to know some of The Devotea's wonderful tea blends. I highly recommend Lord Petersham and Finbarr's RevengeI've added this book 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.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Aiya Tea Premium Sencha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: dark green, needle-like
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 1.5 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: kyusu
Liquor: greenish gold

I was impressed with this tea before I even opened the canister because it had a pull tab top. This kind of container is usually only seen with matcha but it was appreciated. The leaves were very dark green and had a wonderfully fresh aroma. The taste did not disappoint in the least. It was full bodied and vegetal with notes of nuts and citrus. It had a buttery mouth-feel with no bitterness. Sencha is usually quite grassy but I was reminded more of baby spinach or asparagus. A very mild astringency kept added a pleasant crispness and the sweet aftertaste lingered long after each sip. This was probably one of the best senchas that I have ever had. As much as I prefer to drink organic teas, I actually think that I enjoyed this version more than their organic sencha. This is the ninth tea that I have reviewed from +Aiya America Organic Matcha green tea and every one of them have been stellar.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Handmade Tea Wolf Peach Island Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and slightly curled
Ingredients: black tea, tomato pieces and sage
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep reddish brown

Savory teas have become very popular lately so I wasn't too surprised to see one in my June shipment from +Handmade Tea. I love that Handmade Tea provides sample tins of the individual ingredients because it gives me a chance to really experience the unusual ingredients that they use. The tomato had a very interesting flavor all by itself. It wasn't quite brothy or soupy but it had an almost fruity sweetness. The aroma of the sage was very strong. Thankfully the taste was a bit of mellow. It provided just a bit of vegetal spiciness. The base black tea was an excellent Yunnan with rich earthy notes. It complemented the tomato and sage perfectly and lent a pleasant astringency to the blend. The tasting notes mentioned that this blend works well as an iced tea so I will definitely be trying that shortly. Just as I was typing this review it dawned on me that the name seemed a bit odd. A quick Google search revealed that part of the scientific name for tomatoes, lycopersicum, means "wolf peach" and it comes from German werewolf myths. If you haven't already seen it, you definitely need to watch +Caleb Brown's video below. He is the mad tea scientist behind Handmade Tea. This time around he made tea out of mealworms!

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Beating the Summer Heat with Tea

I live in an apartment with very old wiring. We can only ever run one appliance at a time and during the summer months, that one thing is the air conditioner in the living room. My poor tea maker is often neglected since I'd have to turn off the air conditioner in order to turn it on. Nevertheless, there are many ways that tea has helped me to beat the summer heat.

Adding Mint

Mint, whether fresh or dried, can add a refreshing and cooling aftertaste to your tea. I love putting fresh mint in my iced tea but it also works great for most hot teas. I'm drinking some guayusa cucumber mint iced tea as I am writing this blog post and it is certainly doing the trick. There are many different kinds of mint so it is fun to experiment. Growing your own is also easy and fun to do.

Cold Brewing

There are many different ways to cold brew. Since there is no heat involved, the tea doesn't develop any bitterness. The easiest way would be to just throw your leaves in a mason jar or other container full of water. Depending on the your preference on strength, you can let it steep for a just a few hours or leave them overnight. There are many tools on the market, like the Steep & Go, that make this even easier. My Yama Glass Cold Drip Tea Maker takes quite a long time to make iced tea but the result is always tasty. Sometimes called shinobi-cha, ice brewing is also a great way to make a refreshing cup of green tea.

Hot Drinks Can Cool You Down

It may sound counter intuitive but drinking something hot can trigger your body to cool down. I've experienced this phenomenon myself. That being said, I do generally prefer teas with lower steeping temperatures in the summer. Silver Needle and Gyokuro are both favorites that come to mind.

Preventing and Treating Sunburn

A study published by the British Journal of Nutrition found that the catachins in green tea are incorporated into our skin and can provide some protection against sunburn and long term UV radiation-mediated damage. Not that I need another reason to drink a cup of tea but this is a great incentive. In the event that you do get burned, applying room temperature black tea to the affected area can soothe your skin and reduce inflammation.

How do you beat the heat? Let me know in the comments! I asked my Twitter followers what tea they turn to on a very hot day and these are some of their answers:






Monday, July 8, 2013

Art of Tea Cucumber Mint Guayusa 2QT Iced Tea Pouches

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green
Ingredients: organic guayusa, organic spearmint, natural flavors
Steep time: 8 hours
Water Temperature: room temperature
Preparation Method: Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker
Liquor: dark amber

As much as I love cups of hot tea, I still really enjoy iced tea and drink it frequently. I prefer my iced tea cold brewed and these large tea bags worked perfectly for that. The sweet, grassy earthiness of the guayusa paired perfectly with the flavors of mint and cucumber. It wasn't bitter at all and there was a crisp, clean finish. On a hot day the cooling aftertaste is incredibly refreshing. Usually green tea would be my go to for something like this but the guayusa was a nice change of pace. This herbal tea is known for being high in caffeine but I didn't get a big rush from it. Cold brewing probably had something to do with that since caffeine is more soluble at higher temperatures. I've got a ton of more flavors to try but this new iced tea line from +Art of Tea is off to a great start in my book.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Zentboutique Pu'erh Vanilla Mint

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with bright green peppermint
Ingredients: puerh, peppermint, vanilla beans, cinnamon 
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: dark reddish brown

This tea was smooth and somewhat creamy with a strong, spicy finish. The base puerh came through as earthy undertones that rounded out the sweet finish. I love the combination of vanilla and mint. It provided a very pleasant and cooling aftertaste. Cinnamon in tea is like comfort food for me and it complimented the other flavors well. The mouth-feel was very smooth and there was no bitterness to speak of. While sipping this I was reminded of the vanilla mint puerh that Rishi Tea used to make. That tea is no longer available so I was very happy to find a suitable replacement. I love that this tea is organic and fair trade certified. Overall it was a very well put together blend. This is the first flavored tea that I've tried from Zentboutique and I was very impressed with it. I only wish that I had more of it.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Happy Earth Tea Singbulli 1st Flush 2013

Photo: Happy Earth Tea
Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: mottled brown with hints of green
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep gold

This tea was everything that I love about 1st flush Darjeeling. The taste was smooth, sweet and complex. It had the muscatel flavor that I might expect but it came through as more of a fruity sweetness. There was also a mild grassiness with floral notes in the background. A pleasant astringency added just enough briskness. The finish was clean and somewhat dry. No milk or sugar would be necessary for this one at all, in fact they would more than likely ruin it. I always appreciate it when a tea is organically sourced. The Singbulli Tea Estate is also in the process of applying for Fair Trade certification. This is the first tea that I've tried from +Happy Earth Tea but definitely be looking forward to trying more of their offerings. I liked this tea so much that I think I'll go steep a second cup.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, July 5, 2013

French Your Day with Le Palais des Thés

 After a crazy day at the Summer Fancy Food Show, I headed to SoHo to attend an event held at one of my favorite shops. Le Palais des Thés and Fraiche PR can always be counted on for a good time filled with wonderful teas. You might remember that I attended their grand opening back in January. This days event was deemed "French Your Day" and it featured several French food and beverage brands.

I was tea logged from the trade show so I started off with some delicious canelé, made by Canelé by Céline. There were many wonderful flavors but I think that my favorite was the savory black winter truffle. The fruit juices from Alain Milliat were delicious and just what I needed to recover from a very long day. Champagne Pommery and Baume des Anges also provided beverages that I heard were delicous. I did not partake because I already had so much to eat and drink that day.

There many tea blends being served both hot and iced. Among them was the rooibos version of my perennial favorite Thé Du Hammam as well as Thé des Vahinese. Thé des Lords and Big Ben were both served hot. Although I did not know most of the people at the event, I was so happy to run into Georgia from Notes on Tea and Sara from Tea Happiness. This event was a perfect end to a hectic but fabulous day.

To see some of the twitter chatter about this awesome event, check out #FrenchYourDay.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Boozy Tea: Red, White and Blue Tea Sangria

My Golden Monkey Black Tea Sangria went over pretty well so I thought that I would try a white wine version now that summer is in full swing. These recipes are great because they are so flexible. A red, white and blue theme struck me as perfect to celebrate the 4th of July with. I think it turned out pretty refreshing. Next time, I think I'll try a sparkling wine for a little bit of extra kick.



Ingredients 

1 bottle of white wine (I used Erben Riesling)
1 shot of liqueur of your choice (I used Triple Sec since that's what I had on hand)
4 cups of water
10 teaspoons of Adagio White Blueberry Tea
1 cup of strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup of blueberries
1 cup of raspberries

  • Heat the water to 180 degrees and steep the tea for 5 minutes. 
  • Strain and set aside to cool. 
  • Combine wine and Triple Sec in a pitcher 
  • Add room temperature tea 
  • Add fruit and allow to chill 
  • Serve over ice, garnish with sprig of mint

My Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker made this recipe a piece of cake but any 2 quart container will do. Muddling raspberries in the bottom of your glass adds a nice touch. Feel free to substitute any tea, wine or fruit. Experimenting is the best part. When choose a wine, you'll want something on the sweet side since there isn't any sugar being added. The longer you leave it, the deeper red your sangria will be. The strawberries will loose all of their color as it is absorbed by the wine so don't get worried if they start looking a little pale. If you try my sangria, please let me know how it turns out!





Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Tea Lovers Report on the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show

The Fancy Food Show, held annually at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC, is an event that has been on my wish list for some time. There were a number of tea vendors presenting so I was really excited to be able to go. I tend to get overwhelmed at large trade shows like this so I printed a list of the vendors listed and put them in booth order. I always forget something and this time it was my camera. Thank goodness for camera phones!

To say that the show was hectic and crazy is an understatement. The picture at the left is only the smallest of the three exhibit halls being used. My first few stops were a bit disappointing because although listed under tea, they weren't really anything that a tea drinker like myself would interested in. Powdered tangering peel? No thanks!


Korean based Jukro Tea Company was definitely a standout for me. We don't often get to experience Korean tea here in the U.S. and it was a real treat to sit down and have a cup of delicious black tea. They were also offered a delicious "tea snack" which was dried tea leaves that were seasoned. Next came old friends like Harney & Sons, Le Palais des Thés, Twinings and Stash Tea Company. Boston Tea Company and newcomers Octavia Tea were there as well.

Numi Organic Tea had a pretty large booth and they were really pushing their savory teas. I picked up lots of goodies and will be reviewing the rest of this very interesting line. The walk through the Chinese area was interesting but I think that the language barrier presented some challenges. Most of them had never heard of tea blogging and didn't know what to make of the fact that I don't sell tea.

Finally, I hit the tea jackpot! All within one area I visited Tealish Fine Teas, Tea Forte, Mighty Leaf Tea, Republic of Tea and Elmwood Inn Fine Teas. ITO EN's famous bench made out of tea leaves made an appearance and I got to taste their tasty new green tea latte. I got to meet author Bruce Richardson and it was great to get a chance to talk shop with people who really knew their stuff.

One of the big standouts of the show for me was Oliver Pluff & Company. They blend authentic colonial teas and my inner nerd was so excited to sniff a tin of Bohea. Kyle was very knowledgeable and I loved heard the anecdotes he shared about history and tea in the south. At his booth I bumped into the Tea Fairy, also known as Elyse from Tealet. She wasn't hard to spot with her bright pink hair and eyelashes. At this point my feet were killing me but the show must go on. I finally moved on to the last exhibit hall and visited SeredipiTea, Teapigs and Pukka Herbs.

Oddly enough, my favorite part of the day was the impromptu tea session that I shared in the food court with Elyse from Tealet and the author behind The Snooty Tea Blog. After Elyse generously purchased some very overpriced hot water we shared many gaiwans. The teas we tasted were an Indian oolong and a really interesting green puerh. The water temperature wasn't perfect but we made due with what we could in and in a way, I think that we enjoyed it more because of it's randomness.

All in all it was a great show and I am very glad that I went. It was by far the most organized trade show that I have been to but I do wish that the tea vendor list had been better. I found out that I missed many favorites because they were not on my list. All of the vendor names in this post are links to reviews of their products that I have published. I thought that this might help you to learn more about them. I know that there are folks I forgot to mention but I want to say thank you to all of the people who took the time to chat and to all of the generous food vendors who provided snacks in between.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green
Ingredients: green tea, peach pieces, orange flower water and natural flavors
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 170 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: gold

The weather is warming up but I will still usually prefer hot tea over cold on most days. Green tea is a great go to because of its lower steeping temperature. I reviewed the loose leaf version of this tea last summer and absolutely loved it. My sample is now long gone so I couldn't resist grabbing a sample tea bag when I visited their Columbus Avenue shop. It was just as delicate and light as I had remembered. The melon and peach notes paired perfectly with the vegetal green tea. It was sweet but not overdone and it didn't come across as artificial or sugary. I still have yet to try this as an iced tea so a return trip will be in order soon. I know that I say this every time that I review a tea from Le Palais des Thés but I just love their fancy woven tea bags. I love not having to worry about plastic and paper changing the taste of my tea or leaching chemicals into it.

You can find out more about this tea here.