Saturday, August 31, 2013

Le Palais des Thés Big Ben G.F.O.P. (Gourmet Tea Bag)

Country of Origin: China and India
Leaf Appearance: small and dark
Ingredients: Yunnan and Assam black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: reddish brown

This tea is billed as an English breakfast but it wasn't quite as forceful of a tea as you might expect. It was mellow and somewhat sweet with a subtle spiciness. It had a slight astringency but only so much so as to make the finish clean and refreshing. It was invigorating but being made of a higher leaf grade (Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe), it lacked the bitterness that you would find with a typical breakfast style tea. I rather prefer my teas that way because I'm very sensitive to tannins. This was a lovely tea and I enjoyed it very much all on its own. I wouldn't recommend adding milk or sugar but I suppose you could if you really wanted to. Don't limit yourself to only enjoying this in the morning. I steeped this after a long day at work and it was a welcome pick me up. I recently read an article on plastic tea bags that made me appreciate these woven muslin tea bags even more. They are beautiful to look at and I feel safer putting it in my cup.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, August 30, 2013

O5 Tea Chiran Sencha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, small with needle-like shape
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 1 minute
Water Temperature: 160 degrees
Preparation Method: kyusu
Liquor: greenish gold

I received a sample of this tea as part of an Amoda Tea Monthly Tea Tasting Box. The taste was sweet and vegetal with just a touch of refreshing astringency. There grassy notes and a hint of oceanic salinity. That part is a bit hard to explain but it reflects the terroir of the region where it was grown perfectly. The mouth-feel was incredibly thick and buttery, quite unlike anything that I have experienced this this type of tea. I loved that the packaging included instructions for traditional hot water steeping as well as cold infusion and espresso. I was so intrigued that I decided to give them both a try. The "espresso" was strong and slightly fruitier than the traditional brew. This tea is no longer listed on O5 Tea's website but it is available from Amoda Tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Handmade Tea Blueberry Limón

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with lots of lemon peels and big, juicy blueberries
Ingredients: black tea, blueberries, lemon peels
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep reddish brown

August brought another cocktail inspired blend from +Handmade Tea. I have to confess that I munched on several blueberries while reviewing this tea. They were delicious! The steeped tea was on the mild side since no artificial flavorings were used. Anhui black tea provided an earthy and sweet background that paired perfectly with the blueberries and lemon peels. These are two fruits that I never really thought of putting together but they complimented each other quite well. The finish had a pleasant tartness but I didn't not find it bitter. I enjoyed this blend very much as a hot tea but those flavors really popped when I tried it as an iced tea. Although I was hoping for a bit more blueberry flavor, I can't say that I was disappointed at all. Handmade Tea's blends are always very well balanced and this one was no exception.

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Art of Tea Summer Peach 2QT Iced Tea Pouches

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark
Ingredients: Organic black tea, organic marigolds, natural flavors
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker
Liquor: reddish brown

Out of all of the +Art of Tea ice tea pouches that I have been reviewing lately, this is probably the one that I had been looking forward to the most. What could be more summery than a tall glass of peach iced tea on a hot day? I've been cold brewing most of these but figured that I could go with traditional hot steeping for this one. The black tea base was bright and crisp with just the right amount of earthy astringency. The peach flavor was incredibly juicy and sweet without being overdone or artificial. A lot of black teas develop an unpleasant bitterness after being in the refrigerator for a few days and I was happy to find that did not happen here. It did not become very cloudy either. The Cucumber Mint Guayusa was my favorite out of this collection but peach definitely has the crown now. Even if you have a sweet tooth, I think this one is just fine all on its own. Some orange blossom honey could be a nice touch though.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teamania Oolong #12 Jin Xuan

Photo: Teamania
Country of Origin: Thailand
Leaf Appearance: varied shades of green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

The taste of this tea was light and mildly vegetal with lingering floral notes. Some lightly oxidized oolongs are a little too "green" for me but this one was really enjoyable. Even on a hot summer day it was invigorating and refreshing. I lost count of infusions somewhere around the sixth round but these leaves definitely had staying power. When I first read about this tea on +Teamania's website I thought that it was a Taiwanese oolong. A closer look revealed that it is actually a Taiwanese cultivar that was grown in Thailand. Now that I think about it, this was definitely the first Thai tea that I have tried other than pandan herbal tea. Some Googling revealed that the mountain it was grown on, Doi Mae Salong, is perfectly suited to high mountain oolongs. That explains why they used a cultivar with would normally be found on Alishan. I'm so glad that I had a chance to try this unusual tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Verdant Tea Mt. Banzhang Farmer's Cooperative '03 Sheng

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, fairly large
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: amber

The craziest thing about this tea for me is that it was picked the year that I graduated high school (2001). It doesn't feel like that long ago but I'm approaching by thirtieth birthday so it must be. I purchased this as a sample size from +Verdant Tea so the leaves were already conveniently broken up for me. The taste of the first infusion was sweet and nutty with a wine-like finish. It had a thick, almost creamy mouth-feel that left a tingling feeling on my tongue. Something came up and I had to stop drinking this tea after just two infusions. That simply wouldn't do so I put my gaiwan in the refrigerator in the hopes that the leaves would still be ok. Sadly, I couldn't get back to them for two days but I was relieved to find that it tasted just as good as when I left off. As each steeping progressed, notes of honey and caramel appeared. This tea was everything that I love about sheng and I'm rather sad that it is no longer available.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Zentboutique Bouquet de Roses

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: lots of flower petals with varied shades of green
Ingredients: jasmine, rose, white tea, peppermint, lavender
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: brassy gold


This tea lived up to its name because it was certainly a bouquet. The white tea base was just barely there but it provided a perfect stage for the other flavors to really stand out. I was worried at first because I'm not always a fan of flowery teas. The dry leaves could have passed for potpourri. Thankfully the jasmine, rose and lavender combined to make a gentle floral sweetness rather than a mouthful of perfume. Rose was the dominant flavor out of the three. The mint did not really stand out for me other than a slight coolness in the aftertaste. There was no bitterness or astringency to speak of. I could see this blend working very well as an iced tea. It might not be something that I would reach for all of the time but if you love jasmine or rose I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pukka Lemongrass & Ginger

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, mixed green and brown
Ingredients: organic lemongrass, lemon verbena leaf, licorice root, ginger root, lemongrass extract
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: gold

When I visited the Pukka booth at the Fancy Food Show I was very impressed at their passion, knowledge and commitment to creating a quality herbal tea. The owner of the company, Sebastian, is an Ayurvedic practitioner and herbalist so all of their blends are very well thought out. My allergies have been making a bit miserable lately and I saw an article on their blog suggesting this herbal blend as a tea that might help hay fever. The aroma was strong and I was a little nervous about the licorice root since I am usual not a fan of it. Thankfully the taste was very well balanced. Citrus was the dominant flavor thanks to the lemongrass and lemon verbena. The finish was sweet with a just a hint of spicy kick from the ginger. Overall it has a very clean and refreshing effect. No herbal tea will ever be a miracle cure but I did feel better after drinking this. I love that they are certified organic by both the USDA and Soil Association

You can find out more about this herbal tea here.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Brew Lab Tea Peach Green

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: deep green, somewhat flat, large fruit pieces
Ingredients: green tea, dried peaches
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic infuser mug
Liquor: gold

I was really excited to try this tea because it's first offering that I've tried from +Brew Lab Tea after I have been following them on Tumblr for a while. I couldn't believe how large the pieces of dried peach were. Although it wasn't listed on the product page, the leaves were unmistakably sencha. The taste was wonderfully light and sweet. Pan fired green tea proved to be a perfect match for the sweet peach. It came across as a gentle fruity note rather than sticky or overdone. I love that they did not use any artificial flavorings to accomplish that. Simple is always best when it comes to blends and you can't get much simpler than this. It was very enjoyable hot, even on a warm and humid day but if you're in the mood for iced tea, try cold infusing this in a mason jar. No sweetener is necessary in either case but a touch of agave might work if you were so inclined. I contributed a recipe for Peach Green Tea Granita that featured this tea to the Brew Lab Tea's blog.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Make sure that you check out my recipe for Peach Green Tea Granita on +Brew Lab Tea's blog. It's a sweet treat that simple and easy to make using this tea.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tandem Tea Tasting: Wild Tea Qi Ancient White Bud Bar

Instagram - teaformeplease
Some of you might remember that back in April I did a virtual group tasting, dubbed the Fleece Feast, with a rowdy group of tea friends. It took us a while but we finally came back together for another group tasting. This time around our focus tea was the Wild Tea Qi Ancient White Bud Bar. I previously reviewed this tea and it has been one of my favorites for some time. There were some giggle fits but we managed to stay a bit more on topic. Despite some technical difficulties a good time was had by all.

This was a tea that the group seemed to struggle with a bit. Being a white tea, the taste was very subtle at first. We joked that it was a 5th date (er, infusion) kind of tea. Most of the gang used a gaiwan for steeping and so we progressed together, comparing notes and impressions. While the ladies had slowly gone through three to four steepings, Sir Geoff blazed ahead and consumed somewhere around fourteen 6oz servings. Talk about tea logged! It was interesting to see how the taste evolved and the way that my fellow tea drinkers interpreted those changes. What was floral at first gave way to woody, herbaceous and even creamy notes. Towards the end, I was getting a unique taste that reminded me of the aftertaste of sage. Each of our brewing setups was a bit different so it was also interesting to compare the taste differences between them.

There was of course lots of talk about tea in general and several mentions of +Jay T. Hunter's book, Wild Tea Hunter. We all live in different parts of the country and it was wonderful to get to share tea face-to-face. We'll be tasting another tea in a few weeks so keep an eye out for more tandem tea tasting adventures,

I'll be adding everyone else's blog posts here as they become available.

+Geoffrey Norman of Steep Stories - Moonlight Tandemonium!
+Jo J of Scandalous Tea - Ancient Moonlight White Wild Tea Qi Tandem Tea Tasting 2
+Darlene Meyers-Perry of The Tea Enthusiast's Scrapbook
+Rachana Rachel Carter of +iHeartTeas - Giggles, Fun, and Moonlight

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Art of Tea Blooming Bliss

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: sage green with white tips
Ingredients: Silver Tipped Green Tea, Amaranth Flowers, Natural Flavors
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: very pale

This blooming tea was a bit less showy than others that I've tried but I did not mind that one bit. I secretly hate the ones that shoot of tons of tiny flower bits. Amaranth flowers are pretty standard issue for this type of tea. They added a pretty punch of color to what might otherwise be a plain bouquet of leaves. The ball unfurled fairly quickly but I suggest steeping it for the full five minutes. You'll definitely want to make this in something glass so that you can watch the show, even if it is just a wine glass. The base green tea was delicately sweet and vegetal with just a touch of astringency. I was happy to find that the jasmine flavoring was pleasantly light. It wasn't soapy or perfumy and there was no bitterness. This isn't a tea that I would make often but after a stressful day it was a relaxing way to unwind. Flowering teas are how I first got really interested in tea so I have a soft spot for them. It's hard to believe but this is my 800th post. Holy cow!

You can find out more about this tea here.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wild Tea Qi Ancient Moonlight White

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: large, somewhat dark with lots of downy buds
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: very pale gold

I often drink so many different teas each year that it is hard to keep them straight. Every once in a while I'll find a tea that really sticks in my mind. This tea is definitely one of them. I first tasted it at World Tea East in 2012. In the midst a busy show floor and after tasting way too much tea, this one still managed to blow me away. Curiosity got the better of me on my last order and I purchased the Ancient Moonlight White Bud Bar instead. This time around I made sure to treat myself to a bag. The taste was just as delicious as I remembered. It had an intoxicating floral aroma. This tea drinker was caught with her nose in the teapot several times. There were notes of honey and melon with a sweet, lingering aftertaste. The floral aspect was very interesting. It reminded me of the way a field of clover in bloom smells. Although it was rather delicate, the flavor profile was very complex. I was also able to get more infusions than I was able to keep track of. I love the bounty of information that Wild Tea Qi provides. Included below is their snippet about the farmer who produced this tea. The owner of Wild Tea Qi, +Jay T. Hunter, wrote a book recently and I'm really hope that he shares some insight into this wonderful tea. I'll be positing a review of it soon.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Tea Master Chen Mei
Chen Mei is of the Dai tribe in Yunnan Province and has been 
honing her skills in picking and producing ancient tea tree teas 
since a young age. During the Cultural Revolution, the government 
had ordered all the ancient tea trees in Yunnan be cut so to cut the 
relationship to the ancient culture. Her grandfather who was managing 
the ancient tea garden at the time, risked his life by forbidding anyone 
in the village from cutting these beautiful ancient trees. He told them 
he would die fighting if he had to in order to protect these sacred trees. 
Now her grandfather’s ancient tea tree plantation is regarded as having 
the most unique tea tree forest on the mountain as it was completely 
in tact throughout the Cultural Revolution.
Know more about her Teas.

Source: Wild Tea Qi

Monday, August 19, 2013

Twinings Peach Cold Brewed Iced Tea

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance:
Ingredients: tea, natural peach and tea flavorings with other natural flavors, tea extracts and water
Steep time:
Water Temperature: cold
Preparation Method: cold brewed in glass mason jar
Liquor: amber

When I visited Twinings at the Fancy Food Show I tried some of this cold brewed iced tea and absolutely loved it. They sent me home with two teabags so that I could try it for myself. I had a bunch of two cup mason jars handy and they lent themselves perfectly to this. The recommended steep time of 5 minutes seemed very short to me but in looking at the ingredient list, I can tell that it was designed to infuse and give a lot of flavor quickly. Although the taste was a decent within that time frame, I decided to steep it for a bit longer. After a few hours in the refrigerator produced an iced tea that was light, sweet and very refreshing. The peach flavoring was juicy without being overdone and the base black tea was earthy but relatively mild. This was the epitome of what I call a lazy back porch tea, perfect for enjoying outside on a hot summer day. A bit of honey or agave would help to bring out the peach flavor. I will still always prefer loose leaf but as far as tea bags go, it was very good. If I ever need iced tea in a pinch this will likely be my go to.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Canton Tea Co. 2009 Mengku "981007" Cooked Beeng Cha

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark loosely compressed
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: dark reddish brown

Lately I've been on a big raw puerh kick but I've had a sample of this tea for while so I thought that I would give it a try. I was lucky enough to win it when +Canton Tea Co. had a giveaway on Twitter. The taste was surprisingly smooth for a cooked puerh. I usually prefer older teas but can't really afford full cakes of them so this was a nice treat. It was full of intense earthy sweetness with notes of peat and a slightly piney finish. There was a touch of astringency but it wasn't bitter at all. I think that I still prefer sheng to shu but this tea was very enjoyable. It's been several years since I've had anything from Canton Tea Co.'s teas but I do remember being just as impressed with their other selections, particularly the Silver Yin Zehn and Bai Lin Gong Fu. This tea is no longer available on their website but they do have some other really great sounding cakes.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Podcast Episode 4: Interview with Elyse from Tealet

+Elyse Petersen from +Tealet is one of the most enthusiastic tea lovers that I have had the pleasure to meet. I'm so excited to share my recent interview with her. We talked about everything from tea to Hawaii and Tetris. I hope that you all enjoy it as much as I did!

Here are some the links Elyse mentions in case you want to check them out:

Tealet: http://www.tealet.com
Free Hawaii Tea: http://www.tealet.com/tea/profile/38
Wholesale Auctions: http://www.tealet.com/wholesale
Vimeo Page: https://vimeo.com/tealet/videos

Friday, August 16, 2013

T- We Tea Guurl Grey

Country of Origin: Sri Lanka, India
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with lots of blossoms and peels
Ingredients: Ceylon, Assam, California orange peel, jasmine blossoms, essential oil of bergamot
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: bright reddish brown

I'm normally not a big fan of earl grey but I just had to give this version a try when I saw T-We Tea's booth at Unique NYC. The taste was more orange than bergamot. That made me very happy because I find bergamot caustic in most cases. The jasmine was not very strong but it added just a touch of floral softness. The base black teas were earthy and brisk but they were not overly astringent. Why can't all earl grey teas taste like this? Needless to say, I very much enjoyed this tea. This particular blend is not currently listed on their site but it seems like they do most of their selling at fairs and events. I definitely suggest checking them out if you ever see them in your area. They seem like really nice folks and they've come up with some unique blends. I really want to try their BiCurious George. It's a mixture of coffee beans and black tea.

You can find out more about T-We Tea here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

SeredipiTea Water Sprite

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and twisted
Ingredients: oolong
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: amber

I have to admit that I wanted to try this tea mostly because of the name. Now that I think about it, tea leaves dancing in the water are a bit spritely. It was probably one of the highest oxidized Chinese oolongs that I've had in a long time. The taste was earthy with notes of caramel and hints of smoke. A faintly floral sweetness lingered long after each sip. I was a bit tea logged after three consecutive infusions but there was definitely a few more rounds to be had. It was really interesting to watch the flavor profile evolve. It became deeper and rounder with each steeping. This tea was fairly mellow so it would be excellent for after meals or when you are feeling under the weather. I shared it with my boyfriend and he enjoyed it very much. I usually prefer my oolongs to be a bit lighter than this one but it was nice to take a break from the norm. Even thought this a somewhat darker tea, I strongly recommend against using any kind of milk or sugar. You'll loose most of the flavor in doing so!

You can find out more about this tea here.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Art of Tea Mango Tulsi 2QT Iced Tea Pouches

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark
Ingredients: Organic Black Tea, Organic Tulsi, Natural Flavors
Steep time: 10 hours
Water Temperature: room temperature
Preparation Method: Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker
Liquor: amber

This tea was deliciously fruity, light and sweet. Although the flavoring wasn't very strong or overdone, it still came across as quite juicy. It really did taste like there was mangos in this tea. Tulsi is one of my favorite herbal teas and I was happy to see its inclusion in this blend, although it wasn't very apparent in the final taste. The base black tea brought a vague earthiness in the background. There was no bitterness at all and the finish was clean and refreshing. I'm usually not one to sweeten my tea but a touch of agave would really make the fruity flavor pop. I love cold brewing because it is convenient and the tea doesn't cloud up as easily as it would if it were hot brewed. These pouches just make it that much easier to do. The more I use them and explore each flavor the more I love them. +Art of Tea has really impressed me, both with their loose leaf teas and iced teas.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Zentboutique Bai Hao Yin Zhen

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: sage green, covered in downy hairs
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 6 minutes
Water Temperature:
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: very pale

I received this tea as part of the June shipment (remember the blog is pre-written ahead of time) from Zentboutique's monthly subscription club. The taste was grassy and mildly vegetal with delicate fruity and floral notes. Straw, melon and honeysuckle were definitely brought to mind. The finish was sweet and lingered long after each sip. There was no bitterness and the mouth-feel had a pleasant buttery smoothness. I only had a small amount of leaves so I used an infuser basket this time but this tea would be perfect for brewing "grandpa style". It would also make an excellent iced tea. Sweetener is not advisable at all because that would all but cover up the taste of the tea. Bai Hao Yin Zhen is commonly known as Silver Needle. It can be difficult to taste the nuances in this type of tea when you are first starting out. The best way to combat that is practice. Drink it often and give yourself the time to really concentrate on what you are experiencing.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tea DIY: Iced Chai Latte

I'm a complete chai addict but once the warm weather arrives I just can't bring myself to drink it hot. I was craving that spicy, sweet flavor so I decided to try making my own iced chai latte. My boyfriend is also a chai worshiper and he gave this recipe a big thumbs up. I used Yogic Chai Original Masala Chai Pouches but you can easily substitute teaspoons of loose leaf instead. I like to use mason jars for this because you can use them for mixing and drinking.


Ingredients
5 Chai Pouches
4 cups of water
3 tablespoons of agave
2 cups of milk

  • Fill small pot with 4 cups of water and add chai pouches
  • Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes
  • Turn off heat and remove pouches
  • Add agave
  • Let cool and then transfer to a glass container (mason jars work perfectly)

When you are ready to serve, pour two parts chai concentrate and one part milk into a glass filled with ice. I like to use 1 cup of chai and 1/2 a cup of milk. That's all there is to it! This recipe is enough to make about four servings. Refrigerate any leftover chai concentrate so that you can use it again later. It will stay fresh for three to four days. Do you make iced chai at home? Let me know your preferred method in the comments!

Want to share this recipe? Just click the link below to automatic generate a tweet:

Tweet: Check out this awesome iced chai latte recipe I found on @teaformeplease! http://bit.ly/1chKF7V

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Tea Infused Bath and Beauty Haul from iHeartTeas

Some of you might remember that I previously reviewed +iHeartTeas  Green Tea & Lemongrass Lip Balm. A few months ago I ordered several of Rachel's awesome products so I did mini reviews of each of them. Beauty blogs often refer to this kind of thing as a "haul" so I thought that I should follow suit :)


I actually purchased this at the New York Coffee and Tea Festival. The texture was super smooth and creamy without being waxy. The cooling sensation from the mint was very refreshing. I was so glad that I was actually able to taste the sweet and vegetal matcha. 



I think that this is my favorite lip balm from iHeartTeas yet. It stays in purse so that I can take it everywhere. The orange peel oil is strong but not overpowering. Again, I love that I can still taste the matcha. It's an instant mood lifter when I put this on.


Sweet Tea Body Lotion

As much as I'm a traditionalist when it comes to tea, I have a major addiction to Southern style sweet tea. This cream has been on my wish list for a while and I so glad that I finally indulged. It smells amazing! I'm very sensitive to perfumy lotions so I was happy to find the scent to be light and unoffensive. It left my skin feel smooth and soft without being greasy.




White Tea Facial Cream

I have combination skin and finding a good moisturizer has always been a battle for me. Just as with the sweet tea lotion above, the scenting was light and pleasant. My allergies were not triggered by it in the least. It was light and absorbed into my skin easily. The best party is, it didn't leave my face looking like an oil slick as most other creams do.




Tangerine Salt Scrub

Although not tea infused, Rachel included a sample of this with my order and I just had to try it. Not only did it smell amazing but my skin felt great afterwards. I definitely think that I'll be ordering this for exfoliating when my skin gets dry in the winter.




In case you missed it, Rachel from iHeartTeas was my very first podcast guest. Check out our interview!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Teavivre Bi Luo Chun Green Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: jade green, curled with lots of downy hairs
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: bright yellowish green

The dry leaves of this tea were beautiful. I loved the corkscrew shape and fuzzy buds. The taste was incredibly delicate, perfect for a hot summer day. Despite being mellow, the flavor profile was quite complex. It was vegetal and somewhat nutty with floral notes and a hint of honeydew melon. The finish had a lingering sweetness that reminded me of agave. I haven't indulged tea leaf eating in some time but I couldn't resist with this one. This particular tea is very inexpensive for the level of quality. As always, I really enjoy the amount of background information +TeaVivre provides about their teas. One fact they listed that fascinated me is that due to only the small leaf tips being used, 1 pound of this tea (about 500g) will contain about 70,000 leaf tips. I used a gaiwan for this one because I wanted concentrated flavor but it would be wonderful to watch the leaves dance in a glass teapot.

dry leaves of this tea You can find out more about this tea here

Friday, August 9, 2013

Guest Post: Discovering Tea

Photo: Tea Setter
Today I am featuring a guest post contributed by +Matt Kitchen of Tea SetterYou might remember him from my podcast interview. His enthusiasm for tea is contagious. I love hearing about how others discover tea. Each story is different yet love of the leaf is always a common thread. 

I discovered loose leaf tea about 8-10 years ago when I was looking for a coffee alternative. I always wanted to like coffee, but I found myself liking the sugar, cream, and other additives I put into coffee, not really the coffee. Thus, I went searching into the tea world. I drank various green, white and black teas for the next 3-5 years. I could never get into flavored or tea blends as I once again felt like they were trying to mask or improve upon something - I didn’t want additives, just pure tea leaves.

I liked what I was drinking, but was never blown away by it. Everything was whole leaf and brewed in a brew basket inside the cup. The white tea and green teas were good tasting, but I could never get over the vegetal flavors that kept them from being great or amazing. I love spinach, but drinking green vegetable flavor notes are not going to keep me thinking about that tea after I finish it.

So I was content with drinking tea, far from an evangelist, but at least I can enjoy a warm drink without adding anything to it and be satisfied with the flavor.

Everything changed when I went on vacation with my wife and visited an actual tea lounge. I was introduced to chinese-style, multiple infusion steeping and the world of Oolong and Pu’erh tea. I did not know tea could taste like this. Nothing added, just the exotic locations that these tea plants grew along with the way they were processed yielded flavors you swear were sprayed on.

I purchased my first gaiwan (lidded cup) and learned how easy it can be to brew in the traditional Chinese-style. Using the gaiwan to brew 5-10 short infusions of tea and taste the changes in flavor and smell the variances in aroma introduced me to tea for seemingly the first time again. Then, with my Gaiwan in hand, I made it my mission to explore this new range of teas.

First came Pu’erh. Pu’erh tea (the cooked style) can be thought of as a fermented black tea that mellows with age. The robustness of aged Pu’erh tea has so many dimensions in the deep earthy flavor and can often come with a subtle, backend sweetness. As multiple infusions mellow the tea these amazing notes of sugar cane come through and I swear somebody added sugar to the amber liquid. But no, it really is just that good. There are so many Pu’erhs and not all of them will have this amazing backend, but after experiencing it I can only search out teas that have different variances of it which all 3 that I currently sell have. From the deep and dark to the light and subtle. A good pu’erh can be bold enough to wake you up, but will soften up to bring relaxation.

Next were the Oolongs. There are so many different Oolong teas, but the notes of lilac and an aroma that seemingly can make all bad things disappear is why I keep coming back to the Iron Goddess Oolong (tieguanyin). Breathing in the aroma and tasting the floral nature of the tea is beyond what I had ever experienced in tea before. I could not believe it existed, I still have days I doubt it. These small rolled up balls of tea leaves unfurl and become large and full and you suddenly understand where that big flavor comes from. To brew a high quality Iron Goddess in short Chinese-Style infusions is to truly experience tea on another level. It changed the way I thought about tea forever.

I also drink an Oriental Beauty Oolong that has hints of grilled peaches. This tea makes me want to pick up a science book to fully explore how growing conditions, combining different parts of the leaf, and oxidation amounts (this stuff gets super technical) can impart such flavor. No peaches were used in the making of this tea, but the flavor is rich without being overwhelming. This is not a flavor blended tea nor where there natural or artificial flavors sprayed on. It is mind blowing to try to understand where that flavor comes from. But that is why I buy Chinese tea, they have have been perfecting these teas for thousands of years. Think about that for a while.

And so here I am, still befuddled that so many others do not know about these kinds of tea, how amazing they are, and how enjoyable they are to brew in a unique way. I have now made it my part-time job to show other people the beauty of tea this way. To be clear, I do not always have time to sit down and brew tea in this chinese-style. But you better believe when I do, the day is better.

For example, on weekend mornings I love to start early with multiple short infusions of Pu’erh to replace the traditional coffee. Robust enough to wake me up, but not bitter enough that it needs anything added. When I get home and the day was stressful I brew some Iron Goddess, breathe in the aroma and drift away for a couple of minutes. Or maybe after a heavy meal I will chinese-style brew some Pu-erh and sip to usher in the relaxation of the evening. Either way, to taste and smell the changes of a tea brewed over 5-10 short infusions is to experience the tea.

You owe it to yourself to experience some tea like never before. If you need some help, well that’s why I started TeaSetter.com. Take Care.

+Matt Kitchen
Founder of Tea Setter, LLC

Matt Kitchen founded Tea Setter to make the Chinese-Style brewing of Pu’erh and Oolong teas approachable for everyone. He knows that when you enjoy tea like this you are no longer drinking tea - you are experiencing tea. He resides in Northeast Ohio with is wife and two kids (who love to play tea with daddy).

Thursday, August 8, 2013

SerendipiTea Fiji

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: deep green with petals and fruit pieces
Ingredients: Green Tea (Organic), Cornflower, Papaya, Papaya Flavor (Artificial), Pineapple, Pineapple Flavor (Natural & Artificial)
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 190 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: gold

I first tried this tea several years ago and it has always stuck out in mind as truly exceptional. The dry leaves were incredibly aromatic. Their sweet, fruity aroma became even more pronounced once the water was added. I had several family members over while steeping this and everyone commented about how great it smelled. The taste wasn't quite as intense but I still found it to be wonderfully tropical. Pineapple and papaya were definitely the stars of the show and the mild green tea base lets them do that. The flavoring was very light and natural. The sweet and lingering aftertaste had a really nice juiciness to it. As much as I enjoyed this as a hot tea, it is absolutely phenomenal when iced. It's perfect for throwing in a water bottle with my Steep & Go for cold brewing. I can honestly say that I have never had a bad blend from SerendipiTea. It's obvious that more goes into their teas than just throwing ingredients together.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Art of Tea Brûlée Mint 2QT Iced Tea Pouches

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark brown
Ingredients: Organic Fair Trade Rooibos, Organic Spearmint, Organic Peppermint, Osmanthus Flowers, Natural Flavors
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker
Liquor: reddish brown

Up until now I've been cold brewing all of my iced tea pouches so I decided to try the directions using hot water this time around. It was one of the most complex and interesting iced teas that I have had to date. The taste started out as a strong but run of the mill minty flavor but the finish took a sudden turn towards an earthy sweet, burnt caramel note. No wonder this blend was named brûlée! A touch of sweetener might do nicely but it tasted just fine all on its own. I've enjoyed all of +Art of Tea's iced tea pouches but I think that this might be my favorite one yet. Funnily enough, rooibos and osmanthus are probably my two least favorite tea ingredients (after the bane of my existence, hibiscus).They just happened to work really well here. This tea is a great example of why I always keep an open mind and try new things, even if I don't think that I will like them. I would have missed out on something really great if I had listened to my preconceived notions.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Zentboutique Long Jing

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: sage green, flat
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 170 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: very pale

I received this tea as part of the April shipment for Zentboutique's monthly tea subscription service.The taste was incredibly sweet and delicately vegetal. Subtle notes of chestnut rounded out the flavor profile. There was bitterness and it had a fresh, clean aftertaste. To add sweetener to a tea like this would be a crime. If you feel the need to do so, please don't tell me about it! My second infusion was just as enjoyable. I never thought about it until I read the product description for this tea, but the leaves really are shaped like dragonfly wings. Perhaps that is another little puzzle piece of the legends that surround this tea. This classic green tea gets a bit of a bad wrap among tea snobs who consider it a "beginners tea" but a well made dragonwell is a thing of beauty. This one was a great example of that. I've been very impressed by the teas that I've received from this subscription service so far. They have all been varied and of great quality.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Jalam Teas Pulang Shan

Photo: Instagram - teaformeplease
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark and twisted with some covered in downy hairs
Ingredients: sheng puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

I've been exploring a lot of sheng puerh lately so I was really excited to dig into this one. +JalamTeas generously sent me a sample of the June shipment for their monthly subscription service. The cake must have been loosely packed because the leaves were large and mostly whole. There were downy hairs visible on the tips of some of the leaves. The taste was vegetal and sweet with a cooling aftertaste and refreshing astringency. I did four consecutive infusions before becoming tea logged but the leaves definitely had a lot more to give. I love the depth of information that Jalam Teas provides about each of their teas. This one was sourced from the Pulang people on the mountain of the same name in southern Yunnan. The leaves were harvested in February 2012 and allowed time to mellow out a bit. If you are a puerh lover, I highly suggest this monthly service.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

JING Tea Organic Dragonwell

Photo: JING Tea
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: jade green, flat
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 160 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale gold

This tea was subtly vegetal with nutty notes along with an almost floral quality. The mouthfeel was smooth with just a touch of astringency. Each sip had a sweetness in the finish that lingered in my palate in the nicest way. I did three consecutive infusions but it definitely could have gone for a few more rounds. The wonderful thing about Dragonwell is that it is a perfect tea for beginners and also offers a lot to someone who is more experienced. This is certified organic but the Soil Association. As I have been learning recently, their standards are higher than the USDA and other certifying organizations and they focus on promoting sustainable farming. I pitted this tea against +JING Tea's Supreme Dragonwell in a blind tasting. Even though the supreme won out, I still enjoyed this one very much and thought that it deserved its own review.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Guest Post: Assessing the Assessor? A Tale of a Tea Competition

Photo: Wikipedia
I'm always excited to share a guest post from +Derek Chew. This one in particular was a very interesting story and not one that I have heard before.

In China, especially Southern China, tea competitions are always an exciting period. Producers will bring out their best teas and vie for the prestige and pride that comes along with being crowned the “King of Tea” for that year.

Sometimes, it is not just the teas that are assessed.

Our story takes place in 1989, during the spring period to be more precise, in Xiping Village, Anxi. Xiping Village of course is said to be the very first place that the world famous Tieguanyin aka Iron Goddess of Mercy was produced.

A migrant Chinese Mr. Wei decided to fund the first village level “King of Teas Competition” in his hometown. With much publicity and fanfare, he managed to drum up considerable interest in the competition.
Producers begin to label different batches of teas which were later assigned codes to maintain the anonymity. Different batches of Tieguanyin were sent in to the judges.

Still, as it was a while since there was a competition on this scale, there were skeptics.

“How are they going to assess so many different teas?”

“How can it be done in an afternoon?”

Murmurs emerged from the crowd.

Still, the main judge of the day was no slouch. He was none other than Zhang Tianfu, one of the most respected tea experts.

At a ripe old age of 80, Zhang was sharper than ever. He quickly blazed through the teas, mercilessly eliminating batch by batch.

The crowd could see that the scores of samples dwindled to a few. It seems inevitable that the top 3 winners would be announced soon.

However things seemed to run into a snag.

The crowd saw Zhang wavering between two samples, continuing smelling the gaiwan lids and drinking the tea.

Zhang’s eyebrows burrowed deeply as he shook his head in bewilderment.

“It cannot be. Even if it came from the same field and processed by the same person, at different dates, because of the prevailing weather condition, there is bound to be even the slightest variation in the characteristics of the tea.

The taste, mouth feel, texture and aroma of these two samples are exactly identical. I am certain that they are the exact same tea.”

You could hear the crescendo in the muttering of the crowd.

“Had the old man lost it? It is impossible! Each batch is labeled with a different set of numbers and sealed completely. No one could possibly tamper with the tea.”

Out of nowhere a loud voice boomed: “I’m convinced! Darn it, I’m convinced”

At that a middle age man that the villagers recognized as one of the most respected producers stepped forward.

“I divided the same tea into 2 batches and submitted them separately. I didn’t think anyone could really tell the difference. Now I’m convinced that Zhang is truly an expert!”

The crowd looked stunned for a moment but eventually applause erupted with cheers both for the teas and for Mr. Zhang Tian Fu.

(This account appeared in Huashuo Anxi Tieguanyin edited by Song Lizhen and published by Fujian Science & Technology Publishing House)

Author’s 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.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Chai Diaries Peach Blooming Tea

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: tight ball, mottled green
Ingredients: green tea, crysanthumum, jasmine flowers, peach flavor
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale gold

I met the girls from Chai Diaries when I attended the New York Coffee and Tea Festival. A tin of this blooming tea followed me home along with some of their yummy chai granola. I was intrigued because I have not really seen flavored blooming tea other than the usual jasmine or osmanthus scented. Vine was just released for Android when I wrote this review (almost two months ago) so I shot the little video below so that you can all see how it bloomed. I thought that the strings of jasmine flowers were especially pretty. The taste was mellow yet much more complex and satisfying than I expected. It was vegetal with a floral sweetness and just a bit of peachy fruit flavor. It wasn't overdone or artificial tasting. I allowed the bloom to stay in the water while I finished my first cup and was happy to find that it did not turn bitter or undrinkable. In fact, the peachy flavor had grown a bit stronger. I imagine that it would be difficult to add flavoring to this type of tea but it was very well executed. The flavors that they offer are definitely on my "to try" list now.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Persimmon Tree Assam Gold

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: dark, twisted with lots of golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep reddish brown

There's nothing quite like an Assam, especially first thing in the morning. I can see why this one was called Assam Gold because the leaves had a ton of golden tips. It's debatable whether or not that affects the taste at all but I'm a sucker for pretty leaves. Aromatic, brisk and malty are all words that I would use to describe this tea. It was earthy and nutty with just a hint of floral sweetness. The mouth-feel was thick and it had a sharp but pleasant astringency. Oversteeping a tea like this could make it very bitter so I would not recommend steeping it for any longer than 4 minutes, maybe 5 if you like your teas on the strong side. This tea definitely has enough body to stand up to milk and sugar if you needed to but it is very enjoyable all on its own. My inner tea nerd really wants to know which estate these leaves came from. Maybe one day Assam will gain enough industry clout for that to be required info, just as it seems to now be for Darjeeling.  +The Persimmon Tree's teas are generally very fairly priced for the level of quality and this one was no different.

You can find out more about this tea here.