Thursday, October 31, 2013

Handmade Tea Winterfylleth

Country of Origin: Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: small, black with lots of juicy apple pieces
Ingredients: black tea, cinnamon bark chips, Fuji apples
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: Teavana Perfect Steeper
Liquor: reddish brown

Although I enjoy all of the teas that I get from +Handmade Tea, the blends I look forward to the most are the ones that come around the holidays. Christmas seems to have come early with this blend as it is a festive blend of black tea, cinnamon and apples. These are a few of my favorite things! I won't burst into song but there was some jumping up and down when I opened the box. The fuji apple pieces were so fresh that they were downright squishy and I definitely found myself nibbling some pieces. Overall the taste was spicy and sweet with earthy undertones. It was a supremely comforting cup and I will be bringing the rest of this bag to cheer me up at the office. Even though the weather is turning chilly and I loved this hot, I really want to try it as an iced tea. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you want unique blends delivered to you on a monthly basis I strongly recommend Handmade Tea.

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

Podcast Episode 5: Interview with Chris from Teaity

I skipped a month because things have been so busy but I'm happy to get back into the swing of things with my podcast.This month +Chris Giddings took the time to tell me all about +Teaity, a tea database and timer that I absolutely love.

 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jalam Teas Zhang Lang

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: somewhat dark, lots of visible buds
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

I really have to thank +JalamTeas for getting me into puerh. It had been my "last frontier" for a long time and now I'm diving in head first. The teas that I've tried from them have all been fantastic and I have fallen in love with the stories that they tell about the native people who produce the teas. The beautiful photographs that accompany each month's tea make me want to travel to China even more. This particular one is a sheng (or green) puerh that was produced by the Pulang people of southwestern Yunnan. Since it was picked in Spring 2012 it has had some time to mellow. The taste was surprisingly sweet but still had a sharp vegetal note and lingering astringency. I've taken to brewing this throughout the day in my travel tumbler for work and it's really helped to keep my energy up. I'll be sad when this one is gone but I'll always have the next shipment's tea to look forward to.

Zhang Lang sample provided by Jalam Teas.

Another Try at Teacrafting with Boston Teawrights

Last month I did some Teacrafting with Boston Teawrights and had a blast making real tea in my very own kitchen. It was so much fun that I gave it another go. Although I enjoyed the whole journey from raw leaf to finished tea, it's still a learning process for both +Boston Teawrights and myself. I tweaked a few things and I believe that I came up with a better cup this time around. The packet of fresh leaves that I received was packaged on September 27th. I love the storage life statement: Longer than a load of bread, shorter than a twinkie.

The first step, just as it was last time, was to wilt the leaves. I spread them out on cooling racks on my cookie sheet, inhaling their fresh aroma. Boston Teawrights revised their instructions a bit so this time they were only wilted for about two hours. Storage wilt gave them a bit of a head start but they soon developed the right look. The two pictures below shows a leaf, before and after this step.



Once the leaves were done withering, it was time to begin the rolling process. I had a little bit of trouble last time with this part of the procedure. Rather than struggle with the cheesecloth I decided to just bare hand it. It was much easier doing it this way and I was amazed at how much "juice" came out of the leaves. The smell was amazing and it only slightly stained my hands.



Once the leaves were finished being rolled, it was time to let them oxidize. Unfortunately it was a fairly cool, dry day so I had a hard time keeping the environment around them warm and humid. Since I had opted to skip the cheesecloth, I used a rather threadbare washcloth to cover the leaves instead. I wound up leaving them overnight since the leaves didn't look right just yet.



My next step was to bake the leaves in the oven at 225 degrees. The leaves were quite well done after 10 minutes so I decided to stop the baking process there. I'd really like to experiment more with this step since my oven isn't exactly like what they might use for actual tea production.




The resulting brew definitely had a deeper in both flavor and color than my last attempt. It struck me the same way some Japanese black teas have, very light and delicate. It still had an oolong-ish quality, but that is to be expected with leaves from Taiwan. The first time around I used a gaiwan but +Caleb Hodes must have read my mind because that night he posted steeping recommendations. The result was actually better when I infused the leaves in a steeper mug for six minutes.

Overall this was another really fun experience and I think that teacrafting could easily become addicting. Trying my hand at making green tea is still on my wish list but that will have to wait until I have the right equipment on hand.

You can find out more about Boston Teawrights here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tea Places: Podunk

The other day I stumbled upon a tea place that has been on my to do list for a while. I didn't have a ton of time since I was on my way to work but it was nice to sit and grab a bite to eat. The decor was an eclectic mix that I can only describe it as a grandmother's kitchen crossed with a charming country antique store. The space is pretty small so it wouldn't be good for large groups but solo dinners or couples wouldn't have a problem. For such a tiny place, it had a very decent sized menu. There were a lot of choices that sounded delicious but I opted for the "This and That". Everything was presented on colorfully painted wood trays. I thought that was a really nice touch that was different from any other tea place I've been to in NYC.

The tea service that I ordered included three savory mini pies, dessert and tea. I'm a sucker for scones so they were my immediate choice but cupcakes, cookies and other treats were also available. I'm not sure what exact flavors my pies were but they were all absolutely delicious. The one with spinach was definitely my favorite. The scones were plain but very tasty, as was the cream and jam that was served with them. Some of the reviews online are mixed but I found the owner to be friendly and sweet as can be. Since I was by myself I took some time to read a book on my Kindle. The atmosphere was relaxing except for a nearby table of three who hadn't heard of the term "inside voices". There are two downsides to this place, they don't have a restroom and they are cash only. Both cases are easily remedied by hitting a Starbucks bathroom and the ATM before visiting :)

You can find out more about this tea  place here.


Zentboutique Nilgiri Coonoor

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: long, dark
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: bronze

I drink an awful lot of Darjeeling and Assam but a tea from Nilgiri is a rare treat. The dry leaves were interesting looking because they were quite long, resembling something from Yunnan rather than India. It brewed up a bright reddish color that could only be described as bronze. I have not had an aromatic black tea in some time so I couldn't help deeply sniffing my fruity, almost floral cup. Those notes were echoed in the taste along with a mild spiciness and just a hint of malt. The tannins were there but they weren't overwhelming and it had just the right amount of astringency. This is not a tea that you should add milk or sugar to. Not to be a tea snob, but it's really much too fine for that. I've had a number of quality selections from Zenteaboutique but this one probably tops them all. I love that it is organic, although I do wish that they listed the certifying organization. This tea was on temporary back order at the time of that this review was written, it will be well worth the wait.

Nilgiri Coonoor sample provided by Zentboutique.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Amoda Tea September Tea Tasting Box

Earlier this year I sampled Amoda Tea's January Tea Tasting Box and found it really enjoyable. +Amoda Tea offered me a chance to try their September Tea Tasting Box so I was really excited to dive into another batch of samples. The packing is as pretty as ever, with a bit of bright tissue paper to make my day. They've changed formats a bit since last time so the three samples are all from the same vendor. This months teas were sourced from The Hale Tea Company, a family business with European roots dating back 100 years. The three teas all seemed to have a creamy theme. Mirabelle Creme, Creamy Cacao Delight and Vanilla Jasmine Special all sound positively delicious. I'll be reviewing each of the teas separately and will be sure to link them here once they are posted. For just $12 per month, this subscription service would make a perfect gift for your favorite tea lover.

You can find out more about this subscription service here.

Create Numi Organic Tea's Next Signature Blend

Numi recently let me know about an exciting contest that they are having so I thought that I would share it with you all. How cool would it be to win a trip to San Francisco? Good luck everyone!

Numi Organic Tea, known for delicious organic, non-GMO and Fair Trade Certified teas and teasans, is proud to announce its “Create Numi’s Next Signature Blend” Contest! Create your own personalized tea blend with ingredients found in Numi's Artisan's Tea Blending Kit as well as with spices and herbs often found in your kitchen for a chance to create the newest Numi Organic Tea blend and win a trip to San Francisco.

With the release of the Numi Artisan’s Tea Blending Kit last year, Numi encouraged consumers to try their hand at creating their own signature tea blends. The Artisan’s Tea Blending Kit includes an assortment of organic teas, herbs, fruits, flowers and spices plus a handmade glass teapot to allow for a truly unique and personal tea experience experimenting with blends, discovering new tastes and enjoying endless creativi-tea!

Now, Numi is inviting consumers to share their tea blend recipes with the “Create Numi’s Next Signature Blend” Contest! A panel consisting of Numi tea'm members will taste the finalists' blends and award the winner to become the newest Numi Organic Tea blend. The alchemist behind the winning blend will be flown to San Francisco, California with a guest for a two night stay. While there, they will enjoy a special private tea tasting and tutorial at Numi's Headquarters in Oakland, Ca.

“When we first released our Artisan’s Tea Blending Kit we were astounded and inspired by our customers’ creativity in creating unique tea blends,” says Ahmed Rahim, CEO, Co-Founder and Chief Alchemist at Numi Organic Tea. “With this contest, we are excited to see what our fans produce and know that the winning blend will be a delicious addition to our lineup.”

To enter, email pr@numitea.com with your name, phone number, tea blend recipe and photo. Entries are accepted now through January 31, 2014 at 11:59 PM (PST). Full terms and conditions are posted online at http://www.numitea.com/assets/697/ContestRules.pdf.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Favorite Friday: Traveling with Tea


Getting my tea fix on the go can often be a challenge but I've discovered a few tools over the years that make it a lot easier. As with most things, simplicity is best. I use all of these things at least once a week, especially while I am commuting.

1. Taylor Connoisseur Digital Tea Thermometer/Timer
2. Teaity
3. Planetary Design Tea Tumbler
4. Steep & Go
5. Thistledown Cozies Tea Wallet

What are your favorite tea tools when you are traveling?

Click here to see all of my Favorite Friday posts.

Tea Places: Teavana Fine Teas + Tea Bar

+Teavana has just recently opened a brand new concept store on Madison and 85th street in New York City. There's been a lot of buzz about it online so I was really excited to have the opportunity to attend the preview event this past Wednesday. I've also seen a lot skepticism but I feel that the company has been moving in the right direction since being acquired by Starbucks. The moment that I stepped through the doors I knew that this was going to be a very different experience. The space was large, modern and inviting. There were lots of little details that you may not see upon first glance, like the tubes of tea in the ceiling.


I came right from work so I immediately gravitated to the food selection. The offerings was definitely reminiscent of Starbucks but I thought that it was still different enough to stand out on its own. The menu seemed seasonally inspired and there was everything from little pastry bites to large portioned salads. A lot of articles online scoffed at the menu but I felt that the prices were right on par with the neighborhood and the quality.



I had a roasted butternut squash strata that was absolutely delicious. Paired with a fresh brewed cup of Dragonwell, I was a very happy camper. I was able to speak with several partners who helped develop the menu and it was obvious everyone was incredibly proud of their creations. They did a fabulous job!

There were several signature drinks being served and I enjoyed all of them, even the ones that I was hesitant about trying. While purists might roll their eyes at the idea of them, these drinks will be an important gateway to getting people interested in tea. The coco caramel sea salt latte was my favorite. This location won't be serving alcohol but they treated us to a tea cocktail that I will definitely need to try making at home. They made it by adding Prosecco to one of their peach iced teas.





One thing I was very impressed with was their use of the Bkon brewing system. It uses reverse atmospheric pressure to extract a perfect brew in seconds. Charles Cain, Vice President of Concept Development, demonstrated it for us using a monkey picked oolong and it was amazing to watch the leaves unfurl. The taste was not lacking in the least and it tasted exactly the same as if it were brewed traditionally in a teapot.




Fellow tea bloggers +Jason Walker and +Jo J were also in attendance and it was great to catch up with them and talk shop for a bit. While there's a lot of be said for plain and simple tea, I have a feeling that Teavana will fit right in with the "grab and go" culture of New York. My goodie bag from the event was full of all kinds of good stuff so expect some reviews coming soon.

You can find out more about this tea place here.