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Recent Tasting Notes
As my bio states, I am a music teacher – a very blessed one! Yesterday a group of sisters that I teach surprised me with Christmas gifts, and one of the gifts was a tiny tin of tea that the young lady had blended out of her own stash just for me!
I am guessing at the ingredients but I see mostly black tea with some green leaves that are probably blackberry leaves. There are some red petals that the French Teas call poppy but Steepster wouldn’t let me add poppy flowers as an ingredient for some reason. There are also small chunks of sweet zest. (Yes, I ate one!)
The scent of the dry leaves was sweet and I thought I picked up a lot of bergamot. But the tea was completely different from the scent! I sipped it expecting a berry Earl Grey, but what I tasted was a smooth lemony tea. There is no astringency, just fresh, bright lemon taste and a hint of briskness, making me wonder if there is some high grown Ceylon in here as well. My daughter and I drank a pot of this last night, and youngest gave it a thumbs up immediately.
This young lady has done a good job of choosing teas to blend. She is always willing to try new foods at my house, and when she tried homemade kefir she was spot on describing what she was tasting. We may have a gifted culinary artiste on our hands!
I bought this from my favorite café in all of Baton Rouge when I was down visiting this summer… and I have no idea from where they source their tea. Sorry, unknown company!
I’m reviewing this but not rating because I had a rather different experience this time, because of an experiment I decided to try. A bit of explanation first: my sister came to stay for a couple of days, and while she was here she expressed an interest in having some flavored coffee. Not wanting to see her spend $$ at Starbuck’s (or, as Dave Ramsay calls them, Five Bucks), I agreed to pick up some flavored coffee creamer at the store we were headed to. She flew home yesterday, and now we have an enormous bottle of flavored coffee creamer (something we don’t normally keep stocked). So I was looking at it this morning and decided to try some in tea—specifically, this tea, since I thought it likely that the flavor would be strong enough to not be overpowered by the French Vanilla flavor. And I think I like the result.
It definitely has a different mouthfeel than normal (I discovered that the creamer my sister selected was non-dairy, which I would probably have objected to had I known, but it wasn’t marked very clearly on the bottle, and it was in the refrigerated section…). It’s a bit oily, surprise surprise, but I don’t find it unpleasant. The flavor is definitely on the astringent side, because again, the creamer was non-dairy, so there was nothing to cut the bitterness. However, the creamer did add some sweetness and smoothness that isn’t normally there, so one could almost call it a fair trade. I enjoyed it, and will probably do it again. :)
I received this in my tea swap with Nattie. I won’t feel too bad about being harsh on this tea since she admitted she didn’t like it and she custom-blended it!
The garlic in this is very strong and in the front of the sip. It stays all through and continues into the next sip. I get a little bit of chili at the beginning, but it’s overpowered by the garlic in the end. Honestly, it tastes like eating garlic bread, which, if you’re in the mood for, might be good. I could see this as being sipped as a savory tea if you had a stomach ache, similar to broth but lighter.
Flavors: Chicken Soup, Leeks
I was going to do a side by side taste test of the Yunnans and Yunnan-like teas in my cupboard today. I got out my little demi-tasse cups, little steeping bowls, heated filtered water, got my note paper ready and put 1 teaspoon of tea in each bowl. In retrospect, and something I should have known at the time, far too much tea for the 1 ounce of water I was steeping with! In my defense, even if I had realized in time to adjust the amount of leaf, it would have been hard to determine how much to use with the larger leaves. I don’t have a scale, either.
Here’s a pic of the set up: http://tinyurl.com/ls6mo4p
Horrible lighting and a reflection made it look like there was a tea bag or something in the upper row cup.
I steeped, from left to right, bottom to top: Golden Strand from Mandala (not in picture, alas), Royal Yunnan from New Mexico Tea Co., Yunnan Imperial from Single Origin Teas, Pure Bud from Mandala, Yun Nan Dian Hong Black Tea Full Leaf from Teavivre, Superfine Tan Yang Gong Fu from Teavivre, Yunnan Gold Tips from A&D & Morning Sun from Mandala.
I steeped at 200F for all and for 3 minutes, give or take about 15 seconds. And yikes was that too long for that much tea in that little water! Without exception, all of the teas were bitter. I probably should also not have tried the same temp for all of them. After realizing my mistake I used the rest of the filtered water and tried resteeping in the full 8 ounces. I didn’t have enough filtered water to do all of them, though.
On a second steep, here’s what I figured out: Golden Strand was the cleanest and sharpest tasting. Tan Yang comes out slightly ahead of the Dian Hong Full Leaf, Morning Sun was the smokiest. Yunnan Gold Tips didn’t resteep very well. I didn’t have enough water to try the others.
So, all I managed to really find out is that 1) to do a proper side by side with variables controlled, I really need more than just me doing the prep or I need to not do all of them at once 2) follow steeping directions: all teas are not the same! and 3) even allowing for way improper steeping the most undrinkable were the Royal Yunnan and the Yunnan Imperial. The Imperial is the least expensive of the bunch, but the Dian Hong Full Leaf was the second least expensive so I don’t think that necessarily reflects quality in all cases.
Next I need to try a better comparison and do only the Mandala and then only the Teavivre so I can figure out better what I like about each one and if I really feel a need to keep every single one in my cupboard. Right now I think I do, but I’ve not had them side by side so every one has been The Most Awesome Ever. :)
Oh and after steeping each full cup, I didn’t drink the whole thing right then, I poured them all together and have been sipping on the combined mixture all day. I get almost none of the awesome aspects of any of them but it’s pretty drinkable so I don’t feel like I wasted all those leaves. :)
Snickerdoodle/Sweet Apple Cider in a 50:50 mix again. Made this morning in my new travel mugs so I could have something yummy to take with me to work. (Side question: At what point are you bringing too many travel mugs of tea with you to work? I usually bring two, but have started bringing three … mainly because I don’t like the tea I make at work as much as what I make at home. In any case, I’m feeling like I’m being a tad obsessive.)
This was SUPER apple flavored in the travel mug — no sweet notes from the Snickerdoodle at all, just tart apple. Not bad, but it felt like a waste of the Snickerdoodle – which I like a lot better than Sweet Apple Cider – to be honest.
Per Katrina Hadley’s suggestion, I brewed up Sweet Apple Cider with some Snickerdoodle — a 50:50 mix — in an attempt to get more of a apple cider flavor from Sweet Apple Cider. The result was this incredible apple-cinnamon-molasses(?) drink that was a perfect replacement for my favorite fall drink. Yum! Guess I know how I’m finishing off the last of my Sweet Apple Cider.
2tsp Cool Cucumber mixed with 2tsp Pom Tango
1.5tbs of rock sugar
Brewed hot and then chilled.
My friend recommended Cool Cucumber/Pom Tango as an iced tea and, since I’m trying to clear out my cupboard, I made some this weekend. I think I used too much of the cool cucumber, though, because the mint from that tea overpowers everything else. Pom Tango adds a nice – if subtle – sweetness though.
1.5tsp Pineapple Kona Pop! mixed with 1.5tsp Wild Orange Blossom. Steeped for five minutes in my large Perfect Mug.
My best friend’s mom actually came up with this one. She and my friend gave me a sample of each of the teas in it, and curiosity got the better of me once I was home. The first steep is very pineappley when warm but the orange comes out to play once it cools. I like it better bot because cold, the citrus is overwhelming.
The second steep is much weaker than the first and the citrus flavor is muted. I like the second steep better just because it’s not as forceful with the fruit flavoring.
Golden Peach from Tealish and Organic Guayusa from Butiki Teas
I want to both get rid of the straight guayusa and ramp up the caffeine in this coldbrew, so I used about half guayusa and half golden peach. I’ve been sleeping way, way too much lately, it’s starting to freak me out. For instance, last night we went to sleep around 11 and got up around 7:30. At 8:30 I went back to bed because I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and slept until 12:30.
So, I’m hoping a little jolt of caffeine will help me keep from crawling back into bed again.
However, I should have picked a stronger blend to mix the guayusa with. This is all guayusa, earthy and green, with just a hint of peach. I will not be mixing these again, nope.
I hope this doesn’t come off as ranty, but I’m using the chance combinations to do a tasting note of Herbal Infusions Cacao Tea and a few teaspoons of a random tub of cacao nibs I bought at Home Goods.
After trying the HI Cacao Tea, I did some research regarding cacao and the chocolate making process. Apparently, the husks that they are using for their tea are a byproduct of the chocolate making process; the cocoa beans are roasted and the husks/shells are sloughed off, leaving the inner nib that’s processed further into chocolate. Apparently, it’s very common that the husks/shells are sold as mulch ridiculously cheap. We’re talking 22 pounds for under $25 (not affiliated http://www.amazon.com/National-Cocoa-Shell-BLCH001-Blommer/dp/B000VYL2CA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394904677&sr=8-1&keywords=cocoa+shell+mulch).
So, I wouldn’t necessary go out and buy mulch and make it into tea cause it wasn’t made specifically for human consumption, but the idea of spending so much on something that is sold so cheaply for other purposes seems really unnecessary to me.
I’ve taken a liking to the HI cacao tea and I actually find I like it even more mixed with the cacao nibs I bought. I’m too lazy at the moment to run downstairs, but it was a 8oz tub of organic nibs for $8.
I think though, that one could get a very similar result from buying whole cacao beans (included their shells) that were roasted (and specifically sold for human consumption) and using some kind of food processor to grind them up coarsely to use for tea. If you only like the husks, you can apparently, peel them by hand or by using some type of rolling pin, but I am super lazy and I like it all mixed together anyway. I found a few youtube videos that outlines that process; what’s funny, is these are all chocolate making videos and the husks are thought of as the waste in the process!
Just my two cents!
I mixed up some of the 52Teas Eggnog Honeybush and Cornelia Bean’s Sweet Temptation Rooibos. It’s a good combo, as Sweet temptation is sweet, and the eggnog honeybush is kind of lacking.
Then I added maple syrup and cream.
Oh goodness. I added too much maple syrup, but it’s SO GOOD. Sweet, mapley, nougaty, not too rooibosy. :)
The last of my DavidsTea Pineapple Oolong with some Lupicia Pineapple Oolong.
I get coconut, pineapple, coconut, mango.
Yeah, I know. It’s called “Pineapple Oolong”. I also only expected there to be pineapple.
At any rate, this is really nice iced, right at this moment. :)
Thanks again to Dinosara for the Lupicia samples!
(Steeped then over ice in a 16oz mug.)
So I’m drinking:
1 tsp Verdant Autumn Harvest Tieguanyin
1.5 tsp Fusion Cherry Tisane
steeped in 16 oz of 85 C water for 3 minutes
Why am I drinking this?
The Tieguanyin is too green too floral for my tastes. LOVE the cherry tisane. Both of these are on my “oldest teas” list. Toss them together and I’m getting a cherry green oolong that the fruit is taming the floral. This works better for my tastes and I’m drinking down two old teas at once. Win/Win situation that’s making me happy.
Well, it is official, I (along with my noisy kettle, lamp, and noisy craft supplies) am being kicked out of the bedroom. Since my sleep schedule is cyclic and Ben’s is not, he is tired of being woken up when I am nocturnal…which is completely fair. So to rectify this he is setting up a nice little nook for me in the (slightly scary) basement so I can make noise without waking him up. Hooray!
Tonight I am doing something a little special with my tea review, I am reviewing a blend sent to me for Christmas created by my mother (also known as Gumby), a Masala Chai. This is a sort of celebration of what this blog is at its heart, meaning I will review any tea no matter where it came from (be it giant company or someone’s wild invention in their pantry) I want this blog to explore all the teas and give them an honest reviewing. This specific Chai is blended from Cardamon Black Tea (from Ahmad Tea) Green Cardamon Pods, Black Peppercorns, Fennel, Cloves, Cinnamon, Candied Ginger, Star Anise, Ground Coriander, and Love (it is in the ingredient list, it counts!). The aroma of the loose leaf is potent, I had a nice sneeze when I stuck my nose in the jar (I really need to remember to waft with teas that have pepper in them) the most prevalent note is the cardamon which fades into ginger, anise, pepper, and the cinnamon. At the finish there is a malty hint and a promise of briskness, also a very tiny hint of fennel.
Once brewed the aroma of the spices flow out of the leaves, I can almost imagine a chai colored spice cloud drifting from the basket and slowly overtaking the bedroom, and I am not complaining. After all, he who controls the Spice controls the universe. The main spice note is the cardamon still, the other spices sneaking in behind it like troops behind a general. The liquid has a sweet aroma with notes of honey mixed with the spices, cardamon still wins but is joined at the top with the ginger. There is also a very lovely malty tone that leaves a bright feeling in my nose.
Mixed with milk (whole milk and a splash of half & half for the inquisitive minds) and sugar, as per the instructions and the usual way of drinking chai. The taste is surprisingly earthy, other than the Pu Erh Chai I reviewed last month this is the first chai I have had that can be described as earthy. I am going to go out on a limb and say it is from all the ginger, sometimes I notice that it can add an earthy tone to teas and foods. The blend of spices is perfectly balanced, I was expecting the cardamon to be the supreme ruler of the spice brigade, but they all seemed to reach a peaceful agreement and shine equally. The taste is sweet, I barely needed any sugar thanks to the candied ginger, the mouthfeel is very tingly from all the spices and enjoyable. This chai is fantastic, no surprise since she has been blending her own chai for years, sadly I cannot say it is my favorite ever (the Taj Mahal restaurant still wins that) but it is certainly in the top five, possible taking the silver medal of Chais. Perhaps I need to have a Chai Contest?
*If anyone wants to try some of this chai, let me know, I am not sharing my stash, but I do know where the source is ;) *
I was in Berkeley today to see a friend off before she moves to New York for a fancy new job. So sad! A few years ago, she introduced me to Asha Tea House in Berkeley, so we went there today. I was really craving bubble tea, so I did skip the many many tea options there to get a nice milk tea. The honey boba was delicious and chewy. The tea itself was not quite as good as I remembered, but I liked that they let the black tea shine through by not adding too much extra sugar and whatnot.
I found a decent bubble tea place fairly close to me in Boston! Or maybe I’ve just been here so long that my standards have just lowered. Anyway, I got a roasted oolong milk tea that was pretty good. I also picked up a pitcher and some paper tea filters for more cold brewing. All in all, a pretty good afternoon!
So I just got a notification from the library that the book I requested was now on hold for me, woohoo! So I trekked over to Cambridge to pick it up (Cuckoo’s Calling if anyone was curious) and took the opportunity to visit Tealuxe. It’s actually a very warm day today (relative to the past few months), so I opted for a bubble tea with their mango green tea. The mango was very powerful such that it almost felt like drinking a smoothie. I wasn’t getting much of the green tea base except for a hint of bitterness at the end. Anyway, I sat at the window sipping on my bubble tea and breaking open my new library book. What a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
I’ve been terrible about logging teas while on vacation, but I’ll use this as a catch-all for all the boba I’ve been having lately. Among my favorites: roasted oolong milk tea, genmaicha milk tea, and melon milk tea all with boba. There’s a place that has really good roasted barley milk tea, so I’ll probably try and hit that up before I leave California. Gotta stuff it all in while I can!