Sunday, February 28, 2010
Goodness, my husband may actually be backing into a finer discernment of tea. I was the designated beverage person this am and I decided to do a straightforward, no holds barred Irish Breakfast from Bewley's. This, as you may remember from my review of it on September 16, 2009, is what I just said, a get-you-going-in-the-morning tea. Frank wondered what it was, and said it “tasted peculiar.” I told him and he said “oh, it's just tea tea.” Which is our definition of something okay, but definitely not special. I don't think I'll tell him he's becoming a connoisseur.
Harney and Sons Tea. I haven't had any of theirs in quite a while. However, I ran across one of their “tagalong” tins, which is a small round tin to hold 5 or 6 sachets. It had their Chinese Flower Sachets in it which I bought a while ago, so I decided to try it. I am glad I did. This is another very pretty tea and Harney's sachets are nice and big to give the tea room to expand. The tea is a Chinese green, with blue, yellow and pink flowers and some citrus added. Citrus is the one fruit I like in my tea. The tea has a very nice floral scent and as it brewed, it gave off a hint of that citrussy smell. It brewed up to a pale amber. I couldn't really identify any one flavor, but it all worked together very, very well to produce a delicate floral cup sparked with lemon.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
I tried two teas from The Tea Spot today. Both were samples, one I had purchased and the other came with my order. The first was Raspberry Rhapsody, a black tea with flavoring and raspberry pieces. I almost didn't try it because it had such a fake, overly sweet scent. But in the interest of being open-minded [?me?] I plunged ahead with boiling water and a 3 minute steep. The brewing tea began to smell better, more like raspberry candy and I had hopes... However, these were soon dashed as I tasted it. Overly sweet, overly fake. There was a bit of tartness at the end which almost saved it, but not enough for me.
Oh well, on to Blood Orange Smoothie. This is a Rooibos based orange and vanilla concoction with rose petals, hibiscus and several other things. The dry tea is kind of pretty, with all those bits making a colorful mix. I brewed it as they said, 7 minutes with boiling water, a teaspoon for one a cup There was definitely a scent of orange and vanilla, more like Kool-Aid than Orange Julius, but that's just a quibble. Sadly, the taste was not. It was ok, but it was cloying and wouldn't leave my mouth until I brushed my teeth in desperation. It did not taste like the wonder drink of my youth, nor like those orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream bars. But that is me and I am sure there are those who will really like this, [see yesterday's Comment] as well as the Raspberry Rhapsody.
The Tea Spot has many other wonderful teas and these wouldn't have been high on my list anyway. I am more and more convinced that except for a very few, I really don't like flavored teas. I really should just accept that fact and quit trying them. Then I wouldn't be disappointed and you wouldn't have to read about them.
I just came across some tea I haven't seen for ages – Pompadour Peppermint. Pompadour is a German company that specializes in herbal teas[tisanes, really]. I will be reporting on this soon.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Snow, beautiful snow, snow all over, mounds of snow, snow up to my ears, snow on my tail, so much snow! About 2 feet of it, sculpted by the wind into drifts and hollows, with one great big one where the kitties are wont to play. Hence, snow up to my ears! The sun is out, however and already the snow, at least off the roof, is melting.
You know I just got some tea from The Tea Spot and of course, I can't wait to try the one new to me – Vintage Oolong. So, even before my wake-up cuppa I brewed some in my small gaiwan. It smells wonderful in the canister – a deep, fresh tea scent, with a good whiff of floral. Not too sweet a floral, more like a sweet one crossed with maybe zinnias. The tea is lovely little green balls with a bit of stem attached. I brewed it at about 190 degrees for about 2 minutes – long enough for the leaves to begin unfurling. As it brewed it smelled like lilacs, but again, not overly sweet, with deeper more solid notes underneath. The taste, ah, the taste. Lilac, with a bit of peach all on top of something toasty and solid, not really woodsy or vegetal, but with some body and heartiness. The flavor is mild, but not delicate. Just very very good. When I am done putting this blog up I am going to have some more, as the Tea Spot says you can get up to 7 infusions from one serving.
The Tea Spot, by the way, are those smart folks who use interlocking tins with double tops, so your canisters not only stack, but keep your tea nice and fresh. The other tea I purchased was a canister of their Bolder Breakfast, which I reviewed before. They sent me a sample with my order and I'll be trying that soon. I love it when companies send samples, especially if it is something I probably wouldn't buy myself. This one is called Blood Orange Smoothie, a Rooibus
herbal tea, supposed to taste like an Orange Julius. Gosh, I haven't had one of those in Years. So, even though I am not a fan of Rooibus, I am eager to see if it does call up memories of that wonderful drink.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
It is so beautiful outside. Both yesterday and today we had wet snow and every twig and branch is outlined in white. It makes even the most mundane or even downright ugly thing look good. On the other hand, it is still snowing and we may get out heaviest snow to date. But it won't last, the sap is rising and the trees know when Spring is coming, even when it doesn't look like it.
The cats and I agreed that we would stay in today and I made myself a cup of Golden Moon's Rasa Sanharaja – Ceylon tea to the rest of us. It comes from an tea estate on Sri Lanka next to a rain forest. This is no ordinary Ceylon. When I opened the sample, The smell was intriguing – deep and dark and mysterious, perhaps a combination of chocolate and dark molasses. The leaves were very dark and skinny. I brewed it with boiling water for 4 minutes and that deep smell continued. The brewed tea is wonderful, very deeply mellow with that same hint of dark chocolate and molasses, but with a bit of a citrus kick at the end to spark it up. I had it with a bit of milk, which only served to make it more mellow and delicious. As it cooled, it seemed to morph into different flavors, all interesting.
Let me be clear, this tea hints of scents and tastes, you're not going to have a cup of hot chocolate sweetened with Bre'r Rabbit dark molasses. That would taste disgusting! And this tea is so much not that. So drink up, it's good.
Sample I purchased
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Northerners and we are not fooled – Spring is on its way.
I was at one of my local shops, The Cheese Trap, and bought some Orange U Slim tea, packed for them by Teas Etc. I bought it because I generally only like citrus in my tea, and almost none of the fruit flavors. In fact, I have met very few I did like. The tea comes in a nice reclosable zip-locked packet and is billed as a “medium body dark Oolong, with dried orange and orange essence.” The leaves are of mixed size and brown and black, with dried orange peel to add some color and flavor. There was the barest whiff of orange scent. There were no instructions so I brewed it for 2 minutes with water about 190 degrees. There was no orange flavor or scent to the brewed tea and the Oolong was just ok. What a waste of money and time. I decided to try and fix it by adding two drops of orange oil and reclosing the packet. I'll let it sit for a couple weeks and try again.
After that experience, I tried an old favorite, Upton's China Superior Keemun Mao Feng. Love the “line-dried wash” smell of good fresh tea, coupled with the slight smokiness. Love the long twisted black leaves. Love the bright amber color. And the great taste! It is like some wonderful vegetable slightly grilled over a super smelling wood, that gives it a special oomph, even though there is no real smokiness or vegetable to the taste. It is just very, very fresh and full tasting. A wee touch of smoke maybe, but nothing like my wonderful Hu Kwa from Mark T. Wendell. I have mentioned these teas before, but they are worth mentioning again.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Winter really is losing its grip and signs of spring are showing. Yes, it is still cold and gray BUT the willows are yellow, the alders along the creeks have begun to turn brown, and the maple and oak covered hills are no longer a solid gray, but beginning to turn pinkish. These are all signs of the rising of sap, as the temperatures begin a slow creep upward. An acquaintance of ours, who has kept track of the weather for years says that around the 20th of February the air begins to steadily warm. I've already seen one collection barrel for maple sap along the road and I am sure more will follow. Hooray for the return of light and warmth! Hooray for blue skies! Hooray for Spring, the promise and reward for endurance!
Speaking of endurance, have you been watching the Olympics? They are the only sports I ever watch. I am filled with awe as the athletes makes something so incredibly difficult look so easy and graceful. I just glowed with pride watching that young Swiss soar off the ski jumps with such perfection and into 2 gold medals. Likewise, as our athletes won medal after medal, amazed as always, when mere hundredths of a second were the difference between gold and bronze! Hooray for all of them, as well.
I thought I would have a Chinese tea to celebrate and my eye fell on a gift from a tea friend. This is Lipton's Yellow Label tea bags, which are made for the Chinese market. My friend says this is not your usual Lipton's tea bags, that her family searches it out and hoards it. I can see why – it's very good, especially for teabag tea. I brewed it with boiling water for about 2 minutes and it looked like tea – just the usual dark amber. But there the similarities ended, as it smelled almost floral, almost fruity. The taste was definitely different as well, not nearly so harsh as many, with an almost sweet taste and a full body to it. It was both milder and more fully nuanced with the overtones of floral and fruit the smell promised. It was good with both milk and plain. No reports on sugar in it, as I didn't want to waste a cup. I will definitely search for this at Asian markets. It might even replace my beloved PG Tips teabags. Well, maybe not.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Oh dear, this was not a good day for my tea tasting. We spent a lot of it getting our vacuum cleaner back - $50 to get a cat toy out of it!!!!!, although we did get the toy back. We then ate at a good Chinese buffet. Not so hot tea. Not that I expected much else. It did go with the food, but that's about all you could say for it.
When we got home I decided to try Kam Man Yunnan Rose Black Tea. I had never heard of this company, so I looked them up. They apparently are a huge Asian grocery in New Jersey, which my swap partner has been to. The dry tea was very black, small leaves with a faint scent of rose, less than I expected. I brewed it for 3 minutes with boiling water, which brought out the rose a bit more. It was a beautiful dark red amber. Sadly, the tea didn't taste like much. In fact, it was rather odd, almost like that white paste we had in kindergarten. I might have liked it then, but I prefer my tea to taste like tea. I think some of the problem may be that Yunnan tea has a particular scent and taste that is pretty distinctive and one that I would think would be difficult to combine with a floral. I could see spices melding with them better, maybe chocolate or nuts.
Oh well, tomorrow is another day and I just got some tea from The Tea Spot, so on to better things.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Hooray, another good day for tea! A while ago I bought the big sampler from Golden Moon Tea but I haven't tried many, as I got tea in 2 swaps and then I was ill. But today is a good day for a new tea and so I am trying their Coconut Pouchong.
Oh Wow! What a great smell – like the very best coconut macaroons. Yum. The dry tea is a mix of almost balls and crinkly leaves. It is a[unnamed] green tea with the essence of young coconut added. I am always leery of flavored teas, as they so often disappoint, but this just gets better. I brewed it per their instructions at about 175 for 1.5 minutes. While it was brewing, there was not only that luscious coconut smell, but there was also a floral scent, almost a jasmine. It was kind of a yellowy green in color.
Let us get to the taste. What a real pleasure it is to drink this tea – it tastes just like it smells, wonderfully coconut and sweet, but not sugary sweet, just a natural sweet. And yes, there is a definite touch of jasmine and you can indeed taste the fresh green tea under it. Well done. I do not have the palate to identify the green tea, perhaps one of you can. Golden Moon just identifies it as Imperial Green Pouchong. It won first prize at the World Tea Expo in 2007 for best flavored green tea. [Always nice to get your taste rubber stamped! LOL]
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
“We had a kettle; we let it leak:
from The Voice of Tea Blog
To counterbalance it I brewed myself some Lady Londonderry, which is about as frou-frou floral as you can get.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I came across two new-to-me teas recently. One is Indian, from Kashmir. It is a green tea flavored with saffron, cinnamon, cardamom and sometimes scented with Kashmiri roses. It is then sweetened with sugar or honey and served with crushed nuts. It is called Kah weh. It sounds wonderful, but I was unable to find a source for it. Guess I will have to go to Kashmir. I only mention it because most people feel it was the British who brought tea to India, but the Kashmiris say this has been traditional for hundreds of years.
While this tea sounds delightful, the other one I heard of did not. It is a blend by 52 Teas and is Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup black tea. Somehow, I just cannot wrap my head around that. I've had several chocolate teas, some of which have been excellent. For me this crosses a food line I don't want to cross. How about you? Would you want to try it?
I am disappointed by the Darjeelings I've had this year – with a few notable exceptions (see previous blogs). And I am again today. I am trying another of the Thunderbolt Teas I ordered – Second flush Goomtee FTGFOP1, Muscatel Valley. It is quite pretty, with a mix of black, brown, tan and gold leaves and buds. It smells very fresh and slightly of chocolate, green veggies and grass. As it brews at 205 degrees for about 3 minutes it continues to smell very fresh, with some nice earthiness. However, to me it just doesn't have anything like a characteristic Darjeeling taste and there is no grapiness to it. There is a bit of a hint of mint and fruit, however. And, as it cooled, a medium amount of a nice floral came to the fore. It is quite tannic, which leads me to believe that I overbrewed it Again! I think I have to take my own advice and play with all these Darjeelings until I do a better job of brewing them.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
that I keep talking about, this is the infamous and very naughty Bert.
Tomorrow I will put up Ernie.
One of my fellow writers has a blog called “Life in a Teacup”. It is a well-written, serious blog, seriously reviewing high quality teas. Unfortunately, every time I see the title all I can think of is the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland who was in the teapot and I keep imagining a little mouse with a nice nest in a teacup, being disturbed every day by someone pouring tea in his home. Too much time on my hands these days. Perhaps I had best have a cup of tea, since this is a tea blog and stop being silly.
Adagio's Anji Duet is a mix of green and white tea leaves that smell a bit like dusty quality paper. The leaves are very long, at least an inch, and some longer. It brews up a pale yellow and is quite delicate with a sweet grass flavor that lasts. As it cools, the taste becomes fuller and more rounded. I think if you made ice cubes from this tea and then made iced tea with them it would be excellent. I would recommend the tea cubes as this is a delicate tea that would not stand up to being diluted. It may be one of those with which you could do a cold brew, as well. It is very good hot, which is my preference. I am one of those people who doesn't much care what's in my ice tea as long as it's okay. A sad failing.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
are more than you want to count.
Those of you who read this blog often know that one of my all-time favorite teas is Yunnan, preferably Yunnan Gold. I got some from Jing Tea in a tea swap and finally tried it. I brewed it as usual, although there may not have been quite enough for the size of my cup. I am not convinced it was all that fresh either, as the dry leaves did not have that characteristic “fresh wash on the line” smell I associate with Yunnans. It brewed up to a deep amber and the liquor did have some of the usual scent, but not much. It also had some of the typical taste, but it was very muted, almost bland, with not much earthiness or pepper. Again, there may have been too little for the size of my cup. Sadly, that's all there was. Maybe I'll order some when this year's stock arrives in the fall and give it another try.
A whole new rash of studies about the benefits of tea is making the rounds and I have to say, I really take them all with a grain of salt. I know tea is at least better for us than coffee and I am willing to agree that green tea may be the best of all. However, we need to read these studies with care. I suffered through a course in statistics in college and while I don't remember a whole lot, I remember enough to be able to tell if a study makes sense or is a lot of hooey.
So, what should you look for? If the study is trying to prove tea is a health benefit, you need to ask - “Who is doing it”? If it's a tea company or institute, forget it, they're already biased. How many people were in it? There was one making the rounds that only had 10 people – far too few. "Is what they are looking for measurable?" , not just based on how a subject feels. Along with that, is what they are trying to discover reasonable or silly? How long a time period does it cover? This can be tricky as some things happen right away. However, if a short – time period thing is only studied once, beware – there are lots of factors being left out. Again, who is doing it – are they published scientists or doctors? So, good luck in your sifting through studies, if that is what you're up to. I know there are many good holistic and alternative medicine folk out there and you need to ask the same questions of them, especially, are they credible in their field?
For now, I am just going to drink tea because I like it and it gives me a lot of pleasure.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Tea Swaps are a great way to sample a bunch of teas without committing large amounts of cash to the project. It is truly astonishing how many different teas there are on the market. I just had one that is both new to me and new on the market. This is Red Leaf Tea's Pink Sonoma, one of their new wine-infused line.
When I brewed this cup in boiling water for about 3 minutes, I had no idea what it was. The dry tea didn't have a lot of scent and it pretty much looked like chopped grass, even though I later discovered it was white tea. As it brewed, it gave off a fruity, flowery, sharp scent I couldn't identify. That was how it tasted at first, also. In spite of its name, the liquor was not pink, but a soft clear yellow. As it cooled, however, it became sweeter and very grapey. It really was good! I let it cool completely , to see how it might be iced and I would definitely go for it, perhaps with some ice cubes made from the tea or brewed extra strong. I think it would make a very nice punch as well and would go nicely with a mild chicken salad with red grapes, or some of the milder sweets, like sugar cookies, angel cake or pound cake. The slight tartness of the tea would be a pleasant counterpoint.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Amalfi, Italy, not here, sigh.
I don't know how cold it was today but the fur brigade stuck their noses out and promptly turned around and stayed in. The wind is howling, there is snow blowing, a good day to be inside myself.
We had company for lunch and afterward decided to try a new tea I recently purchased from The Tea Spot. These are the folks with the interlocking, stacking tins, hurray! Today's offering is their New Moon Darjeeling, which is part of their organic line. Part of the purchase price of this tea goes to cancer research and wellness clinics. Lots of pluses here for The Tea Spot.
The tea is a quite attractive reddish brown with bits of tan and gold to liven it. Dry, it smells like a cross between tobacco and hay drying in the fields, very pleasant. As it brewed at just below boiling, 1 teaspoon per cup, for 3 minutes, there was also a whiff of floral. The brew was on the darkish side. I didn't particularly care for the tea plain, it was just kind of ho hum – kind of woody or too roasted tasting. Our guests had it with sugar and were not impressed either. I finally added some milk to mine and it made a world of difference. The tea became rounder and sweeter and I wound up having three cups. It is always amazing to me how the addition of milk, lemon or sugar can so completely change the taste of a cup of tea.
I came across an interesting site the other day. It is strictly for chai lovers and lists about 100 different types of chai and where to purchase them. You don't purchase them here, but are redirected to the appropriate merchant. If you're a chai lover check out http://www.chaibuyer.com/ .
Saturday, February 6, 2010
This is a very red month. Yesterday was Women's Heart Health Day and we were all supposed to wear red. Missed it, but we can all drink tea today to make up for it. Valentine's Day is also this month and I have some really pretty heart shaped plates I bought a while ago at a discount store. And some old, beautiful red glasses, so all I have to do is cook and make tea and I'm all set! Valentine's Day will be doing double duty this year as the 14th is also Chinese New Year. If you and your sweetie like Chinese food, you'll be ready to celebrate both, with Chinese tea as an accompaniment. Or you could be truly international and serve a Japanese green tea, like today's offering.
I know I have often complained about flavorings in tea, because I can frequently detect a chemical whiff that puts me off completely, but I may have found one that works. I have gotten involved in a tea swap and one of the teas I received was Necessiteas Lemon Raspberry. I actually liked it and couldn't detect any chemical. It was a Sencha [Japanese Green] with lemongrass, a nice big raspberry, and flavorings. I loved the feel of the Sencha leaves, slippery and silky on my fingers. I brewed it at about 175 for about 2 minutes. I was amazed at how large the leaves got, and how green they remained.
I was really pleased there was no fishy or seaweedy taste. That, unfortunately has been my experience so far with Japanese greens, so I have been reluctant to pursue them. Good thing I didn't know it was Sencha to start off. I was also a bit concerned about the abundance of lemon peel, because too much can be nasty and bitter. But I was well pleased by this tea. A very pleasant combination of mainly raspberry, but the lemon held its own and really complimented the other flavors. I may even buy this. I think I would serve this with some nice sugar cookies or meringues. I didn't have enough to try it, but I think this would be a really refreshing iced tea. It would make a nice ending to a Valentine's day meal.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
What a great day – so far it has been all sunshine! And we had some super news! We've been accepted into a program for retired Presbyterian pastors to receive free housing until we die or can no longer live independently! We are so excited we hardly know what to do with ourselves, at least in part because we surely don't want to think about all the work involved in moving yet again. The house will be a new 2 bedroom, 2 bath home and we've seen some of the others that were recently built and they are very nice indeed.
Well that certainly needs a super cup of tea to celebrate, doesn't it? I decided to break into my stash of Thunderbolt Darjeelings I recently purchased and have some Arya Estate second flush SFTGFOP1. The tea is quite pretty, a mix of black brown and gold. It smells of really good tomato soup, with a hint of tobacco and wood shavings. As it is brewing I caught a strong whiff of old-fashioned molasses cookies. Can't wait for the taste with all this going on. Sadly, this is where it all came to a crashing halt. It tastes like tomato soup! Two whole cups of tomato soup! Well, phooey, I had really been looking forward to this as generally, Arya Estate has good to excellent tea. My husband said it tasted like I brewed it too long. I thought maybe my taste buds are off due to all the meds poured into me lately. So I will leave it for now with a big question mark and come back to it later.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Do you sometimes get wound up and can't relax? Everyone does. When this happens, “a nice cuppa tea and a sit down” can really help. Especially if the tea is an herbal tisane. I got a very pleasant one as a sample in an order from LiberTeas. It is called Meadow Nocturne, which immediately calls up an image of a flower studded meadow on a hill, just as evening is really beginning to come down. Relaxing already. This is a pretty tea, as most of Anne's are. It is chamomile with many blue, pink and yellow flower petals. It has a really pleasant fresh apple like flavor, with wonderful floral notes. Just the thing to make a pot of, sit down with some pleasant music, and relax, even if it is only 10 minutes. You'll feel better and so will those around you.
Another tisane that has many good things about it is mint. Mint cools you off, warms you up and does wonders for a troubled tummy. For some reason, I've been reading a lot of mint tea reviews lately. I guess mint is one of those all purpose herbs, tea wise, good both summer and winter. However, all I ever see included in tea is spearmint or peppermint. I have nothing against either, I like them both. But there is also chocolate mint, apple mint and my personal favorite orange mint, to name only a few others. All of these, as well as spearmint and peppermint are easy to grow. Keeping them from taking over is another matter. Buy a couple plants of ones you like, put them in an area that can be overrun with them and enjoy in hot or cold tea. No garden space? A biggish pot, [about 8 inches] some seeds, and a bit of sun and you are all set. Easy to grow, easy to use, minty fresh mint!