Monday, October 13, 2014

Candy Cane Lane by Celestial Seasonings

Seller's Description: "This delectable holiday blend starts with naturally decaffeinated green tea and adds unmistakable seasonal flavors like cool peppermint, creamy vanilla and a dash of cinnamon."
Ingredients: Peppermint, decaffeinated green tea, orange peel, natural vanilla and mint flavors with other natural flavors, cinnamon, milk thistle, blackberry leaves, roasted carob, roasted chicory and vanilla bean.
WebsiteCandy Cane Lane by Celestial Seasonings
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 32oz porcelain teapot
Measured dry: 4 sachets
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 2 tablespoons of raw sugar

I've been playing with a lot of somewhat finicky, caffeine-laden teas lately, so this lovely cup was a wonderful change. After a long day in the classroom, I made up a full pot. It's steaming, sweet simplicity lasted me through a couple seams, some writing, and then a bit of weaving. Add some cozy clothes and a quartet of twinkling candles in recycled glass and it was just a delightfully relaxing evening.

Now even though this is a decaffeinated green tea, it tastes like a peppermint herbal. I actually can't taste the green tea at all; There aren't any vegetal notes and it leaves my mouth feeling like I've just finished an after-dinner mint. It's a creamy, minty flavor that definitely lingers.

I think I'm going to need to do this again!

Prominent Notes: Peppermint
Aftertaste: Creamy mint
Overall: A straightforward cup for a lazy evening

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Arya Ruby Darjeeling by Golden Tips Tea

Seller Description: "Our second flush Arya Ruby black tea is classic example of Darjeeling summer royalty. The well-made leaves are wiry and offer a delightful appearance with plenty of silver tips. Manufactured to perfection, the tea boasts of an immensely complex character with abundance of muscatel. The fruit-flowery notes flush your mouth with a sweetness that is pleasant and comforting. The aroma scents of rich caramel with a slightly woody character. The nose is sharp and slightly fruity which resonates muscatel richness"
Website: Arya Ruby Darjeeling by Golden Tips Tea
Sample Source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 2-1/2 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 1 tablespoon raw sugar

This is my first cup from a new company - well, new to me! According to their literature, Golden Tips Tea has been in business since 1933, and has a wide variety of organic and ethical trade teas. They sent me a whole slew of teas to sample, but I chose to start with this one for two reasons: I was feeling like a black tea and the name reminded me of a character I like to cheer for!

Now I know the classification of "black" teas has more to do with how the leaves are processed, but despite that I'm still surprised when I open a new package of tea and discover more than the shade I expected. This black tea is far from a single-note appearance. The silver-tipped dry tea is as colorful as fall leaves... and it smells considerably better! Sweetly malty with a warm woodsy element.

Next came the experimentation, dialing in the perfect cup. A three minute steep is a good starting point, but it doesn't let the tea reach its full potential. It's still a tasty cup, but faint enough that it leaves you wanting more. It turns out that increasing the ratio of dry leaves to water and hitting the four minute steeping mark is a much better balance of flavor and astringency. The hints of caramel stay in the background, and the maltiness takes center stage.

Prominent Notes: Maltiness with slight caramel and woodsy notes
Aftertaste: Maltiness
Overall: A light touch

Premium Dragon Well Green Tea (Long Jing) by Teavivre

Seller Description: "XiHu (West Lake) Dragon Well green tea, or Long Jing as it is known in China, is commonly regarded as one of China's top ten teas, and is often served to visiting head's of states.  This premium Long Jing tea is an absolutely fantastic example of this tea.  Mostly handmade it has no hint of bitterness, instead it has a delightfully subtle classic green tea taste and aromatic scent."
Website:  Premium Dragon Well Long Jing by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: Approximately 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 185º F
Steeping Time: 1-1/2 minutes
Additives: 2 teaspoons raw sugar

Who says "third times the charm"? With this tea, the second time was certainly the best!

The first time I tried to make this tea I followed the website's instructions, using 8 grams (3 tablespoons) per 17oz. I was more than a little skeptical from the start, as the recommended amount nearly overflowed from my mug's infuser basket. The poor leaves didn't have anywhere to expand, and even with a short steep the liquor was intimidatingly strong and hoppy.

I took what I learned from that steep and applied it to a new cup. Instead of three tablespoons, I scaled it back to one. That meant that the tea leaves actually had room to do their magic, and dance freely around in the infuser basket. The flavor was notably improved, and what was overwhelming is now light and delightful.

It's a wonderful complement to the beauty of the dry tea. The leaves themselves are tight and thin, but with plenty of attitude. Their scent is rich and grassy, and that plays beautifully into the steeped cup. It's sweet and light, with a smooth and sunny vegetive flavor.

Prominent Notes: Slightly floral notes with a consistent vegetal flavor
Aftertaste: Vegetal
Overall: Once you dial in the best cup, it's fabulous!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Premium Tai Piag Hou Kui Green Tea by Teavivre

Seller Description: "Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui grows in Hou Keng on Huangshan Mountain, which is the center producing area of Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea. In China, Tai Ping Hou Kui is famed as one of the most famous ten Chinese teas. Leaves of semi-hand Tai Ping Hou Kui are even in thickness, and have brighter color than Nonpareil Tai Ping Hou Kui. First crafted in 1915, it went on to win gold medal for best tea at the 1915 Panama World Expo. TeaVivre's TaiPing HouKui is an excellent example of this fantastic tea."
Website:  Premium Tai Piag Hou Kui Green Tea by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 7g
Water Temperature: 175º F
Steeping Time: 2 minutes

Ever since I saw my first image of this tea, I wanted to try it. I love how neat and pretty the leaves are... pressed so thin that when you hold them up to the light you can see such gorgeous patterns!

This is one of the few teas on Teavivre's website that doesn't offer steeping suggestions yet, but they're so fabulously detailed about their teas I can't imagine it will go without long. In the meantime, I looked at several of their other greens and found the ratio of 8 grams per 17oz fairly standard.

Well, these leaves were so light that my entire infuser basket was full before I reached 7! I probably should have taken that as a sign, as even with a 2-minute steep it is pretty intense... and a little hoppy, actually.

Luckily, I had enough of the dry tea to make another batch... and this time I stepped it back to a 3.5g instead. It completely did the trick! I can taste some of the yeastiness of the previous batch, but it is so much more subtle and enjoyable!

Prominent Notes: Vegetive and yeasty/hoppy
Aftertaste: Hops
Overall: Based on this experience, I think Eastern steeping methods might be a better fit for this tea in the future.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea by Teavivre

Seller Description: "...Combined with the advantages of organic tea and high grade tea, this dragon well long jing tea is suitable for tea lovers of organic tea as well as dragon well green tea."
WebsiteOrganic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz tetsubin
Measured dry: 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 185º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes

Ooh... this one's tasty! It came with four other green teas for review, and as soon as I smelled it I did have to check the label. The toasty, vegetive scent reminds me a lot more of an oolong than a green.

It tastes more like it too. The instructions on the sample suggest a 1-6 minute steep, so I started at two minutes and ended up stopping at four minutes. 

The liquor is incredibly pale, but what it lacks in color it totally makes up in flavor. The earlier promise of the dry aroma directly translates into the steeped cup. There's a slight hint of nuttiness on top of the toasty vegetive notes from earlier.

It reminds me a lot of my favorite oolongs, but towards the end of each sip the nuttiness and toasted qualities back off and leave the cleaner vegetive note that's characteristically green.

Another great thing about this tea is its organic certification... all three of them! The tea's website proudly lists its USDA, EU, and JAS organic certification numbers, as well as links to the certificates themselves and even certain test results. Actually, there's more information on their website about this tea than I can remember seeing on any other tea site. It brings clarity up to a whole new level. 

Prominent Notes: Slightly toasted, nutty vegetive notes
Aftertaste: Vegetive notes
Overall: Tasty and organic... in a thoroughly documented way!

Thai Chai by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

Seller Description: "A confection of coconut silk and lemongrass, the Thai Chai blends energetic black tea with a sweet smelling aroma. Thai Chai tastes delicious, smooth, and jolting, making you feel alive and your senses feel sharpened. Make your day more vivid with the smooth black and chai tea blend."
Ingredients: Black Tea, Cinnamon Bark, Ginger Root, Dried Coconut, Lemon Grass, Cardamon Pods, Natural Coconut Flavor.
WebsiteThai Chai by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company
FacebookThe Persimmon Tree 
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 200º F
Steeping Time: 6 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

Today's tea comes our way via the The Persimmon Tree tea company out of California. They pride themselves on using recycled products in their packaging and shipping, and offer a variety of organic, fair-trade, and biodynamic teas.

I asked to review this particular tea because whenever my husband and I go out for pad Thai, we are hard-pressed not to order some of the ubiquitous - and delicious - Thai iced tea that most Thai restaurants carry. Luckily, while this tea does capture some of the beverage's flavor, it is a heck of a lot better for you than those thick, creamy concoctions!

I opened up the tin as soon as it arrived, and discovered the rich blend of different elements. The black tea base is there, but the other ingredients are no shrinking violets and most are recognizable. As for the scent, well, the dry aroma is curious, and I have a difficult time placing it. The ginger, coconut and cardamon seem to be the most prevalent, but there's something else that's escaping me at the moment.

Once steeped, the liquor is a slightly cloudy amber and, like the dry aroma, the flavor is difficult to pin down... kind of creamy with a little bit of a bite at the end. The black tea base stays in the background with the coconut, but the ginger and cardamon blend with the creamy front-runner.

In a nod to the Thai iced tea flavors this evokes, I decided to add a small splash of milk. I think I'll forego that in the future. It definitely added to the creaminess, but it pushed the other elements back noticeably. I might experiment with it more in the future, but the tea itself is so creamy that it really didn't need it.

All in all, this was a very tasty blend, and I look forward to using up the rest of the tin!

Prominent Notes: Cream, ginger, cardamon, and lemongrass
Aftertaste: Cinnamon and lemongrass.
Overall: A nicely balanced cuppa to start the morning

As a final note, The Persimmon Tree has asked me to give you their coupon code TEABLOG for 20% off at their online store: Enjoy!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bailin Gongfu Black Tea by Teavivre

Seller Description
: "Bailin Gongfu is the highest quality Fujian black tea.  This Bailin Gonfu is a premium quality tea produced at Mt. Taimu in Fujian, and is crafted from Fuding DaBai and Da Hao trees.  This delicious tea has a great refreshing sweet taste and fragrance."
WebsiteBailin Gongfu Black Tea by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 6 grams
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

This is the last of the five black tea samples that Teavivre sent my way. Most of my previous experience with black teas had to deal with various blends, and I've really enjoyed trying out these pure leaves.

Today's tea is the Bailin Gongfu Black Tea, and its dry aroma does have a lot in common with their other blacks. There is an element of maltiness, but also a strong vegetative presence that fades away with the steep.

And what a steep!

The liquor is a gorgeous, deep reddish amber. And, like the tasty microbrew it resembles, it has a malty presence with a lot of kick. There's a definite briskness to it, but this tea maintains a very smooth finish. While it's hot, I couldn't detect any astringency. It only begins to show up once the tea becomes cool.

Prominent Notes: A yeasty maltiness
Aftertaste: Slight vegetal notes, but only as it cools
Overall: A brisk, straightforward cuppa