Saturday, April 12, 2014

Yun Nan Dian Hong Black Tea - Golden Tip by Teavivre

Seller Description"Dian Hong black tea, also known as Yunnan black tea, is one of China's most famous black teas. This is the highest grade Dian Hong generally available in China – called Golden Tip Dian Hong. It has lots of orange pekoe in the dried tea, and brews into an absolutely great tasting, golden coloured tea, with very rich taste and aroma."
WebsiteYun Nan Dian Hong Black Tea - Golden Tip by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 2 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

After my last experience with one of Teavivre's black teas, I knew to expect the unexpected.

The light, honey-butter flavor was a surprise, though. I guess after their Golden Monkey Black I was expecting something a little brisker. The aftertaste packs a little nudge of it, but for the most part this tastes like a combination of a black and a green, with slightly grassy notes.

A lot of that comes out in the dry tea's aroma, which brings to mind cool saturdays spent raking up autumn leaves.... and the joy of taking a running jump into the pile!

I'm glad that I have more of this sample left, because I can't wait to take it to school. There's something kind of wonderful about the way it both wakes you up and calms you down, and the smooth, mild flavor allows you to savor it without needing to brace yourself for an intense jolt of caffeine.

Now, sometimes I really do need that, but it's nice to switch things up now and again, and this tea is perfect for that.

Prominent Notes: Honey butter (almost a combined flavor) and fresh vegetation
Aftertaste: Mildly brisk, slightly smoky black
Overall: A smooth, wonderful way to ease yourself gently into the day

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Golden Monkey Black Tea by Teavivre

Seller Description"Coming from Fujian, the Golden Monkey is made of the fresh buds and leaves of Fuding Pekoe, by lightly sun withering, rolling, fermentation and drying. Golden Monkey has the particular aroma of black tea. You could scent the fruity flavor through every sip of the tea."
Website: Golden Monkey Black Tea by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 2 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

When I opened the sample, I was initially surprised at how green and yellow this black tea looked... enough so that I double-checked the label! Sure enough, both the sample and the website list this as a black, and once I steeped it there was no question at all.

Whatever the color of the actual leaves, this steeped up into a gorgeously smooth tea with that distinctive briskness you'd usually encounter in an English Breakfast or an Earl Grey.

Actually, I'm enjoying this one so much that I have to force myself to slow down and savor it! I usually gravitate more towards black blends, and it's been only recently that I've tried more of the straight black teas. This tastes like a balance in between the two.

Sipping this, I'm impressed again by how smooth this tea is. There is little to no astringency, without any jarring notes at all. I think this is one I'll want to keep around!

Prominent Notes: Brisk black tea with a mellow buttery
Aftertaste: Slightly citrusy, fruity notes
Overall: Time for a second cup!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Swiss Mountain Black Tea by Della Terra Teas

Seller Description"If you are a fan of minty chocolate, especially when combined together in a candy then this tea is for you.  With real peppermint and chocolate pieces along with mint brittle you will be left with a minty, refreshing and chocolaty treat in your cup.  A true breath, errr, drink of fresh air... I mean tea!"
Ingredients: Black tea, chocolate bits, peppermint
WebsiteSwiss Mountian Black Tea by Della Terra Teas
Sample source: Facebook Giveaway

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

This tea came my way via one of Della Terra's Facebook giveaways, with some of their Almond Biscotti green tea. Oddly enough, this is the second time they've sent me tea this way - I think that means more people need to "like" them so there's more of a pool!

Now when I make hot chocolate, I tend to stir up more of a thick soup than the lightly accented drink you'd get by following the directions. As such, I've never really gotten into chocolate teas because I always find myself craving more chocolate and less tea. I met with that same quandary this time as well.

It's a sweet, refreshing tea that reminds me strongly of thin mints. The slight bite of dark chocolate mixed with the soothing refreshment of the peppermint. If I make this again, I will definitely throw another teaspoon of sugar and couple extra chocolate chips in, but I know several friends who would definitely enjoy this as is!

Prominent Notes: Chocolate and peppermint
Aftertaste: Black tea
Overall: I'm going to go make some hot chocolate

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Another Traveling Tea Box?!?!?!

Since my last blog entry, another tea box has come my way! If you didn't catch my last post about the Traveling Tea Box C, this is a fun thing we do on Steepster. One person puts a bunch of tea in a box and mails it to the first person on the list. They then sample the teas they want to try, remove a couple they like, and add more tea of their own. It continues through the list like this until it comes back to the first person... who might continue it on for another round!

This particular box had a bit of a longer journey on its way to me, as you can tell from these pictures!

 A close-up of the left side, featuring a surprisingly wide variety of ESP Emporium teas, Harney & Sons, Tea District, Butiki Teas, and Verdant.
Looking at the middle in more depth, you can see the incredible variety of hand-labeled teas and even a couple tins. Let me tell you, those were fun to try to fit back into the little box that birthed all this!
But it didn't stop there! This little box was starting to remind me of Mary Poppins' carpet bag. For a while I wondered if I would ever find the bottom! It finally came clean, with a large assortment of Adagio teas. 

As you can see, it was a bit more extensive than the last one. Unfortunately, between a bout with strep throat and another cold that came in on its heels, I've been off my game lately. I only tried a small handful of teas before guilt (and a sense of obligation) had me sending it back on its way.

Here are the teas I sampled and/or removed:

Pineapple Bacon Rooibos by 52teas
Cinnamon Fig by Art of Tea
Mint Verbena by Harney & Sons
Coconut Lavender Rooibos by Tea District
Cuppa Paradise by Tea District
Earl Grey by Tea Forte
Laoshan Black by Verdant Tea

And the teas I tucked in for their new journey:

Chestnut by Adagio
Christmas by Adagio
Gingerbread by Adagio
Pumpkin Spice by Adagio
Easy as Pie by Adagio Custom (by Lariel)
Pumpkin King by Adagio Custom (by Lariel)
Earl Grey by The Tao of Tea
Pu’er Tonic by Verdant Tea (from Blends subscription)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride by Celestial Seasonings

Seller's Description: "That festive sugar cookie aroma and taste — yours in just 4 to 6 minutes!"
Ingredients: Milk thistle, roasted barley, orange peel, natural sugar cookie flavor with other natural flavors and vanilla bean.
WebsiteSugar Cookie Sleigh Ride by Celestial Seasonings
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass tea infuser
Measured dry: 2 sachets
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

They nailed it. They totally nailed it. This smells and tastes exactly like sugar cookies made with a slightly more generous dash of vanilla.

When I first opened the package, I was more than a little shocked at how my kitchen suddenly smelled like I'd been baking cookies all day.

With how amazing this smelled on its own, I was sure it wouldn't translate the same into the cup. I was so wrong. Once the tea was steeped, the flavor was nearly identical to the original aroma.

The same rich, buttery baked flour, slightly caramelized sugar, and vanilla was packed into each sip. On the box, their Blendmaster's Notes proclaim this tea is "...a guilt-free way to partake in the real pleasures of the season..." and I have to agree. What a fabulous way to enjoy the holidays!

Prominent Notes: Buttery flour, sugar, and vanilla.
Aftertaste: The caramelized top of a creme brûlée.
Overall: The sugar cookie experience without the calories!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Gingerbread Spice by Celestial Seasonings

Seller's Description: "Step into a cozy kitchen warmed by the spicy aroma of freshly made gingerbread — with no baking required!"
Ingredients: Cinnamon, roasted chicory, ginger, natural flavors (soy lecithin), roasted carob and Luo Han Guo.
WebsiteGingerbread Spice by Celestial Seasonings
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass tea infuser
Measured dry: 2 sachets
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

As soon as I opened the box, I was hit with a wave of ginger. There's no missing its spicy bite in this tea, and as I tend to be a bit of a ginger fiend that was no problem for me!

It's not until you steep it up that the other notes come out to play, but not in the way I was expecting. This strikes me more as a ginger tea than a gingerbread tea... or at least not your usual holiday gingerbread... something a lot older.

When I visited Hampton Court Palace back in 2003, I picked up a recipe book from the Tudor kitchens and have since tried out some of the dishes. This tea reminds me more of the flavor of their Gyngerbrede honeyed treats than a more modern cookie. It's where the "bread" part of gingerbread cookies got their name. Those treats were made with honey, white breadcrumbs, cinnamon, ginger (of course!), and ground black pepper.

Sipping this tea, I had to check the ingredients again to make sure this one didn't have the black pepper in it. It has that kind of a robust yet gentle bite. Part of that may be due to the roasted ingredients, but I think I may have to make up a fresh batch of Gyngerbrede in order to compare!

All in all, this was a very interesting cup and it has sparked my curiosity. 

Prominent Notes: Ginger!
Aftertaste: A slight honeyed effect with hints of pepper
Overall: Curiouser and curiouser

Monday, December 9, 2013

Nutcracker Tea by Simpson & Vail

Outside the snow and ice have taken over North Texas, so I wanted something both brisk enough to help me wake up and spicy enough to give me an extra little kick of warmth.

Seller Description"A delectable tea blend for you and all your guests this holiday season. We've combined Autumn flavors with decadent chocolate and mint and added a touch of warming cinnamon. Nutcracker brews to a deep amber color with a creamy, refreshing taste and a heavenly aroma. The flavors in this blend are not competitive, they perfectly complement one another … kind of the way it should be during the holiday season!"
Ingredients: Black tea, almond pieces, orange peel, cranberries, cinnamon & chocolate mint flavors.
Website: Nutcracker Tea by Simpson & Vail
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 4 teaspoons of raw sugar

This one was a little difficult to pigeonhole, because unlike so many other holiday teas, it doesn't attempt to replicate the flavor of a specific holiday treat.

After opening the sample, I had to take a moment to consider the blend. Initially, it smells like a complexly spiced dark chocolate... the kind of thing you'd pick up in a specialty chocolate store. 

When steeped, the chocolate steps back a little, and the black tea begins to assert itself. It still tastes chocolately, but the flavor is definitely sharing the stage, and the more minor notes begin to peek out of their initial hiding places.

Most prominent of those is the cinnamon, which is wonderfully true to form, and doesn't fall into the same cinnamon-candy pitfall that so many other teas do. After that, there are very, very slight hints of the orange and cranberry, but they're pretty difficult to pick out.

If anything, this reminds me - just a little - of Mexican hot chocolate, but keyed down to a level of spiciness that my tongue can handle.

Prominent Notes: Black tea, dark chocolate, and cinnamon.
Aftertaste: Cinnamon and slight hints of almond.
Overall: A great choice for this morning!