Monday, September 29, 2014

What-Cha, Nepal Second Flush 2014 Dew Drops Green Tea

What-Cha Description:
A refreshing green tea resembling dew drops, with a great citrus nose and wonderful fresh grass taste.

We are proud to source all our Nepal teas direct from Greenland Organic Farm, who are very much at the forefront of a burgeoning Nepali tea industry dedicated to producing high quality artisanal teas. Greenland Organic Farm are completely pesticide and chemical free farm dedicated to producing tea in an ethical and fair manner. Greenland Organic Farm is located in East Nepal in the shadows of Mt. Kancghenjunga at an altitude of 3,000m.

Sample provided by What-Cha

My Review:
Good grief, where did summer go? We are still enjoying warm days and sunshine, but the cool nights are bringing lots of color to the trees. Oh well, that just means we will soon be drinking a lot more hot steamy cups of tea.

Today I am reviewing a green tea from the mountains of Nepal. As always the sample is well packed in a resealable silver pouch. The label is simple, clear, and well thought out.

First impression comes with inhaling the aroma from the open bag. It has a light pleasant grassiness. The leaf itself is rolled into little balls. They are larger than gunpowder green but smaller than most tieguanyin I have seen. The pellets are dark green. There are also a few twisted loops of leaf.

Using the press and water heated to the recommended 75 C (167 F) the leaf was steeped for 2 1/2 minutes. Recommended time is 2 - 3 minutes.

The result is a yellow cup. It was nice and clear until I added the last few drops of liquid from the press without a strainer. That brought with it a little cloudy silt.

The wet leaf has a steamed vegetal aroma. The leaf is partially relaxed. The appearance surprises me a little as it is a lot more shredded looking than I expected. I have to remind myself this is Nepali tea and not Chinese. Steeped, the leaf pieces have become fresh and green.

The taste is crisp, clean, and refreshing. It is grassy with a neat sharpness throughout the sip. It is the sort of good bitter that I like. There is no doubt when you taste, this is green tea.

I notice the insides of my cheeks tingle and the grassy taste lingers long after the tea is swallowed.

This seems more savory than sweet to my tastes. I have a major sweet tooth so you may disagree. For science only, I added some sweetener ;) My opinion is this doesn't need sweetener and is not particularly improved by adding it. The addition, however, did make the citrus note mentioned in the company description obvious to me. I was tasting it before but not recognizing it as such. It also added an earthy woods note under the flavors early in the sip.

The second cup is a more cloudy than the first, and I did use the strainer for the entire cup. The color is similar to the first. The leaf now has more of a marine scent.

The taste is less grassy and more earthy, leaning towards mineral and mushroom. There is plenty of flavor in the cup, it is just a lot different than the first. I am not noticing the bite of the first cup and the cheek tingle is substantially reduced.

I personally relate better to the flavors of the first cup, though both were easily drinkable.

You can find Nepal Second Flush 2014 Dew Drops Green Tea here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Jasmine Pearls Green Tea

Jasmine Pearls!
The Persimmon Tree Description:
Our exquisite Jasmine Pearls green tea comprises young, green tea leaves infused with fragrant jasmine blossoms and hand-rolled into beautiful pearls. As they steep the leaves unfurl to give you a smooth, delicately sweet infusion with the most divine aroma.

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
The Persimmon Tree packs all their teas in these round tins. When I received this month's package, the postal service had wreaked havoc upon it. This tin was slightly smashed on the backside. I should have documented this with pictures but at the time my only thought was to check on the tea inside. It was fine. A little reshaping of the tin and everything seems to be sealed.

I have said it before, and I'll say it again, I used to hate jasmine tea back in my tea bag days. The problem, apparently, was because what I had tried was jasmine flavored (probably not even natural flavor) rather than jasmine scented. With better quality tea, jasmine petals are added to the leaf for a period of time and then removed. Tea naturally absorbs odors, good or bad. In this case it is a beautiful thing when done correctly.

Dry Pearls
After reshaping the tin, I removed a scoop for examination.  These are about a 1/4" in diameter. They appear fairly even in size and tightly rolled. It would benefit us to take a moment to appreciate the artistry involved in growing and processing the tea we drink. For instance,with this one each individual pearl is formed by hand-rolling the leaf. Good tea is more than just a drink.

The pearls have a light jasmine scent that is vaguely grape like to my senses. I added the scoop of pearls to water heated to 175 F and steeped it in my press for 4 minutes per instructions.

The resulting liquor is slightly cloudy when very hot but clears as it cools a little. It is a brassy sort of dark golden in color. The scent is pleasant and is not overpowering, perfume, or soapy.

I have a mountain of leaf in the bottom of my press. Yeah, I might have used a little too many pearls. The expanded leaf reveals mostly intact leaf. I see some that are two leaves and a bud joined to the stem. This is a little pricier than many of The Persimmon Tree's offerings and I think this is reflected in the leaf.

The taste is like the scent. It is lightly floral and yet it reminds me of Grape Nehi soda. I know that is crazy and I almost never hear anyone else compare jasmine to grape, much less Grape Nehi, but I call 'em like I taste 'em. Most reviews I've read mention honeysuckle. Well, sort of, but I live in the country surrounded by wild honeysuckle and tea never really brings this image to my mind.

I am noticing the tea leaf really comes through in the aftertaste.

After tasting, I added sweetener (don't shoot!). Of course jasmine is fairly sweet on its own so give it a try sans additions first. Jasmine will take sweetening well if you have a really sweet tooth.

Abundant Wet Leaf
This is a little drying and has just a touch of bitterness. I suspect this may be due to my using a few too many pearls, or possibly the length of the steep.

I find neither the dryness nor bitterness in the first cup to be strong or detracting. I mention it only for those who are super sensitive.

Now, purely for the purposes of research (a-hem), I steeped the second cup with the same leaf for two minutes. The liquor is much more yellow in color.

In this cup I am not noticing any bitterness or dryness. I also find the flavor to be much less, well, intense. Personally, I like the taste of the longer steep. If reducing the number of pearls doesn't result in a perfect cup for you, a good compromise might be to hold the first steep to 2 1/2 minutes and the second at around 3 minutes or more. Always be willing to adjust the brewing parameters to your own tastes.

This is a solid Jasmine Pearls offering. Its naturally scented, and is flavorful without being overwhelming.

You can find Jasmine Pearls Green Tea here.

10% of The Persimmon Tree's profits will be donated to the Project HOPE School Foundation.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Secret Garden Tea Company, Children's Hospital Vanilla Black Tea

Sample Packaging

The Secret Garden Tea Company Description:
A playful blend of  baby rosebuds, vanilla, and bergamot that reminds us of childhood tea parties. Proceeds go to BC Children’s Hospital.

Black tea, rosehip pieces, rose petals, blackberry leaves, natural flavors.

Sample provided by The Secret Garden Tea Company

My Review:
The Secret Garden Tea Company is located in Vancouver Canada. Having successfully run a small tearoom since 1995, they have just ventured into online tea sales. That's where The Everyday Tea Blog comes in. I was asked if I would like to review samples of their offerings. Well, of course I would!

Pretty Leaf
The samples are of very generous size. The bag is a paper exterior with an aluminum interior. To close you fold over the top and restick the seal. The label as you can see has the tea type handwritten. There are no steeping instructions. These can be found in their FAQ section on the website.

The leaf itself is quite colorful and highly aromatic. Rose petals, rosehip, and blue cornflower petals are mixed with the black tea leaves. The aroma is unmistakably rose with less obvious bergamot notes underneath. I am note really able to pick out the vanilla at this time.

Dark spot in the center is a reflection
I used about 3 g (1 1/2 tsp) of leaf with 10 oz of water heated to 205 F. The website calls for boiling. I let it steep for 4 minutes. The result is a bright red/orange cup. The liquor is nicely clear. The aroma is much like the scent of the dry leaf. I am impressed by how much the wet leaf has expanded. I never expected it, so this is a happy surprise.

Taking my first sip, I can tell you, if you don't like rose this may not be the cup for you. It is not perfume water but it is definitely rose.

I can also not so much taste the vanilla as feel its affect on the cup. It just feels creamy. By the name I expected vanilla to be the primary note. I am not too upset that it is not. I quite like it when the vanilla stays back out of the spotlight.

The bergamot is very hard to detect. It comes under the rose to give it fullness. I have never thought of bergamot being used in a support role. It handles the chore well.

The black tea base only makes its presence certain occasionally, and then for mere brief moments. I think I can detect it all the time but at the same time I'm never really sure. It is smooth with no bitterness. This is slightly drying, yet not in a bad way.

Wet Leaf
This was the first tea that I chose from their varied webstore selections. What caught my eye, and makes this blend special, is stated in their product description. All the proceeds from sales go to the BC Children’s Hospital.

Canadian shipping rates are pretty outrageous and that may make it difficult for The Secret Garden Tea Company to develop a big web presence. If the shipping doesn't scare you off, then pick up some of this, if for no other reason than because the cause it supports is worthy.

I have only recently begun to appreciate rose scented teas. I had several cups of this one and enjoyed them all.

You can find Children's Hospital Vanilla Black Tea here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Mandarin Cream Oolong

Mandarin Cream
The Persimmon Tree Description:
Our Mandarin Cream tea awakens the senses with oolong loose tea leaves, hints of cream and a stimulating citrus finish. Blended with lemon myrtle, marigolds, and natural essence of vanilla, Mandarin Cream is a rich and smooth tea experience with an utterly heavenly aroma.

Organic Oolong Loose-Leaf Tea, Organic Lemon Myrtle, Marigold Petals, Natural Flavors

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree.

My Review:
This one is listed as a bestseller on The Persimmon Tree website. What The Persimmon Tree does not say on their site, but does mention on the label, is the oolong in the tin is Pouchong. As always I appreciate the solid tins that help with storage.

Dry Leaf
I approach this tea with caution. I like vanilla in my cup but often find such flavors overdone for my tastes. Opening the lid, there is a very pleasant vanilla fragrance present. I must admit, pouring the leaf on the plate to examine made me hungry. The vanilla is very present but not overpowering or alcohol like is nature.

The leaf is pretty with the big lightly twisted pieces of leaf varying in shades of green from olive to quite dark. The lighter green leaf may actually be lemon myrtle. The yellow marigold petals add a splash of interesting color.

I used around 3 g of leaf in my press with water heated to 195 F. The steep was 4 minutes. This produced a slightly cloudy mug of yellow sunshine. Meanwhile the Pouchong leaf has expanded and mostly relaxed. The leaf remains partially folded. I can tell this is mainly large pieces of leaf.

Sunshine In A Mug
The Persimmon Tree use natural ingredients in their flavored teas. What catches my attention though, may be why others are occasionally not as impressed. The flavors are generally more subtle than the flavor blasts of most other products I've tasted. That is the case with Mandarin Cream.

Notice there is a big difference between subtle and flavorless. This mug has plenty of flavor. It just doesn't beat up your senses expressing those flavors.

The vanilla is the primary flavor component, yet it is very pleasant and just the perfect level for my tastes. I can barely catch the lemon myrtle under the vanilla. I think it could stand the volume being turned up just a little.

Adding a little sweetener does just that without making the mug too sweet. I try not to use sweetener at first while reviewing. Often I have discovered the cup does not need it. This being more of a dessert type tea, I feel it benefits from the addition. Try it both ways and see if you agree.

Wet Leaf - Mostly Large Pieces
The Pouchong of the first cup shows up late in the aftertaste if you wait for it. I really don't get any strong orange type flavor here. To me that is what Mandarin implies. I think if I imagine orange sherbet, I can loosely make the connection as this is creamy. It just isn't particularly orangey to me.

Since this is an oolong, it should steep again. We must investigate!

Without sweetener the second mug is quite green oolong tasting - not a bad thing. Once sweetener is added, the vanilla reappears and moves to the background. This is maybe more creamy now, and the orange connection grows stronger. It remains mostly a hint yet present. Mostly, this is a nice cup of Pouchong with a light flavored background.

This makes an interesting cup that I appreciate for finally delivering a vanilla based tea that I enjoy. I personally expected a bit more lemon and a healthy dose of orange. Since orange is not listed as an ingredient, this must not be the profile they were going for with this blend, despite the name. This is nice as is, and tasting the tea is more important than tasting flavors to me, so unless that can all be accomplished without sacrificing the tea taste - it should be left alone.

You can find Mandarin Cream here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Not Exactly Tea Related

I have made comments here and on Steepster about our construction project. Since I have gone a lot of days without drinking tea and writing reviews, I thought I would include you in on what we have accomplished.

The house we live in, I designed, and had built in 1991. While it was a small simple home it was almost more than we could afford. Our second son was born just before the home was completed. We had to cut some corners when having it built. Instead of the large covered porch we wanted we settled for a tiny deck. It was not even big enough to set on. But we raised our two sons and have had many happy years here.

The picture above was taken this summer. Many of the trees on our property had become infested with the ash borer beetle. In total we had over 40 mature trees dropped in our yard. We are still cleaning up the mess. We had 5 trees cut in our front yard. They weren't infected but were too close to the house, and were in the path of the porch we were finally able to build.

This picture was taken just a couple days ago. What a difference this made to the looks of our home. My wife and I have been pretty much living on it since the nailing slowed down. This is truly a dream come true for us. The gutters have not been installed, and the clean up is still in progress, but otherwise the job is complete.

Now I am going to lecture you for a moment. Two years ago I was downsized out of a job. We were afraid we would loose our home because we still had a mortgage, no income, and no prospects. In addition I was having serious health issues. It would have been easy to give up but I didn't. Now two years later we have this beautiful addition. My point is never give in. You can always quit tomorrow, but today just keep going. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

What-Cha, Nepal Second Flush 2014 Sencha Green Tea

Well Labelled Sample
What-Cha Description:
The best Sencha we have come across from outside of Japan, it has a lovely algae nose and a light grassy taste.

We are proud to source all our Nepal teas direct from Greenland Organic Farm, who are very much at the forefront of a burgeoning Nepali tea industry dedicated to producing high quality artisanal teas. Greenland Organic Farm are completely pesticide and chemical free farm dedicated to producing tea in an ethical and fair manner. Greenland Organic Farm is located in East Nepal in the shadows of Mt. Kancghenjunga at an altitude of 3,000m.

Sample provided by What-Cha

My Review:
Miss me yet? I haven't posted in a long time. Our construction is over and things are beginning to settle back to normal. That means I have a lot of catching up to do with reviews. I think I can handle that!

Kind Of Makes Me Think Pine Needles
I have not had a lot of Japanese Sencha, so my ability to give an honest comparison, to this one from Nepal, is not likely. What I can do is taste it and tell you what I think. Once again, the sample is well packaged and clearly labelled. I really appreciate not having to go to a website to get recommended steeping parameters. I also appreciate the sample is large enough for me to experiment if I think tweaking the time and temp will give better results.

The leaf on this one is long slender twists that are dark olive green with some lighter green sprinkled throughout the mix. It has a nice fresh grassy scent.

I used 1/3 of the 10 g sample in my press and added filtered water heated to 167 F. I let it steep for two minutes.

A Light Yellow Liquor
The reward for my effort is a very light yellow cup. It stays roughly that color even as it cools. The leaf a steamed spinach aroma to my senses. What-Cha says the brew has an algae nose. It really didn't strike me that way but possibly that would be your interpretation.

I love the taste. It reminds me of Chinese Mao Feng or possibly Xinyang Maojian. I don't have either on hand at the moment to do a comparison. It has a sharp bite with the good kind of bitter that really tastes refreshing. It is followed by a smooth moment of grassiness that begins to be overtaken by a mineral type taste but before the transition fully occurs it moves on into a bright finish. It does have some moderate mouth drying but not the stomach burn I associate with astringent black teas.

If you sip slowly, this takes your tongue on a nicely complex roller coaster ride. Does it taste like Sencha? As I noted at the beginning, I have no idea. I can say it is exactly the kind of green tea that catches my attention.

Wet Leaf
The one negative I would mention is the wet leaf appears to contain a lot of pieces rather than whole leaves. By the appearance of the dry leaf, this surprises me. I am not sure if or how it affects the flavor, but if you are one of those odd people like me, who play with their leaf, you notice such things.

I am not sure how many cups this will produce but I am about to go for a second. I have really missed my time with tea lately. I am so happy to see I have grabbed a good one today.

The second cup produces a cup of similar color as the first. I payed closer attention to the nose. It doesn't smell like seaweed or ocean to me but, yeah, I can see how this could be considered to have an algae aroma. The taste is lighter but that may be my fault. I didn't really time it as I was typing.

I enjoyed this tea - thank you What-Cha for sharing it with me.

You can find Nepal Second Flush 2014 Sencha Green Tea here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What-Cha, Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Oolong Tea

Resealable Sample!
What-Cha Description:
We are proud to source all our Nepal teas direct from Greenland Organic Farm, who are very much at the forefront of a burgeoning Nepali tea industry dedicated to producing high quality artisanal teas. Greenland Organic Farm are completely pesticide and chemical free farm dedicated to producing tea in an ethical and fair manner. Greenland Organic Farm is located in East Nepal in the shadows of Mt. Kancghenjunga at an altitude of 3,000m.

Sample provided by What-Cha.

My Review:
I haven't had much opportunity to sit and quietly sip tea of late. Today I am doing my best to stay out of the way of the construction crew building my porch. The pounding on the roof is only a little distracting - in a good way. We have waited 24 years for this porch addition.

So, back to focusing on tea. I know oolong is a generic term meaning the leaf is oxidized more than green tea and less than black tea. That is a wide spread from about 8% oxidation to 85%. There is even debate on these numbers. Doesn't matter, I know oolong when I see it - unless it is from Kenya, or in this case, Nepal.

The Dry Leaf
Oolong isn't always rolled into little balls. This one is interesting to look at fresh out of the bag. If you told me it was a white tea or even a green, I would believe you. There are ample amounts of silvery buds and olive green leaves. There are also light brown and dark brown leaves. They are large pieces, and lightly twisted. The aroma is somewhere between dried fall leaves and fresh dried tobacco leaf.

I used 1/3 of the sample or approximately 3 g in my press with water heated to 196 F. The steep time was supposed to be 3 minutes but, well you know, squirrel! So it was more like 4 minutes. The brew turned out a shiny caramel color.

A Caramel Brew
How to describe this tea? This is light tea. By that I mean the flavor isn't big and bold like a morning blend. This has more of a lazy afternoon taste. My brain thinks it is similar to a Formosa oolong that I remember from years past but memories are often wrong.

As prepared here, there is has no bitterness or astringency. It is smooth and without bite. As with the dry leaf aroma, the taste reminds me of fall leaves. It simply has a woodsy taste. You do not have to search for the flavor but it doesn't beat you over the head.

The mouth feel is mildly creamy which matches the description on their website. I do not get the orange notes they mention, just pleasant woodsy leaves.

I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something, since I used more water than I intended - around 12 ounces. There were a couple of ounces left over in the kettle, that I did not remember leaving, so the mug was fuller than expected.

Leaves After Brewing
Trying again, with the same amount of leaf, the only thing I planned to change was the amount of water - this time I used six ounces. I kind of got distracted (again) researching on Google and let this steep for about five minutes instead of the intended three.

What I got with this time was a very bitter cup. The flavor otherwise was still similar to the first, light and woodsy.

My words of warning are don't over steep this one.

I tend to really enjoy light straight teas, especially complex white teas. For me this tea was fine though not overly complex. If you love big, bold, highly flavored teas, this one may prove too light for you to enjoy.  If on the other hand a quieter simple woodsy flavor appeals to you, this might be a good fit.

You can find Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Oolong Tea here.