Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Good Earth, Wild Chaild

Good Earth Description:
It doesn’t matter if it’s Monday morning or Thursday night, it’s okay to bring out the Wild Chaild™. With tantalizing chai spices and smooth caramel flavor, this curiously exotic tea gives you the sweet you need with just the right amount of spice to make whatever you’re doing more interesting.

Black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, natural caramel flavor with other natural flavors, natural banana flavor with other natural flavors, natural flavor, ginger root, Chinese star anise, nutmeg, chicory root, cloves, black pepper, steviol glycosides (stevia).

Sample provided by Good Earth

My Review:
I recently scanned many of my chai reviews. They are often very similar. I start out by saying I never crave chai, and generally I go on to report that I did in fact enjoy the cup. I do wish I could put my finger on why I react to chai this way. I have no horrible experience or memory associated with chai. I love all the ingredients. Hmmm. I may never know.

This is a tea bag version. Each bag contains a healthy 2.3g of leaf. Yeah! This is enough to make a hearty cup of tea. Each bag comes in its own protective envelop. Yeah! Nothing worse than stale tea before you are halfway through the box.

Wild Chaild? Why is this called Wild Chaild? Opening the envelop, I am hit with a heavy dose of cardamom and other similar spices. Yeah, this could be a wild ride, let's see.

I heated the water to 200F. Rarely do I ever use full on boiling water anymore. For my tastes just off boil generally makes a pleasantly smooth black tea.

The string is plenty long, however, even a long string won't keep the tag out of the cup if you pour too quickly and don't pay attention. Fortunately, I had a spoon nearby and I had the good sense to use it rather than my fingers.

The steep was 4 minutes. As you can see, the cup is a deep orange/reddish brown. It smells pleasantly of cinnamon, clove, and cardamon.

Tasting, I first notice the sweetness. This does have stevia added. That said it isn't over sweet, especially for chai. Compared to the dry scent, the cup aroma and taste are more subdued and balanced. There is a hint of flavor that takes the normal chai profile right off the beaten path. What is it? According to the ingredient list, this has natural banana flavor. Now, it isn't a banana tea. It is just a hint, but it is a cool twist. So you start out cardamon and clove, then turn momentarily toward banana without really getting there, before straightening back into a warm cinnamon, pepper, and ginger finish. I do catch brief hints of banana in the aftertaste. As the cup cooled way down, I could catch notes of star anise that are not present when the cup is hot.

I did not add milk as chai is usually steeped with milk. Maybe I will try it that way later. Even without it it this is pretty tasty. If I were to change anything, I would leave out the stevia. Most of us have our own preferences on whether and what type of sweetener to use. Second, its chai, so I don't really expect to taste the black tea, but that may well be why chai and I aren't as attracted to each other as I might like. See, I want to taste the black tea. I know totally unrealistic.

As a chai tea this is a nice twist. The cup was empty before I was ready.

You can find Good Earth at your local Walmart and Kroger stores, or online at Amazon. You can also order direct from Good Earth.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Gold World Century LTD, Mountain Top Green Tea

Mountain Top Green Tea Description:
Our tea comes from the serene mountain of Southern China’s Guangdong Province.

Sample provided by Mountain Top Green Tea

My Review:
A little background, as this will be kind of a different experience for me. Recently, I was contacted by Nathan Burchfield, founder of Gold World Century LTD in Hong Kong, and asked if I would like to review their high mountain green tea. Of course I said yes. Nathan has begun to market his own brand of tea. This particular tea he discovered early in his 6 years living in China. As of this writing the tea is not readily available. The plan is to begin selling it from the company Facebook page. If the tea is still not listed for sale on the page when you visit, message them and see when it might be available for you might try it.

Upon receipt of my sample, I opened the envelop and pulled out a really pretty hand painted cloth tie bag. Inside the bag was a resealable pouch containing what seems to be at least an ounce of leaf.

My first exposure to the tea is the sniff test. Here I get oats, malt, and hay. It is fresh and pleasing to the senses. I removed a scoop for the visual inspection. I am seeing a very dark leaf. I would have guessed this to be a black (red) tea by looking. It is brown with hints of green. The leaf is loose twists.

I used my imagination to come up with the brewing parameters. I used about 3g of leaf in my clear glass pot and water heated to 185F. The steep time was 2 minutes. The liquor is a deep amber color as prepared in my style. A gaiwan would undoubtedly produce something entirely different.

The aroma from the leaf after pouring caused me to pause and notice. It had a sweet aroma with more than a hint of spiciness. It reminded me of cardamom, or something along that line. Very unexpected. In addition there is a kind of earthiness that suggested puerh. It has been a while since I have caught this many nuances in the steeped leaf, which is now forest green and lush.

Ok, so I finally get to start tasting! First thing I notice is a complete lack of bitterness. Also, the bite is so slight as to almost not exist. There is a slight feeling of drying on the cheeks but I kind of like that. I am trying to come up with words... I've used mineral and mountain streams in a few reviews lately. I hate to do so again, but seriously, here it fits the clean taste. At the same time this is quite different than most any green that comes immediately to mind. There is some sense of a vegetative taste. That only kind of captures this tea. You recall how I compared the aroma to suggesting a kind of earthiness as in puerh? That is the feeling I am also getting with the taste. It is similar to a sheng (or raw) puerh without any of the harsh bitterness.

I can see why Nathan quickly became enamored by this tea upon discovering it. While not so different as to be unapproachable or weird, it is somehow different from the standard fare one normally experiences in Chinese green tea - and I happen to love Chinese green tea. The only other review I have seen of this tea is on T Ching. There it is compared as a bridge between oolong and green, allowing fans of one or the other to comfortably crossover (my paraphrase). I saw this tea as a bridge between green and sheng. To me, this differing view shows just how interesting this tea actually is, as it refuses to be defined. If you get the chance to try this tea - do it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Teabook Subscription Service

Teabook Description:
Teabook answers the call for pure unadulterated loose leaf tea. Offering a monthly membership of seasonal loose leaf teas. Teabook is for tea drinkers and tea lovers keeping pace with modern life. Our wish is that tea drinkers enjoy and experience the clarity and wellness benefits that come with steeping pure loose leaf tea - conveniently and affordably.  It's great tea. Made easy.

Sample provided by Teabook

My Review:
Today's review will be a little more picture intensive than normal.

For an explanation of just what Teabook is, allow me to quote from their FAQTeabook is a loose leaf tea monthly subscription service. For $24.99 a month, Teabook sends you a delicious collection of the season's best loose leaf teas.

Now, what I think makes Teabook different from other subscriptions is not what Teabook lists in the FAQ linked above. For me, the huge difference is all the teas are packed in individual serving size envelopes. Rest assured there are no paper tea bags inside. This is loose leaf tea. I love this idea. It takes what is so convenient about a tea bag and turns it on its head.

You wake up all fuzzy headed. You're running late. You NEED tea. Grab a packet, pour the contents into the tumbler, add hot water, and go. Arrive at work, and more hot water, and continue to enjoy.

Each month's Teabook box contains 9 packets each of two select teas. My November box contains a Dragonwell green tea and a Dian Hong red (black) tea. Next month will be something different - maybe an oolong or white tea. In addition each month, the box contains a single packet from the special collection. This month the special collection tea was Honey Sweet Green / Xiang Ming. So each month you will receive 19 packets of tea. That is roughly $1.32 per packet. You should be able to steep the same leaf all day, making this a pretty good deal for the subscription member. (Click the pics below to enlarge)

A couple paragraphs back I mentioned a tumbler - your first box includes a double walled glass tumbler!

Twisting off the lid reveals is a metal filter screen. This can be removed for easy cleaning. To use, simply unscrew the filter section and add the leaves directly from the packet. Add hot water - the tumbler holds about 10oz - and let steep.

The leaves remain in the tumbler while drinking. This has become known as 'grandpa style' brewing. It is common practice in many parts of the world, especially by daily tea drinkers in China. This is a convenient way of having tea all day long. When the tea level drops, just add more hot water. Keep doing this until the leaves have given their all. This works best according to A Tea Addict's Journal, if the water level does not drop below halfway - and this link actually suggests 2/3.

Today I am having the Dragonwell green tea. The leaf smells fresh and grassy. I added water heated to 175F. I gave it a couple minutes. The longjing aroma through the strainer was pretty awesome. I actually was concerned I would loose the aroma. Instead the top seems to concentrate it. Tasting, I burnt my tongue. Double walled glass holds the heat. Safety tip - leave the lid off until it cools to a drinking safe level. Due to the double walled construction the outer glass remains relatively cool.

You might think leaving the leaf in the tumbler would produce a bitter drink. Apparently, that is the beauty of the individual serving packets. The flavor was bold without being bitter. I was very pleased with the result.

If leaving the leaf in the tea while you drink does not appeal to you, pour the tea into a mug, of course it defeats the convenience factor. You are also free to not use the tumble to steep in, but it is just so darned cute I can't help myself.

You can cancel at anytime. More details are available at Teabook

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Good Earth, Pomegranate Burst

Good Earth Description:
Sure we all have responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle into a routine. Break things up with the tingling intensity of Pomegranate Burst™. Blended with the goodness of green tea and the unexpected tart flavors of pomegranate and cherry, one sip will be enough to shake up an ordinary day.

Green tea, hibiscus, elderberries, licorice root, natural pomegranate flavor with other natural flavors, raspberries, sweet blackberry leaf, natural cherry flavor with other natural flavors, citric acid, natural flavor, pomegranate flakes (pomegranate, corn starch, maltodextrin, lecithin), steviol glycosides (stevia).

Sample provided by Good Earth

My Review:
Lately I have been scurrying around like the proverbial headless chicken. Wow. I just need to slow down, catch my breath, and have some tea.

Today, I am once again having a simple quick and convenient cup from a tea bag. I love pomegranate tea, so I have high expectations with this one.

The box contains 18 individually wrapped tea bags. Each contains a little over 2g. I always try to point out the weight as many companies skimp on the leaf, making a good cup difficult if not impossible.

Opening the envelope I catch the first notes of pomegranate and I like what I am smelling. Then I catch cherry notes and it drifts off to somewhere between Kool-Aid and medicinal. I heated the water to 200F and steeped for 4 minutes.  As it steeped the red flowed from the bag. Back during Halloween this would have made for some great, and obligatory, vampire and blood comments.

Tasting... Hmmm... I don't dislike it. It is more of a I wish it were different kind of thing. Personal preference here, and I usually try to keep personal taste out of it, I wish this did not contain hibiscus. There I said it. I find its tartness and very presence unnecessary. I get they are trying to give the illusion the tartness is from the cherry but, well, just no.

I also wish it did not contain stevia. Stevia is bitter. If you like it fine. In some blends I like it, here it is too much. Too much sweet and bitter aftertaste. I prefer to add my own sweetener (Splenda for me) when I think it will improve the taste. Adding my sweetener now makes this way too sweet.

The negatives aside, the pomegranate and cherry actually mix well together. So the core taste is pleasant but I feel Good Earth is going to find a very limited group who will appreciate this cup. That is kind of a shame as they have good ideas here, they just need to learn to edit.  

Check for Good Earth tea in your local Walmart or Kroger store. You can also order direct from Good Earth.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sanne Tea, 2014-2015 Oriental Beauty

Sanne Tea Description:
Oriental Beauty is also known as Bai Hao (white tips) Oolong, or Champagne Oolong. The beautiful name, many people believe, is from Queen Victoria. When brewed, the leaves generally spread in water, like a graceful lady dancing with gorgeous finery.

Samples provided by Sanne Tea

My Review:
What we have here is a side by side comparison of Sanne Tea's Oriental Beauty from 2014 and 2015. It should prove interesting to see if I can detect subtle differences from one harvest to another from the same farm.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, this will not be the comparison I wanted to present. Why? I was not paying attention. Simple as that. My intention was to follow the directions on the sample label - they are identical for both samples. The entire 6g sample of each was used in water heated to 180F. The first steep time was to be 60s. What I failed to check was the kettle was not empty when I added my 6oz of water (200ml). So, when I poured, before I realized, I had filled my 12oz mug. Since both teas need to be brewed with the same parameters to keep it fair, I now have to use more water in the second mug. I also lengthened the first steep to 2 minutes to compensate.

One subtle detail that always impresses me about Sanne Tea is the handwriting on the back label. The tea name including the oriental characters, and steeping parameters are all filled in by hand for each package. Lulu is an artist with a heart for detail.

Looking at the leaf, (2014 on the left) both show all the correct colors of brown, red, green, white, and yellow. I think the yellow is the most difficult to catch in all the leaf of this type I have reviewed. Even though it appears just the opposite in my pictures, the 2015 version seems overall darker. It also seems fluffier but that may be simply a settling thing, still this is what I noticed.

Both samples have a light roasty, lightly malt, and fresh scent.

Until disaster struck, my intention was to brew these in identical mugs then pour the brew into smaller cups. This would allow me to literally compare them side by side. Now I find myself in need of both mugs for the one cup. After the panic, I realized I had other options. Since I used the entire sample all I could think of was how do I save this mug.

The 2014 Oriental Beauty liquor is caramel in color. The taste is honey with a  vibe similar to muscat grape. The aftertaste is lingering, sweet, and a combination of fruity and floral. There is a slight rough textured bite. It is not unpleasant and certainly not bitter. Just before it drifts off into the aftertaste I get a neat leafy hit - I can think of no other way to describe it. This is a solid cup of tea.

While steeping the 2015 Oriental Beauty, I noticed an amazing aroma . Maybe the previous sample had the same wonderful scent and I missed it. I also noticed this is much lighter in color. It is a dark honey color. Hmmm. The taste is extremely close to the previous year. It is honey with muscat grape. I am also getting the combination of fruity and floral in the lingering aftertaste. The difference between the two is this one does not have the rough textured bite. It is simply smooth. The leafy taste just before the aftertaste kicks in, is also reduced.

I really think it is too close to call which is better - especially given my faulty comparison. It is likely that I steeped the first mug longer than I thought. This would easily explain the differences.

What I learned is both teas are very good and both will take panic and bad technique in stride. Tune in next time for another exciting episode of tea brewing disasters! Even those of us who brew a lot of tea, have those days, more often than I care to admit.

You can find Sanne Tea 2014 Oriental Beauty here

You can find Sanne Tea 2015 Oriental Beauty here

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Red Leaf Tea, Caramel Matcha

Red Leaf Tea Description:
For those with an unrepentant and unwavering sweet tooth, there is no better tea than sweet caramel matcha. This fine tea blends the eastern traditions of matcha with the modern caramel flavor to brew a delectable tea that is sweet to take as a mid-morning snack, before lunch aperitif or after dinner relaxing drink. The toned-down caramel matcha is ideal for those who need a sweet tea without adding any extra sugar.

Pure Matcha powder from green leaves, Caramel Natural Flavor

My Review:
I've already had my usual morning cold milk/matcha latte. This morning I mixed strawberry and French vanilla matcha from Red Leaf Tea. It was very good, although I may prefer each of them by themselves, as I don't want anything getting in the way of the flavor of either. Weird, but true.

I thought I would have this one as a treat after lunch. I have read so many positive reviews, I wanted to check it out for myself. That being said, I am not a major craver of all things caramel, so we will see.

This is the basic grade matcha sample. It is what you get if you don't click anything but sample when you order. The powder is a greenish yellow-brown.

I used about a level teaspoon of powder in my mug and added 4 ounces of milk. Using a battery operated frother, I was able to completely fill the mug to overflowing with froth. I used the spoon to stir the mix to make sure I had gotten all the powder off the bottom blended in with the milk. This is why the mug doesn't look full in the picture. After the picture was taken, I added more milk.

So my first sip was pleasant enough. To me it was a little too light for my tastes. It didn't seem like it was worth all the fuss I had read about it.

Then I added a half packet of Splenda - equivalent to about 1 tsp of sugar - and what a difference. Caramel topping like you would add to ice cream or caramel like found in candy bars, is ok once in a while but I don't get too excited about them. This on the other hand was delicious enough I could enjoy it everyday.

This is obviously sweet but it isn't gross sweet even after my addition. It is very smooth and buttery feeling. The taste seems so natural and totally resist getting all up in my face. The perfect comination of flavor, sweet, and texture. I'll have this one again.

You can find Red Leaf Tea Caramel Matcha here

Monday, November 2, 2015

Good Earth, Tropical Rush

Good Earth Description:
Picture yourself in a lush expanse of rainforest, the sun peeking through the thick canopy. Okay, if that’s not how you’re spending your day, Tropical Rush™ Organic is just what you need. Made from organic, all natural ingredients blended with flavors reminiscent of a tropical island, this green tea can be your quick escape to the sweeter side.

Organic green tea, organic lemongrass, organic natrural flavor, organic orange peel, organic natural lime flavor, organic natural mango flavor, organic natural pineapple flavor, organic licorice root, natural flavor, organic chamomile.

Sample provided by Good Earth

My Review:
My plan today was to review a couple different teas. Instead my wife took me out for BBQ, where I ate way too much and enjoyed every bite. Now the temperature outdoors is in the 60's and headed possibly to 70 before evening. Normal for this time of year is in the mid 50's, so yeah, I'm cutting my indoor tea time down some and enjoying this unusual day.

I grabbed Tropical Rush because it was the first in the samples, and besides it sounded light and refreshing after the glorious digestive abuse I inflicted upon myself.

I did not see any steeping instructions on the sealed envelope. I wanted to treat this the way I think the average tea bag drinker would handle it, but I just could not bring myself to use full on boiling water. Instead I heated it to 200 F and steeped for 4 minutes. I removed the bag.

The dry bag had a pinneapple mango scent. The steeped tea is more of a mango aroma. The color as it began to steep was green but as it continued it became more honey colored.

The taste is a little different than anything I have had previously. I am still trying to decide if that is good or bad. Strangely, this doesn't have stevia some of Good Earth teas contain and yet I still catch a bitter edge I associate with stevia, in the aftertaste. The main taste is a combination of mango and pineapple. I wish I caught the lemongrass, orange, and lime, but sadly I can't single them out.

I have to be honest and tell you I am not enjoying this one. I am taking in to account that I don't care for pineapple and only slightly like mango. For me, the bigger issue is this just doesn't seem very balanced. That surprises me as most of Good Earth teas have been wonderfully blended.

You can find Good Earth Tropical rush at your local Walmart or Kroger store, or buy direct online.