Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ahmad, Primetime

Ahmad Description:
For the quintessential cup of English tea, look no further than our Primetime. A special blend of Assam, Kenyan and Ceylon black teas, each sip delivers a strong, bold and rich taste. Add milk to this, if preferred.

Product was obtained through a give-away on Ahmad's Facebook page

My Review:
Up front, I have to admit Ahmad is my favorite tea company for everyday comfort teas. For those who have never experienced an Ahmad tea, the closest comparison I can draw is to Twinings. The difference is this is Twinings with guts.

Ahmad Earl Grey is my go to comfort tea. I have not been without it for more than a few days in the last decade. So, yeah, I admit some bias here.

I scored this 10 pack sampler by simply replying to a post on Facebook. And you thought nothing good ever happened on social media.

Opening the sample box, I found a plastic wrapper containing 10 tagless tea bags. Each bag contains just over 3g of leaf. That is not common in American sized bags. At best they usually run 2g and too often even less. 3g is more in line with Yorkshire Gold and PG Tips, both are UK favorites.

Giving it the sniff test, it passes with flying colors. It smells very fresh and fruity with almost a pipe tobacco scent.

I used boiling water and a 3 minute-ish steep. The result is a deep rich cherry mahogany brew. It is almost a purplish hue.

The sip is full bodied, and feels thick. There is a briskness present that does not overwhelm or become excessively bitter. The taste is woodsy with fruity notes - its very tea, if that makes sense.

I found this very pleasant to drink straight up. Far more so than the two I compared with on bag size. I found both Yorkshire Gold and PG Tips too bitter for my tastes.

Next I added sweetener. Meh. It is better without it in my opinion. Finally, because the box says "best with milk", I added a splash. Again, for me personally, almost meh. Why? Because it destroys that beautiful color and way mellows out the bite that I was enjoying, though in fairness it took milk well. Your mileage may vary. Never be afraid to experiment. As long as you enjoy it, there is no wrong way to prepare tea.

You can find Ahmad Primetime direct from Ahmad Tea USA. Also check with your local grocer or world food mart.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Lov Teas, Calmly Cleansed

Picture Credit: Lov Teas
Lov Teas Description:
Calmly Cleansed Tea is a nutrient rich blend bursting with vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. This unique combination of restorative herbs will leave you feeling nimble and clean. Beautifully steeped in dark orange, it is a wholesome, purifying addition to your self-care routine.

Ingredients:
Rooibos*, Blackberry Leaves*, Raisins*, Black Pepper*, Carrot*, Caraway*, Licorice Root*, Cinnamon*, Turmeric*, Dandelion Root*, Alfalfa*

*100% Organically Grown

Sample provided by Lov Teas

My Review:
My internet is making me crazy. I exceeded my bandwidth last month, as always. When that happens I get throttled down to dial up speed (yeah, not fun). When the new period starts my speed is supposed to come back, except it hasn't. Blogging at dial up speed is really hard.

On top of internet issues, my den is a mess. I am wading through guitars, amplifiers, stands of all sorts, along with way too many teapots, teacups, steeping equipment, boxes of tea everywhere. I can't find my desk and it is sort of an Aaaaarrrrgggggh! day. As I try to find the room, I need some calm.

Today's tea is Calmly Cleansed herbal tea from Lov Teas. Just what the doctor ordered - I hope.

I cut the top off the sample pack and gave a sniff. Strangely, I'm getting mint and ginger. Strange because neither are ingredients in this tea. Pouring out onto the plate, I notice pepper corns, and carrot pieces.

A lot of the leaf is very fine as is the rooibos. I decided to use my stainless infuser basket as it has a very fine mesh. The basket of leaf went into the mug along with freshly boiled and filtered water.

My steep time was 5 minutes. I found it interesting to watch the leaf. At first it all floated at the surface but as time progressed the leaf began to fall, until only a small amount remained at the surface.

The brew is a lovely deep orange red. The aroma says rooibos to me, but not the harsh kind. This smells very pleasant.

Tasting, this is not what I expected based on the dry and cup aroma. I asked the herbal drinker in the house to taste. She thought it had a note of cinnamon. I wasn't sure. Her thought as she left the room was whatever, I like it.

To me it was pretty subtle all around. What I originally caught as ginger in the dry aroma I am now wondering if it isn't the combination of cinnamon, pepper, and tumeric. The rooibos is mild and pleasant. I have no idea why I thought earlier that I detected mint. The unique blending of herbs and spices here caught my ravaged brain unprepared this day.

In the final analysis, I find I don't care what is in this blend. My wife summed it up well, Whatever, I like it. The tea has done its job. I feel replenished. Now I have to pack up some guitars and head to band practice. The mess will still be here in the morning.

You can find Lov Teas Calmly Cleansed here.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Petit Tea, Organic Lemon Grass Green Tea

Picture Credit: Petit Tea
Petit Tea Description:
Fair Trade & USDA Organic Tea in Artisan Pyramid Sachets
This high grown and lightly oxidized Sri Lankan organic green tea offers a unique balance between flavor and universally known benefits of green tea with tropical aroma of refreshing lemon grass.

Contents:
24 Pyramid Tea Sachets

Ingredients:
Organic green Ceylon tea with lemongrass

Sample provided by Petit Tea

My Review:
We have had a week of the most incredibly beautiful spring weather. The red bud and dogwood trees are in full bloom. Our magnolia tree is covered in blossoms and filling our yard with its fragrance. Today it is raining, which brings me back indoors and reaching for something light that continues to remind me of spring.

The tea of the day is Organic Lemon Grass Green, a pyramid sachet from Petit Tea.  The $6.95 box contains 24 sachets. That translates into $0.29/cup. That is a fairly economical cup. Whether it is a value depends on how it tastes. Let's find out.

Each sachet is individually wrapped in its own sealed wrapper. Once opened, I give it the sniff test. It has a pleasant and light grassy aroma with just a hint of lemon. I can clearly see lemon grass pieces along with pieces of tea leaf.

To me, what makes this tea interesting is knowing this is a Ceylon green tea. I seldom see that on the label. Sri Lanka is more noted for its black tea production.

I looked over the box and the website for some general brewing instructions. Not finding any, I went with the generic parameters found on virtually every box of tea on the grocer's shelves. Bring water to a boil and steep 3-5 minutes (I used 4 minutes). I would generally treat green tea more tenderly but opted to go barbarian on this one the first time as I suspect most newbies would approach it in this manner.

The result is a honey colored brew with a light lemon fragrance.

After noticing the color, I removed the sachet and was impressed by its swollen nature. It is not over stuffed but it's close.

Tasting, the lemon grass captures your senses without overwhelming. The downside of the cup is the fair amount of bitterness. I believe this is due to using too hot of a water temperature or too long of a steep. I must add it is not undrinkable. Ceylon black tea often has a good deal of bite and most people don't mind it.

I added some sweetener and that mellowed out the cup. Now I not only am enjoying the cleansing flavor of the lemon grass, I am also catching the green tea underneath.

For my second cup, I decided to experiment by preparing the tea at 195 F and steeping for 2 1/2 minutes. This looks the same as the first cup. The cup scent has more grassy notes and less lemon.

Tasting, I am amazed at the total difference. The bitterness is completely absent however the lemon grass flavor is very light. I can taste more of the green tea and a light smokiness that I thought I caught it in the first cup. I added a little sweetener and it evened the cup out a little by slightly lifting the lemon flavor.

This one is going to require a little more effort to find the sweet spot. As long as I used sweetener both cups were good. There should be a spot where sweetener is not required. What I want is somewhere between the two cups. My thinking is to try the boiling water that the lemon grass seems to need and cut the steeping time to 2 1/2 minutes, so as to hold down the bite.

If you always sweeten, this is a good value tea. If you don't use additions, I remain convinced this is still worth trying. It just requires trying different brewing parameters until you hit the spot that speaks to you.

You can find Petit Tea Organic Lemon Grass Green tea here.

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Edit:

Found the sweet spot! Full boiling water and steep for 2 1/2 - 3 minutes. The lemon grass is present and flavorful and there is no tea bitterness. Did not require sweetener but takes it well.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Iced Tea at a Coffee Shop

Picture Credit: Starbucks
I had a tea review ready to post of a new tea by a new company, however apparently the shop closed before it even had a chance to be found. That makes me sad. So instead I am going to use this moment to vent just a wee bit.

Recently my wife and I were out doing our weekly grocery shopping. As usual we stopped in Starbucks for tea. OK, it's a coffee shop but it is the only place in town to buy tea - unless Lipton in a bag is your thing.

I ordered an Iced Earl Grey with one Splenda. I have learned from past experience to tell them to steep only 3 minutes. If you don't do this the tea will be steeped for 5 or sometimes 7 minutes. That is too long in a tiny cup. I don't want my tea tasting like their coffee.

What I received was a plastic 'glass' of iced lightly colored sweet water with just a hint of Earl Grey. The barista had filled the cup with ice and poured what little fresh brewed hot tea he could into the cup. The rest of the tea that didn't fit he planned to throw out. I said, "Are you kidding me? Can I have the rest of the tea?" He politely capped the paper cup and handed it over. sigh.

On the previous visit (different barista) I had ordered the same Iced Earl Grey. What I received was a London Fog which is an Earl Grey with vanilla syrup and milk. It was really good so I didn't mind until I realized I just paid for a much more expensive drink.  sigh (again)

I have ordered this maybe 6 times. The first couple times I did not realize how long they steeped the tea unless told otherwise. It was pretty strong and bitter. One was warm because the small amount of iced used all melted. So out of 6 times 2 of them were well done and tasty. 3 if you want to include the London Fog.

Yes, I am certain they would have made it right had I said something. So I take a good portion of the blame. However, my point is coffee shops that sell tea really don't get tea. If it comes out of a concentrate container like my wife's favorite Passion Tango, it will be right every time. If they have to steep it, most just haven't been adequately trained - or the training didn't stick because they use it so infrequently.

I do try to educate them when they aren't too busy (rarely) but the turnover is apparently pretty high as I seldom get a repeat barista. I'm beginning to think my only solution is to order a hot Earl Grey and a larger glass of ice so I can complete the task myself.

I do want to finish by saying I am not just singling out Starbucks here. I imagine this will apply to coffee shops selling tea in small towns everywhere. By the way, I am completely addicted to Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino. I also really liked the London Fog, and when they get it right the Iced Earl Grey is a refreshing treat.

My point is, when Starbucks bought Teavana many of us tea drinkers raised our hopes that this move would do for tea what Starbucks did for coffee. I am not really seeing that happen locally. I hope things are better where you live. I want tea to become so trendy that even our little town can support a shop dedicated just to tea.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Petit Tea, Om Tea, Traditional Chai Latte

Petit Tea Description:
A delicately balanced blend of a firm body natural tea and refreshing natural cardamom, cinnamon & cloves with a lasting hint of mace & star anise. Packed in silken mesh hand crafted pyramid sachets and packed in 95% bio-degradable box.

Ingredients:
Natural Black tea, Cardamom, Clove, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Ginger, Star Anise, Mace.

Sample provided by Petit Tea

My Review:
I remember when I first started The Everyday Tea Blog reading a lot of articles abut blogging. One of the rules that was advised against was apologizing for not posting regularly. I realize I do upload several posts a month but it still seems like a long while since my last. Life gets hectic.

When you get too busy for tea you're too busy.

Fortunately we have options. Some of them are even good options, like the Om series pyramid sachets from Petit Tea. They currently list price for $5.95/15 sachets. That calculates to $0.40/cup with a resteep in cuts that in half. So they are reasonably priced. Easy to prepare. And so far they have been pretty tasty.

This one smells delightful after removing the outer plastic wrap. The scent is slightly peppery and a nice blend of cardamom and clove. The hand crafted pyramid sachet contains black tea from India. This is not dust. It is a good step above typical grocery store fair.

I normally prepare chai without additions first, then add sweetener, and later milk. I chose instead to prepare today's cup per the fast preparation method recommended by Petit, The fast method and the traditional method are clearly printed on the box. Both require sweetener and milk.

In the traditional method you boil the water, add the tea and sweetener, continue boiling for one minute. Then add milk and boil another minute. I am not set up with a stove top in my den. The fast method steeps the sachet and sweetener in freshly boiled water for two minutes, then adds hot milk and steeps for another two minutes.

I used Splenda and milk heated in the microwave to near boiling.

I am really enjoying the washing of different flavors over my tongue. The ginger and the cinnamon pop in and out quickly. Same with the pepper. Each of them are taking turns. The driving flavors are cardamom and to a lesser extent clove. While I did catch anise in the scent, I can't really say I taste it in the cup. I really like anise. Maybe if it was a taste I did not like, it would jump out at me.

I had to research mace as I am unfamiliar with it. I am detecting something almost spicy floral. After reading up on mace I learned it is described as similar to nutmeg. After some thought, I do believe that more accurately describes what I taste in the cup. Possibly it is a mix of anise and mace.

This is a very nice cup. I enjoyed it just as much once it was cold. Petit's winning streak continues with this one.

You can find Petit Tea, Om, Traditional Chai latte here

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tivelasi Pottery, Handmade Ceramic Teapot

click to enlarge
Tivelasi Description:
This piece is thrown on the wheel in stoneware in three pieces, the handle is added to the lid, and the spout is attached.

Our ceramic teapot is hand-brushed with food-safe, colorful glazes with Autumn decoration.

Each piece of our pottery teapot is handmade entirely by the hand of the craftsman who has manufactured it.

Sample provided by Tivelasi Pottery

My Review:
click to enlarge
This review will be a little more picture intensive than normal because teapot and mugs! Not just teapot and mugs but handcrafted in Bulgaria.

When Tivelasi Pottery contacted The Everyday Tea Blog, I couldn't say yes fast enough. Then I started looking over their teapots and found myself flipping pages trying to settle on one teapot. There are a lot of styles, colors, and sizes from which to choose.

Before I get too far along let me introduce Tivelasi Pottery. As you will see from the site they produce a wide range of products. I'll let them explain. From their About Us page:
TIVELASI Ltd was officially launched in 2014. Our aim is to promote the amazing handmade Bulgarian ceramic items. We provide a wide variety of handmade products: serving plates, bowls, beer mugs, coffee cups, milk creamers, wine cups, pitchers, teapots, salt pepper shakers, fruit bowls, and ashtrays. All of our products are available in different sizes, colors and patterns. 
click to enlarge
I finally settled on the 23 oz classic style from the Autumn collection. This one struck me for multiple reasons. First, I wanted something with color but not too out there, if you know what I mean. Then I wanted a smallish teapot as I seldom have the opportunity to share large quantities with others. A 2-3 cup pot would be sufficient. (For those who do need a big teapot, Tivelasi has teapots ranging from this 23 oz pot up to a 50 oz teapot. I narrowed it down to a couple favorite options. Next I looked at the different cups and mugs that were available with each style - they vary from style to style so look  around.

Now, I know almost zero about Bulgaria (I've watched their soccer team on TV), and even less about handcrafted pottery. So I did a little research. Some of the pottery is earthenware and some is stoneware.

What is the difference? If I understand correctly, earthenware is made from a clay that is porous. Unglazed earthenware easily absorbs moisture and can absorb the tea. With a Chinese Yixing pot for instance, this is a valued property but may require dedicating a single type tea to each pot. Stoneware is denser, impermeable, and more resistant to scratching.

click to enlarge
As far as the absorption properties of each ceramic type, it makes no real difference here as the teapots are fully glazed. The glazing is lead free and food safe by the way. Also, at this point I'll mention that according to Tivelasi all their handmade pottery items are Dishwasher, Microwave, Food Safe. Even so, I am certain this beautiful set will never see a dishwasher or microwave.

I decided upon the Autumn teapot because it is stoneware. It should therefor be more resistant to my less than graceful antics. Bonus for me is the mugs I chose are earthenware. I figured this would allow me to get a little feel for both ceramic types.

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The mugs I chose are 8.5 oz. Also available is a cute little 4.7 oz cup. The cup is stoneware.

The mug is lighter in weight than I expected. It is comfortable to hold and the lip is easy to sip from with no dribbles. Yeah, that stuff is important to me. Once filled the handle remains cool.

Turning the mug upside down, I get a look at the beautiful red clay which is exposed only here around the edges.

On the bottom is stamped Handmade and I'm assuming the craftsman's name.

Another interesting feature is the lighter colored areas on the mug and the teapot are recessed and rougher than the shiny glazed areas. It is obvious from looking at the bottom that the lighter areas are glazed and not exposed ceramic.

click to enlarge
As for the teapot, it feels substantial when you hold it, even while empty. I love the colors and the textures. It sort of looks old, slightly worn, and metallic, but of course it isn't.

The interior of the teapot is fully glazed.

The profile is low so there is no danger of tipping this over. It is the perfect size for my needs. So how does it work?

I noticed right away there are a couple things to think through if this is going to be a working pot and not just a beautiful addition to the decor. The opening in the top is very small. You are not going to put a hand inside this pot. Also the handle over the top seems like a concern for filling - but it turns out this really wasn't a big deal.

In order to test drive my teapot I chose to use my favorite comfort tea - Ahmad Earl Grey. I considered using teabags for a brief moment as it would be easy, but decided I would figure out how to use loose leaf. For a moment I considered just putting the leaf in the pot. I decided I don't have a proper flexible tiny bottle brush to reach down the spout later during clean up.

click to enlarge
Then I remembered I had these neat reusable fabric drawstring bag thingies. I added enough leaf for two mugs.

Next I warmed the teapot and mug while heating water in my kettle. Do not put your ceramic teapot on the stove to heat the water. It is not designed to be used this way.

When I poured the boiling water into the teapot, I quickly realized my concern over the handle was not an issue. Didn't spill a drop.

Put the drawstring bag of leaf in the pot and steeped my usual 3 minutes. The pot itself was quite warm when the timer beeped. The handles were more than comfortably cool.

The tea poured easily into the mug. I did have to be careful not to tip so much as to allow tea to overflow out the top. By the time I finished my first mug several minutes had passed. It was enough time for the mug to get near room temperature. Not the mugs fault. I type slowly. The point is, I poured my second cup and it was still warm - not hot - but much warmer than the end of my first cup.

I am quite happy with the beauty and utilitarian aspects of this teapot. I know I will treasure it for years.

You can find Tivelasi Pottery Autumn Handmade Ceramic Teapot here.


Friday, March 25, 2016

3 Leaf Tea, Silver Snail

Picture Credit: threeleaftea.com
3 Leaf Tea Description:
This white tea is grown in Fuding, in Fujian Province in China. The tea is made from the buds that grow on bushes then lightly roasted and rolled. As the buds dry, they twist into small spirals. For being a white tea, the taste is strong with a gentle sweetness that follows each sip.

Sample provided by 3 Leaf Tea

My Review:
I am in the middle of Holy Week services at our church. I play guitar and write out the chord charts for the team. Add on to this updating the church website and trying to write on this blog, and you get a little bit of how my days have gone lately. I mention this because I have been absolutely swamped. It is like a full time job at the moment. And then we get to add seasonal allergies on top of it all. I don't normally review stress relieving bubble baths here so I guess we should have some tea.

Today, I am steeping the last of this season's samples from 3 Leaf Tea. Silver Snail is listed here as a white tea from Fuding which is the home of great white teas. The leaf is rolled into loose balls and resembles jasmine pearls without the jasmine.

Looking at the balls you can understand why this is listed as a white tea. There is a lot of silver colored buds present. I have discovered in my research that the Chinese debate among themselves if this is a white or a green.

My sense of smell is a little out of sorts at the moment. Sniffing the dry leaf I get notes of marine, but again I am probably missing a lot.

I put the snails into my press and added freshly filtered water heated to 175F. I let it steep 2 minutes while I rinsed and warmed my mug.

When I returned I found the press was filled with buds and leaves. In comparison, White Peony also contains a fair amount of leaf in addition to buds, while Silver needle is composed of only buds. While I was expecting the latter here, it is obvious this tea contains a lot of leaf.

Generally, I find the mix of leaf and buds produces a less nuanced tea but a stronger flavor. People who normally drink stout black tea or don't like subtle light flavored teas should consider the white teas that contain more leaf. I believe it would make a better match.

The steeped leaf has a warm and inviting vegetal fragrance. The liquor is a golden yellow.

The aroma off the mug seems to have nutmeg and floral notes. It smells quite lovely.

The taste is really hard to define. It is definitely different than any white tea I have had before. On the other hand it doesn't come off as really a green tea either. It has a well defined bite travelling throughout the sip. It is the good kind of bitter. This sensation reminds me of a Chinese green. Like the aroma, I am getting traces of spice, nutmeg in particular, and floral. It is not on the level or intensity of a green high mountain oolong, yet that is my point of comparison. There is also an earthy woods flavor that kind of rests under other notes. This earthy quality speaks to me as a white tea.

As I said earlier this is a hard to define tea. The flavor is strong and would probably strike most people as a green tea when tasting. That is not s bad thing. Even though it has a strong flavor, there is good depth to the cup. This has some unique and interesting qualities whatever angle to approach it from.

You can find 3 Leaf Tea Silver Snail here.