Tuesday, March 11, 2014
A delicious fusion of organic black loose-leaf tea leaves, fragrant oil of bergamot and a touch of French vanilla, this divine black tea will fill your room with an aroma most heavenly! This creamy Earl Grey tea is rich and robust with refreshing citrus notes that will awaken your senses and put a spring in your step.
Organic and Biodynamic Black Loose-Leaf Tea, Organic Cornflowers, Organic Oil of Bergamot, Natural Flavors
Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree
I dragged my rear end out of bed this morning and tried to get out of the room without disturbing my wife. It did not go well. She finally sighed and asked if I needed the light. I said no, and stumbled down the hall where I promptly dropped stuff on my bare toes. I need Earl Grey. I jumped this one to the front of the long line of samples I have yet to review.
Opening the tin - The Persimmon Tree's tins are quite nice by the way - I immediately caught the scent of the leaf inside. It is not exactly vanilla and it isn't bergamot. The combination is almost alcohol beverage in nature, at least to this sleepy head.
Removing a scoop of leaf (2 tsp) it looks very much like the picture. It is very dark leaf with threads of golden tips and pretty blue cornflower petals. I don't think cornflower actually adds any flavor to the cup. I think they are there to pretty up the blend. It works.
I steeped the leaf in my press for 3 minutes in boiling water. The scent of the small broken pieces of leaf was similar to the dry leaf. The brew was either red or orange or caramel depending on how I held the cup. This early in the morning that amused me.
Now being up front with you - I love Earl Grey. It was my first tea love and I suppose it always will be my addiction. For me it does not require additions like vanilla. In fact, for me extras just get in the way of my precious bergamot. I have noticed not everyone shares my passion for this little citrus jewel. One reviewer on Steepster has introduced a new word into the tea vocabulary by calling it blergamot. So I understand we don't all share the same taste buds. With that in mind I took my first sip.
No suspense here. This is good. Based on the leaf aroma I wasn't sure how this would turn out. It is not perfumey or alcohol in taste. It is very creamy. The bergamot and vanilla mix is very balanced as I prepared it here. I have read several reviews and noticed an equal number said the vanilla was stronger as compared to those who thought the bergamot was stronger. A small proportion agree with my assessment of equal billing. That really is not a surprise to me. Neither of these flavors is neutral with most people. I love strong bergamot and usually think the vanilla is too heavy. For my personal tastes it could be tuned down a notch here but then it would no longer be equally balanced.
The initial taste is equal bergamot to vanilla. Strangely just as it begins to fade there is a moment when it brings to mind images of a grape soda I drank as a kid. I can't explain that and you will probably not have the same reaction. As this image fades, I taste the tea base lightly in the background. The aftertaste is vanilla bean in nature. Sweet and pleasant.
If I were going to compare this to another tea - and let's be honest, we all do that - the closest match is probably The Tea Merchant's French Earl Grey, though that one is stronger on the vanilla from my recollection. It is interesting to note that I also made a grape soda connection with that one.
This definitely on of the better Earl Grey cremes I have tried. You can find Earl Grey Heaven here.
About The Persimmon Tree:
(From their website) The Persimmon Tree® offers our customers some of the world's finest organic teas and botanicals. Not only are most of our fresh high quality teas from around the globe hand-blended and organically grown, some of our teas are also fair trade, ensuring fair working conditions, fair wages, and a better life for tea workers from countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
At The Persimmon Tree®, our mission is simple: to enrich people's lives through the pleasure of tea.
Monday, March 10, 2014
Our Yunnan Breakfast is a wonderful Chinese black tea with rich awakening flavours. Its invigorating fragrance and glossy red liquor offer a robust taste with a peppery finish. Enjoy this bold tea hot.
Sample provided by Simple Loose Leaf.
I've said it before but it is worth repeating, I love Yunnan black teas. Today's easily qualifies as an everyday tea. The website lists the price at $9.97/3 oz. That is very reasonable if it is an enjoyable tea. Of course the price goes down, if you have a monthly club membership, based on the number of teas you agree to buy.
I really like the resealable pouch Simple Loose Leaf uses for their teas. It has a vent in the back making it easy to push out excess air. This is the only company I have encountered using this system.
The leaf in the bag has a breakfast cereal smell to my nose, like cheerios maybe. I removed a scoop of leaf and it is mostly dark leaf with touches of golden buds scattered throughout. The picture looks more golden than my sample.
I steeped two different mugs of this, each with fresh leaf. The first I used the equivalent of two tsp with 6 oz of boiling water and steeped 3 minutes. The result was bitter and not so enjoyable, although I could catch some smoky notes and cocoa behind the bitterness. I should have only used half the leaf.
So cup two was with 12 oz of just off boiling water using about 1 1/2 tsp of leaf. This time I steeped for just over one minute. The leaf is broken pieces that turn chocolate brown once steeped. The aroma of the wet leaf is lightly overdone brownies and light smoky notes.
The sip is lightly smoky, slightly spicy, with a bit of pepperiness. I expected cocoa but mainly I catch nice leather notes along with an earthy or woodsy flavor. This cup is not at all bitter.
This is actually pretty good. I think it might benefit from a slightly longer steep but 3-5 minutes as suggested might be pushing it. I think I'll try two minutes next time and see how that works. At one minute it is pleasant and more complex than one would expect based on the cost.
All of the teas from Simple Loose Leaf so far have proven themselves to be a good balance between quality and cost. If monthly clubs aren't your thing, you can still purchase their teas individually.
Visit the Simple Loose Leaf website.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Lady Zhu Rong was a legendary dagger-wielding warrior-queen of Yunnan descended from the god of fire. The spice and power of this tea compelled us to evoke her kingdom of Dian, an independent state before it was conquered by China and renamed Yunnan.
The aroma of the wet leaf is that of fresh roasted sweet potatoes... Behind the rich savory sweetness is a potent cayenne pepper aroma.
The early steepings are full and all-encompassing like cedarwood smoldering in an incense censer. There is a dark spice that moves towards clove, but is tempered by a sweet cinnamon note. This new harvest builds on the smoldering base with luscious notes of honey, and waffle wafer cookies.
Later steepings develop towards creamy banana, and the spice slowly builds up towards ginger, galangal and even a hint of cardamom, evoking a warming cup of honey-sweetened chai.
I have said it before on this blog, I love Yunnan black tea. Just by looking at the magnificent leaf, I feel I am in for a treat. My Steepster friends rave on this one as well as many other teas from Verdant. I no longer question whether this will live up to the ravings. I am confident it will.
The dry leaf did not give up any hint of what the steep would bring out. I noticed no scent. Even so I could gaze on it for a long time and not grow weary. Just beautiful.
I used almost 2 tsp of leaf in my press with 205 F water and steeped for about 45 seconds. The resulting brew is caramel in color and shiny. The wet leaf smells divine. It is deep dark chocolate and browned cocoa. It is such a dark scent it almost approaches coffee without any bitter notes. I notice just a bit of malt and grain, maybe more dark bread like. I could go on but you get the picture - there is a lot going on.
The sip is honey and brownies or rich browned cocoa. It also suggests fruity and leans to spicy. It is such a thick feeling tea. As you breathe while swallowing you catch hints of roasting over fire that must have happened during the processing. This is slightly drying but absolutely free of bitterness.
I don't get some of the notes Verdant mentions but that may be the different methods used to brew and the distinct probability that they just have better tasting skills. I think no matter what level ones skills, this would prove to be an interesting and complex tea. Very good.
Visit Verdant Tea online.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
The most popular black tea in China and considered one of the finest teas in the world, TeaVivre's grade 1 Keemun has a strong, fruity aroma and a bold, layered, fruit and floral like taste that lingers in your mouth long after you finish drinking it. Not quite at the same level as our Keemum Golden Tips, it is still a very high quality tea, and is great to drink everyday.
Sample provided by Teavivre
I remember my first sip of Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea from Teavivre. I was terrified of it and drawn to it like a moth to flame. That was my first experience with Keemun outside of tea blends. That tea was also my first exposure to quality smoky tea. So let me state right now Grade 1 is not a smoky tea. There is nothing to fear here.
I opened the sample bag and breathed in the fresh green grassy and grain scent. Nothing like I expect from a black tea. There is just a hint of malt. Removing a spoon of leaf it looks dark at dusty with some golden tips visible. The hand rolled leaf looks small and light.
I am preparing this western style. It was steeped with 185 F water for 3 minutes. The result is a coppery bronze liquor than is lighter than I expected. Teavivre has a picture on their website prepared Chinese gong fu style that looks bright yellow. They use more leaf, less water, and very short steeps for multiple tiny cups.
The taste is so smooth I wondered if I had the right tea. The taste has hints of fruit and flowers. There is no bitterness to be found. It feels thick and creamy almost foamy. There is malt late in the sip. This is really good. I do not find it to be bold prepared western mug style. I'm thinking this may deserve another session later with a gaiwan and some really short steeps.
Visit Teavivre online.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
You’re truly at your best when you drink the very best. Try our new Double Knit Blend and enjoy the rugged, stylish flavors you can only get from fully modern beverage engineering. Using our patented natural process, we’ve blended a tea that will keep you on top of your day: from your very first sip — bright as sunshine on a California highway — to your last mellow mouthful, satisfaction will be yours. You’ll feel it, and others will notice. Make it a Double Knit Day!
We like to soak these custom blended tea leaves in our favorite tub for four minutes. Invite some friends or just take it easy on your own — make sure the water's boiling and the mood is light and this tea will take care of the rest.
Well reading the official description isn't much help in knowing what to expect from Double Knit Blend. What is it? Two different teas woven together? I have no idea. It is an obvious black tea. The leaf is mostly dark with some lighter bud colors mixed in for good measure. The dry scent is malty.
Against my better judgment and past experience I brewed 1 tsp in 8 oz of boiling water for 4 minutes per recommended steeping instructions. I almost always stop at 3 to avoid bitterness and stomach burn. Others insist the 4 minutes is correct, so here goes.
The brew is deep orange brown with a lightly malty aroma. The sip is not bitter. There is the lightest hint of smoke. I also notice a brightness or briskness. It is not really tart and just edges on sharp. There is some malt especially late in the sip. I am not good with deciphering what teas are being blended but my total uneducated guess is Kenyan and Assam. It is actually kind of mellow. It falls in somewhere between an English Breakfast and Prince of Wales.
While this type of black tea is never going to blow my socks off, it is a good solid tea. Those who do crave similar blends have rated this highly.
Visit Andrew & Dunham online.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Origin: Lin’an City in Hangzhou, Zhejiang.
Ingredients: made of the fresh organic tea leaves
Harvest time: May 20, 2013
Taste: complex layers of flavor, with an attractive taste that is brisk and slight bitter.
This Green Tea Powder comes from Hangzhou. It is made of the fresh organic tea leaves, milled into fine powder. The fresh tea leaves are in the shape of one bud with three to four leaves. Usually the water temperature for brewing this tea is at 60℃ to 80℃.
Two things to clarify before I start. First, this is not matcha. Chinese green tea powder is the forefather of Japanese matcha. My understanding is tea powder is steamed whereas matcha is fried. Of course they also use leaf grown in different environments. Second, I am not reviewing this as intended - in other words, I am not brewing a hot cup. I am using this in an iced drink similar to Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino.
I love Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino. I love them but they are high in sugar, calories and they are on the expensive side. I have been trying to come up with an inexpensive, healthier, alternative. I have prepared this a few times now trying to tweak the parameters.
Today I am satisfied this is the best combination of ingredients for my tastes. I started with 8 oz of 2% milk in a blender. To this I added two packets of Splenda. Trust me it still isn't as sweet as Starbucks. Next I added one half teaspoon of green tea powder. A little goes a long way and if I use more it causes me stomach burn, so be careful. Another caution, when opening the tea powder bag, it will causes a green foggy cloud if you aren't extra careful. I next added a small tray of ice cubes that were first run through an ice shaver. I put the lid on the blender and pulsed until I had a frothy mix.
When I went to pour I noticed things had taken a nasty turn. When I previously scrubbed the blender, I did not get the base tightly screwed back on. So, yeah, the mix was running out the bottom. I went ahead and poured into my tall glass. Then I had to spend several minutes cleaning up a sweet sticky mess.
Whereas Starbucks matcha is bright green, this is more clay colored. It is green tinted tan. It is sweet, cold, and creamy. The taste is not Starbucks. That is OK, it is still a fun drink. Instead of the bright green flavor of matcha, this is more mellow brown tasting. Recently I reviewed The Persimmon Tree's Grade A Matcha. Once I got the proportions on the Teavivre powder worked out, these two taste very much alike.
If you are determined to duplicate Starbucks Frappuccino exactly, this isn't the tea base for you. If you are wanting just a similar style drink to satisfy your sweet tooth with a frothy mug this might do nicely.
Visit the Teavivre website.
Monday, March 3, 2014
This Bai Mudan is a pre-Qing Ming Spring 2013 harvest from Fuding, the most famous white tea growing region in China. Hand picked and quickly processed to lock in the “fresh from the field” taste that fine white tea preserves, this beautiful tea is one of the most complex and nuanced white teas we have ever tried. Made from a mixture of silver needle white buds and young green leaves, this tea achieves a balance and fully engages the palate in a way that traditional silver needle often struggles to provide.
One look at this one and it was obvious there was silver needle buds mixed in with the leaf. It is a beautiful looking tea with hairy silver buds and various shades of wilted looking green leaf just waiting to be revived in the water. I forgot to sniff the dry leaf but I do recall it looking very fresh.
For the first cup I went with 175 F water and a one minute steep, following the low end of Verdant's recommendation for western brewing. The cup was light golden in color. The wet leaf scent was melon and a fruity aroma I couldn't identify.
I tend to love white teas. Sure, they tend to be subtle but there is usually a great deal of depth to the cup if you slow down and notice. So far my experience with Verdant has been very good. They have consistently delivered a quality cup of tea. Even the teas that have been a little outside my comfort zone have been interesting experiences. This cup of Bai Mudan is just not grabbing me. Why am I not amazed? Hmmm. The first cup is too light and lacks definition.
Back to the drawing board. I researched my favorite experience with Bai Mu Dan (from Concept Teas) to see what I might have done differently. Apparently, I used 200 F water and a Two minute steep. To the tea kettle! Key theme music and spinning cup.
Ah yes, this greatly improved the cup. It is now feels creamy and vanilla like and tastes strongly of almond. Very nice. While still not my favorite Bai Mudan, it was much improved simply by using different parameters.
Visit the Verdant Tea website.