Saturday, February 28, 2015

Buddha Teas, Marshmallow Tea

Buddha Teas Description:
For most people, the word marshmallow conjures up the thought of a sugary white treat, but few people know about the plant behind it all. Unsurprisingly, marshmallow belongs to the mallow family. Once limited to Africa,marshmallow is now widespread throughout Europe, Asia and North America. These plants thrive in damp environments, such as in swamps, marshes and bogs, as is indicated by their name. Modern day marshmallow is commonly used in landscaping. To the ancient Egyptians, however, its most valuable part was the root, which served as a food source, and was used to create the sugary confectionary that would eventually become the modern marshmallow. Marshmallow tea is made from the leaves, and has a fresh, mildly sweet flavor and pleasant aroma. Drink it on its own or add a bit of sugar or honey for a delightfully sweet herbal brew.

Sample provided by Buddha Teas

My Review:
Today we will be looking at something that has interested me for a long time and I haven't tried before - marshmallow! I have seen it listed as an ingredient in teas. Here it is the only ingredient.

This is listed as organic and kosher. The bag is unbleached. The box is 100% recycled. Inside the box each of the 18 bags are sealed in individual envelopes. The string on each bag is long enough to avoid drowning the tag when pouring water over the bag. The tag is staple free by the way.

I don't notice any particular scent from the dry leaf. Each bag contains 1.5 grams of leaf if my math is correct. I prefer at least 2 g. To compensate, I will use my 6 ounce cup today.

I used filtered water brought to a full boil. The steep time was 5 minutes. When I removed the bag, I noticed how green the marshmallow leaf had turned, along with some white streaks that don't show in the picture. I also noticed the bag was very squishy with a slick texture - it feels like a wet marshmallow.

The liquor is very clear and yellow with just a hint of green. It looks very appealing because it looks like spring.

The taste is not even close to what I expected. This does not taste anything like a big fluffy marshmallow. It is sweet but not overly so. It has an almost minty quality to it. This tastes lightly citrus to me, slightly like lemon. While nothing like Stay Puft marshmallows, it is rather tasty.

I added a little sweetener to it, just to see. I personally don't recommend the sweetener. Now it is over the top sweet. It feels really thick like syrup. Maybe it did before and I didn't notice.

Without sweetener, I found this to be a very enjoyable cup. I wouldn't mind this late in the evening when I'm avoiding caffeine.

You can find Buddha Teas, Marshmallow Tea here.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Golden Tips, Halmari Gold

Golden Tips Description:
Assam is a celebrated tea growing region in the world and there is no doubt over the fact that Assam black teas are the most sought-after in the world. However, even in Assam, there are those rare and special days when ideal climatic conditions backed by intuitive manufacturing excellence garnered by years of experience prepares something as rare as this Halmari Gold Clonal Black Tea....
An absolute luxury, the finest of the finest and clearly one of the best Assam black teas.

Sample provided by Golden Tips Tea

My Review:
The label on today's tea says the leaf grade is GTGFOP1 CL. I believe all those letters stand in part for Golden Tips Flowery Orange Pekoe First Clonal. The one (1) denotes the highest quality. There appears to be an extra G that leaves me puzzled. Often an S is used in place of the first G stating it is the finest but since the 1 already covers it... Ah well, it makes sense to those who know.

This is a second flush Assam. Opening the resealable pouch has me lingering for one more sniff. Just wow. Malt and hay and fruit and wow. I remove a spoon of leaf for exam. If you had put this in front of me and not told me what it was, I would guess Golden Monkey. The leaf is a beautiful mix of nearly black leaf and golden buds. It s lightly twisted and curled.

The leaf was placed in my press with water heated to 200 F. I steeped for four minutes. This is mid range on both the time and temperature per the label directions.

The result is a ruby/orange brew. The wet leaf has turned cinnamon brown and the aroma from the press is malt, honey, and cocoa. Again, I linger to just enjoy the fragrance. I'm kind of giddy to start sipping but I resist and stay in the moment.

You can't help but inhale the malty bouquet as you raise the cup to your lips. The first sip has a lively briskness to it. Then I notice the thick full bodied feel of the tea. This not bitter. I didn't find it particularly drying for an Assam. The taste is similar to the leaf aroma though not as intense.

I am finally learning to appreciate Assam teas. This one seemed especially fragrant to me. I am very sensitive to the tannins in black tea. I can tell, this is not one I could tolerate on an empty stomach. I did not try it, but believe a spot of milk and sweetener would calm it down nicely. That sounds odd to me as this is a very smooth and full tea after the initial hit of briskness.

The malt lingers in the aftertaste.

You can find Golden Tips, Halmari Gold here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Simple Loose Leaf, Gyokuro Green

Simple Loose Leaf Description:
Gyokuro is matured under full shade for three weeks and has an aroma of orange blossoms.  With savory and earthy tones this tea also has the memories of nori with a faint whisper of french beans and cucumbers.  Gyokuro is an exceptional tea that demands a unique brewing method to reach its full potential.  Using a lower water temperature is key.  Use water between 120 F and 140 F when brewing.  Use 1 to 2 grams of tea per ounce of water and let the tea steep for 5 minutes for the first steeping.  Subsequent steepings require only a minute or two.

Sample provided by Simple Loose Leaf

My Review:
I am not well versed in Japanese green teas. I know all the cool kids are doing it, but I have always heard the beat of a different drum I guess. Well, today I break from my non-comformity and review this offering from Simple Loose Leaf.

This one was included in the monthly tea subscription box I received for review. This box contained 5 sample bags, 2 reusable cloth tea bags, and detailed instruction. It was well packed.

The resealable sample has a fancy but clean label with description and brewing instructions. That is a good thing as I would have done this all wrong.

The dry leaf has a grassy scent with citrus notes. Removing about half the sample, this is grassy green and chopped pieces of leaf.

The instructions say to use 1 to 2 grams per ounce of water. Further research on the internet claims 1 tsp of gyokuro is equivalent to 4 g. I used two tsp.

The next step is to heat the water to between 120 and 140 F. Seriously? I know people who have their water heater set higher. Further research says you can use hotter water but it won't taste as good. So, 125 F, is what I shot for with my kettle. That is a lot harder than it sounds. Water heats really fast to that low of a temperature, so watch closely.

The tea was steeped in my clear glass teapot for 5 minutes. Yep, that seems like a long time but the water is really cool. The leaf pieces danced their slow ballet, separating to the top and bottom of the pot. The liquor is very lightly green tinted sunshine. The wet leaf is now a deep lush forest green. The aroma is grassy and just a touch green bean.

This tea seems a little fussy compared to most of what I brew. Let's see if it is worth the effort...

This is way cooler than I think most people prefer to drink their tea, however it is the perfect temperature for my tastes. I am not noticing any hint of bitterness and only the slightest tongue tingle. My first thought was 'grassy' but after another sip I realize it is far more complex than one simple word. I think Simple Loose Leaf comes pretty close in their description.

This really does have some orange blossom, except I taste it rather than catching it in the aroma. I am also catching the cucumber notes. I love that flavor in a tea, so I notice it as more than a whisper. They also note this as savory and I agree. It has the sensation of salty with out the salt. A fellow Steepster friend said that was the perfect description of umami. So, yeah, this tastes umami :) Others found this to be sweet. To me, there is little sweetness. It's almost like it is seasoned with dill. The aftertaste is drying, on the other hand the grassy, cucumber, and dill lingers long in the aftertaste.

This should steep a few more times. The instructions say to only steep a minute or two after the first cup. I can do that. The second cup is similar to the first. There is less distinctive cucumber and the introduction of a light earthiness.

I am pleasantly impressed. My first experience with Gyokuro was a little fussy but definitely worth the effort.

You can find Simple Loose Leaf, Gyokuro Green here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Inspired By Jane, Donwell Abbey

Inspired By Jane Description:
Donwell Abbey, a black tea flavored with cinnamon and marsala wine.  Contains caffeine.

These beautiful tea tins are inspired by the literary works of Jane Austen. Each blend is named for a manor home of one of the beloved characters, and the flavors were specially chosen to reflect the spirit of that home. Each can features period artwork against a vintage background, and a quote from the associated book.

Sample provided by Inspired By Jane

My Review:
I'll be the first to admit I am not much of a reader. Well, that isn't exactly true. It is just that my reading style is researching and studying. Give me a technical manual and I geek out. The classics aren't really my thing. I make this declaration to point out I have no point of reference between this tea and Jane Austen or her writings. I do know a little about tea, so I can offer opinions about that subject.

First, the tin is quite attractive. I can see it being kept long after the tea has served its purpose. There are currently five different teas (and tins) in this series. Ingredients and steeping instructions are clearly stated on the back. I noted that no scent could be detected before the tin was opened.

I noticed right away that the tin contains 20g of tea in 10 sachets. That works out to 2g of leaf per sachet. Thank you. That is sufficient to steep a real cup of tea. No need to double up here.

Cutting the tape and removing the metal top, I now catch cinnamon and a sweet fragrance wrapped around the black tea. It is kind of cherry like and reminds me of my grandfather's pipe tobacco.

I removed one sachet for exam. The leaf is dark with some golden tips. It is actually a good quality appearing leaf. I don't mean that as a statement of shock, rather as an acknowledgment this is not typical grocery store fare.

I used boiling water and a two minute steep. The brew is reddish orange. The sachet has really swollen and you can easily see the color of the cinnamon through the sachet.

The cinnamon really dominates the aroma. The senses want to read this as a chai but it is not. The sachets are not filled with cardamom or other Masala spices. This contains Marsala wine flavoring. That one letter makes a big difference.

The taste is really good. At first you catch the cinnamon. This is replaced by a sweetness with a touch of peppery spice. It fades into a flavor that inspires thoughts of cherry wood. I have never tasted Marsala wine, but if it tastes anything like this, I would love it.

When Inspired By Jane contacted me to review this tea, I wasn't sure what to expect. I am pleased to say the quality is very good.

You can find  here and here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What-Cha, Nepal Monsoon Flush 2014 Pearl Oolong Tea

What-Cha Description:
An incredibly rare and unusual oolong with a great taste and aroma. Incredibly smooth, absolutely no detectable bitterness or astringency with a great taste of apricots and nectarine. 

Only 6 kilograms were produced in total this this year and we are delighted to have been able to secure 2 kilograms.

Sample provided by What-Cha Tea Redefined

My Review:
Recently I came across an interesting statement. It went something like this: Twenty years ago we counted on our phones for the internet. Today we count on the internet for our phones. I remember those early days of dial up like it was yesterday. Oh wait, I'm living them again today. Yeah, with only a few days left on this billing cycle I have once again exceeded my data limit. When that happens I get throttled to dial up speed. It is impossible to post pictures to the blog at the moment. It is not fun but I will attempt to persevere. With my son's help, and his cell data plan, I may be able to make today's post work.

Today's review is an oolong from Nepal. That is interesting in itself. Making this even more intriguing is the leaf is rolled into pearls. Oooh something new! They are larger than dragon pearls green tea and smaller than the black pearls from Teavivre. The pearls are an interesting mixture of browns, greens, and silvery white. Up close they appear almost leathery and almost furry. The pearls vary in size. I am not sure that can be easily discerned in the picture. The scent is sweet like honey, kind of malty, with touches of hay thrown in for good measure.

The label says to use 4-6 pearls per cup. Since I am using a mug, I chose to use 8 pearls. The water was heated to 185F (85C). I used my press for the 3 1/2 minute steep.

The pearls have only partially unfurled. What has loosened up is turning freshly green. The liquor is a slightly green tinted honey yellow. The aroma is pretty amazing. It really does have a strong apricot and nectarine scent.

To me the taste is much less fruit than expected. There is no hint of bitterness or astringency. It is wonderfully smooth. I always expect oolong to taste either strongly geranium or strongly roasted. This is completely neither. It has more in common with my idea of a white tea.

This starts with hints of stone fruit, followed by a mineral sweetness. It next turns to a peppery spiciness with hints of mushroom before trailing off into a sweet aftertaste.

The second mug was steeped slightly longer. The wet leaf has a neat spicy note that I think is sandalwood, though don't quote me on that one. It is mixed with fruit and vegetal notes.

While the second mug tastes much like the first, I find the stone fruit flavor to be more defined. To me it has hints of cucumber which may be why it reminds me of white tea. I also noticed how this feels when I breathe after sipping. It is strange. Though it is hot and thereby makes me feel warm and comfortable, it also has, not so much a cooling sensation, as more a refreshing quality. It is like a warm breeze on a hot summer day.

I very much enjoyed this different take on oolong. I feel certain it will steep again, but I am stopping here while my son is around to help add pictures so I can post... Well never mind, apparently I can't post until the 24th. The price of living far from civilization.

You can find What-Cha, Nepal Monsoon Flush 2014 Pearl Oolong Tea here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tea Ave, Cape Jasmine Oolong

Tea Ave Description:
Our Cape Jasmine Oolong is prepared using the ancient method, in which the tea absorbs the flower fragrance during the baking progress, producing a scented tea that’s aromatic and flavorful without using any additives or chemicals. It’s good for you and delicious.

An elegant, luxurious tea, Cape Jasmine Oolong has a subtle fragrance of the fog that it was grown in. Cape Jasmine Oolong has a clean, aromatic floral scent, and its flavor slightly sweet with just a hint of spice. Classic vegetal oolong undertones.

Sample provided by Tea Ave

My Review:
Tea Ave is scheduled to open their webstore on March 1st. Several of us in reviewland were contacted to preview some of their teas before the opening. It is my understanding Tea Ave intend to concentrate on oolong teas.

When my sample package arrived, it seemed more like one of those swag bags the rich and famous receive at the Oscars. Actually, it was better because there were two of everything. My oldest son claimed one set. That is what I get for trying to elevate his tea drinking up a notch or three.

Each pack included a nice size and durable looking tote bag. My wife tried to claim it but it really will come in handy for my use, so back off woman! (Did I say that out loud?) Next was a nicely boxed aroma/sipping cup set with an oak tray. I have seen these for sale and they are not cheap. I am still getting the hang of using it. I attempt a short review below. Then there are the three oolong samples. Mine included a roasted Tie Kwan Yin oolong, a Ginger Lily oolong, and the one I am reviewing today - Cape Jasmine oolong.

This is a really amazing treat for those of us who were fortunate enough to receive them. Thank You Tea Ave. It is much appreciated. It won't affect my review, but I am impressed with how you have treated your reviewers.

So. first off, each sample is about 9g. It comes in a resealable aluminum back and clear front pouch. The label has a plethora of information, including 4 ways to brew the teas. The one thing that I do not see is a list of ingredients. The base is listed as Alishan Jin Xuan oolong. The leaves are scented with Jasmine though that is not clear from the label.

Opening the sample releases a light jasmine mixed with a buttery milky scent. The scent is light and really pleasant. The leaf is dark tight balls with a lighter green stem sticking out.

I used the gaiwan with half the sample. The label says to use 8g for a 130ml gaiwan. My gaiwan is only 90ml. Anyway that sounds like a lot of leaf. Normally I would use 3g but I am trying to follow Tea Ave's guidelines. Boiling water was added and the steep was 1 minute.

The gaiwan was used to fill the tall thin aroma cup. The remainder was poured into a small cup not in the picture. The tasting cup was placed over the aroma cup and the whole thing turned upside down. Next the aroma cup is lifted slowly filling the sipping cup. The thin cup is then sniffed.

The aroma is much like that of the dry leaf. The color is pale yellow and quite pretty. The taste is very lightly jasmine. Next is a fresh floral aroma of high mountain oolong.

The taste is similar, except I get flashes of citrus. It is like orange and lemon bouncing off each other. Maybe that is what Tea Ave reports as spice? Anyway, it is very tasty.

For the second cup I repeated the process and added 15 seconds to the steep. The liquor is darker and the gaiwan is very hot. I am not as in love with this cup. For my tastes it is just too much leaf. I am getting a strong geranium taste. Each to his own but I am switching to my usual method for the third cup.

With number three, I put the leaf in my clear glass teapot and added about 10 ounces of boiling water. The steep was about 1m 15s. The liquor pours a pretty golden green. The main aroma is the floral oolong with the jasmine being very faint.

This is much more to my liking. The tea is floral yet not overly so. It is a bit mineral but in a good way. I can taste the spice now, though I can't identify what spice. The aftertaste is lingering and pleasant. It is kind of sweet. There is no hint of bitterness in this cup (there was in the second). A drying sensation is present. The tranquil properties of the tea have just kicked in and I am becoming very mellow.

This  would steep at least another time, maybe many more.

Final analysis - If you love Alishan you will love this. If you like jasmine but often find it too strong for you, then you will love this as the scent and taste are pretty subtle. My advice, unless you are accustomed to steeping with a large amount of leaf, is to ignore the quantity on the label and go with 2-3g of leaf for a 6-10oz cup.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Simple Loose Leaf, Lapsang Souchong

Simple Loose Leaf Description:
Our Lapsang Souchong is a black tea smoked to perfection.  This tea is savory, smoky, slightly cool with a hint of menthol.  Look for a crisp sweet pine flavor as you are brewing this excellent black tea.

Sample provided by Simple Loose Leaf

My Review:
I received this along with four other samples in a monthly tea subscription box sent for review. I believe there is approximately 7g of tea in each pouch. That should be enough for 3 western 6 ounce cups of tea or one gong fu session in each bag. More on this later.

The sample bags are simple yet attractively labelled. They look like old recycled paper sack type material and are aluminum lined.

The leaf has a fairly strong pine smoke aroma. It just smells so much of the campfires I grew up around. I always give a positive nod to memory association.

Pouring a scoop out for review reveals fine cut lightly twisted leaf. It is darker than it appears in my picture, with lighter highlights.

I used half the sample, or about 3.5g in my press along with 10 ounces of water heated to boiling. This is pretty typical of how I normally drink my tea. The steep was 4 minutes. The recommended is between 3 and 5 minutes.

Based on the dry aroma, I expected this to fill the house with a strong smoky fragrance. It did not. Actually, the steeped scent is much milder than the dry.

Some Lapsang Souchong take on a bbq meat or bacon aroma. This one leans that way with a savory taste and yet remains steadfastly in the charred (but not ashy) pine realm.

The brew is a much lighter caramel color than I would have guessed. This one just keeps surprising me.

The sip is at first pine smoke. No surprise there. This mellows into a lighter mineral note. Then I get the cooling menthol sensation that Simple Loose Leaf mentions.

The aftertaste is sweet and smoky. I think the sweetness is what gives this the slight smoked meat leaning.

I am getting only a slight briskness. I am not sure it is really there. I believe the initial hit of smoke conjures the illusion of briskness.

There is no bitterness. The cooling sensation leaves only a slight cheek tingle.

When I first tried smoky teas this would have seemed very heavy to me. Now, I find it to be on the lighter, thinner, side of smoky. The menthol is what sets this apart from the pack.

At the beginning of this review I mentioned the monthly tea box subscription that Simple Loose Leaf manages. Per their website, here is how it works:
Each month you will receive a box of wonderful and unique loose leaf teas. Every month we make sure you have everything you need to get the perfect cup of tea brewing right out of the box! Shortly after receiving your first tea subsciption box we will email your Member ID to you. You can use your ID to get a 50% discount on all extra tea ordered at! 

Each month you receive 4-6 samples to try. You can buy more at 50% off. The cost is between $15 and $13/month depending on which subscription you choose. This Lapsang Souchong is currently listed as $5/oz regular non-subscription price.

You can find Simple Loose Leaf, Lapsang Souchong here.