Friday, July 15, 2016

BeMatcha, Cafe Grade Matcha

BeMatcha Description:
Also known as “Cafe Grade”, the leaves of our Spring matcha are located toward the middle of the tea plant. They have slightly less sweetness and a stronger flavor when compared to the Ceremonial Grades. This makes them perfect for use as an everyday tea, latte, and/or smoothie. Best of all, they contain just as much EGCg (antioxidants) & L-theanine compared to the ceremonial grade teas which can cost twice as much!

Harvested in June (the second harvest period), Cafe Grade matcha is an excellent everyday matcha for drinking.

Sample provided by BeMatcha

My Review:
Today we will be looking at the second or spring harvest matcha from BeMatcha. Last month I reviewed the culinary grade third harvest and found it to actually be drinkable on its own, though it is intended for baking or use in latte type drinks.

The cafe grade matcha is intended as an everyday tea  to be used in lattes and blended drinks. It is considered a step up in quality from the culinary grade. This tea is grown in Japan and certified organic.

I opened the 10g sample and gave it the sniff test. I get a smooth malty scent. Looking at the powder it is nicely green. No brown or yellow tint here. Just fresh and green.

As before, to keep all things as equal as possible, I used a rounded 1/4 tsp. I heated 4 oz of clean filtered water to 165F and mixed in a bowl with a hand held frother. I use old weak batteries so I don't paint the room green.

It foamed easily with many tiny bubbles. The foam is long lasting and held up as I poured the bowl into a clear mug to better photograph the tea. As you can see the tea is a deep green.

The straight taste is very crisp and clean. Initially I notice a mild bite but by the end of the cup it passes from my noticing. It is lightly sweet. The taste is creamy and vegetal with a slightly grassy aftertaste.

Now let's see what happens when we use this as intended in a latte. You fix how you like it, as for me, I prefer mine cold, made with 2% milk and a single packet of sweetener.

I used 2 tsp of powder along with my one packet of sweetener and a couple ounces of milk. With the frother the mixture was turned into nearly a tumbler full of foam. To this I added more milk and stirred.

As you can see the result is a dark green tumbler of green tea latte.

Definitely a different taste experience from the third harvest culinary grade reviewed previously. This has a deeper, richer taste with a nice umami flavor that seems almost dry. There is only a light sweetness. It feels very creamy. Not at all grassy. It is more a dark vegetal/meaty taste.

You can find BeMatcha Cafe Grade matcha here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Adagio, Strawberry Tea

Adagio Description:
Strawberry black tea combines the succulent taste of sweet strawberries with bright Ceylon black tea. Fresh sweet-floral and berry flavor, smooth and sugary texture. It's a treat you'll want to keep for yourself!

blended with black tea, natural strawberry flavor, strawberries and raspberry leaves

Sample provided by Adagio

My Review:
The humidity outdoors is 100%. It has been raining and the temperature is in the mid 80's F. It is kind of miserable outdoors. That sounds like a normal July. Fortunately I have air conditioning and a tea pot.

I am excited to try my second tea from Adagio. My first experience was Earl Grey Green which I loved. Today it is Strawberry. Until a tea friend gifted me with some very inexpensive strawberry tea bags, I imagined I would not like such a tea. Turns out I not only liked it but loved it. After the citrus of the bergamot orange in Earl Grey, strawberry is my favorite fruit flavor in tea. So here goes....

The sample bag is clearly labeled and resealable. Upon cutting the top, the scent of strawberry immediately filled the air. I took a closer sniff and have to admit it was a wee bit overwhelming. At this intensity is is almost a candy level of scent.

A scoop of leaf is removed and I realize I have misread the ingredient list. I thought this contained strawberry leaves. Instead it is strawberries (pieces) and raspberry leaves.

The Ceylon black tea is very dark and appears to be orthodox processed leaf. It is certainly larger pieces than CTC dust.

I steeped the leaf for 3 minutes in 212 F (boiling) water per directions.

The brew reminds me of cherry Dr Pepper in color. It is a deep orange/brown with ruby highlights. The steeped leaf has a nicely balanced fragrance of tea and strawberry. Gone is the candy element, replaced with a more natural scent.

The taste does not disappoint. It is a comfortable level of strawberry taste. Not over the top and not hiding. The Ceylon base is pleasantly smooth with only a light bite towards the end. I find this unusual for a Ceylon black as usually it is the choice of barbarian tea drinkers due to its normally far more abrasive qualities.

Halfway through the cup I added sweetener as I suspect most flavored drinkers tend to do the same. I think I liked the brightness it adds to the strawberry, yet found it altered the base flavor. I am not sure which way I prefer it. Both ways are good but enough different you might try both and decide for yourself.

A sample bag is $2 and makes 10 cups. That figures to $0.20/cup. I find that to be a pretty frugal deal for this lovely cup of comfort.

You can find Adagio Strawberry Tea here

Monday, July 4, 2016

Totem Tea, Kuwacha Mulberry Leaf

Totem Tea Description:
The deep-steamed Mulberry leaves (kuwacha) are uncannily similar to a traditional Japanese green tea like sencha or gyokuro. This uncommon tea is naturally caffeine-free and brews with a silky, vegetal profile. Like a fine Japanese green tea, it has oceanic elements with a smooth, mouthwatering umami texture.

Sample provided by Totem Tea

My Review:
It's the 4th of July. Normally Independence Day around here is hotter than the proverbial firecracker. That is how our June hit us this year. We are getting a break today as its rainy and in the mid 70's F. So to celebrate freedom, the founding of this great nation, and some bearable temperatures, I'm going to brew some tea.

My normal instinct is to grab whatever sounds highest in caffeine. This mulberry leaf, caffeine free, herbal spoke to me today. The folks at Totem Tea say on their website that they have tried similar teas from China and Thailand and they don't quite measure up to this one as it is steamed and prepared similarly to sencha or gyokuro.

Sniffing the sample I notice a pleasant grassiness accompanied by what reminds me of the chaff left over from shucking corn.

Looking at the leaf, if a tea friend had handed me this, I would just assume it was a green tea. Very similar in look and texture to the straight thin blades of sencha leaf.

I followed directions and brewed this at between 195 and 200 F for 45 seconds. This is stated to go 4 steeps. The second and later should begin at 2 minutes and add time as needed.

Pouring into a mug, two things catch my interest. First the brew is green with yellow highlights. Moving the mug away from the light it becomes a darker eerie green. That's pretty cool. Secondly, the steeped leaf morphed into this crinkly mound. It looks like frilly parsley that is very dark green like spinach. Neat. Okay so simple things amuse me.

The taste is unique. There is zero bitterness or astringency. It is smooth with almost no bite. The grassy connection to sencha is very present. There is also an ocean seaweed note, and what to me is best described as a hazelnut element. I think the seaweed/hazelnut combination is what Totem is noting as buttery umami.

We camellia sinensis folks can be quite the snob at times when it comes to herbals. Here is one that bridges the gap. It's late in the day and you want green tea but decaffeinated teas are tasteless? No problem, grab some of this leaf. Naturally caffeine free and pleasantly complex tasting. Truly it is an interesting tea.

You can find Totem Tea Mulberry Leaf here

Friday, June 24, 2016

BeMatcha, Culinary Grade

Sample provided by BeMatcha

BeMatcha has offered three grades of Japan sourced matcha for review - a Ceremonial Grade, a Spring Grade (Cafe), and a Summer (culinary) Grade sample. After some thought I have decided to devote a separate review to each.

I chose to start with the BeMatcha Summer Grade offering as I am becoming quite familiar with culinary matcha. This grade tea is intended to be used in the kitchen. The matcha aficionados would not really think of drinking it straight. It has however become quite popular for use in cold and hot lattes.

I will first prepare this straight, because I am not an aficionado, but more so as to compare to the higher grades in the other reviews. Next I will use it to prepare a cold milk latte.

This matcha is listed as being organic and grown in Kyoto Japan. It is from the third harvest as such it is considered a lower grade. True Ceremonial Grade is prepared using first harvest leaves.

The sample is 10g. Cutting off the top allows for the sniff test. It is fruity and otherwise pretty indistinct from the many other culinary teas I've tried. One thing of note is that it smells pretty much like most of the Chinese intro powdered teas I've used.

The color is much more vibrant green than usual.

I used a rounded 1/4 tsp. The directions call for 1 - 2 tsp but from experience I know I don't enjoy it when it is that potent. 4 oz of water heated to 165F was added in a bowl and whisked. More honestly, I frothed it with a hand held milk frother. Just so you know, that creates quite a mess. Keep some towels handy.

It frothed pretty well for culinary and actually held the foam although some of the bubbles are quite large. I poured this into a mug so I could photograph the tea. As you can see it is a murky dark green in appearance.

I was expecting a very bitter sip. It really was not particularly harsh. I have definitely had much worse. The taste was a little grassy with a brisk bite. It is a little sweet and has a fairly clean aftertaste.

As a straight drink it is certainly not terrible. It is better than most of this grade. Rather the problem with it is it is just not that interesting on its own, but then it isn't intended to be used this way.

Next I'm trying this as a cold milk latte. This is how I start every morning. I begin with a heaping tsp of powder, along with one packet of zero calorie sweetener (in this case generic Splenda). Just a word on this - if you go to Starbucks and order a Frappuccino, it contains a lot of sugar. A lot. Once I broke the cycle I realized it just isn't necessary to make it so sweet.

The dry ingredients go in my double-walled plastic tumbler to which I add 2-3 ounces of cold milk. A hand held battery operated milk frother is used to thoroughly mix and foam the contents.

The few ounces of milk will rise often making 2-3 times the volume of foamy goodness. I then fill the tumbler the rest of the way with milk. When the straw is added it usually stands at attention unless the matcha is of such poor grade as to not be up to the task. This one easily handles the job. In fact by the time I get the camera set up a lot of the tiny foamy bubbles have already formed bigger bubbles but the straw still stands.

As you can see this makes a dark green latte. This is very appealing as too often the color is a sad light grayish green (clay).

Tasting, this is pretty good. It is sweet without being sickening sweet. It has a nice fruity taste that reminds me of mild strawberry. Rather than grassy it is more leafy tasting.

Using approx 2.5g/serving this ranges from $0.55 to $0.65 a serving depending on the size you purchase.

You can find BeMatcha Summer Grade here

Monday, June 20, 2016

Adagio, Earl Grey Green Tea

Adagio Description:
Earl Grey Green tea represents a different take on a classic combination: Indian black tea with tangy bergamot flavor. It features a fresh green tea with a delicious crisp texture that pairs perfectly with the orange rind zestiness of the bergamot. Earl Grey Green has a pleasantly dry finish with lingering citrus sweetness.

Sample provided by Adagio

My Review:
This is one of those reviews I am kind of excited about. Years ago I was perfectly content with my grocery store bagged earl grey black tea. Due to my consuming vast quantities it began to attack my stomach. This bump in the road led me to discovery green Earl Grey and encouraged my foray into loose leaf. One of the first loose leaf companies I discovered back then was Adagio. Despite having filled my online basket several times over the years, this is the first time I will actually get to try Adagio tea.

First, the sample size is a generous half ounce size.  It is also resealable. The ingredients are listed on the label as green tea, orange peels, natural bergamot flavor, and blue cornflowers.

Once opened, I am in love. Green Earl Grey is right near the top of my all time favorite teas. This smells crazy good of bergamot.

I don't see orange peels in the scoop, but they may well have settled to the bottom of the pack. The cornflower does add a certain prettiness to the look. The green tea leaf is long, straight, and flat.

In the press the leaf goes, along with 180 F water for a 3 minute steep. I followed directions, though my natural inclination would be to use around 190 F water for a bolder cup. We'll see.

The resulting liquor is bright yellow. While I am getting better with my camera and actually like the leaf pictures today. I am not as pleased with the mug picture. It does not show how bright the tea looks in person. I had to hand hold the camera as I couldn't adjust my Slik tabletop tripod well enough for a sideways shot.

The bergamot scent is citrusy and cooling.

Tasting. It is a little lighter tasting than I would like. I do believe I under leafed. Next time I will up the leaf a bit.

That said it is a nice cup especially at the price. It starts out lightly mineral and swells into the bergamot citrus. It has an almost creamy texture. As is usual with my taste buds, the more it cools the more the flavor blossoms.

I did add some sweetener halfway through the cup to see how it handled additions. It took it really well - however, it becomes almost Kool-Aid sweet. If that's what you like that's fine. I believe I preferred it without additions.

I did want to show you the steeped leaf before I wrap this review. I really did not know what to expect from Adagio in one of their less expensive teas. Truthfully, I guess I expected tiny little shredded pieces. Instead what I am seeing are really large pieces of almost full leaves.

Seeing the leaf, I felt the need to steep this a second time. OK, I was going to anyway because Earl Grey Green, but the leaf  confirmed the need to go for it.

I went a full four minutes and upped the temperature to 190 F. Same beautiful yellow cup as before.  Where as the first cup is a bolder bergamot statement - though not over the top in my opinion - the second cup is a mellower mingling of flavor. The green tea base and the bergamot blend much tighter together. This seems even creamier to me now. This is a pleasant cup. The aftertaste remains a strong citrus.

Thank you Adagio for a good start to your teas.

You can find Adagio Earl Grey Green Tea here

Friday, June 17, 2016

Monocle Tea Products, Tea Infuser Tumbler

Monocle Tea Description:
Perfect for on the go tea drinkers.  This tumbler will keep 15.2 oz of your favorite tea hot on a cold day (or will also keep it cold on a hot day, funny how that works).

Sample provided by Monocle Tea Products

My Review:
I plan on having a few more pictures than normal in this post. The tumbler reviewed requires a bit more headroom than I usually deal with so I moved my operation on to my porch. I'm still learning my new camera and today's lesson learned is about too much back lighting. I will apologize in advance for the dark images.

Devin at Monocle Tea Products contacted The Everyday Tea Blog to see if I might like to try out their tumbler. It was ordered from Amazon and as usual with them arrived very quickly. It came in a box stuffed with air-filled pillows for protection.

Opening the actual product box I found the tumbler in a bubble wrap sleeve with a foam pad at top and bottom. The tumbler probably would ship safely if they just slapped a label on its box but I feel better knowing we didn't have to find out.

The tumbler is made of double-walled borosilicate glass. I have other products, including my French Press that I use daily, made from this glass. It is strong and holds up well under most daily usage. It is glass however so treat it as such.

The tumbler holds around 15 oz. The double-walled construction helps keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold.

The infuser is of two part construction. There is a basket to hold your tea leaf and a screw on cap. The assembled infuser rests on a lip inside the tumbler to hold it securely.

The tumbler can also be used without the basket. Using the infuser lid only works for fruit infusions or grandpa style sipping where the leaf floats freely in the water and additional water is added throughout the day. This is apparently a common practice used by average Chinese tea drinkers.

The exterior of the tumbler lid is bamboo. The interior is plastic.

A neat touch on the lid is the N.O. and mustache engraving. My first thought when seeing it was "No mustaches?" Why? Turns out Devin is all about the mustache. The NO actually stands for his home New Orleans.

Nothing says a proper cuppa like a monocle, a dapper mustache and New Orleans... I'm joking. In truth wherever you are is the perfect place for a cup, make that a tumbler, of tea.

Now taking the tumbler for a test drive I chose a sample of Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea from Teavivre. It is a beautiful crisp green tea and always a pleasure to sip.  

The entire sample went into the basket. One comment here - Devin is aware of this typo error, but on the insert packed in the box it says to use one oz of tea per 8 oz of water. Anyone accustomed to loose leaf should know better, but just in case - Devin intended this to read one small scoop per 8 oz. The Teavivre sample is 10g or roughly two scoops by my measure.

I used water heated to 185 per sample instructions, secured the basket and lid in the tumbler, added water, and secured the lid.

The steep was not timed closely. Maybe it was 3-5 minutes maybe it might have been a little longer. It was entirely too gorgeous outside to be distracted by timers. Fortunately this tea can handle abusive brewing even by a tea barbarian like me.

I removed the lid and the basket. I had to sniff the leaf - it is kind of my thing. It was grassy and citrus with orchid notes. Simply awesome.

I probably should have sat the basket on the lid. I hadn't really planned ahead for it and I'm a guy, so on the table it goes. Just don't tell my wife. After a few sips the level was low enough to be below the basket so I put it back in.

The tea stayed hot long enough that I removed the lid so it would cool off. I am one of those weird people that prefer my tea warm. So I am not the most reliable person to ask but in my opinion the drink stayed very hot for a long time.

The tumbler presented no problems when sipping. The tea tasted great out of it.

I can't think of anything negative to say about the Monocle Tumbler. The closest to a complaint is that it is very tall and narrow. This is actually on purpose so that the tumbler will fit in a standard cup holder.

The overall look is sharp and in fact the logo and lid made me smile. The lid may say NO, but I say YES.
You can find the Monocle Tea Infuser Tumbler here on Amazon.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Totem Tea, Ruby 18 Taiwanese Black

Totem Tea Description:
As delicious as it is beautiful, this striking tea is unlike any other black tea.  There are immediate and powerful dark fruit-pit notes alongside a wintergreen-like expression, which is quite striking and unique.  The dark red quality of this tea seems to go beyond just the rich ruby color.

Taiwan is world renowned for its oolong tea but little is known of its phenomenal Black tea which is often referred to as Sun Moon Lake Black tea due to the location of its growth and production. This black tea is as unique and special as the oolong produced on the special island.

Sample provided by Totem Tea

My Review:
Sun Moon Lake Black Tea. It says so right in the description above. Need I say more? Just in case you didn't get the memo, I will go ahead with the review. Oh, the sacrifices I make for my readers.

I opened up the sample packet and sniffed, just as I always do before looking at the leaf, and first caught dried field grass and a touch of malt. Then I detected fruit. At first I was thinking grape? Then changed my mind to cherry. The later seems to fit the company description better as well. Either way, it definitely has fruit notes.

The leaf as you can see above is very dark, long, and lightly twisted.  This is the only situation where you will ever catch me favorably comparing anything to spiders, but the leaf has that tarantula leg feel about it. I am not afraid. Just by observing the leaf you can feel that this is quality tea.

I prepared this per directions at 195F for a 60 second steep. The beginning western steeper might let this go for the typical 3-5 minutes. I think the tea would hold up to the task but please refrain. One minute is long enough for a beautiful cup and doing so assures you extra steeps with the same leaf. This one claims four steeps by increasing the time with each cup.

The cup is actually a little darker than it looks on my computer screen. It is sort of bronze in color with ruby highlights.

This tastes so good. I wish you were here to share a cup. It is honey and plums? Maybe my first instinct of grapes wasn't so far off. Caramel and cocoa notes are in here as well. Then it finishes with this sensation of mint. Not the taste, the sensation. And not the harsher spearmint type either. This is a very comforting and welcome cooling like from winter mint.

I have to admit, as soon as I saw Ruby 18 Taiwanese Black, I was pretty certain I was going to love this tea. I am not disappointed. In fact I am a bit elated. It has been a while since my last Sun Moon Lake cup and I don't recall any of them having the cooling (and lingering) aftertaste. Possibly they did and I have forgotten.

If you love a soothing black tea, this one comes highly recommended.

You can find Totem Tea Ruby 18 Taiwanese Tea here