Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Republic of Tea, Good Hope Vanilla

The Republic of Tea Description:
Tea for Inspiration - Naturally caffeine-free Rooibos is indigenous to the cape region of South Africa, which includes The Cape of Good Hope. We offer you Good Hope Vanilla, a blend of rooibos and sweet, fragrant vanilla beans. This caffeine-free infusion is sweet, satisfying and “good” all day long.

My Review:
I sipped this one as the last cup of the day. This is the bagged version. Technically this is not tea - being a rooibos it is an herbal or tisane (the terms are interchangeable). Rooibos is a South African bush that is dried and oxidized similar to black tea. It is caffeine free.

The taste of rooibos (pronounced roy bus - according to my sources) is really difficult to explain. I asked on Steepster how others describe the taste. Gmathis said, "A little fruity without the fruit flavor? Sharp, sweet roots? You’re right. It’s hard to categorize." JacquelineM added, "I always think of rooibos as “depth” or “heft” or “body” — I have been drinking it flavored these past few years and I’m having a hard time thinking of adjectives to describe it plain (sweet wood?)!" So obviously I am not the only one having a hard time finding words. To me it seems kind of spicy but sweet. The sip can have a harshness that makes me image tasting cedar sawdust (not that I ever have).

So there you have it. Now that you know exactly what rooibos tastes like (ha!) let's see how this version by Republic of Tea fares.

Republic of Tea packages their individual bags in these huge square and colorful envelopes. When you remove the bag it is tagless, round, and flat. They always look disappointingly thin because they contain 1/3 less leaf than most American tea bags. I used just off boiling water and steeped for 4-5 minutes.

What did I think? It is a little strange to say, but apparently my favorite cup from Republic of Tea so far, is not a tea but a rooibos. I don’t drink a lot of rooibos but this one I thought was really pretty good. The tiny bag just maybe did it a favor. The vanilla is not very strong but hits at the perfect amount to take the harsh edge off the late sip and add just enough flavor to be pleasing. This sells for about $10/36 bags, or $0.27/cup. I know it is less than half a can of Coke, but compared to many teas I drink it seems a little high.  If they would cut their prices, I might be tempted to keep this around. If you can buy this locally at a fair price, it is a very nice red tea that you can enjoy late night without worrying about it keeping you awake.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Persimmon Tree, Compassion

The Persimmon Tree Description:
Also known as "Iron Goddess of Mercy" after an old Chinese fable, the Compassion (Tie Guan Yin Tea) is grown on China’s high hilltops amongst fresh streams and cool, crisp air. Tender loose tea leaves are gently basket-tossed immediately after harvesting to rupture the cells for semi-oxidization, giving the Tieguanyin Tea its signature bold flavor.

Increasing steeping time and temperature will draw distinctive flavor for each brewing.

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree for review.

My Review:
This tea is new to me but this may end up being more a review of my trying a new steeping method. For this tea I will be using a teacup as a makeshift gaiwan. Today I dug deep into the cabinet and came up with two Corelle cups. They are bone white with herb designs around the outside. I poured water in them and found they held 8oz filled to the very top. Pretty and perfect for steeping just 4oz at a time. I also found a shallow pan to catch spillage.

I heated the cups and added 5-7g of nuggets to one of them. I put the empty cup over the other as a lid and let the leaf absorb the small amount of moisture in the cup. Then sniffed. The leaf smells minty. Minty? I read the ingredients – this is straight tieguanyin.

I heated and poured 4oz over the leaf and covered. I let it set for about 15 seconds. Pouring into the second cup over the pan revealed a lovely golden liquor. The scent is minty and slightly roasted. The taste is light and vegetal.

The second cup has more heft but is still light. The scent is still roasted and minty but not in the sip. The more intense flavor makes me think nettle. I have no idea why as I can’t recall ever tasting nettle. It is sharp, prickly, and slightly bitter. It tastes way better than I make it sound. Maybe it’s my imagination but I think I am already feeling the caffeine. I know it has opened my airways.

The third cup is less prickly and more balanced. A little roasted in the aftertaste. Still not experiencing the typical latex aftertaste of green oolongs. What I am getting is just a nice cooling sensation.
By the fifth cup I am finally getting an oolong aftertaste. This still has more steeps in it but that is all I have time for today.

This is unlike any TGY I have had before. Is it the leaf or the method? I won’t know until I try this again with my normal press method later.


Day two, and I am now steeping this using my standard press method. I used about 3g of leaf, and a 2 1/2 minute steep. The leaf has only partially opened and smells minty. The taste is light roasted and vegetal. It is like pulling fresh green vines out of a fencerow and chewing on them.
Cup two is a little stronger, sweeter but otherwise similar to the first. The leaf is mostly open now. Two mugs in and this is equal to the amount of tea I had with my earlier gaiwan experience. Like the gaiwan this still has more steeps in it.

What I can tell from this one time experience is the two methods do give different results. The differences are subtle but real. The gaiwan does seem to give more complex results. BUT the gaiwan method is more labor intensive. In gaiwan circles the extra effort is part of the art and celebration of tea preparation. I leave it to you to decide if this is something you would enjoy.

Visit the webpage for Compassion tea.

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 25, 2013

Primula Tea, Earl Grey Nobel Madam

I have had this flowering tea a long time. Sorry to say I am just now getting around to preparing it. Let's see how well it has survived being ignored.

I have had a Primula Earl Grey black tea before and I have a Nobel Madam green tea. This one says Earl Grey black tea and Nobel Madam on the package. Cool.

I opened the envelope and removed the pod. The scent of bergamot is highly present and it is nice. The pod is round and solid. I heated the water to boiling and poured It into the press, then dropped the pod into the water. I steeped this for five minutes. The pod bloomed and looked just like the photo, except imagine it surrounded by the golden brew scented with bergamot.

As I prepared to take my first sip, the power went out. I am writing this on March 24th. It is spring. It is snowing like crazy with near white out conditions. This is supposed to be a 100 year event according to the weather man. At least I have a warm cup of tea while I'm riding the storm out - REO! - sorry 70's flashback.

As I finished my cup the power came back on so I could write my tasting note. Looks like I won't freeze to death tonight - Sweet! This tea is pleasantly earl grey flavored along with floral notes. I am not sure what type flower this is but it is pretty and I like the flavor. Globe amaranth is often used in flowering teas much to my dismay  I don't care for their taste in tea. This however is very drinkable. There is no bitterness and no astringency.

The snow storm quickly drizzled out.  Despite the vicious beginning, we only ended up with a small amount of accumulation. I am not disappointed we did not set a record. Just turned on the morning news and apparently as close as 30 miles north and beyond, they did set records. Sorry guys - fix some tea and stay warm.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pickwick, Forest Fruit

Pickwick Description:
Basis for this blend are teas from Indonesia and Africa with a light taste. Pickwick Forest Fruit has all the taste of real fruit. Real pieces of forest fruit are added resulting in a delicious, refreshing tea with forest fruit flavor. Enjoy your cup of Pickwick Forest Fruit at any time moment of the day.  

The package contains 20 individually Wrapped Tea Bags 2g each.
Net Weight: 1.50oz/40g

Ingredients: Black Tea, flavoring fruit pieces (blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry) (0.85%)

My Review:
This tea is imported from Holland. A quick cruise of indicates it is out of stock. That may indicate this tea has been discontinued. This is a bagged tea wrapped in a paper envelope. It smells nicely fruity upon opening. I steeped this mug style for 3 minutes with boiling water.

The bag plumps but not much. The brew is nice and dark and the scent does not match my expectation based on the ingredient list. It aroma is kind of prickly like mango or some other tropical fruit with a bit of pomegranate.

The taste is definitely raspberry and strawberry. Weird how the scent is different. This isn't going to knock your socks off but it is a very pleasant little cup. I know the tea is in there but it does not stand out. The fruit flavor seems natural enough and though a bit sweet, this is not candy water. If you can find this and it is cheap then it is a nice enough cup.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Kally Tea, Milord's Grey

Kally Tea description:
Since we have a special tea blended for the “Earl”... we can’t forget our “Lord’s” cup, now can we? Kidding aside, we’ve taken Earl Grey and moved it up to another level. Adding dried apple pieces, calendula petals, and delicate elder blossoms and a touch of caramel. Now what else can one say, “Brew me a cup Milord!

Ingredients: Black Tea, Apple Pieces, Mallow & Linden Blossoms, Cornflower Petals, Natural Flavors.

My Review:
I love Earl Grey. I always get nervous when someone wants to mess with it. This is my first Kally Tea. I will try to keep an open mind when tasting this tampering with my beloved Earl Grey.

The leaf looks just like the picture. The dry leaf pieces are larger than is typical with flavored black teas. I used a healthy spoonful of leaf in my press and steeped for 3 minutes with boiling water. The brew is dark caramel colored and turns much darker in the mug. It smells of caramel.

The sip is definitely not Earl Grey. I don't really taste bergamot. Is it in here? I can't say. Honestly it is there, it is just very light. The apple and most of the other flavors are the same way. What I do taste is a kind of burnt caramel. The other flavors blend together to surround and support the caramel.

The black tea base is stout. It does not hide in the corner. This could get bitter very quickly.

I have had some fun at this teas expense. It is not a typical Earl Grey but it is a really nice caramel black tea with some fruity support. I enjoyed it and would gladly sip this if offered and would not hesitate to try any other Kally Tea.

Visit the Kally Tea website.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tea Licious, African Summer

Tea Licious Description:

Honeybush, lemon grass, lemon myrtle, rosehips, eucalyptus, hibiscus, safflowers, marigold and orange. 

Steep 3-5 minutes at 185 degrees.

My Review:
A sample of this was given to me and I had no idea of what it was by looking at the leaf. I guessed at the time and temp. Turns out I got it correct. Yeah me. By the name I guessed this to be a rooibos blend but by the appearance I thought there might be some green tea in it. Nope on both accounts. This is honeybush. Ooh, my first!

At first I think this smells a bit minty. After it cooled enough to taste I realize once again I am completely wrong. It is nicely lemon flavored with the orange coming in at mid sip. This has hibiscus but it is not at all tart. There is other flavors in here in very light amounts. I have no idea what honeybush or eucalyptus taste like, but this has some notes that remind me of rooibos.

Very different but in a very pleasant way. A really nice caffeine free sip.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Republic Of Tea, Earl Greyer

Republic Of Tea Description:
More of a Good Thing Tea - Our exceptional Earl Greyer blend combines the lush flavor and exquisite fragrance of the Bergamot Orange, native to Southern Italy, with a lovely Ceylon black tea leaf from Sri Lanka. Recognized as the best tasting Earl Grey available.

My Review:
The 'best tasting Earl Grey available' - seriously? That is a mighty big claim. Let's see if it can even come close to the marketing hype.

This is an individually wrapped round tea bag. Tearing open the envelope, I can smell bergamot before I even remove the bag. The contents of the bag is fine fannings. There is a mere 1.6g in each bag. That is rarely enough to make a good mug of tea. I added boiling water and steeped for 2 1/2 minutes.  Removing the bag shows it has not plump up tremendously, however the cup is sufficiently dark and bergamot scented.

Years ago I tried Green Earl Greyer. It was so heavy on bergamot and so light on tea I did not enjoy it at all. I ended up giving away almost the whole tin. This one is different. On the first sip the black tea is bitter and the bergamot is very light. Once the cup cooled the bitterness mostly disappeared. The bergamot is still too light for my tastes. Many people like a lighter touch on the bergamot so I can accept this may be appeal to some. The bigger issue is this tastes plastic. You know the flavor you sometimes get with milk in a plastic jug. Yeah, it's like that.

Certainly not the best Earl Grey I have had - actually not even close. I am glad I only have one bag of this. If this is a favorite of your's I apologize but this is not my Earl Grey of choice.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pickwick, Orange

Pickwick Orange has all the taste of real fruit. Real pieces of orange are added resulting in a delicious, refreshing tea with orange flavor. Enjoy your cup of Pickwick Orange at any moment of the day.

My review:
This is an inexpensive bagged tea. The bags come in individual paper envelopes. I used near boiling water and steeped about 2 minutes. There are no printed directions on the envelope. I imagine most people would use rolling boiled water and a 3-5 minute steep, if they even bother removing the bag. Yeah, you know who you are! (shhh - I use to do it too)

This is stated to contain actual orange peel (1%). The cup smells pleasantly of orange. It isn’t exactly fresh squeezed orange but it is not exactly orange candy either. I did not think this tasted like Tang but another reviewer on Steepster mentioned Tang in their review, so… I prefer to think it reminds me of the smell of Orange Crush.

I like the taste. It is fun. I really can’t say the tea base is memorable or even particularly detectable. I do catch tea in the aftertaste. Not the greatest tea but not the worst. Mostly this is just fruity flavored fun. Sometimes that is just what you're looking for in a tea.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dilmah, Ceylon Orange Pekoe

Dilmah Description:
Finely balanced richness, flavour, strength & aroma for the perfect tea. Tea perfect for everyday drinking from the central highlands of Sri Lanka, reputed for its brightness & medium strength.

My Review:
It's early morning. I am not awake. I need tea. I stand before the vast array of choices in my collection. Arrgh! Too many choices. I can't think. I just want no fuss tea! What is this Dilmah stuff? Ah, it is a bagged version in a paper envelope - you know tea. Just what I need.

The bag goes in the cup. The water is boiled and poured. Sweetener is added. I let it steep for maybe three minutes while I open a package of Fig Newtons - yeah, breakfast. Removing the bag shows it has plumped quite nicely. The cup is dark and smells fruity and inviting.

The sip is what I would consider medium bodied. It has a full rich flavor with enough bite to make it interesting without being really bitter. Ok, it's a little bitter but that is what I expect from my morning cup. If you use milk, I think this would take it well. It is slightly sweet and fruity in taste with some plant or wood notes. The aftertaste is pure Ceylon and lingers in a pleasant way.

This is a little gentler than a typical English or Irish Breakfast tea, yet has enough kick to get you moving. I find it to be a nice bagged tea that went well with my Newtons.

Friday, March 15, 2013

PG Tips, Pyramid Bags

PG Tips Description:
The eighth wonder of the world! Pyramid bags give the tea leaves room to breathe so you can get even more out of the great PG tips flavor.
PG Tips has been the best known and most popular brand of tea in the UK for over 75 years. Stronger than most Indian and African teas, PG Tips has a similar taste to English Breakfast Tea.

My Review:
I remember a few years ago as my desire to try every tea on the planet began in earnest. As I began to research there were two teas I thought I had to try. One was Yorkshire Gold. The other was the top selling tea in the UK - PG Tips. The Yorkshire Gold I managed to enjoy early on. I am just now getting my first taste of PG Tips.

This one came to me in a tea swap. It is a tagless, stringless, paper pyramid bag. The tea scent is pleasant and very tea like. I boiled my water and steeped for only a couple minutes. When I spooned the bag out of the water I was pretty amazed by how much the leaf had plumped up within the bag.

Let me say, this is a stout cup of tea. I believe it is customary to drink this with milk and sugar. I can see why. I used sweetener to try am tame the cup but not milk. This is not dainty pinky in the air tea. This is a hearty mug to be taken with a grunt.

The pucker factor is plenty high with this one. The inside of my cheeks are still tingling. It is bitter in a good way. The aftertaste is as strong as the cup. This is not the delicate cup I normally drink. In my mind this is what English Breakfast is supposed to taste like.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tropical Tea Company, House Blend

Tropical Tea Co.’s Description:
Tropical Tea Co.’s House Blend is a delicate White tea with hints of tropical coconut and a creme finish. A Spring select white tea hand blended with coconut, pineapple, safflowers, and cornflowers. Delivers a sweet creamy texture with a light body, blossomy high notes of pineapple and a good balance of coconut. Each Tropical Tea Company order helps deliver clean drinking water to a child who lacks it.

My Review:

This sample came my way along with several others via a fellow Steepster user who was attempting to get their tea cabinet under control. Good luck with that!

First off I tried to find this company’s website but it appears it either changed names. Google sent me to Miss Gloria’s Tea House (new owners). I could not find this tea in their collection. But I trudge on for posterity sake.

I could not tell what kind of tea this was supposed to be from the leaf. I thought it looked kind of green but not really. It also looked like maybe it had some rooibos mixed in as well, but it does not. From the picture it is pretty easy to see it is a white tea. Oops. White needs cooler water, which I did not use. It is pretty any way. There are blue, yellow, and red petals mixed in with the leaf.

So I used way hotter water than I should. The brew turned a lot darker than it would have with cooler water, but it did not become bitter. The smell is very tropical. Then I read the ingredient list. Coconut (yum) and pineapple…. eeeewww, I hate pineapple.

Well, I have already brewed this let’s see how horrible it is…. at first it taste’s like an alcoholic beverage. After my taste buds adjusted it is a pleasant drink. The coconut comes first and it is creamy and delightful without being overwhelming. Then I taste the pineapple but surprise, I like it. These two flavors were made for each other.

I really can’t single out the white tea. It seems to be hanging around the edges filling in the empty spaces. That’s ok, as it works. I would never have picked this up myself. I am glad I got to try it and I'm even glad that I did not know what it was before I brewed it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Persimmon Tree, White Guava

The Persimmon Tree Description:
White Guava tea brews into a light color with a beautiful, rich scent and a tropical flavor. It has an exotic blend of white peony loose-leaf tea, guava, strawberries, marigolds, and a touch of ginger. As with all of our white teas, White Guava tea prepares nicely hot and iced.

Price: $6.99/oz

My Review:
I got this tin free while cruising The Persimmon Tree's website by posting a link on Facebook. Cool. Although I have heard of guava, I had no idea what it was. I made a quick trip to Wikipedia for the following description:

Guava fruit generally have a pronounced and typical fragrance, similar to lemon rind but less sharp. Guava pulp may be sweet or sour, tasting something between pear and strawberry, 

If you follow the link and look at the pictures of the fruit you will likely say, "Oh yeah, I've seen them in the store".

The dry leaf is rather aromatic citrus. It is kind of prickly smelling. I hope I like this. Having not yet read the ingredients, the leaf looked more like Sencha to my bleary morning eyes. I used slightly less than one scoop, I should have used more because it is a white tea (hence the name - doh!). I heated the water well below boiling per white tea protocol and steeped about two minutes in my press.

The leaf stayed near the surface the entire time. The liquor is a pale yellow/green. The scent is much like the dry leaf aroma. Highly aromatic.

The sip is far less intense than the scent suggests. Very pleasant and tropical. Reviewers familiar with guava fruit say the taste is natural and spot on. The ginger adds just the tiniest bit of zing to the sip. It gives it almost a peppery element. The strawberry is difficult to detect but appears late in the sip. The white tea is not the star of the show with this cup. It lends support throughout the entire sip allowing the other flavors to shine.

On first opening the tin, I wasn't sure how I was going to react to this tea. After finishing the first cup, I am anxious to brew another. Quite nice.


When this is steeped the second time the fruit flavors are lighter, mellower, this allows the white tea to stand out. I liked this second cup even more than the first, but then I am a sucker for white teas.

Visit the webpage for White Guava tea.

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 11, 2013

Pickwick, Strawberry

Pickwick Description:
Pickwick Strawberry has all the taste of real fruits. The strawberry pieces added to the tea blend; result in a delicious, refreshing tea with strawberry flavor. Enjoy your cup of Pickwick Strawberry at any moment of the day.

My Review:
This came my way in a tea swap. I have never seen this brand in our local stores but maybe it is a common item in your area. By my search online it seems to be a very affordable tea. The flow through tea bags come individually wrapped in a paper envelope.

Removing the bag and sniffing reveals a light strawberry aroma. I placed the tea in the cup and poured boiling water over it. The steep was about three minutes. The bag did not plump out as much as I expected. The cup scent is pleasantly mild strawberry. The brew is nice and dark.

I have no idea how old this bag is or how it was stored. When I received it I immediately put it in a ziplock baggie to minimize damage beyond what it may have already incurred. It is possible a fresh box is much more robust.

Now that I have you expecting to hear how flat this tastes - it is actually quite pleasant. The strawberry tastes very natural though it is fairly light. I can even taste the black tea late in the sip and in the aftertaste. If you can find this and it is cheap, pick up a box or three. This is a very likeable cup.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Barry's Tea, Irish Breakfast

Barry's Original Irish Breakfast Tea is a subtle blend especially for those of you who enjoy living life with laid back moments and good company. It's an uncomplicated tea for all those little moments in the day when you say, "I'd love a cup of tea". Barry's Irish Breakfast has been blended in Ireland since 1901, and is a brisk refreshing flavour you can enjoy any time. Rest assured that no matter what it is called, it will always be a bit softer in taste, but always a great cuppa tea.

My Review:
Like PG Tips, this is a tea I have heard about for years and have just never experienced. Fortunately that is about to change, as I received a couple bags of Barry's Tea in a recent swap.

The bag is stringless and tagless. I boiled my water and steeped for maybe two minutes. It reminded me of a shu puerh at this point - it was almost black with burgundy highlights in my mug. It is possible I only imagined it being this dark and scary because I am still asleep and I have an unexplainable  fear of Irish Breakfast tea.

I am not sure how to describe this tea. The sip starts nice and gentle, polite even. Just as I start to relax in its company, I am grabbed by the throat, terrified of what comes next. Then, just as suddenly, it releases me and walks away with a grin. My eyes are wide open. I am left unscathed with but a memory. Yeah, this tea is like that. It won't hurt you. It just wants you to think it will. This is a bad boy tea.

This is as close to coffee as I care to get. I used sweetener. I think I could have used two. I don't use milk. I think I should. Some people hate subtle. Some people prefer big bold flavor. If you are one of those adrenaline junkie types, this may be your tea.


I'm updating this already and I just posted it mere minutes ago.

While I was typing the cup cooled down to just warm. The the huge frightening late sip has calmed down to the point of being rather pleasant. Not the smoothest tea I've had by any means, but far more civilized. I am enjoying the company of this more respectful cup.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Simpson & Vail, Nepal Mist Valley

Simpson & Vail Description:
In Nepal, there are only a handful of tea producers that own and operate their own tea gardens and processing facilities, and Mist Valley Tea is one of those few. Located at an altitude of 1300 meters (approximately 4,200 feet) above the sea-level, this garden produces delightful and distinctive teas. This beautiful uniformly styled, long-leafed, tippy, black tea brews to a light amber cup with a slight vegetal aroma. The taste tends more towards a traditional Darjeeling with nutmeg overtones.

My Review:
I opened up the baggie I received as a gift from a Steepster member and sniffed the leaf. It didn't reveal much. I took out one scoop, which was half the sample and examined. The leaf looks pretty much like the picture. It still isn't giving up a lot of information.

The leaf was placed in my press with 12oz of boiling water and steeped for 3 minutes. The brew is much darker than the light amber cup S&V mention. The wet leaf aroma is familiar, like green beans and stewed broccoli. This aroma gives way to notes that are fruity and spicy like Darjeeling, If that's not enough to peak your curiosity, it is also accompanied by the scent of browned cocoa. Seriously Interesting!

Wow, this is really good.

The taste is of cocoa and malt but not like a Yunnan tea. This is more like fruity Darjeeling. It is mellow, without bitterness and only enough astringency to be good. Seriously, seriously good. You need some of this!

Cup two is was steeped the next day and is only slightly lighter on the cocoa and the malt. This is still an excellent cup. The Darjeeling remains strong and appears late in the sip. This is like two teas in one and they are excellent together.

This is one of the most interesting teas I have sipped in a while.

Visit the Simpson & Vail webpage.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bigelow, Ceylon

Bigelow Description:
Premium blend tea is 100 percent Ceylon Black Tea. Made with the highest quality Orange Pekoe and Pekoe Cut Black Tea. Comes in individually paper wrapped tea bags.

My Review:
This is a bagged tea. You can probably find it on your local grocers shelf. That makes it the kind of tea that originally sparked my love for tea.  Everyday tea! Some one should really start a blog about it. That’s a joke. Don’t let ‘em slide by you like that son (said in my best Foghorn Leghorn).

As easy as this tea from Bigelow is to find, I don't recall having ever tried it before. How did that happen?

Ok, so I opened the paper envelope – I haven’t seen a paper envelope in ever – and gave it a good sniff. It actually has a strong pleasant scent.  I heated the water to boiling and then let it cool down for several seconds. The steep was about 2 minutes. The brew turned very dark very quickly. Such is the nature of finely cut tea bag fannings. The bag really plumped up once brewed.

The aroma of the cup is fairly brisk. Surprisingly the cup is much more muted than the scent would suggest. There is not really any bitterness. It is moderately drying. The bag kind of knocks the rough edges off the sip. The downside is it kind of knocks the edges off the aftertaste. I happen to like a nice lingering aftertaste.

This will take milk and sugar well.  If you are just starting out on your tea journey this is definitely not a bad bagged Ceylon. If you are an experienced tea drinker this will work for those tea emergencies. You know, like when your cup is empty.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tea Blogging For Fun And Profit

I just read a post on Tea For Me Please entitled, “A Tea Bloggers Worth”. In this excellent article Nicole addresses many of the issues pro and con surrounding tea blogging. She was inspired by another post linked in her article. In the comment section on this second post more articles on the subject of tea blogging can be found. Apparently the subject really caught my attention. So, having spent a lot of time today reading on the subject, I decided to add a few thoughts concerning my blog and tea blogs in general.

First off, the title of this post is tongue in cheek. I suppose it is possible a few folks have found a way to turn a profit from their tea blog. Speaking only for myself, fame and fortune are not likely to find my blog and I am OK knowing it. I write because I can’t help myself.

Over the years I have put together websites covering a range of topics. My love of tea and my need to write about it has outlasted my need to write about all of the others. When I become passionate about any subject, I read, study, and talk about it until I start to make those around me crazy. Sadly, in my small town, it is difficult to find others to interact with about tea, even on a surface level. Writing a tea blog, and social sites, like Steepster, are the perfect outlets for forming relationships with others sharing this passion.

I named my blog The Everyday Tea Blog to remind me of what I wanted to accomplish. When I first started I couldn't find any one willing to take grocery store tea bag offerings seriously. While the majority of what I review is (hopefully) affordable loose leaf tea, I also intentionally try to include teas one can find in small town America. The second most viewed post on this site is a review of Lipton Superfruit Green Tea, Acai, Dragonfruit, and Melon. Yep, it’s a bagged tea, and yes I liked it. For the record, my most viewed page is Can You Reuse Tea Leaves And Tea Bags?  While I am connecting with others I hope I am also filling a niche in the blog world.

One of the perks of writing a tea blog has been the offer of samples. I am happy for the opportunity to review the teas when they are provided. If you are thinking of starting a blog just to get free tea, let me make this very clear – there is a price. Writing and maintaining a blog is hard work. Tea companies will not beat your door down to give you stuff. It takes effort, dedication, and a sense of reponsibility. Or at least it should.

When writing reviews you have to be fair to your reader and the company you are reviewing. Not every one will like every tea. That's OK, we all have different tastes, but if you are going to offer opinions to others you need to make the effort to educate yourself and learn how to properly prepare different types of tea. Trashing a green tea for being bitter when you boiled the daylights out of it is not cool. If I prepare it wrong and hate it, I do harm by writing a review.

I don't know how others feel on the subject, but when I review a tea I try to set aside my personal tastes and preconcieved notions as much as possible. For example - I personally don't care for Assam tea. I don't hate it, I just don't crave it. When I review an Assam, I try to base my review on how well it represents the tea class. Regardless of whether it is a tea bag or a loose leaf, I try to judge it on its own merits. Does it accomplish what it is trying to acheive?

My final thought on tea blogging is actually what prompted me to write this post. I have made it a policy not to ‘tea beg’ by contacting companies for samples. I do admit to having done this only one time. I make this point because ‘tea begging’ is one area where many tea companies take a negative view of bloggers. I do try to avoid this practice. But let’s be fair. There is another side to the coin. If you own a tea company, don’t expect (or worse - demand) the blogging community promote your products or provide a link to your site without the offer of samples to review. If you are offended by tea begging don’t be a link beggar. Alex Zorach, on his blog, posted an interesting article on the subject of Soliciting Tea Bloggers To Review Your Samples.

Sorry, I didn’t intend to use so many words. I also don't want this to end on a negative sounding note. Writing a tea blog is a work of love for most of us. I hope, even for those of us who are less than eloquent, that the passion always shows through.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Nina's Tea USA, Jasmin

Nina's Tea Description:
A delicate blend of jasmine and lotus. Enjoy the pleasant floral scent of jasmine and how the lotus flowers add a subtle note to the tea. A tea to bring you a moment of rest and tranquility.

Sample provided by Nina's Tea for review.

My Review:
Nina's Paris has been around for over 300 years. Just recently they have begun to sell tea in America. You can find at least some of the offerings on Amazon. They also plan to open an ecommerce webstore at  ninasteastore. At the time of this writing the webstore is not open.

I open the clear zip lock and caught the magic scent of Jasmine. I poured out the leaf for examination and first noticed the small flower petals. Then I noticed the leaf is very finely cut and looks dark for a green tea. As you can see in the picture it looks more like a black tea.

This was steeped for two minutes with well below boiling water. The brew is a lovely yellow green. The wet leaf is still very fine but worked nicely in my French Press.

The sip is relaxing and quiet. The jasmine is floral and natural. I really dislike poor quality jasmine that taste fake and bitter. It is always a pleasure to find a tea that is done correctly. The lotus can be caught as only faint notes late in the sip. Whereas the lotus notes in The Persimmon Tree's Lotus are bold and reminiscent of star anise, the lotus notes here are closer to Tazo's Lotus in taste but far lower in intensity. The jasmine and lotus flavors fit seamlessly together. The green tea is a bit hard to detect as it rides under the floral aspects.

A lovely and enjoyably relaxing tea that is a mild twist on straight jasmine teas.  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

TeaVivre, Huang Shan Mao Feng

TeaVivre Description:
Carefully picked and processed to deliver a sweet tea with no bitterness, HuangShan MaoFeng – like our Long Jing green tea – always makes it near the top of the list of China's top ten teas.  TeaVivre's authentic, grade 1, HuangShan MaoFeng is grown near the peak of HuangShan mountain in Anhui province.

Sample provided for review

My Review:
This is another sample I specifically requested to review. I wanted to try this one to see if I am not a big fan of Huang Shan Mao Feng or if I just wasn’t deeply moved by brand X’s version.

I opened the sample packet and sniffed. The scent is fresh and green. As I begin to remove the leaf it seems to expand.  The leaf looks very much like the picture. TeaVivre calls it a ‘golden yellow combination of plump buds with one attached leaf”. I agree, except to me it is green/yellow in color.

I used half the sample in my press with way below boiling water. I steeped for 1 1/2 minutes. The resulting liquor is nearly clear as I expected from previous experience. In the mug it develops a light greenish tint as it cools. The wet leaf reminds me of stewed beef. Call me crazy, but Chinese green tea often makes me think stew.

This is an interesting cup. The sip passes from light green and slightly buttery through a moment of floral notes that are reminiscent of green oolongs. I have never noticed this in a green before. Late sip is resolves into a very nice solid green vegetal flavor. There is no bitterness. No astringency.

This is nothing like the previous version I had tried. I actually find this one easy to sip. It is smooth and deliciously refreshing. A very nice green tea.

Visit Teavivre website.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Nina's Tea USA, Darjeeling

Nina's Tea Description:
A great classic tea, our Darjeeling is produced in a small estate at the foot of the Himalayas. Soft and flowery, it can be appreciated at any time of the day.

Sample provided by Nina's Tea for review.

My Review:
Nina's Paris has been around for over 300 years. Just recently they have begun to sell tea in America. You can find at least some of the offerings on Amazon. They also plan to open an ecommerce webstore at  ninasteastore. At the time of this writing the webstore is not open.

This is the second of three samples offered by Nina's Tea. The small clear zip lock bag contained just the right amount for a single cup of tea. The leaf is fine cut pieces. The scent is dry leaf tobacco. 

I used my French Press and below boiling water. The steep time was about two minutes. The resulting brew was a light coppery bronze in the press and darker in the mug. The wet leaf looks like small pieces of fresh green leaf and smells fruity. 

I have tried several bagged Darjeeling teas. I can only recall a couple loose leaf versions. This tastes different than all of them. This is a black tea but the sip leans toward green tea. There is no bitterness and no sharp bite. I expected both. There is only the smallest amount of dryness. 

The cup aroma is floral. The sip is thin bodied and fruity. To me it tastes kind of woodsy or vine-like, you know, planty, but not like nuts. The aftertaste is pleasant, cooling, and lasting. I normally have Darjeeling with breakfast on the weekends. I could see myself enjoying this one with my sausage, eggs, and a biscuit. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

TeaVivre, Lapsang Souchong

TeaVivre Description:
After de-enzyming, the fresh tea leaves of Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong (Lapsang Souchong) will be smoked with pine wood. For this special manufacture, tea leaves after smoking will present the color of dark brown, and the soup will be bright deep red.

Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong (Lapsang Souchong) used pine wood or pine charcoal from Tongmu kuan in Wuyi mountain as materials, which has a long history about 400 years. This tea has a strong smoky and pine smell for someone who likes strong flavor.

Sample provided by TeaVivre for review.

My Review:
I specifically requested this sample from TeaVivre. I remember when I received some of my first samples from them a little over a year ago and one of them was a Keemun. At the time I thought it was extremely smoky. It took my sipping a few cups of it to learn to appreciate it. This Lapsang Souchong is even more smoked than the Keemun.

Opening the sample reveals pine smoke. In my days of inexpensive bag tea, smoke generally meant ashes at best, and more commonly ashtrays. That is not at all the experience with this tea. The scent of the smoke is aromatic ans strong but not overwhelming. It is sweet and kind of reminds me of bacon.

The leaf is rather long for a black tea and is thin and twisted. It is dark but has some lighter brown buds in the mix. I used half the sample or about 3g in my press. The water was just below boiling. The steep time was just over 2 minutes. The resulting brew is dark golden in color, looking more burgundy tinted in the mug.

This smells incredibly smoky in the press yet is much less aggressive in the cup. The smoke does not mask the tea base. The base is fruity. There is no bitterness. There is another element to the base I don’t know how to describe. It is kind of earthy wood or nut. Very pleasant.

Not everyone will like every tea but it is funny how tastes change. I used to drink mainly flavored teas in tea bag form. I would not have liked this just a couple years ago. Now that my fear of smoky tea has been conquered – this is really quite good.

Visit the TeaVivre website.