Monday, October 28, 2013

Townshend's Tea Company, #82 Chamomile Classic

Townshend's Tea Company Description:
A soothing tea from Egypt made from sweet chamomile herbs. An added honey-apple aroma gives the flavor of this tea a pleasant accent.

Price: $2.50/ ounce

My Review:
My wife cannot tolerate caffeine. She has her decaf teas she likes but every now and then I'll order something a little different so we can share a cup or two in the evening. This was such an order.

We prepared this in the cup using a Finum basket. I steeped for around 5 minutes. My wife selected dark blue cups so I cannot comment on the brew color. The scent was lightly apple.

To us this was a lightly flavored chamomile. Chamomile has a natural apple type flavor to me anyhow, but this one is enhanced with apple and honey flavors. It made for a pleasant though not spectacular cup.

If you like the idea of chamomile tea but find its taste a little bland, the additional flavors of this might just be what you are seeking. The price is certainly low enough. Townshend's web site could use a little modernizing and they don't take Pay Pal but I was otherwise pleased with our purchase experience.

Visit Townshend's Tea Company.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Celestial Seasonings, Sweet Harvest Pumpkin

Celestial Seasonings Description:
"Just like big piles of pumpkins at roadside stands and perfectly baked pumpkin pies on kitchen tables, Sweet Harvest Pumpkin™ Holiday Black Tea in tea cups everywhere is a sure sign that the holidays are near. Featuring rich black tea, harvest-fresh pumpkin flavor and traditional spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg plus a touch of natural sweetness, this festive blend is a delicious little slice of the season."

Black Tea, Cinnamon, Ginger, Roasted Chicory, Natural Pumpkin Flavor With Other Natural Flavors (Soy Lecithin), Luo Han Guo, Cloves, Nutmeg, Natural Sweetener (Stevia Extract) and Pumpkin.

My Review:
The leaves are turning brilliant colors and covering the yard. The afternoon air has a chill.  Yep, it's fall here. We all know what that means. It's time to break out the fall teas. This one was actually the very first Celestial Seasonings tea I had tried. Apparently, I never reviewed it, so let's do it now.

The bags are packed inside the box in a kind of re-close-able bag, kind of. It doesn't really seal but is better than nothing. The bags themselves are stringless, tagless, and staple free. What that means is you are going to need a spoon to get the hot bag out of the cup.

Dry, the bag smells intensely of spicy pumpkin pie filling. Mmmmmm. I used lightly boiling water and steeped for..... uhm..... a long time. Probably 5 minutes. I was watching the season premiere of Grimm, and got a bit distracted. 

The cup did not suffer with the long steep. It was not bitter and I could actually taste the black tea base. It was nothing amazing, it is just that flavored bagged teas often overpower the actual tea. I was pleased.

The taste does not quite live up to the promise of the scent. Where as the dry aroma is unmistakably pumpkin, the cup is more pumpkin spice chai. The pumpkin just kind of gets lost. Even so, this is very tasty and pretty sweet (contains Stevia). 

This is one of the better bagged teas of the type. Honestly, I have never had a pumpkin pie tea that lived up to my expectation. Then again I have never put a dollop of Cool Whip on top either. So maybe it is my own fault.

Pumpkin tea check. Christmas teas will soon appear on the shelves, then I'm ready for spring.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Little Red Cup Tea Company, Jade Oolong

Little Red Cup Tea Company Description:
Jade Oolong is a marvelous mountain-grown tea from western Hunan Province. It has an appealing aroma, a beautiful green color and a forceful presence. It has a taste profile characteristic of greener oolongs, complex and just a little woody.

Our Jade Oolong is pure whole leaf organic Chinese tea, Fair Trade certified, and utterly delicious. This is a tea to be enjoyed on a regular basis, but also a tea to bring out for special occasions. It is at once familiar and yet a cut above ordinary oolongs, a tea we are certain you will love.

Price: $9.50 / 3 ounces

Sample provided by Little Red Cup Tea Company

My Review:
This is the fourth and final sample I am reviewing from Little Red Cup. Up next is a high mountain oolong from the Hunan Province of China. I love the pictures of the leaf from their site. Very accurate of what is in the bag.

Looking at the color of the tightly twisted pellets this is obviously a lot greener oolong than most. There is only the slightest of floral fragrances present in the dry leaf. I used about 3g of leaf in my press with 200 F water and steeped 3 minutes per recommendations.

The result was a lot of big leaf pieces filling the press. I probably could have used less. The liquor is golden/green in tint. The wet leaf had an aroma like bread and spices. The cup was lightly floral.

When this was hot I was a little disappointed. It really wasn't giving off a lot of flavor for me. I do consider in my assessment that I am on antibiotics for chest congestion so that may be a factor. However, the colder the cup got the more amazing it became.

Once cooled down significantly this became buttery tasting and creamy feeling. The taste lit up with floral oolong goodness. This is sort of tiguanyin but not as geranium/latex flavored. The aftertaste really held on with its floral sweetness.

Both the White Monkey and this Jade Oolong are my favorites. If I had to choose one I guess I would go with the White Monkey as I love that white/green flavor range. All of these are very good and affordable teas.  If you are looking for an everyday oolong that isn't boring - this one is a contender.

Visit Little Red Cup Tea Company.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Little Red Cup Tea Company, White Monkey

Little Red Cup Tea Company Description:
Little Red Cup Tea’s organic White Monkey Tea is a terrific mountain-grown tea from western Hunan Province. Despite its name, White Monkey Tea is, in fact, a green tea — a function of processing — but when steeped, the tightly rolled leaves unfurl yielding a lovely golden brew more akin to white tea than anything else. It is made from the earliest leaves, still covered with downy white hairs for which the tea is named.

Our White Monkey tea is pure whole leaf organic Chinese tea, Fair Trade certified and utterly delicious. A handy tea to have on hand for the green tea enthusiasts and a variety that even the casual tea drinker will enjoy.

Price: $8.00/3.0 oz

Sample provided by Little Red Cup Tea Company

My Review:
I am excited to try this one. I love White Monkey, so named because the dry leaf is said to look like a white-haired monkey's paw - not to me, but apparently to whoever named it. Technically a green tea from its processing, it looks and tastes much closer to a white tea.

I used a healthy scoop of leaf in my press with 175 F water. The steep was about 3 minutes. The wet leaf had an aroma that was plant-like with more than a hint of stew beef. The liquor is deep golden in color.

Sipping, I am not disappointed. It is lightly earthy and very nutty. It has far more heft and body than a white peony. Late in the sip there is a briskness. I wouldn't exactly call it bite. This is more an asserting of its presence. The aftertaste is nicely sweet.

I wholeheartedly recommend this one. Very delicious.

Visit the Little Red Cup Tea Company website.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Little Red Cup Tea Company, Lu Mei Green Tea

Little Red Cup Tea Company Description:
The best Lu Mei (Green Eyebrow Tea) originates in Jiangxi Province, where our Fair Trade certified, Organic Lu Mei Tea is grown. Lu Mei is a distinctive tea with more bite than some green teas, and is named for the characteristic shape of its leaves. Green teas are made with virtually no oxidation, and so our Lu Mei produces a brew light in color with a fresh, sharp taste.

No lightweight, Little Red Cup Lu Mei Tea is a perfect eye-opener, as well as a solid work-day companion. Among green teas, Lu Mei is a strong variety, and we suggest using a smaller amount of tea and a shorter brewing time for a lighter beverage, and a bit more tea coupled with a longer brewing time for a stronger tea.

Price: 4 oz - $9

Sample provided by Little Red Cup Tea Company.

My Review:
The second of four samples from Little Red Cup Tea Company. Fair Trade, Organic, Sustainability are all ideals behind this company.

The samples are all very generous. Definitely enough to try this several times to give it a work out. The dry leaf is twisted into little arched eyebrow shapes. The picture is a good representation of what you get. There is a light grainy aroma.

I steeped this per recommendations of 175 F water for a minute and a half. The result is an amber colored liquor. The wet leaf has a seaweed aroma. The brew is faintly floral.

The sip is mineral and sweet with a bite. Some reviewers see this tea as bitter. I am not one of them. I like a little bite. It adds character and cleanses the palette. It is astringent in that it feels drying.

Others also reported this packs a punch. I am not really getting that either. Assam packs a gut punch. This is more like a tap on the shoulder. The aftertaste lingers long and sweet.

There is not a lot of depth to the cup but it is refreshing. For the price this would make a fine everyday workhorse tea.

Visit Little Red Cub Tea Company today.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Little Red Cup Tea Company, Green Mao Jian

Little Red Cup Tea Company:
Our special organic Green Mao Jian Tea is an unusual mountain-grown tea from western Hunan Province. The tea is named for the abundance of tiny hairs covering the leaves when they are picked in the spring and for the sharply pointed shape of the leaves once rolled in the finishing process.

Green Mao Jian Tea is one of the most delicate green teas we have seen. Steeped normally, it produces a lovely pale green brew with meadow notes and light forest scents. A stronger brew may be obtained using more tea leaves, warmer water and a longer steep time. Even then, this tea is not bitter. An excellent tea for those who want to enjoy a green tea without the punch that so many ordinary greens carry.

Our Green Mao Jian Tea is pure whole leaf organic Chinese tea, Fair Trade certified and sublimely drinkable. A marvelous tea to accompany you throughout a busy morning and into the early afternoon, a tea both for the dedicated tea consumer and one for the casual tea drinker as well.

Price: $8/3 ounces

Sample provided by Little Red Cup Tea Company

My Review:
This is my first experience with Little Red Cup Tea Company. Reading through their "Our Company" page gives some clues what to expect.
First, we want to offer the kinds of teas that our friends routinely drink in China: simple, traditional, whole leaf varieties. You’ll find no Mango-Walnut-Green-Tea-Surprise, no breakfast blends. Though our teas are of fantastic quality, we’ve priced them for everyday consumption.... 
As mentioned in the tea description they are also concerned about Fair Trade and organic. Sustainability is another priority for this company. There is a lot to admire about Little Red Cup Tea Company. Let's see if their tea matches their intentions.

I opened the sample and a grainy scent moved slowly out of the bag. The dry leaf is twisted, dark, and kind of wispy looking. I used about 3g of leaf in my press with filtered water heated to 175F. The steep time was 3 minutes. The result is a lovely golden liquor. The aroma of steamed spinach met me before I removed the lid. The leaves are small and pea green.

The sip revealed a light taste that is fresh and inviting. It has some bite but is not at all bitter. It is not grassy or floral when hot. It is hard to describe. Open is the best word I can come up with. Slightly mineral and lightly fruity. Others had some trouble describing this as well. Many of them noted milky but I am not getting milky with my brewing method while the cup is hot.

Oh, I walked away to play some guitar and when I picked up the cup it was room temperature. Now I get the milky others mentioned. More importantly, I think the flavor has really come alive. This is now very fragrant with almost oolong floral qualities. Very, very nice once cooled. I might need to try this one iced. You can easily get two mugs from the leaf, possibly more.

Summation - When hot it is light in body and mild in taste, at the same time the longer you sip the more you want. Once the cup cools it really comes alive with flavor. A very nice everyday affordable Chinese green tea.

Visit Little Red Cup Tea on the web.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Teavivre, Lu Shan Yun Wu Green Tea

Teavivre Description:
The fresh tea leaves of Lu Shan Yun Wu are picked under strict requirement of one bud with one leaf or one bud with two leaves. After processed, the leaves will shape into tight, curly and strong strips. The liquid presents bright and green color while showing brisk fragrance. The scent of roasted chestnut lasts long. This Lu Shan Yun Wu is better to be brewed with big glass. It will has brisk and refreshing flavor and sweet taste. After several steeps, you will see the tea leaves tenderly stretched and showing its soft and light yellow appearance.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
Chinese greens are probably my favorite broad category of teas. I mostly want them without any flavorings. There is just something so pure and natural about them that I connect with on some deep level. I am really looking forward to this one so let's get to it.

Opening the sample packet I get a familiar slightly sour leaf aroma. Removing a scoop of leaf I am surprised, amused, and fascinated by the shape. In a pile, it looks like a tangle of green thread. Spread out, it looks more like very fine green wood shavings.

I almost never use as much leaf as Teavivre recommends. Here I used half the sample or about 3g of leaf. I heated a mug of water to 175F and used my press for a 2 minute first steep. This was one of the coolest examples of why you should consider using a clear glass vessel to steep. The leaf was alive on the bottom of the press. At first it was like watching the grass as a child while a bug made its way through the blades. Then it became more intense as the leaf stretched and wriggled to set itself free from the tight bondage of the strips like a butterfly breaking free from its cocoon. What a show!

The wet leaf had a steamed spinach aroma that I find is often true of good Chinese green tea. The liquor was so light in color I double checked the time and then wondered if I under leafed. The tint reminded me of honeysuckle as I poured it into the cup. It did darken as the cup cooled. The cup picture from Teavivre's website looks very much like my results.

The sip is maybe similar to dragon well but not really. It has a briskness to it that provides just the perfect amount of bite. Clean, fresh, refreshing are all words that describe what I'm tasting. Sweet but not overly so. This is not disappointing. I can't wait to see what cup two has to offer.

Cup two at just over a one minute steep has a light golden green tint. A much sweeter cup has developed. Gone is the resemblance to dragon well. I really don't know what chestnuts taste like but maybe this is the flavor Teavivre mentions in their description. To me, it is almost a plant taste and possibly bamboo. The briskness is replaced by a light mineral finish. The aftertaste lingers and is sweet.

Another very nice tea from Teavivre.

Visit the Teavivre website.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Teavivre, Superfine Taiwan Ali Shan Oolong Tea

Teavivre Description:
Taiwan Ali Shan Oolong is a typical kind of Taiwan High Mountain Tea. This tea is from Ali Mountain, which is the birthland of High Mountain Tea.
The tea garden where Taiwan Ali Shan Oolong Tea grows locates at the altitude between 800 meters to 1400 meters. On the high mountain, climate is cold and cloudy. Sunshine time is short, as a result, the astringent substance in the tea leaves is reduced, thus the tea becomes sweeter. In the mean time, temperature in daytime and in night is distinctive, which make the tea tree grows slowly. Therefore, the leaf is soft and thick with high content of pectin substance. This is the unique feature of Ali Shan Oolong Tea as being a type of Taiwan High Mountain Tea. What’s more, the tea trees are irrigated with spring water on Ali Mountain, making the tea carries a sweet flavor of spring water.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
This is the last sample for Oolong Fest. None of this years oolong have been dark roasted. They have all been floral, sweet, excellent teas and each has been distinctly different from the others. Let's see if the trend continues.

Opening this sample, the aroma was very light and shows no real signs of what is to come. Removing the leaf pellets reveals they are very tightly twisted. I used my clear glass press and boiling water for a two minute steep. I almost used a gaiwan but I am glad I didn't. I would have missed the spectacle that is the dance of the leaves.

The pellets mostly rose to the surface while the remaining pieces sat on the bottom. Occasionally one would race up to the surface or dive to the bottom. They moved very quickly which I have never observed before. Some would rise, release bubbles, then sink again. I have only observed this before with flowering teas. Definitely an enjoyable experience.

I hate repeating myself but the liquor was white grape juice in color. Very light, very alive in appearance. The wet leaf only partially relaxed on this first steep and it had a marine seaweed aroma. The liquor itself is lightly floral in scent.

This is thick like broth. Buttery and vegetal in flavor. Lightly floral. The aftertaste is sweet and nearly immediately geranium plant in nature. It produced a slight tingling sensation especially in my cheeks. The tingle is something I have noticed with all the Taiwan teas.  I don't recall seeing it mentioned in any other reviews online so maybe it is just me.

I only used half the sample. As I steep the second time the leaf has relaxed and there is so much leaf! I cannot see through the press. With the water it appears to be an almost solid mass. Oolongs are cool that way.

The second cup is much like the first but now with some mineral notes. The color of the liquor is more golden. The aftertaste has grown less geranium plant and more floral. Yeah, wrap your head around that last line. Geranium is the term I use for that almost latex like flavor that often accompanies green oolongs but I find the term unappealing - so it is geranium plant.

This will definitely go more steeps and I may get to them after I publish.

I think it is a toss up between this one and the Taiwan High Mountain oolong for my personal favorites during Oolong Fest. What are your favorites?

Visit Teavivre online.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Teavivre, Superfine Taiwan Qing Xiang Dong Ding Oolong Tea

Teavivre Description:
In Taiwan Oolong Tea, Dong Ding Oolong Tea is an excellent kind highly praised by the world. Dong Ding is originally planted on Dongding Mountain, which is a branch of Phoenix Mountain, in Lugu Village, Nantou County, Taiwan. The tea is planted in the area at the altitude of 1000 meters. So this is also a High Mountain tea, which is known as its obvious floral fragrance. This Dong Ding Qing Xiang Oolong Tea is made of the tea leaves from Qing Xin Oolong tea tree. This tea has thick and soft leaf, refreshing tea liquid, with strong osmanthus scent. Meanwhile it has strong sweet aftertaste, which makes High Mountain tea more excellent than low altitude tea. The difference between Dong Ding Qing Xiang Oolong Tea and Moderately-Roasted Dong Ding Oolong Tea is the process of roast. Qing Xiang means that the tea is not roasted.

Sample provided by Teavivre.

My Review:
Oolong Fest continues with this Dong Ding oolong. Immediately upon opening the bag I had to  look this up. I have had Dong Ding before. The aroma out of the sample pack was nothing like I remembered. The last line of Teavivre's description cleared it up. This is Qing Xiang which Teavivre clarifies as meaning not roasted. The dry leaf has only a light oolong aroma and not the heavier charcoal I was expecting. I love learning and being surprised.

The pellets of this oolong appear tightly rolled and are typical of all the Taiwan oolongs I have tried thus far. Instead of the usual dry leaf picture, I decided to offer the wet leaf instead. Oolongs are pretty amazing. A few pellets in the bottom of your brewing vessel can swell enormously when wet. I lost my tea ball years ago and I advise you to do the same. Set the pellets free. They expand so much you can easily pour your cup without getting leaf in your cup.

I used the recommended parameters provided on the sample of one mug of boiling water (212 F / 100 C) and steeped initially for two minutes in my press. The leaf created a liquid forest in my press. The brew is golden with just a touch of green tint.

Oooh, this has a beautiful aroma and taste. After reading Teavivre's description I can definitely make the osmanthus connection. It is still unfamiliar enough to me that I doubt I would have been able to come up with a descriptor on my own. I would have called it something like floral/spicy. It is like it has a light touch of cinnamon and possibly ginger? The floral aspect is the strongest but natural and not overwhelming.

It is not bitter but I find it slightly drying. Again with this oolong my cheeks have a numb feeling from sipping. The aftertaste is sweet and lasts. The further into the mug I get the more the aftertaste develops the geranium taste I associate with oolong. However it does not dominate the mug. I am finding myself fascinated and captivated by this tea.

I quit after three 12oz mugs and this would easily go more. The green oolongs from Teavivre have so far all been light, fresh, floral, and sweet. Each is distinctively different and each has been delicious. On to the next!

Visit the Teavivre website.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Teavivre, Nonpareil Taiwan Li Shan Oolong Tea

Teavivre Description:
A good tea needs attentive observation on its appearance and careful taste on its flavor. This Nonpareil Taiwan Li Shan Oolong Tea is twisted into round particles. Dry tea is in dark green color of glossy appearance. Infuse the tea with 100℃ water. Tea liquid looks transparent in golden yellow color. It tastes full and mellow, with long-lasting sweetness and fresh fragrance in the mouth. The floral aroma and smooth flavor still stays after ten or more steeps. As it cooled, its fragrance and sweetness retains in your cup. This is a special characteristic which only can be found on high grade teas.
Another characteristic of Li Shan High-Mountain Oolong Tea is the natural fruity scent. It is a result of the high mountain and low temperature condition. Unique climate and fertile soil bear the tea trees that are grown with the natural fragrance. Thus the tea’s flavor tastes richer which differs from low grade tea. This is the important fact that the tea can become a representative of Taiwan Gao Leng tea.

Price: $28.90/50g (1.75oz)

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
The third oolong from Teavivre as I continue Oolong Fest! This is a high level Li Shan from Taiwan. I'm looking forward to this one.

The photo I grabbed from Teavivre's website shows the leaf pellets in all their mystery. It amazes me how a bud and two or three leaves connected by a stem can be rolled so tightly.

The dry leaf has a light floral green oolong scent. I used about 3.5g in my press with boiling water for an initial two minute steep. Teavivre recommends twice that amount of leaf. For my tastes, I have never felt it necessary to use so much leaf. The result of my western hybrid brewing method is a very lightly morning sunshine colored liquor with a hint of green. The leaf is relaxing but still quite twisted. The leaf scent is a light floral aroma along with spinach.

The sip is creamy with a spicy floral taste. Late in the sip it develops what I call a geranium note. There is no bitterness and no rough edges. Apparently it is a bit astringent as the inside of my cheeks feel a numbing sensation and it is slightly drying. The aftertaste is very sweet and it is long lasting.

Mug two starts very smooth and a little less creamy. It has developed an earthy plant taste. I can't come up with a better description. The aftertaste continues sweet and swells with the geranium flavor. Some who dislike the taste call it latex. To me, it reminds me of the scent of the geranium plants my neighbor grew when I was a young boy. I love teas that evoke memories.

Most of us will not consider this to be priced in the range of an everyday tea. It is a relatively rare tea to be sipped as a special treat but remember oolongs resteep really well. This one prepared my way is about $2 per 12 oz mug. That is no more expensive than a cup of tea at Starbucks. It will easily steep 3 times, making $0.67/mug. If you use a 6 oz cup that is 6 cups at $0.34. The initial investment needlessly scares a lot of us away from enjoying a rare treat.

Teavivre offers sample sizes of their teas that I generally get two or sometimes three sessions from one bag. It is an affordable way to experience high quality tea without the anxiety.

Visit the Teavivre website.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Teavivre, Taiwan Osmanthus Oolong Tea

Teavivre Description:
Crafted with the tea leaves from Qingxin Oolong tea trees, mixed with natural fragrance extracted from fresh osmanthus, this Osmanthus Oolong Tea has high floral scent, as well as the mellow taste of oolong tea. When brewing this tea, you will first smell the refreshing osmanthus fragrance, and then taste its flavor in the liquid in the mean time feel the sweet flavor. The aroma of osmanthus and oolong will stay in your mouth for a long time. The floral fragrance also brings richer flavor to the oolong tea.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
I have tried one other Osmanthus Oolong. Afterwards I still was not sure what osmanthus was supposed to taste like. That is definitely not going to be the situation here. When I cut off the top of the sample bag a floral almost perfume scent filled the air. To me, it resembles lavender. Very fragrant.

The pellets are compact with a partial stem showing. They look pretty much like any Taiwan oolong. I used a healthy half scoop in my press and added boiling water for a two minute steep per Teavivre's instruction. I often play with other companies parameters but for my tastes Teavivre gets it right pretty much all the time. The only change I generally make is I use less leaf than they recommend per my tastes.

The result is a white grape colored liquor that is bright and clear. The wet leaf is only partially relaxed. The leaf scent is floral and green. The cup aroma is osmanthus.

The sip starts with the osmanthus, then the green fresh oolong flavor kicks in. This is sweet with no bitterness, bite, or rough edges. I was concerned at first that the dry aroma was so perfumey that the cup would be overpowered. Happily this is not the case. It is far less in your face flavored than most any flavored commercially produced tea. Compared to say a black tea, this is a very lightly flavored cup. It is more intense than a white tea.

The aftertaste is very long lasting, floral, and very sweet. This is one of the few hot teas I have not wanted to add sweetener to the cup. I always try to review them without additions first. If you add sweetener it is kind of too much even for a sweet tooth junkie. However the addition causes the osmanthus to taste something like grape candy.

For round two I steeped another 12 ounces for two minutes. On this cup the oolong moves to the forefront and the osmanthus recedes, still present but not dominant. This cup has an earthy or woodsy quality to it. The aftertaste is still very sweet of osmanthus and it lingers on and on.

At first I was not sure what I thought of this, but it sips easily and as I sipped I noticed the cup went empty very quickly.

Visit the Teavivre website.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Teavivre, Taiwan High Mountain Oolong

Teavivre Description:
Although Taiwan originates from Fujian, China, its flavor is quite distinct with Fujian Oolong tea. Like this Taiwan High Mountain Oolong Tea, it is recommended for beginners of Taiwan oolong. Different from the high aroma of Fujian Oolong, this tea has light floral fragrance.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
I am getting ready to start an oolong fest with several samples from Teavivre. First up is this May 2013, High Mountain oolong, from Nantou, Taiwan.

The pellets are nicely tight and look typical of oolongs. I did not note an aroma of the dry leaf. I used my press and water heated to boiling per Teavivre instructions. The steep time was 2 minutes on the first cup. 

The leaf only partially relaxed and has a seaweed/spinach aroma. The color of the liquor reminds me of white grape juice. It is softly yellow but very light. The cup aroma stands out above the leaf and is floral. It is not the heavy floral I often associate with Taiwan oolong. It is much more delicate.

The sip reveals buttery spinach with a hint of bite. It is only slightly sweet. There is no bitterness, astringency, or rough edges. The aftertaste swells to a floral wave that subsides leaving a long lasting sweeter than expected floral taste.

With the second 12 ounce mug the leaf has almost completely relaxed. It is beautiful full leaves that look so green and fresh you could almost imagine they were just picked off the tree especially for this cup. The taste is every bit as full and flavorful as the first. I am nearly certain this would go at least one more steep, unfortunately I am out of time today.

While this may be less complex than some Taiwan oolongs, it will still blow the doors off any you have tried in a bag. This is my idea of an everyday oolong.  The taste, aroma, and aftertaste are all solid without becoming overwhelming or unbalanced. A very nice tea and a great start to oolong fest.

Visit Teavivre online.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Brita Filter Pitcher – Attempting To Fix Boring Flat Tea

I live in the country. Before I was downsized into retirement* I worked in town. My work tea was usually marvelous. In fact, I did almost all of my serious tasting at work.  At home I drank soda in aluminum cans because tea was boring. I blamed the microwave and it turns out it was only part of the problem. The bigger issue is our county water.

The wells the city and county pump their water from are only a few hundred feet apart. The taste is not so close. The waters are pumped in opposite directions to two different filtering plants. Our county water smells highly chlorinated and contains a lot of floating minerals. It tastes bad and it makes flat tasting boring tea.

My wife won’t drink our tap water. She switched to bottled water years ago. I am too stubborn and cheap to use expensive bottled water. There is also the concern of our landfills overflowing with those plastic bottles.

I have fought the battle of boring tea for years. It has become an especially important war to win now that I am at home. Enter the newest weapon in my arsenal – The Brita filter pitcher. This is the simple 5 cup version. It was $10 at Wal-Mart and came with one cartridge filter. The Brita replacement filters are $6. Cheap enough if it works. The Great Value cartridges that I have not tried yet are around $4.

Fresh cold tap water is poured into the top reservoir where it filters through the activated charcoal cartridge into the pitcher at the bottom. That's really all there is to it. You are supposed to change the cartridge every 40 gallons. That involves presoaking the cartridge for 15 minutes and then rinsing before loading it into the pitcher.

So far, I am very pleased. The water is clear with not floaters. The annoying bleach smell is brought under control. I would say it is gone but I really need to wait for one of our bad weeks to know for certain. Most importantly my tea has come alive. Seriously, the difference is day and night. The cup has more aroma. The sip is fuller and crisper. I should have bought this pitcher years ago.

I can’t guarantee you the same results but if you are not experiencing the subtleties of your cup a filter pitcher is an inexpensive possible solution.  I would be interested to hear your experience and solution to flat boring tea.

* On being downsized – at first I was very hurt, angry, and scared. You know what? I survived and learned to adjust rather quickly. Most people complain about their jobs. I did as well. Part of me warns you be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Another part of me has become aware of what a destructive toxic environment I actually walked into each day. Turns out one of the best things the company ever did for me was to push me out the door. I am so much happier and content now. So, thank you!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Eastern Shore Tea Company, Cherry Blossom

Eastern Shore Tea Description:
A “Vintage Blend” of Keemun, the burgundy of teas, and an exceptionally fine “winey” cherry tea. Very aromatic, it’s nice served as a demitasse after dinner. Flavored black tea. Contains caffeine. 20 Foil wrapped tea bags in our classic white ribbon bag.

My Review:
First off let me say I am not sure the description above is for this tea. It is a best guess. There is no Cherry Blossom tea listed on the website. In fact when you click on any of the bagged tea options it takes you to a Baltimore Coffee & Tea webpage. This tea came my way in the mail from a friend who got it from a friend kind of thing.

This came in a gold metallic envelope. Once opened, it is a tagless, stringless plain white bag. The aroma is like cherry candy.

Steeped with 190F water for 3 or 4 imprecise minutes. The resulting brew appeared more cherry cider than tea like. It is clear with a reddish tint.

The taste in not entirely natural. It is more like a cherry candy but it is pleasant enough. Often teas like this can go horribly wrong and end up being cough syrup. This is better behaved. It reminds me of Jolly Rancher cherry candy. If that appeals to you, this would be a good fit.

I can taste the tea, especially in the aftertaste but only lightly. I was not sure if this was green or black based so I took it easy on the water temperature. Pretty sure it is a black tea. There is no hint of bitterness or astringency so it could have taken hotter water without complaint. I left the bag in the mug the entire time and it never became harsh.

There is not a lot of depth to the taste but it is enjoyable.