Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It’s Tea Time – Exploring Six Tea Rituals from Around the World

Today, The Everyday Tea Blog brings you a guest post by Brenna Ciummo, a writer for Seattle Coffee Gear. Turns out she knows a thing or two about tea traditions. 

Tea has been around for thousands of years, and for many, there is more to drinking tea than simply combining tea leaves with water. There is a relationship between the tea and the server, the tea ware, the guest and between the tea and oneself. As a result, many tea drinkers have developed daily rituals around tea, which are often designed to be a cozy or peaceful time that allows the individual to relax or spend time with friends and family. These rituals have become an integral part of tea culture, enticing people from around the world to create their own unique tea recipes and traditions.

Chinese Gong Fu Tea Ceremony

Also known as the Chinese tea ceremony, the original term for the ceremony, “gongfu cha” means, “making tea with effort.” The idea behind the ceremony is to focus on making quality tea; and that time, dedication and effort will create the ultimate experience. Generally oolong teas are used for the ceremony, and are steeped at least two times so that guests can appreciate the tea’s full flavor. The tea is served in small Yixing teapots and cups, which are designed to emphasize the beauty of the tea. In fact, when the tea is served, the guests are supposed to examine the brew’s color and fragrance before tasting.

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Like the Chinese tea ceremony, the Japanese tea ceremony requires putting great thought into your actions, especially your movements, when preparing the tea. However, the ceremony is not just about drinking the tea but also appreciating the aesthetic, ultimately providing a place to relax in peace with friends. The guests invited also play an important role, since the ceremony’s host is supposed to keep the guests in mind when preparing the tea and the tea utensils are placed from the guests’ point of view. The tea that is served is matcha (powered green tea), which is usually frothed with a whisk. Since the tea ceremony requires extensive preparation and knowledge, many people enroll in specialized classes or schools to learn how to master hosting the ceremony.

Indian Masala Chai

Drinking chai, which means “tea” in Hindi, is a way of life in India. However there is nothing commonplace about the way it is made. Recipes for making chai tea vary, and they are often passed down from one generation in a family to the next. Generally chai is brewed with an Indian black tea, water, milk, sweeteners and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and pepper. The drink is so popular in India that is usually the first thing served to guests and you can find Chaiwallahs (baristas who serve the drink) on nearly every street corner.  Visiting the stands of these vendors is a daily ritual for many people in India, since they are a source for town news and gossip.

British Afternoon Tea and High Tea

According to most histories it appears that Anna (the 7th Duchess of Bedford) started the first afternoon teatime in the early 1800s so she could indulge in a snack and appease her hunger pains that developed between lunch and the often late-evening dinner. The concept took off with England’s upper class, and became a fashionable social event that took place daily from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Meanwhile the working class adopted the tea as their main evening meal (which was served around 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.) and termed the break “high tea” in reference to the high tables at which they ate. As afternoon tea become more established, various snacks, cakes, tea accouterments (tea caddies, tea balls, tea cozies, etc.) as well as rules for etiquette were created to bring out the best in tea.

Moroccan Mint Tea

Moroccan mint tea is an important cultural tradition in Morocco. Not only is the tea served multiple times a day as a part of meals, but it is also served as a form of hospitality and used to greet guests. The tea is usually made from strong gun power green tea (the tea is rolled into small round pellets that look like grains of black power), hot water, spearmint leaves and sugar. Once the tea has been steeped, it is served in an ornate teapot and glasses (not cups as in other parts of the world). The tea is poured from several feet in the air so foam forms on the top of the tea. Tradition states the tea should be served three times, so the drinker can detect the changes in the tea’s flavor over time as it steeps in the pot.

Russian Tea Ceremony

The Russian tea ceremony has a unique take on brewing tea. Instead of heating up the water for tea in a teapot, it is boiled in a samovar (a large heated metal container) while a smaller pot, placed on top of the samovar, is used to make a dark concentrated black tea called “zavarka.” Next the tea is poured into a cup and diluted with hot water from the samovar. Finally, a lemon slice is usually added to the tea. Many people consider this to be a Russian invention, and often call tea with lemon “Russian tea.” As with the other tea ceremonies, Russian tea ceremonies provide family and friends with a place to gather and socialize.

These traditions are nowhere near comprehensive. As tea continues to be one of the most popular beverages in the world -- it is only second to water -- people will keep creating tea rituals of their own. What’s your tea ritual? Do you take your tea hot or cold? Do you start the day with spot of tea, take a midday tea break or have a cuppa to relax at the end of the day? The options are endless.

Brenna Ciummo is a writer for Seattle Coffee Gear enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things coffee and tea. An avid tea drinker, she is always on the hunt for new teas and tea rituals to explore. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hamilton Beach Programmable Kettle

Hamiton Beach Programmable 1.7 L Kettle
Excitement is in the air. I have new teaware to review. Woo Hoo!

I have been looking at electric kettles for a really long time. A few years back I bought a Russell Hobbs kettle with a tea pot and warming tray. I still use it and like it. Well, there are a couple of things about it that I quickly decided aren't for me, like the tea pot and warming tray. I just don't make tea that way. I heat one mug of water at a time and steep in a Bodum French Press. The kettle itself is fine, but it is plastic and I have to guess at the water temperature.

Ideally, what I have been looking for is an all stainless steel interior (no plastic), cordless electric kettle, with adjustable water temperature. I hoped to find all this in a less than one liter size. 16 ounces would be perfect. How hard could that be to find? 

Oh silly me. Such things do not exist. At least not in the American market. To find something that small you have to settle for all plastic, no/or bad temperature control, and/or an exposed heating element. Forgetting the size, you can get plastic free and adjustable, but it is going to cost you. You want how much for that kettle? All I want to do is heat some water!

Not willing to pay as much for a kettle as I did for my first car - OK kidding, but not by much - I became determined to be content with my Russell Hobbs, yet continued to keep an eye out just the same. Recently, I set up a tea station in my den. I already had one in my living room. Struggling with using a coffee drip pot at one of the stations, I decided it was time to get serious and buy another kettle.

I was on my way to buy a simple, inexpensive, mostly stainless steel kettle, when I found this one at our Walmart. The basic, simple version, was about $30. This one was $40. List is around $50. It was $44 online when I checked.

I didn't impulse buy. I came home and read the reviews. They were mixed. Most loved it. A few said it broke almost immediately. Hmmm. I looked again. It has a one year warranty and our Walmart is real good about returns so...

Taking it out of the box, this is a nice looking kettle. The exterior has a brushed finish. The interior is stainless steel and the heating element is concealed. It is cordless and feels rugged when picked up by the handle. The lid is plastic but that really doesn't concern me. The lid push button on the handle works smoothly. The opening is large enough to reach down into the kettle for cleaning, some of the ones I've examined are not.

Immediately upon getting the base out of the box, I noticed a negative. Unless you have this on a kitchen counter with an outlet nearby, you will need a heavy duty extension chord. The one on the base is way too short.

With everything out of the box and set up, I added water and noted I will not be able to tell how much water is in this unless I add more than half a liter. I probably never will, so I'll have to pre-measure.

Plugging it in, to the extension chord, and hitting the on button brought it to life. The temperature of the kettle is easily readable. Some of the reviews said it was difficult to see. Maybe they have changed this feature, but mine is clearly visible. It started at room temp of 71F and swiftly climbed to 212F. The kettle is a little more noisy while heating than I am used to but it isn't annoyingly loud.

At this point it is supposed to automatically hold the water at the set temperature for the next hour. I chose to hit the off button so I could pour. There is an auto shut off feature to prevent damage from boiling dry. I am not going to intentionally test that feature. Pouring was smooth and mess free. The removable screen filter in the spout seems positioned in such a manner as to minimize splash over that typically happens with my Russell Hobbs kettle.

The temperature can be adjusted anywhere between 150F and 212F. There are five presets: 175°, 180°, 190°, 200°, 212°. Getting this feature to work was at first frustrating. Then I realized the program button catches and you have to push a little harder to make it click. If you don't like the presets, use the closest one and then tap the + - buttons to change it.

After using this several times, I realized the kettle remembered the last temperature I had set. If I am having a green tea day, I only need set the temperature once. That's a cool feature.

Some reviews reported the kettle drifted a bit (as much as 5 degrees) when in its 60 minute temperature holding mode. To test this I refilled and set the kettle to 180 degrees and fired it up. The temperature climbed quickly then settled in at 180. I am assuming the readout is accurate as I really don't have anyway of checking. At any rate, I did not get drift.

Honestly even if I did I would not have been that upset by a few degrees, but that is just me. In my experience, most tea really isn't that finicky, and in the cup I am getting excellent results. Other reviewers did note if they waited a few minutes the kettle did cool back down to the proper temperature. Not an issue with my kettle :)

You can also set the clock time and program the kettle to kick on at a specified time. Probably handy but I am not likely to use this feature, so I haven't tinkered with it.

Bottom line - I haven't had it long so I can't speak on the durability. It feels solid. It heats the water just like it is supposed to do. I detected no off odor or taste to the water. The price is very reasonable. Honestly, I don't know what else I would want from a $40 kettle - except contain no plastic and be only 16 ounces. Since that is not going to happen, this will do nicely.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Single Origin Teas, Idulgashinna Ceylon Green Organic

Single Origin Teas Description:
Grown in the esteemed Uva region, Idulgashinna offers a delicious organic fair-trade green tea.  While Sri Lanka is not normally known for green teas, this light brew offers a rich green flavor with a fruitiness that reminds us of lychees.  With a pan-drying finish it certainly can't be called delicate! 

Idulgashinna is a small bio-dynamic tea estate, located above 3,000 feet. This organic estate is committed to fine teas while also  providing ethical jobs for its workers.  This estate is certainly one of the jewels of Sri Lanka, though often gets over-looked!

Sample provided by Single Origin Teas

My Review:
A green tea from Ceylon? Has the world gone mad? Well, yes, and probably. I have only recently heard of Ceylon green tea. This is my first opportunity to sample one. My previous experience with Single Origin Teas has been excellent, so I am looking forward to today's tasting.

I have had several email exchanges with James at Single Origin Teas. This business is a new labor of love for him but he is hardly new at it. Before opening this Texas based company he worked at a tea shop in England. Before that he worked on an estate in Sri Lanka.

Another interesting tidbit of information is the brown paper bags the tea is packed in was chosen because it is made in the USA and for its environmental footprint. Except for the wire tie the bag is completely compostable, including the window, which is made from plants. That is pretty cool.

On to the tea. First off, the picture is very accurate of what was in my sample. It is green, silver, and brown. The leaf is longer than expected. I am used to seeing roto-vane Ceylon tea. This is large pieces.

The dry aroma is grassy. I used about two tsp of leaf. I set my kettle to 180F. I am shooting from the hip with the parameters. My steep time was 3 minutes. The result is a dark honey colored liquor that is quite clear and shiny. The wet leaf has what I call a beef stew aroma.

The sip is making me take notice. It is familiar and different at the same time. This is difficult for me to describe. It has an almost leather quality below the lighter floral notes. There is a brisk element and a slight drying. It is not bitter. I think it could become so, if you overheat or over steep. Three minutes was about right. I might even go 2 1/2 just to see. I am still at a loss for words. I think the best I can offer is this is green tea with guts. It is still much gentler than most black teas. I cannot verify the fruitiness of lychees stated in the description as I have yet to sample a lychee. I have one in storage but have not gotten to it yet.

Cup two was also brewed at 180F for 3 minutes. The wet leaf now has a seaweed scent. The brew is similar in color to the first. The sip is much more tame. It still has flavor but I miss the Grrr of the first cup. As it cools, it does liven up a bit. I think a little more leaf and a shorter first steep would balance this out.

As I was approaching the bottom of the cup, the light hit it just right. The liquor kind of glowed. It was honey-yellow around the edges and became a beautiful orange-red in the deeper pool of delight. I imagine it would have made a funny sight if my wife had seen me. I was probably cross-eyed as I stared at the bottom of the cup for a good long while.

All in all, for my first experience with a Ceylon green, I am pleased. This one is $7 for 2 ounces making it another good choice for an everyday tea.

I must have just hit the sweet spot with this one today. I steeped for 3 minutes with a higher temp of around 195 F. The wet leaf still has what I often call a beef stew aroma, others call it artichoke. I’ve never had artichoke so I’ll take their word for it. BUT on top of that wonderful green aroma this time I noticed an awesome floral note. A reviewer on Steepster called it orange flowers – and I say, yes exactly!

When I sipped the hot cup my first reaction was beer but not really. I sipped again and thought wine but not really. Good definitely. As it cools it becomes closer to bi luo chun but with a strong fruit/floral thing going on. Single Origin Teas says it reminds them of lychee. I still have not tried lychee tea. To me it is almost mango or something. This is a truly cool tea that kept me interested the entire cup.

Visit Single Origin Teas website.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Single Origin Teas, Palace Needle Organic

Single Origin Teas Description:
This delicate green tea, grown in the Chinese province of Hubei, is hand harvested in mid-April.  This early picking brings a fresh green taste of seaweed and buttery spinach.  Dark twisted green leaves that are steam dried in the Japanese style delivers a fresh, iridescent brew.

We strongly suggest using freshly boiled water that has cooled for a couple minutes.  If the water temperature is around 175 degrees (or 80 Celsius), this will bring out a much sweeter flavor than if boiling water is used.

Sample provided by Single Origin Teas.

My Review:
This is my second tea from Single Origin Teas. This time I am reviewing Palace Needle, a Chinese green tea. The generous sample is hand packed in a brown paper windowed bag. It is resealable with 2 twisty wing tabs. I removed one scoop of tea to examine. The leaf is very dark, almost black, and shiny, with green stripes. An interesting looking leaf. 

I used water heated to 180 - because I didn't read the 175 they recommend first - and the scoop of leaf in my press. The steep was about 3 minutes. The resulting color of the liquor reminded me of chamomile tea. It is creamy yellow with just a hint of gold. I can see to the bottom of the cup easily. The wet leaf scent is of spinach which has been typical of many Chinese green teas I've reviewed. A very nice start.

In the sip, I notice first that it is sweet, then I catch green veggie notes. I do get the buttery spinach. There is no grassiness in the taste. Late in the sip I get a small amount of bitterness. It is the good kind that gives a cup character. The aftertaste lingers pleasantly. I find this to be slightly drying. Again, that is not a bad thing when it is done correctly. Here it simply makes me crave a second cup. 

On the re-steep the cup is slightly darker and the taste turns decidedly seaweed. I had written in my notes to myself on the first cup that I wasn't getting seaweed. I was too impatient because it is obvious now. The wet leaf is fully relaxed and is revealed to be broken pieces of leaf.

This tea is $6.50 for two ounces. I find that to be a very reasonable everyday tea price. Would I recommend this Chinese green tea to others? Why yes indeed I would. In fact, I think I just did.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Single Origin Teas, Jun Chiyabari Second Flush Nepal

Single Origin Teas Description:
Jun Chiyabari, a neighbor to the famous Darjeeling tea province, offers truly excellent tea.  Notes of maple and floral undertones of rose bring a unique touch.  One of the smaller tea estates at around 123 acres, and one of the youngest - planted in 2002! - Jun Chiyabari offers a delicious tea that highlights how high altitude growing can bring out delightful flavors if processed correctly.  

Produced in hand-rolled batches with an exemplary level of care, the leaves are nicely curled, and provide a prime example of how high quality tea is not limited to the Darjeeling gardens.

Sample provided by Single Origin Teas.

My Review:
Single Origin Teas is new to me, so I looked on their About Us page and grabbed this snippet: Single Origin Teas was founded on the hope of bringing some of this subtlety and diversity to our fellow tea lovers: thus we provide high quality teas from specific locations at a reasonable price. They are located in Texas and have a wide variety of offerings.

The sample came in a brown paper bag - with a window to view the leaf and twisty tabs at the top for resealing. It is unique and cute, but unless you store your teas away from light, you might need to move the leaf to a tin unless you will be using it quickly. Bonus, remove the foil twisty tie and the whole bag is said to be recyclable.

The bag has the company logo printed and the name of the tea. I went to the website and did not see brewing instructions.

The leaf is pretty colorful. More so than I think the picture reveals. There are silver leaves, green leaves, and varying shades of brown. I used about 2.5g of leaf and 8oz of water heated to under boiling. I would be more precise but I am still trying to figure out my new kettle. I steeped for 3 minutes.

 The brew is lighter than I expected in color. It is a golden bronze. The wet leaf aroma is maple, woods, and nuts. A good start.

The sip is sweet, malt, woods or nutty, and fruit. I read the company description. It could be subliminal or maybe reading it just made me notice it, but I do get the subtle floral notes of rose late in the sip.

I love Nepal tea. It similar to a Darjeeling but is not bitter or astringent. It is fruity and fragrant. It is also similar (sort of) to China Fujian black tea with its malt and nutty notes. As I think more on it this is also similar to a Formosa Oolong with woodsy flavors. It is just such an interesting combination.

This particular tea is a very reasonable $8 for two ounces.

My experience with Jun Chiyabari has made for a great first impression with Single Origin Teas. I look forward to trying more of their offerings.

Visit the Single Origin Teas website.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tea Horse, Dong Ding Oolong

Tea Horse Description:
A hand-made artisan oolong from Lugu village on DongDing Mountain, Taiwan. Floral and fruit aromas give a buttery tea with honey, peach and lightly nutty flavours.

Sample provided by Tea Horse

My Review:
This is my third sample from Tea Horse. They operate out of the UK. From what I've seen so far, they know their stuff. Let's see if the streak continues.

The sample is well packaged in a resealable pouch. The label is simple but covers all the basics you need to know. Opening the sample, the first impression my nose gets is grain with green, woodsy, and roasted notes. The rolled leaf makes for rather large pellets. It looks like the picture.

I used two tsp or one of my scoops and fresh boiling water heated in my new Hamilton Beach programmable kettle. I will review it someday - but for now I just hope it doesn't get in the way of tasting this tea. The steep was 2 minutes per instructions.

The leaf is relaxed but not completely unfurled. The liquor is yellow I think. I kind of wasn't paying attention to the room lighting and it made it difficult to determine. At this point I caught the aroma of the wet leaf. It interested me and made me nervous at the same time. Please keep reading. The scent takes me back to when I was 14 or 15 and I would go to the stock car races on Saturday night. The wet leaf reminds me of the Marlboro scented grandstands. Not like an ash tray, but like the sweet smell from a distance.

Now the taste is nothing like what I just described. There is no tobacco or smoke flavor. It is mildly roasted. At first it tastes amazingly like Hojicha - roasted but mellow and kind of green. As the cup cools it changes into a creamy sweet woodsy flavor. Tea Horse calls it honey and buttery. It didn't hit me quite like that but it is very pleasant. Between sips as I write, I can taste the floral elements. They are subtle but lingering. Nice. As the cup cools even more I am now picking up fruity notes. Not necessarily peach to me, but then I seldom get peach unless it is PEACH. This is far too subtle for my brain to interpret in that way but I really like what I am tasting. I do think it is becoming quite nutty as well.

I'll continue to sip on more steeps to investigate what else might come out of this leaf. I can tell you already that I love a tea that changes as you sip it. This one is definitely impressing me.

Visit the Tea Horse website.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tea Horse, Panyong Golden Needle

Tea Horse Description:
An elegantly spicy, thick and sweet black tea from China. A supreme whole leaf black tea with lots of delicate golden tips. Originally from the town of Tanyang, this speciality black tea is grown in the eastern part of Fujian Province, in the stunning Taimu Mountains, China.

Sample provided by Tea Horse.

My Review:
This is my second sample from this UK company. I am looking forward to the review. The sample came in a recyclable and resealable foil lined paper pouch. The label is simple, clear, and includes product information, weight, and brewing instructions. Also on the label is a best before date.

I opened the pouch and had to catch the scent twice. This took me back to my childhood when I would go with my dad to the feed store to buy seed. This smells like the corn bin at that mill. Forgive me if you don't make that association. Very cool flashback for me.

The leaf looks like the picture with dark leaf and some golden buds. The leaf is smallish, though larger than the standard fare from most Assam or Ceylon teas.

I used half of my scoop which would be approximately 2.5g or 1 heaped tsp. I used my Bodum press and 8 oz of just off boiling water. The steep was about 3 minutes. I seldom do anything really precise. I just sort of feel it. The resulting liquor is very clear and bronze in color. My first thought on the cup aroma was a good brown bread.

This is representative of other Tanyang and Fujian teas I have tried. The cocoa and caramel notes are present as is the hint of spiciness that Tea Horse mentions on their label. For me though, this is still bringing rich dark bread to mind. There is a honey like sweetness present and a healthy dose of malt. This is why Fujian is one of my all time top black teas.

Overall, this is a very pleasant cup and is excellent for pondering deep thoughts or maybe just reliving pleasant memories.  

Visit the Tea Horse website.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tea Horse, Chocolate Peppermint

Tea Horse Description: Our most popular blend! A bespoke Tea Horse blend of Ceylon black tea with cocoa bean shells and peppermint. No artificial ingredients, it’s a calorie-free treat.

Sample provided by Tea Horse.

My Review:
Tea Horse is based in the UK. They offer a wide range of teas, taster boxes, and a subscription service of 4 monthly samples with free shipping in the UK.

This sample came in a resealable foil-lined brown paper pouch. I really appreciate being able to zip up the rest of the sample for later use. The ingredients and brewing instructions were clearly printed on the pouch label.

I opened the pouch and scooped out a spoon of leaf. I could smell chocolate. The cocoa bean shells are obvious in the mix. There are also a few yellow petals. I am not sure if that is the peppermint or just decoration.

The scoop of leaf went in my press along with 8 ounces of boiling water. The instructions said to steep 4 minutes. The resulting brew really caught my attention. I have tried maybe 6 chocolate themed teas. All of them have produced a murky brown swamp water brew. Not this one! The liquor is deep bronze, clear and sparkly clean. I could see through the tea to the bottom. Awesome.

The sip was equally impressive. In my notes to myself, I scribbled OMGoodness! The first thing you taste is chocolate. Not cocoa - liquid milk chocolate. Do yourself a favor and add a little of your favorite sweetener. I used Splenda. This is calorie free decadence. Tea Horse says to add milk. I am not British so I never add milk to tea. You can if you want.

The Ceylon base is a gentleman. It is strong enough to make its presence known without demanding the spotlight. There is no hint of bitterness or astringency. The peppermint is no wall flower, but it is only there for support. It fills out the cup without distracting from the chocolate.

Going in, I had a preconceived notion this would taste like a York Peppermint Patty. Nope. If that is what you are thinking, get that idea out of your head. This is easily the best milk chocolate flavored tea I have tried to date with the bonus of a light minty glow around the edges.

The second steep was weaker but still good. I have plenty left to try again. Next time I will attempt a 3 minute first steep and see if I can't coax a bolder second cup out of it. If you aren't one to resteep, let this go the full 4 minutes or more and enjoy.

Guys, instead of bringing your tea drinking girl an occasional box of boring old chocolates and have her thinking, "This will just go to my hips." Give her what she really wants - a decadent bag of calorie-free liquid chocolate. Better yet, buy two and tell her it's a his and hers thing. They love it when you do romantic stuff like that. You get to be the thoughtful guy, and you get your own stash of tea. Win - win, I say. Just don't tell my wife what I just wrote.

Visit the Tea Horse website.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Bigelow,French Vanilla Decaffeinated

Bigelow Description:
Experience more than just a tea. We invite you to take a private moment to relax and unwind with a delightful cup of Bigelow French Vanilla Decaffeinated Tea. Its rich vanilla flavor will calm down even the most hectic of days and because it has no calories and the added benefit of healthy antioxidants, it's good for you too!

decaffeinated black tea, natural and artificial flavors (soy lecithin).

My Review:
This is the last of my Bigelow decaf variety pack excursion. I have been avoiding this one. Why? Well, back in my pre-loose leaf days, I remember trying Twinings Vanilla. I did not like it. OK, today my tastes have changed and expanded. Would I like it today? I don't know, but let's turn our attention to the tea before us.

This tea bag has a tag, string, and staple. It comes well protected and freshness preserved in an aluminum lined mylar envelope. The variety pack version, doing the math, appears to have 1.67g/bag. The non-variety version is 1.8g. That may not be enough difference to matter.

Tearing open the envelope, I can smell vanilla. With less than 2g of leaf, I chose to use my 6 ounce cup. Just under boiling water was poured over the bag. I steeped for about three minutes. The cup is dark and shiny with an aroma of vanilla.

The sip is vanilla but the cup just seems thin. I can't taste the black tea. So, back into the cup goes the bag where I decide to leave it. A couple minutes later I sip again. Now the cup is bolder with more developed flavor and I can taste the black tea. At this point I will add that my wife liked the shorter steep time and thought she could get a second cup from the bag.

With my longer steep time the vanilla is nicely creamy. It is not overwhelming as are some vanilla teas. The decaf black tea in the bag just isn't bold enough to really compete. I can taste it, but find myself wanting a little more from it. As I have said in other reviews, that is the downside to decaf and bagged tea in general. The cup often lacks depth and definition.

While this is not a complex cup, I did find myself enjoying this vanilla offering from Bigelow. If you are wanting a simple late evening cup of creamy vanilla, this would be worth a try.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bigelow, English Teatime Decaffeinated

Bigelow Description:
Sipped throughout the day tea quenches, soothes, satisfies ... and delivers healthful antioxidants. Typically English, rich in flavor, and appropriate for any tea drinking occasion.

My Review:
Today I am sampling the fifth of six in the variety pack I bought recently. I have had the regular version before and after learning to properly brew it, was pleasantly surprised. So I have hope for this meager bagged offering.

The bag comes in an individually sealed envelope. I find they help hold in the freshness for a very long time. Removing the bag, I smell tea. Bags, especially unflavored, often don't have much aroma - and this is decaf to boot. So it is a wonderful start!

I used a 6oz cup, I believe I could have gone bigger. I prepared this with boiling water. The steep time was three minutes. This resulted in a nicely dark and aromatic cup. The scent is decidedly malty.

My guess is this is a blend of Ceylon, Assam, and maybe something else, but that is just a guess. It only says black tea on the label. It tastes like tea. Not the blended for blandness type tea that too often comes in a bag. This is actually quite flavorful.

Its shortcoming is also its selling point. Being decaf (and bagged) it takes the depth out of the cup. That being said, this is a very nice evening decaf. I could drink this often.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Lupicia, Paradise Green

Lupicia Description:
Japanese green tea sprinkled with island flowers and the sweet aroma of a day in the tropics. It’s paradise in a cup.

My Review:
This is my first tea from Lupicia. I have heard good things about their quality so I am looking forward to trying this one. I have never had tea bags packed in a pouch like loose leaf. These are actually pyramid sachets.

The dry aroma is really nice. The scent is mango, pineapple (I think), and assorted citrus. On my first cup I did not brew this per instructions. They call for boiling water and a 2 minute steep with 5oz of water. Instead I used about 10oz of steaming water.

The aroma is still very inviting. The bag, upon removal, has swollen to full to busting status.

The sip is a bit weak. It tastes really nice, just weak. It is cooling and the aftertaste is a bit like watermelon. I believe this would be really good over ice.

In the spirit of being fair in my review, and because I am still enthralled by the aroma, I am giving this a second chance. This time I used 5oz of almost boiling water - I just couldn't make myself do that to green leaf. I let it steep closer to three minutes.

The sip is... stronger but a bit astringent. The fruit flavors are now a bit too much. It is kind of prickly. Man this smells good though. Maybe 8oz of water would be the magic sweet spot.

This comes in a pouch of 10 bags for $7.50. It smells so good and the taste is pleasant. The problem I have is some low cost bagged teas I've tried tasted nearly as flavorful and delivered a much stronger brew in the mug. I like this one but expected more.

Bigelow, Constant Comment Decaffeinated Tea

Bigelow Description:
Sipped throughout the day, tea quenches, soothes, satisfies... and delivers healthful antioxidants. From the wonderful aroma that fills the air the moment it starts steeping, you'll know that Bigelow Tea is like no other. To create "Constant Comment®" Decaffeinated, we blend tender, hand-picked tea leaves with the rind of oranges and sweet spices, then individually wrap our tea bags in flavor-protecting pouches to seal in its goodness.

My Review:
I continue through my variety box of decaffeinated Bigelow tea. Today it is Constant Comment. The regular version is the first tea I ever bought. At that time there were 3 or 4 varieties of Bigelow on the shelves in our local grocery stores. Everything else was Lipton or Nestea and that last one was an instant tea (yeah - Eeeww).

This is a bagged tea containing 1.67g per bag. Each bag is sealed in its own mylar envelope that maintains the freshness very well. I used just off boiling water and an 8 ounce cup. The scent is classic Constant Comment - orange, clove, and other spices.

In the past, I have tried to force this to produce a full 12 ounce mug with meh results. Using about 6 ounces of water in an 8 ounce cup produced a very fresh and aromatic cup. The orange and clove separate nicely from each other, and the other spices. This produces a far more interesting cup than is typical of grocery store flavored teas.

The black tea base can be tasted, however it is a bit thin due to the decaffeination process and the bag. Taking that into consideration, it is really not bad.

My opinion is this is a successful and worthy cup not only as a decaf but as a bagged tea. Nicely done.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bigelow, Earl Grey Decaffeinated

Bigelow Description:
A really fine cup of tea is one of life's true pleasures. We heartily recommend Earl Grey Decaffeinated for the enjoyment it will bring to your tea drinking. This delicately scented, aristocratic blend is an international favorite.

My Review:
Bigelow. Just the mention of the name brings a nostalgic smile to my face. It immediately makes me think Earl Grey, the second tea I ever bought. It is also the real start of my lifelong obsession - some might say addiction. I suspect I am not alone.

This is a bagged tea as have been every Bigelow tea I have ever sipped. I have never seen it in loose leaf. This one also is decaffeinated.

I have finally accepted Bigelow only uses 1.66g in each bag opposed to the 2g they used in my youth. So I chose a smaller vessel than I normally use. I prepared this in a cup with 8oz of just off boiling water. I left the bag in the mug for old times sake. Deal with it.

The brew is dark and fills my senses with even more of the citrusy bergamot aroma that was present in the dry bag. Just like I remembered it.

The sip is a satisfying cup of Earl Grey. The bergamot is smooth and delicious. Even with the bag still in the cup, there is no hint of bitterness. I am amazed, I can taste the tea. The decaffeination process takes a healthy bite out of any tea. The tea bag fannings here do suffer but honestly it is still pretty good.

If you are an Earl Grey fan and in need of a decaf version, this bagged tea is better than it has to be. In fact I rather enjoyed it. Thanks for living up to my memories.

Monday, July 1, 2013

52Teas, Rainbow Sherbet

52Teas Description:
We’ve blended our premium Indian black teas with real freeze-dried orange sections, freeze-dried raspberries and natural lime, orange and raspberry flavors (with just a touch of natural vanilla flavor to give it that smooth sherbet essence).

This tea SMELLS simply INCREDIBLE, like you just popped open a carton of rainbow sherbet, and the flavor is like someone melted a scoop of rainbow sherbet in your tea. Lime, orange, raspberry–who knew such an unusual combination would prove to be so delicious?

My Review:
I have heard a lot of positive things about 52Teas, so I am happy to finally get the opportunity to try their artisan tea. This is a limited edition tea that may or may not be available again. When my oldest son came over to the house to visit, he found this is my sample box. He grabbed it and said, "We must have tea. Now!" So he got the first cup and I got the resteep.

The smell is simply incredible, just as Frank at 52Teas said. We used about 3g and near boiling water. The steep was 3 minutes. The second steep was nicely dark and there is plenty of flavor. This is really good. The senses are flooded with fruit flavors without it being overdone.

The next day I brewed this again, so I could have the first cup. I used the same parameters as the night before. I needed to see how the first cup differed from the resteep. Honestly, both cups were excellent. I can taste the orange, the lime, and the raspberry. The big difference for me was in last night's resteep I didn't notice the black tea. In this first steep it is very obvious in the aftertaste. I do not taste the vanilla so much as catch a sense of creaminess or smoothness.

If you enjoy a fruity tea and this is ever offered again, then you need this one. Seriously good... except as I write this the bag just left my house with my son!

Visit 52Teas.