Thursday, March 27, 2014

Darlene's Tea Port, Blue Lady

Darlene's Tea Port Description:
The flavors of passion fruit, grapefruit, orange and grenadine mix to create a naturally sweet infusion. Try this one iced for a hauntingly delicious experience!

black tea, freeze dried orange + papaya + pineapple, natural dried papaya and pineapple, cornflower + calendula + sunflower petals, natural flavors

My Review:
Before I even review this let me state, at the time of this writing, Blue Lady is priced at just $5.49 for 4 ounces. Next let me say I have no idea why this is called Blue Lady. There are no blue flowers or blueberries in it.

The leaf does look like the picture so it is pretty enough. I am not really sure of the dry scent but I am guessing it is the papaya mixed with orange. I used one scoop which is roughly 2 tsp in my press with boiling water. The steep was 4 minutes. The wet leaf aroma was fruity with a peppery note. The brew is deep, deep, red.

Three minutes on the steep would have been preferred. This is more potent than I was expecting. The black base is very present bringing with it briskness and astringency in the form of tongue tingle and dryness. I added sweetener to calm it. Next time I will know better and use a shorter steep.

It is weird that passion fruit is not a listed ingredient but that is the predominate fruity flavor. The other standout note is peppers. Not pepper like in a shaker but little red peppers that should add a lot of heat but don't. This is not heat spicy. It is taste spicy. I like that.

I have not heard of Darlene's Tea Port before. That is a shame because this is an interesting tea.

Visit Darlene's Tea Port here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Teavivre, Taiwan Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao) Oolong Tea

Teavivre Description:
Oriental Beauty Oolong also have other beautiful name as “Bai Hao Oolong” or “Dong Fang Mei Ren”.  It is named “Bai Hao Oolong” because its buds covered much of white tips.  It has honey aroma and sweet smooth taste.

This tea is special because it needs the bite of small green insect / leaf hoppers for its natural sweet aroma or honey aroma.  The small green insect called leaf hoppers or tea jassid prefer to bite young leaves (buds).  The leaf than reacts to defend and recover from the bite.  This causes a partial oxidation and the very specific high pitched Oriental Beauty fragrance.  So, organic leaves should also be more appetizing for tea insect / leaf hoppers.

Sample provided by Teavivre.

My Review:
This is the last of the latest round of samples Teavivre sent for review. I saved this one for last. Why? It's oolong. I like oolong but I never wake up and say, "I need oolong." So keep that in mind as you read through my review.

I opened the sample and as is my custom, I sniffed the leaf. What? I sniffed again. This is oolong? Yep, that is what it says right there on the label. The scent is like a cereal grain - wheat or oats? Also there is obvious malt. Malt in an oolong!

I took out half the sample to examine. The leaf shape reminds me a lot of a quality White Peony only this is much darker. Still, there is some bright brown buds, some silver, and even traces of green. It is a pretty leaf to look at.

I steeped the leaf in 10 oz of 185 F water, in my freshly scrubbed press, for 4 minutes. The liquor is a deep honey color. The wet leaf is dry forest leaves and malt with hints of fruitiness in aroma. I notice some of the leaf is now quite green while most is deep brown.

The taste is honey. Wonderful beautiful honey backed up by delicious notes of malt. I know I made the comparison to Bai Mu Dan (White Peony) earlier, but honestly the taste even suggests it. There is a certain light earthiness with hints of floral and fruit. If you can't tell, I really like this one and it's an oolong!

I am so used to green oolongs have that strong floral geranium taste and dark oolongs that are generally heavily roasted. This is just different. It is not overly floral and definitely not roasted. I can see myself actually waking up with this in mind for my morning cup, and surprisingly, it's an oolong.

Visit the Teavivre website.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Teavivre, Fengqing Ripened Tribute Pu-erh Cake Tea 2013

Teavivre Description:
This Ripe Pu-erh Cake Teavivre choose is from the representative Pu-erh production area Fengqing. Fengqing is the original place of the world-wide famous Dian Hong Tea. And it is also a classic place of Yunnan Pu-erh. It is a place in Lingcang which is one of the four famous Pu-erh production areas. The taste of Fengqing Pu-erh is mellow and sweet, deeper than Pu-erh in other production area. And it usually has the flowery flavor of Dian Hong Tea. The tea leaves used to make this Ripened Tribute Pu-erh Cake Tea are all pure leaves hand-picked from 50 to 100 years old Large-leaf Arbor Tea Trees.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
Today I will be reviewing this puerh tea from Teavivre. It is a shu or ripened puerh, also sometimes called cooked. This is a recent production method invented in 1973. Ripe Puerh is made from Green maocha with an additional step of wet piling.

One thing of note from the Teavivre website that is not mentioned in the description above is that the leaves for this tea were picked in 2006 though the production date is 2013. Another item that caught my interest was the price. A cake of this is $42. I initially thought that is a lot but then I realized that is for a 400 g cake. That is about $10.50 for a 100 g or roughly 3 1/2 oz. That is pretty good if this is a tasty tea. You can also get a 20 g sample for $3. I always recommend trying a sample first to judge for yourself.

I opened my sample and took a whiff. It did not reveal much. It sort of has the aroma of Chinese black tea. The sample was mostly one chunk with some smaller pieces that had broken off. The label did not mention a rinse so I placed the entire 10 g sample into my press and added 12 oz of boiling water. The steep time was around 4 minutes while my computer booted up.

The brew is very dark and looking of molasses. I wish I hadn't let the computer distract me as around 2 minutes was probably more than sufficient. The wet leaf has some barnyard aroma with sort of a cinnamon note.

The sip has a lot of a rough edges to it because I oversteeped. It is not bitter or astringent just rough. The taste is leather and wood. I added sweetener trying to calm it down. It helped but this is still way more intense than intended and it is all my fault. Wow, I'll do better on the second cup, I hope.

Second cup at 30 seconds! It is still very dark. I wanted to go with even a shorter steep but my the press did not want to pour. Sometimes the screen gets tea resin built up on it and it creates sort of a tea vacuum. I pushed the plunger and broke the vacuum but 15 seconds would have been more what I was shooting for. While it looks like this review is plagued or something, it is really me being an amateur.

The tea is much more drinkable now. It is leather and wood with some cinnamon notes. It is still more potent than I intended. This is all my fault since I was not taking proper care of my tea brewing equipment.

Day 2. Same leaf. For my third steep I began by thoroughly scrubbing the screen and plunger assembly of my press. It still needs an overnight soak but it will work for today. I heated 16 oz of water to boiling and steeped for 15 seconds. This leaf has already produced 24 oz and been through 4 1/2 minutes of steeping abuse, yet the brew is now a beautiful burgundy wine color. I finally got it right.

The wet leaf still has a barnyard scent but there is nothing like that present in the cup. Instead I am getting a strong sweet note of honey. In addition it has a nice leather like taste. I am also still detecting what I would call wood. When properly prepared this has no rough edges. There is no bitterness or astringency. I have two highly drinkable cups from this steep and I am sure it will go more, possibly many more.

I am glad I survived my incompetence and stuck with this one until I got it right. Turns out this is a very nice puerh.

Visit the Teavivre website.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Cinnamon Orange

The Persimmon Tree Description:
An aromatic combination of premium black loose leaf tea, spicy cinnamon, pungent cloves and tangy orange peel.

Premium Black Loose-Leaf Tea, Cinnamon, Cloves, Orange peel

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
I wanted some black tea to start my day. I grabbed this one. Cinnamon Orange - at first I thought that is kind of an odd combination then I thought yeah but it just sounds good.

I opened the tin and orange and cinnamon filled the air. The tin was stuffed to the top with orange peel and pieces of cinnamon. This was surrounded by a sturdy looking black tea leaf.

I didn't notice until after I had steeped that The Persimmon Tree recommends a steeping temperature of 195 F. I used 2 tsp in my press with boiling (212 F) water. Oops. I steeped for 3 minutes. The resulting brew is deep orangey red. The wet leaf scent kind of reminds me of a Christmas potpourri without any pine cones of course.

I was half expecting a Constant Comment type taste with this but that is not what is in the cup. The orange and cinnamon blend together very tightly and strangely produce what I first perceive as hot apple cider. As I stop to think it through I realize it is orange. The cinnamon with a light tartness adds to the illusion of cider. There is a touch of clove present but it is subdued. I am getting a little dryness from astringency in the black tea which may or may not be due to my using boiling water. This is not bitter or what I would call brisk.

This is certainly not unpleasant but as a morning tea it is not really doing it for me. I think this might work really well around an evening fire. Be aware it is not decaffeinated.

You can find Cinnamon Orange here.

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.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dragon Tea House, Yi Heng Xiang Pigtails Old Tree Puerh 2008 Raw

Dragon Tea House Description:
Handmade, old tree leaves from snowy mountains in Linchang, Yunnan, China.

My Review:
I have several puerh samples to review. I am really trying to get to them. Honest I am. So much tea, so little time! But not this day. Today I find this cool offering is up next on my 'to be reviewed' list. Notice how the cake looks more organized than most? Taking a quick look it almost has the appearance of feathers. As the cake is broken up it comes apart in hand rolled plaits or pigtails. The art of tea processing is so varied and fascinating.

This is a sheng or raw puerh from 2008. Putting my nose in my sample bag gives hints of light smoke and citrus. Interesting. Let's see how this profile changes when steeped.

I used boiling water and steeped 1 minute with about 8g of leaf. Normally I would steep for 30 seconds or so but I did not do a separate rinse with this tea. The liquor is deep golden colored and the aroma is dark and smoky. The leaf scent offers an additional kelp note. I'm intrigued.

I oversteeped and kind of overleafed on purpose. The result is leaving me searching for words. What I experienced is the light aroma of smoke as the cup is lifted to the lips. It disappears as soon as liquid hits the lips. Next, I get a creamy vanilla sensation, quickly followed by a sharper metallic or mineral sensation. Sharper is maybe the wrong word. More pronounced maybe, as this is a mellow cup. That sensation changes to a floral orchid meets light lavender note. All this is followed by a sensation like kind of like sniffing ashes except here it is pleasant, so that description doesn't seem to correctly identify the experience. Truly a unique sheng experience.

If I sip quickly it is almost leather like and spice in taste. This cup does have some cheek tingling and a dryness in the aftertaste. There is also a kind of sticky sensation but not as pronounced as I sometimes get with puerh. As I sit here typing I have a cooling sensation in my lungs from this tea. Awesome!

This is a very cool puerh. If you like raw puerh this one is worthy of a try. At the time of this writing a 100g cake is a very reasonable $10.99

Visit the Dragon Tea House website.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Teavivre, Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Chinese Red Black Tea

Teavivre Description:
A cup of Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Chinese Red Black Tea will not only attract you by its taste, but also by its appearance: so dark and strong with tight and long tips. This tempting appearance is produced in Yunnan. While if you want to describe its taste, you can use the word elegant. It can serve you a cup of elegant gongfu tea or afternoon tea.

High mountains and proper environment produces good tea. Chinese Red has a price of high value. Its special tea tree and superb making skills make this tea carrying a unique fragrance as rich as perfumes. The top notes make you delighted; the middle notes fresh your mind; the base note of strong floral fragrance make you intoxicated.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
The first thing I want to comment on is this seems to be a lot more expensive than my normal everyday teas. Preparing it as Teavivre recommends for western style, with 2.5 g of leaf for an 8 oz cup, works out to only about $0.75/cup that is hardly outrageous. If you steep more than once with the same leaf that brings the price down even more. The initial price of some teas keep us from giving them a try when the price per cup really is far less than mediocre (or even plain bad) tea will cost us at a cafe.

What we in the west call black tea, the Chinese call red tea, so named for the color of the brew, not the leaf. What is unique with this tea, according to Teavivre's website, is the tree used to produce the leaf is actually of the variety used for oolong. So though this contains a generous amount of buds they are darker in color than typical for this tea type.

Opening the sample the aroma is, to my nose, malted milk balls (chocolate included) and Cheerios. I know, I know, I have such a sophisticated palate. Removing the leaf it is thin twists of dark leaf with just a little tan showing through. This appears to be full leaves and not the tiny broken pieces common to black tea from India and Kenya.

I used 2.5 g in my press with 8 oz of 194 F water. I steeped for 3 minutes. The recommended range is 1 to 5 minutes. The color is dark orange. I don't know why that always surprises me, but it does. The aroma of the leaf is brownies and honey - more sophistication for you. It is warm and inviting.

The taste is very reminiscent of honey without being extremely sweet. This is dark browned sugar or molasses. It has some indistinct fruity notes. Very easy to drink. It has some astringency but no bitterness. I detect some notes from the roasting process. I find this similar to a Fujian tea in taste and complexity. I keep catchy fleeting traces of cocoa and malt but I can never decide if they are really present of just expected.

With Yunnan and Fujian black (or red) teas topping my favorites list, I find it totally expected that I would enjoy this tea.

Visit the Teavivre website.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Verdant Tea, Master Han's Shu Pu'er 2002

Verdant Tea Description:
The liquor is perfectly light and clear, with the green plantain and olive oil flavor distinctive to Master Han’s Black Tea and his Qianjiazhai shu pu’er. The tart notes in the tea are reminiscent of a blend of hibiscus, elderberry and rose. Herbaceous hints of coriander and fennel sneak into the aftertaste.

The musty and aged quality of this tea is so refined that it moves away from earthy and more towards the satisfying smell of old libraries. The more you sip, the more a camphor-like aftertaste and cooling sensation build up in the back of the throat. The aftertaste continues to build and get sweeter and juicier the more steepings you enjoy. It is exciting to see Master Han innovating and trying new things even when he has an established tradition of sheng pu’er. May future years bring more of this precious pu’er.

My Review:
Today I am having a go at a 2002 puerh. It is out of stock, which means it is gone forever but reviewing this one will give some indication of what to expect from new cakes from Master Han.

The portion I have to sample is very dark and tightly compressed. The dry scent is a bit fishy to my nose but Verdant calls it sweet raisin aromatics with mossy forest undertones. I placed it in my press and added boiling water for a 30 second steep.

The brew comes out ruby red and grows darker in the cup. The wet leaf still has some fishy aroma to me, call it raisin all you want. But there is now darker notes like cocoa and brown sugar mixed with musty old book leather. This is starting to interest me.

The sip is like sniffing book leather along with wheat notes. Late in the sip it turns, not exactly brisk and not bitter, maybe more pronounced is the word I am thinking. As it cools I am getting what I will agree to be raisin notes. The aftertaste is kind of nutty and fruity. This is not fishy, or barnyard (beyond the leather). It is harsh but not completely mellow either.

Verdant is very specific and colorful in their description. If they get all those notes out of this then God bless them. Maybe with more steeps I'll come up with a few of them myself. My opinion is this is a much better puerh than the initial leaf aroma suggests but it is not one of my favorites.

Visit Verdant Tea online.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Earl Grey Heaven

The Persimmon Tree Description:
A delicious fusion of organic black loose-leaf tea leaves, fragrant oil of bergamot and a touch of French vanilla, this divine black tea will fill your room with an aroma most heavenly! This creamy Earl Grey tea is rich and robust with refreshing citrus notes that will awaken your senses and put a spring in your step.

Organic and Biodynamic Black Loose-Leaf Tea, Organic Cornflowers, Organic Oil of Bergamot, Natural Flavors

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
I dragged my rear end out of bed this morning and tried to get out of the room without disturbing my wife. It did not go well. She finally sighed and asked if I needed the light. I said no, and stumbled down the hall where I promptly dropped stuff on my bare toes. I need Earl Grey. I jumped this one to the front of the long line of samples I have yet to review.

Opening the tin - The Persimmon Tree's tins are quite nice by the way - I immediately caught the scent of the leaf inside. It is not exactly vanilla and it isn't bergamot. The combination is almost alcohol beverage in nature, at least to this sleepy head.

Removing a scoop of leaf (2 tsp) it looks very much like the picture. It is very dark leaf with threads of golden tips and pretty blue cornflower petals. I don't think cornflower actually adds any flavor to the cup. I think they are there to pretty up the blend. It works.

I steeped the leaf in my press for 3 minutes in boiling water. The scent of the small broken pieces of leaf was similar to the dry leaf. The brew was either red or orange or caramel depending on how I held the cup. This early in the morning that amused me.

Now being up front with you - I love Earl Grey. It was my first tea love and I suppose it always will be my addiction. For me it does not require additions like vanilla. In fact, for me extras just get in the way of my precious bergamot. I have noticed not everyone shares my passion for this little citrus jewel. One reviewer on Steepster has introduced a new word into the tea vocabulary by calling it blergamot. So I understand we don't all share the same taste buds. With that in mind I took my first sip.

No suspense here. This is good. Based on the leaf aroma I wasn't sure how this would turn out. It is not perfumey or alcohol in taste. It is very creamy. The bergamot and vanilla mix is very balanced as I prepared it here. I have read several reviews and noticed an equal number said the vanilla was stronger as compared to those who thought the bergamot was stronger. A small proportion agree with my assessment of equal billing. That really is not a surprise to me. Neither of these flavors is neutral with most people. I love strong bergamot and usually think the vanilla is too heavy. For my personal tastes it could be tuned down a notch here but then it would no longer be equally balanced.

The initial taste is equal bergamot to vanilla. Strangely just as it begins to fade there is a moment when it brings to mind images of a grape soda I drank as a kid. I can't explain that and you will probably not have the same reaction. As this image fades, I taste the tea base lightly in the background. The aftertaste is vanilla bean in nature. Sweet and pleasant.

If I were going to compare this to another tea - and let's be honest, we all do that - the closest match is probably The Tea Merchant's French Earl Grey, though that one is stronger on the vanilla from my recollection. It is interesting to note that I also made a grape soda connection with that one.

This definitely on of the better Earl Grey cremes I have tried. You can find Earl Grey Heaven here.

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 10, 2014

Simple Loose Leaf, Yunnan Breakfast Black

Simple Loose Leaf Description:
Our Yunnan Breakfast is a wonderful Chinese black tea with rich awakening flavours. Its invigorating fragrance and glossy red liquor offer a robust taste with a peppery finish. Enjoy this bold tea hot.

Sample provided by Simple Loose Leaf.

My Review:
I've said it before but it is worth repeating, I love Yunnan black teas. Today's easily qualifies as an everyday tea. The website lists the price at $9.97/3 oz. That is very reasonable if it is an enjoyable tea. Of course the price goes down, if you have a monthly club membership, based on the number of teas you agree to buy.

I really like the resealable pouch Simple Loose Leaf uses for their teas. It has a vent in the back making it easy to push out excess air. This is the only company I have encountered using this system.

The leaf in the bag has a breakfast cereal smell to my nose, like cheerios maybe. I removed a scoop of leaf and it is mostly dark leaf with touches of golden buds scattered throughout. The picture looks more golden than my sample.

I steeped two different mugs of this, each with fresh leaf. The first I used the equivalent of two tsp with 6 oz of boiling water and steeped 3 minutes. The result was bitter and not so enjoyable, although I could catch some smoky notes and cocoa behind the bitterness. I should have only used half the leaf.

So cup two was with 12 oz of just off boiling water using about 1 1/2 tsp of leaf. This time I steeped for just over one minute. The leaf is broken pieces that turn chocolate brown once steeped. The aroma of the wet leaf is lightly overdone brownies and light smoky notes.

The sip is lightly smoky, slightly spicy, with a bit of pepperiness. I expected cocoa but mainly I catch nice leather notes along with an earthy or woodsy flavor. This cup is not at all bitter.

This is actually pretty good. I think it might benefit from a slightly longer steep but 3-5 minutes as suggested might be pushing it. I think I'll try two minutes next time and see how that works. At one minute it is pleasant and more complex than one would expect based on the cost.

All of the teas from Simple Loose Leaf so far have proven themselves to be a good balance between quality and cost. If monthly clubs aren't your thing, you can still purchase their teas individually.

Visit the Simple Loose Leaf website.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Verdant Tea, Zhu Rong Yunnan Black

Verdant Tea Description:
Lady Zhu Rong was a legendary dagger-wielding warrior-queen of Yunnan descended from the god of fire. The spice and power of this tea compelled us to evoke her kingdom of Dian, an independent state before it was conquered by China and renamed Yunnan.

The aroma of the wet leaf is that of fresh roasted sweet potatoes... Behind the rich savory sweetness is a potent cayenne pepper aroma.

The early steepings are full and all-encompassing like cedarwood smoldering in an incense censer. There is a dark spice that moves towards clove, but is tempered by a sweet cinnamon note. This new harvest builds on the smoldering base with luscious notes of honey, and waffle wafer cookies.

Later steepings develop towards creamy banana, and the spice slowly builds up towards ginger, galangal and even a hint of cardamom, evoking a warming cup of honey-sweetened chai.

My Review:
I have said it before on this blog, I love Yunnan black tea. Just by looking at the magnificent leaf, I feel I am in for a treat. My Steepster friends rave on this one as well as many other teas from Verdant. I no longer question whether this will live up to the ravings. I am confident it will.

The dry leaf did not give up any hint of what the steep would bring out. I noticed no scent. Even so I could gaze on it for a long time and not grow weary. Just beautiful.

I used almost 2 tsp of leaf in my press with 205 F water and steeped for about 45 seconds. The resulting brew is caramel in color and shiny. The wet leaf smells divine. It is deep dark chocolate and browned cocoa. It is such a dark scent it almost approaches coffee without any bitter notes. I notice just a bit of malt and grain, maybe more dark bread like. I could go on but you get the picture - there is a lot going on.

The sip is honey and brownies or rich browned cocoa. It also suggests fruity and leans to spicy. It is such a thick feeling tea. As you breathe while swallowing you catch hints of roasting over fire that must have happened during the processing. This is slightly drying but absolutely free of bitterness.

I don't get some of the notes Verdant mentions but that may be the different methods used to brew and the distinct probability that they just have better tasting skills. I think no matter what level ones skills, this would prove to be an interesting and complex tea. Very good.  

Visit Verdant Tea online.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Teavivre, Keemun Black Tea - Grade 1

Teavivre Description:
The most popular black tea in China and considered one of the finest teas in the world, TeaVivre's  grade 1 Keemun has a strong, fruity aroma and a bold, layered, fruit and floral like taste that lingers in your mouth long after you finish drinking it.  Not quite at the same level as our Keemum Golden Tips, it is still a very high quality tea, and is great to drink everyday.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
I remember my first sip of Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea from Teavivre. I was terrified of it and drawn to it like a moth to flame. That was my first experience with Keemun outside of tea blends. That tea was also my first exposure to quality smoky tea. So let me state right now Grade 1 is not a smoky tea. There is nothing to fear here.

I opened the sample bag and breathed in the fresh green grassy and grain scent. Nothing like I expect from a black tea. There is just a hint of malt. Removing a spoon of leaf it looks dark at dusty with some golden tips visible. The hand rolled leaf looks small and light.

I am preparing this western style. It was steeped with 185 F water for 3 minutes. The result is a coppery bronze liquor than is lighter than I expected. Teavivre has a picture on their website prepared Chinese gong fu style that looks bright yellow. They use more leaf, less water, and very short steeps for multiple tiny cups.

The taste is so smooth I wondered if I had the right tea. The taste has hints of fruit and flowers. There is no bitterness to be found. It feels thick and creamy almost foamy. There is malt late in the sip. This is really good. I do not find it to be bold prepared western mug style. I'm thinking this may deserve another session later with a gaiwan and some really short steeps.

Visit Teavivre online.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Andrews & Dunham, Double Knit Blend

Andrews & Dunham Description:
You’re truly at your best when you drink the very best. Try our new Double Knit Blend and enjoy the rugged, stylish flavors you can only get from fully modern beverage engineering. Using our patented natural process, we’ve blended a tea that will keep you on top of your day: from your very first sip — bright as sunshine on a California highway — to your last mellow mouthful, satisfaction will be yours. You’ll feel it, and others will notice. Make it a Double Knit Day!

We like to soak these custom blended tea leaves in our favorite tub for four minutes. Invite some friends or just take it easy on your own — make sure the water's boiling and the mood is light and this tea will take care of the rest.

My Review:
Well reading the official description isn't much help in knowing what to expect from Double Knit Blend. What is it? Two different teas woven together? I have no idea. It is an obvious black tea. The leaf is mostly dark with some lighter bud colors mixed in for good measure. The dry scent is malty.

Against my better judgment and past experience I brewed 1 tsp in 8 oz of boiling water for 4 minutes per recommended steeping instructions. I almost always stop at 3 to avoid bitterness and stomach burn. Others insist the 4 minutes is correct, so here goes.

The brew is deep orange brown with a lightly malty aroma. The sip is not bitter. There is the lightest hint of smoke. I also notice a brightness or briskness. It is not really tart and just edges on sharp. There is some malt especially late in the sip. I am not good with deciphering what teas are being blended but my total uneducated guess is Kenyan and Assam. It is actually kind of mellow. It falls in somewhere between an English Breakfast and Prince of Wales.

While this type of black tea is never going to blow my socks off, it is a good solid tea. Those who do crave similar blends have rated this highly.

Visit Andrew & Dunham online.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Teavivre, Green Tea Powder

Teavivre Description:
Origin: Lin’an City in Hangzhou, Zhejiang.

Ingredients: made of the fresh organic tea leaves

Harvest time: May 20, 2013

Taste: complex layers of flavor, with an attractive taste that is brisk and slight bitter.

This Green Tea Powder comes from Hangzhou. It is made of the fresh organic tea leaves, milled into fine powder. The fresh tea leaves are in the shape of one bud with three to four leaves. Usually the water temperature for brewing this tea is at 60℃ to 80℃.

My Review:
Two things to clarify before I start. First, this is not matcha. Chinese green tea powder is the forefather of Japanese matcha. My understanding is tea powder is steamed whereas matcha is fried. Of course they also use leaf grown in different environments. Second, I am not reviewing this as intended - in other words, I am not brewing a hot cup. I am using this in an iced drink similar to Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino.

I love Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino. I love them but they are high in sugar, calories and they are on the expensive side. I have been trying to come up with an inexpensive, healthier, alternative. I have prepared this a few times now trying to tweak the parameters.

Today I am satisfied this is the best combination of ingredients for my tastes. I started with 8 oz of 2% milk in a blender. To this I added two packets of Splenda. Trust me it still isn't as sweet as Starbucks. Next I added one half teaspoon of green tea powder. A little goes a long way and if I use more it causes me stomach burn, so be careful. Another caution, when opening the tea powder bag, it will causes a green foggy cloud if you aren't extra careful. I next added a small tray of ice cubes that were first run through an ice shaver. I put the lid on the blender and pulsed until I had a frothy mix.

When I went to pour I noticed things had taken a nasty turn. When I previously scrubbed the blender, I did not get the base tightly screwed back on. So, yeah, the mix was running out the bottom. I went ahead and poured into my tall glass. Then I had to spend several minutes cleaning up a sweet sticky mess.

Whereas Starbucks matcha is bright green, this is more clay colored. It is green tinted tan. It is sweet, cold, and creamy. The taste is not Starbucks. That is OK, it is still a fun drink. Instead of the bright green flavor of matcha, this is more mellow brown tasting. Recently I reviewed The Persimmon Tree's Grade A Matcha. Once I got the proportions on the Teavivre powder worked out, these two taste very much alike.

If you are determined to duplicate Starbucks Frappuccino exactly, this isn't the tea base for you. If you are wanting just a similar style drink to satisfy your sweet tooth with a frothy mug this might do nicely.

Visit the Teavivre website.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Verdant Tea, Bai Mu Dan White Tea

Verdant Tea Description:
This Bai Mudan is a pre-Qing Ming Spring 2013 harvest from Fuding, the most famous white tea growing region in China. Hand picked and quickly processed to lock in the “fresh from the field” taste that fine white tea preserves, this beautiful tea is one of the most complex and nuanced white teas we have ever tried. Made from a mixture of silver needle white buds and young green leaves, this tea achieves a balance and fully engages the palate in a way that traditional silver needle often struggles to provide.

My Review:
One look at this one and it was obvious there was silver needle buds mixed in with the leaf. It is a beautiful looking tea with hairy silver buds and various shades of wilted looking green leaf just waiting to be revived in the water. I forgot to sniff the dry leaf but I do recall it looking very fresh.

For the first cup I went with 175 F water and a one minute steep, following the low end of Verdant's recommendation for western brewing. The cup was light golden in color. The wet leaf scent was melon and a fruity aroma I couldn't identify.

I tend to love white teas. Sure, they tend to be subtle but there is usually a great deal of depth to the cup if you slow down and notice. So far my experience with Verdant has been very good. They have consistently delivered a quality cup of tea. Even the teas that have been a little outside my comfort zone have been interesting experiences. This cup of Bai Mudan is just not grabbing me. Why am I not amazed? Hmmm. The first cup is too light and lacks definition.

 Back to the drawing board. I researched my favorite experience with Bai Mu Dan (from Concept Teas) to see what I might have done differently. Apparently, I used 200 F water and a Two minute steep. To the tea kettle! Key theme music and spinning cup.

Ah yes, this greatly improved the cup. It is now feels creamy and vanilla like and tastes strongly of almond. Very nice. While still not my favorite Bai Mudan, it was much improved simply by using different parameters.

Visit the Verdant Tea website.