Saturday, May 31, 2014

Enjoying Tea, Lemon Ginger Black

Enjoying Tea Description:
This tea is made from top grade orange pekoe Ceylon with natural lemon and ginger flavoring. The Ceylon tea is grown at the altitude of 7000 feet above sea level from the Sri Lanka region. When brewed this tea produces a bright coppery color liquid with a fruity spicy flavor and with touches of mild astringency. A fantastic fruit tea.

Price: $5.99/4 oz

My Review:
I received a one ounce sample of this tea when I bought a teapot recently. The tin is a cute little fellow. When I removed a scoop of leaf I was surprised that it was barely missed in the tin. An ounce of tea is really quite a lot.

I really wasn't sure what to expect based on the price. As you can see the leaf is actually very nice looking. I am assuming the square chunks are pieces of lemon. There is also yellow safflower petals to add a pretty touch. This actually smells a little like bergamot while dry.

I used just off boiling water (209 F) in my press for 3 minutes. The resulting liquor is as described -a bright coppery color. It is a very deep color. The aroma of the cup is really interesting. The lemon, ginger, and Ceylon, combine to produce an almost tieguanyin oolong scent with fruity lemon notes. It really does smell nice.

The sip has a little bite but it is Ceylon and ginger so it is expected. It is also a bit astringent, not that I mind that. Probably two and a half minute steep would be a little more civilized for those who prefer a milder cup. The lemon is not overpowering. I find it to be present more in the aftertaste. The ginger I am sensing up front and in the cheek tingle. Both flavors are well represented throughout the sip but it is the Ceylon that is most prominent.

I am surprised by this cup. For such an inexpensive tea it is much better than expected. The leaf of the Ceylon is not the typical CTC tiny pieces found in grocery store loose leaf and yet it is comparably priced. It has some real and interesting depth.

Visit Enjoying Tea.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Upton Tea Imports, Rooibos Earl Grey

Upton Tea Imports Description:
A superior grade of Rooibos, scented with oil of bergamot. An excellent caffeine free alternative for Earl Grey aficionados.

rooibos, artificial flavor


My Review:
If you've been around here long, you already know I love Earl Grey. My standard cup has a Ceylon black tea base. I am also quite fond of Earl Grey with a green tea base. I have tried a rooibos Earl Grey once before. It came from an old time general store in a nearby arts and crafts community. Their loose tea was stored in clear glass canisters on an open shelf. It had no flavor.

Opening this sample packet I am hit with bergamot. Oh, bergamot, how I adore you. Just breathing in the scent makes this a hundred times better than my first encounter. I catch no hint of rooibos in the dry aroma.

The sample label is clearly marked with all the important information. It does say artificial flavor instead of oil of bergamot as mentioned in the description. I have encountered this before. Generally it means the oil is freeze dried before applying to the leaf. The legal eagles won't let them call it natural. The aroma is a delight, so no matter what the label says, this is bergamot.

I placed the leaf into a Finum basket and added boiling water to my mug. I used about 5 g for my 10 oz mug. The steep was around 6 minutes. 8 as recommended just kept me waiting too long. The brew is deep black cherry red. I can catch the scent of rooibos in the air. Oh, please, please, please, let this taste of bergamot.

First sip - SCORE! Yes! This IS Earl Grey. The bergamot is very up front, sweet, and citrusy. It is not overwhelming, fake, or soapy tasting. I really can't single out the rooibos, although I know it is altering the flavor ever so slightly from what I am accustomed to sipping. Because they add the acknowledgment of rooibos in the blend name, I am cool with it. I do single out the rooibos in the lingering aftertaste. Of course I still taste bergamot, so my mind is unconcerned.

This my Earl Grey friends is really a nice caffeine free late evening alternative to the standard black tea base. This is a rooibos I could see me drinking on a regular basis - maybe even daily. Very Good!

Visit Upton Tea Imports here. This tea is buried under Teas> Miscellaneous> Herbals and Tisanes> Rooibos and Honeybush> BA19 My main complaint with Upton is they offer so much, it is hard to locate anything.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Butiki Teas, Creamy Eggnog

Butiki Teas Description:
Creamy Eggnog pairs our buttery Organic Huangshan Mao Feng with a rich creamy eggnog flavor. The tea and flavor work well with each other and neither overshadows the other. This tea is sweet with a heavy cream and eggy quality. Add a little brown crystal sugar and the tea becomes extremely creamy, rich, and very much like eggnog. Some vanilla notes become pronounced and so do the egg notes. We added safflower for a touch of red for a festive Christmas colored tea.

Organic Chinese Tea, Safflower, Organic Natural Flavoring (vegan)

My Review:
Yesterday I reviewed a Halloween/Thanksgiving/Fall tea. It's the end of May and the temperature and humidity are climbing, so I am thinking cool thoughts. Carrying on in that vein today it's Christmas time! So time for some holiday cheer. I never would try eggnog as a kid. My grandmother loved it. I think she added a little nutmeg to her recipe (and a little shot of something from under the counter).

This is my first experience with Butiki Teas. I have heard nothing but praise for them. I am looking forward to this one. Opening the bag this smells incredible of sweet creamy vanilla. It is not overpowering like some vanilla scented teas. Examining the leaf, the Huangshan Mao Feng green tea is big beautiful full leaves. The red safflower doesn't show up in my picture. I didn't realize it at the time or I would have exposed some of it so you could see. It really does add a festive touch.

I joyfully added this to the press along with 180 F water for a 4 minute steep. This is one of those teas that benefit from a glass brewing vessel. The leaf is like a hanging garden flowing down from the surface. Some of it forms a carpet on the bottom. The rest dances silently. Beautiful.

The liquor is bright and clear with a light honey color. The wet leaf has a very different vanilla and steamed spinach aroma.

I am sure adding the brown sugar as recommended would be awesome but I only had Splenda available. Even so, this is incredibly delicious. It is creamy and lightly vanilla but thicker and more egg like. I am not sure how you can pull that off in a vegan tea, as that means no eggs. My favorite part of this cup is I can taste green tea. What restraint on the part of Butiki. This Mao Feng is too wonderful to bury under a ton of flavoring. Excellent job Butiki.

If I were to file a complaint it would be the absence of nutmeg. I realize there are a thousand different ways to prepare eggnog so giving us the base to work with makes sense. We can all add our own holiday classic twist later. No Nana, we don't need to add anything from under the counter. Actually Nana, if you were still here, I'd get the bottle for you. Yep, this is making me miss the old aluminum Christmas tree.

This is a seasonal item so wait for it. It's worth it.

Visit Butiki Teas here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Traveling Tea, Pumpkin Ginger Spice

Traveling Tea Description:
Pumpkin from ‘Our Garden’ Farm (New Florence, MO) oven roasted to bring out full flavor and sweetness, then combined with organic: Rooibos, Ginger Pieces, Clove, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

My Review:
I'm really not on a caffeine free joy ride, although it may seem like it lately. Today I had a diet Mountain Dew with lunch and it just seemed like a good time to try this one.

Rooibos is listed as the main ingredient but when you pour this out on a plate to examine it looks like a snack. Lots of big pieces of stuff. The scent is cinnamon and clove. I don't really notice the rooibos.

I steeped this for around 5 minutes using a Finum basket in my mug. The brew is an orange tinted light brown that resembles a watered down apple cider. It is kind of cloudy yet warm and inviting looking. The spices are more prominent in the brew scent than when dry. The aroma is cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.

I normally cannot separate flavors in a very hot cup. That is true here as well. What I got was similar to the aroma with a light bite late in the sip from the ginger. Once the cup cools into my normal warm range, it transforms. Now I taste the pumpkin.

I have had several pumpkin teas, all bagged and mostly with a black tea base, that had all the right spices in copious amounts that resembled pumpkin spice but they never actually tasted exactly like pumpkin. This one does. The spices are more powerful than the pumpkin so it slightly misses the mark as pumpkin pie but then again that isn't what this is called.

I know I am reviewing this at totally the wrong time of year. It isn't even available on the website until October. Just in case you plan way ahead on your tea ordering, this is the best pumpkin tea I have tried and strangely it is a rooibos blend. That may well be what makes this blend work so well. Also it is caffeine free, for when you don't want any additional buzz.

Visit Traveling Tea's Online Store.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Kally Tea, Rooibos Cola Chai

Kally Tea Description:
Okay all you cola lovers out there; this is what you have been looking for. A great healthy alternative to carbonated cola drinks. This chai starts off with a Rooibos base, then we mix ginger root, cinnamon, green cardamom and a hint of vanilla flavor. Excellent either brewed with water alone or in the traditional Chai method. What a divine substitute.

Rooibos, Ginger Root, Cinnamon, Green Cardamom, and Cinnamon, Ginger and Vanilla Flavor.

My Review:
Up front I am not the biggest chai fan and while I like rooibos, it is never something I think to brew. That said this one just sounds interesting. Cola? I have never had a cola tea before. Looking at the ingredients, nothing says cola to me. We shall see. Also rooibos chai? Having just said I seldom crave either, the combination might, MIGHT, just convince me.

Removing a scoop for pictures and an initial exam, you can see some seeds and leaves in the mix. The aroma is sweet chai. I do not notice the traditional rooibos scent in the dry blend.

I used a Finum basket and boiling water in my mug for a 5 minute steep. The result is a bright but intensely dark burgundy liquor.  In the mug it does have a rooibos aroma mixed with the chai spices. It smells sweet and inviting. A good sign.

In the sip I get sweet spicy chai. It is not overly sweet or spicy. Pronounced but pleasantly behaved. I hope the two descriptions make sense together. None of the individual spices really stand out. Maybe the cinnamon is most present but really it melts together really well.

After the initial spice, I next taste rooibos. It is easy to pick out because it is so different from normal tea flavored drinks. Again, like the spice it is obvious but restrained. I think even rooibos haters might be able to sip this without making that face. Yeah, you haters know the one I mean.

After the rooibos I catch notes that remind me of a flat cola but I suspect if I had not been told this is cola I might not make that connection. As the cup cools the spices swell in flavor some and I can catch the ginger in the aftertaste. I never really catch the vanilla. I imagine the vanilla knocks the rough scratchy edges off the rooibos. If that is why the vanilla is so well behaved then bring on the vanilla.

My wife, who is the tisane drinker in the house, took a sip and made a Mmmmm face, then added, "Interesting." I think that is a great one word description. I enjoyed this mug and it was chai and rooibos. I looked on the website and it is listed at $3.98 for two ounces. A fair price for a cup of interesting.

Visit the Kally Tea Store.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ocean Of Tea, Chamomile

Ocean Of Tea Description:
Hailing from the beautiful country of Egypt, chamomile tea is derived from the tiniest and prettiest chamomile flower. Delicate in nature, bright with yellow color and innocent as can be, these chamomile flowers make for a calming cup of tea. These blossoms are harvested and dried to make this delicious tea that comes to you complete with whole dried chamomile flowers. Golden in color and light in taste, this is a gentle tea for those looking for a caffeine free treat. Slightly sweet with apple undertones and floral scents, this could be the tea for someone looking for a light tea with a hint of honey. Forget the store-bought, pre-sealed packets that cannot possibly deliver the depth of flavor that this chamomile tea can. Try it for the first time, and it will be the only chamomile tea you will be hooked on. This is a caffeine free tea.

Sample provided by Ocean Of Tea

My Review:
I am having a very hectic month. There is so much to do and I feel like none of it is getting accomplished. The last couple days I have made it a priority to finish a few things before starting something new. One of those priorities was to get this chamomile tea reviewed. I have been sitting on it for a few weeks, waiting for a calm moment. It's not happening, so I am making one right in the middle of the day. Crazy, I know.

I really do like the simplicity of Ocean of Teas sample labels. It tells you what you need to know without a lot of stuff getting in the way. I opened the resealable pouch and could immediately catch the slightly tart and sweet scent of chamomile. It is almost apple with hints of honey. The flowers seem smaller than I remember but it has been a while since I last relaxed with a cup.

I used a Finum basket, though a pot, or my press, would work equally well. Water heated to 210 F was added to the cup and I steeped for 5 minutes. Now that I am taking my own pictures of the dry leaf, I need to figure out a lightbox, or at least an attractive spot, to capture the cup pictures. I am setting the plate full of leaf on my laptop and snapping the pics. Pretty sure that is not the best idea for a full cup. Anyway, this brews a beautiful golden cup that lightens the spirit by putting thoughts of sunshine in my head.

I'm not sure why I don't drink chamomile more often. This is very tasty. It is sort of like apples along with flowery notes and a touch of spice. I am also getting a slight saltiness and minute traces of mineral. I used filtered water but it is possible the last notes are from our water. It is a very nice cup of warm relaxing chamomile.

For fun, about halfway through the cup I added a small splash of sugar free vanilla syrup to the cup. I buy it at Walmart on the coffee and tea aisle. The result was interesting. On the rare occasion that I drink chamomile I usually use a vanilla bean chamomile. I realize this syrup probably contains no real vanilla bean. I preferred this herbal without the syrup. If you have actual vanilla bean pods, go ahead and experiment, otherwise I think you will find this much more pleasing without additions.

Visit the Ocean Of Tea website.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Chocolate Banana

 The Persimmon Tree Description:
This wonderful Chocolate Banana dessert tea comprises chocolate, banana, rooibos and pink peppercorns blended with pieces of apple. This favorite flavor duo satisfies cravings at less than 5 calories per cup, and tastes great hot or iced. Try it with a little honey or rock sugar for a real after-dinner treat.

Organic Fair Trade Rooibos, Organic Cacao Nibs, Organic Apple Bits, Organic Banana Chips, Pink Peppercorns, Chocolate, Natural Flavors

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
I really don't remember the last time I reviewed a rooibos tisane. Made from a South African bush this is a caffeine free herbal drink and not a true tea. Perfect for late night. I just couldn't resist the allure of chocolate and banana. Scooping some leaf out to examine I immediately notice the pink peppercorns. They add a pretty attractive note to the mix. I see from the ingredients that it also contains apple bits. Bigger pieces of fruit may have worked their way down into the tin as I am only seeing a few smallish pieces in the leaf. Actually I am thinking that may be the cocao nibs.

I used a Finum basket as rooibos is finely cut and makes a clean up nightmare of my press. Boiling water was added for a 4 minute steep. As soon as the water hit the leaf I caught the distinctive and nearly impossible to describe scent of rooibos. It is a kind of cedar wood saw dust, sweet, medicinal, aroma. That is my best effort at putting words to it.

The cup is dark red and sort of reminds be of root beer. The taste is.... well, I am not getting chocolate or banana. On the other hand it is not rooibos flavored either. What I am tasting is lightly peppery. Not spicy hot, just light pepper. I can taste a mellow rooibos without the harsh throat scratching that often comes with 'red tea'. It sort of reminds me of sassafras tea or flat root beer. It is a pleasant enough drink for a rooibos. Hmmm. I easily finished the cup but this is very strange as it is not agreeing with reviews others have posted.

Based on my on my observation that the leaf seemed to lack dried fruit pieces, I am going to pour this out of the tin into a bowl and mix it up. My thinking is the fruit has settled. Every one else seems to be getting banana flavor and light chocolate. I want to be one of the cool kids too.

Now looking at the full bowl, my thinking is how do they pack all that leaf into those little tins? Really, I am not seeing a lot of bigger sized fruit pieces even after mixing. My understanding is fruit pieces added to the leaf are just visual anyway, as the flavor does not come from them. Again looking at the bowl, I was afraid it would not all fit back in the tin but it did.

Round two, with new mixed leaf, boiling water, and a 4 minute steep. The leaf aroma and dark root beer colored brew are the same. Mixing has changed the flavor slightly. I do get a light warm chocolate and hints of banana. The pepperiness has moved was into the background. The apple seems to be adding just a slight tartness at the end of the sip. None of these flavors are bold. The interesting thing about this blend for me is how the additions have tamed the rooibos. Yes, it has the aroma of red tea but the flavor is pleasantly mellow. This is not the decadently flavored dessert I was expecting, rather this is a quiet mellow moment sip. I easily finished my second cup as well.

You can find Chocolate Banana Rooibos here.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Mandala, 2007 Menghai Jade Luster

Mandala Tea Description:
Another award winning tea from Dayi! What a wonderful tea, so robust and rich in flavor with a heart-warming aroma. A real crowd pleaser!

My Review:
Today's review is for a ripe puerh from Menghai Tea Factory in Yunnan, China. This particular sample came from a friend's beng and was originally purchased from Mandala Tea.

Yesterday was my birthday. I had entirely too much to eat. Today I need puerh to replenish my stomach with whatever magic is in its elixir. Puerh has a calming affect (or is effect correct? Both seem to apply) that does work wonders in times like these to make me feel better about the previous day's activities. Of course had I sipped a pot (or showed some restraint) while scarfing pizza I might not be in this shape today. On to the review...

I took a healthy chunk of the sample out to examine. Just guessing, the chunk size is around 10 g. It is compressed pretty solidly and is dark with just hints of golden tips. Into my Yixing teapot it goes after first rinsing the pot with hot water. My pot is large by Yixing standards. I brew 10 oz at a time in it, which is equivalent to several gongfu style cups of tea. No matter, this is my preference. I added boiling water and steeped for 45 seconds. Most people would do a wash and a 30 second steep. I always drink the wash anyway, so I used a longer initial steep to awaken the leaf.

After pouring, the leaf is soft and squishy put still mostly one piece. It is cocoa brown and reminds me of a big chew of tobacco. The brew is a light caramel brown. There is a slight aroma of stable.

The first sip is nicely smooth and mellow. It is slightly drying and has a gentle sweetness. There is just a touch of mineral taste. Mostly this tastes of cedar and leather but in the first cup it remains light and hints at what will come forth in later steeps. I can already feel the soothing touch as it calms my stomach.

Cup two at 30 seconds is very deep in color like a burgundy wine. The leaf was still holding together but it separated very easily when touched. The leaf aroma now is solidly horse tack. Perhaps my favorite puerh scent.

The flavors in the sip have become big and bold. The horse tack leather is prominent at the front but quickly gives way to a deeper earthier version of the cedar. It is kind of baked or browned in taste. I also notice but can't quite grab a fruity wine like note. It is there but won't hold still long enough to be tied down for a better description. This is a wonderful cup that is leaving me very mellow and peaceful. Cha Qi!

I am 20 oz in (the equivalent of maybe 10 gongfu cups) and this is showing no signs of letting up so for this review I will go one more cup. I may go further tomorrow after posting but 30 oz seems like plenty for one session.

Cup three also at 30 seconds is almost as dark as coffee. I will definitely hang on to the leaf in the pot for a later session. The leaf is cocoa brown. I have seen other reviews that claimed the leaf turned jade green at this point. The one I recall in particular is over two years old. Possibly with this now being older, I am not going to get the same result. Who knows. Anyway, the brew and the leaf are only lightly scented now.

The sip is similar to the last but possibly a little less bold. The mineral element is back but meshes nicely with the woodsy note and ends with mellow leather. I think I can officially call this one a very satisfying puerh. Mandala still had sample sizes of this available on their website at the time I posted.

Visit Mandala Tea.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tea Of Life, Darjeeling

My Review:
I could not find this company on the internet. I am not sure if they don't have a site, I couldn't find it, or they have gone out of business. A few of these bags came my way in a tea swap.

This is a bagged tea with string and tag but is staple free. I heated water to 180 F as the instructions call for between 176 and 194 F. The recommended steep time is 5 minutes but I was warned that was too long so I cut it to around 3 minutes.

The brew is kind of a cloudy orange/brown. It has a leafy and fruity darjeeling nose. I took a sip without additions expecting bitterness. What I got was a lifeless nothing much to speak of cup. If you normally add nothing to your black tea you might have a different impression.

I added a packet of Splenda and that brought some flavor out in it. Now what I am getting is woodsy flavor with cinnamon notes and a slight bit of floral muscatel late in the sip. I am also getting a good deal of side tongue tingle. It kind of causes one to make a slight prune face pucker.

This is not horrible and it does have a little depth for a bagged tea. My main thought is you can do a lot better. A bagged tea I would highly recommend as an alternative is Mother Parker's Darjeeling. I found that one to be a delightful bagged tea. This one probably could use milk, I just don't drink black teas that way.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Grandmother's Teapot

Today is another post on my growing teapot assortment. Recently I shared the story of my mother's teapot collection. Thanks to my wife informing mom of my interest in the teapots, she asked if I wanted some of them. I asked for the one's that had a story. I wanted the one's that meant something to her. The first was a gift to mom from dad on their honeymoon. I covered this in my precious memories post.

The teapot, serving tray, sugar bowl, and creamer in the picture above, was the second mom took out of the china cabinet.  The creamer and sugar bowl appear to me to be different than the teapot. I am not sure they were intended to be a set. Whether originally a set or not these pieces have been together since 1956.

My mom's parents were married in 1906. In 1956 they celebrated their 50th anniversary. On their golden anniversary, one of the gifts was this golden tea set. Inside the teapot is a napkin with their names and the wedding and anniversary dates. Time has erased the memory of who gave the gift.

Time has also taken all but a few tiny memories I have of my grandparents. They died when I was a young boy. My grandfather I do remember sitting on his front porch at the family home. He sat in a metal chair and chewed tobacco. He would spit over the porch railing. He was really good at it. Gross you say? Yeah, but that was pretty awesome to a young boy. I also remember Grandma in the kitchen with her buttermilk biscuits. She would wipe her hands on her apron then give me one with a heavy portion of 'real cow butter' as I called it.

From the china cabinet, this teaset has comforted my mom with the memories of her parents through the years. Now that it has passed hands into my care, it will serve to help me hold on to and strengthen the few memories I have of them.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, White Peach

The Persimmon Tree Description:
Our White Peach loose-leaf tea is perfect for any occasion. These organic white tea leaves infused with flavors of fresh-picked peaches brew a delightful cup that can be enjoyed both hot or iced.

Ingredients as listed on website:
Organic White Tea, Organic Marigolds, Natural Flavors

According to product label:
A refreshing blend of fresh-picked peaches, fragrant osmanthus blossoms, and organic white peony (Bai Mu Dan)

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
We just came out of one of the coldest winters on record in our area. It seemed so long like it would never end. But warm weather did finally arrive along with high humidity. We thought we had moved straight into summer. Then the rains came and the temperatures dropped like a rock. Its the middle of May and my wife has the furnace running. I am undaunted. It's the middle of May. It's time for warm weather drinks.

Today its White Peach from The Persimmon Tree. I am a sucker for peach teas. It started with a Stash Teabag and progressed from there. The peachiest tea I have experienced was from Tea Temptations. It is an extreme peach where you can almost taste the fuzz. Let's see where this one fits in.

The white peony leaf is large broken pieces and the white hairs are visible on the leaf. There are also yellow flower petals. I am guessing that is the marigolds listed in the ingredients, though it is possible it is osmanthus blossoms as mentioned on the label. Osmanthus traditionally has a peach or apricot type flavor so it would make sense in this blend.

I used a healthy scoop about twice in volume of what I normally use for black tea as the leaf is large and fluffy. The water was heated to 180 F per instructions and steeped for three minutes. The result is a beautiful deep golden brew with a lovely but light peach scent.

When tasting this is light in flavor. That doesn't surprise me. Most flavored white teas done well lean towards the light end so as to not totally dominate the white peony. Though light the flavor is clean. Before I could enjoy the entire cup I had to leave the house. Normally I would brew another cup to finish my review. Here I did not.

When I arrived back at my home I picked up the cup, just to see. It was cold. It was delicious. Once the heat left the cup the peach flavor jump up and began to shout. While I found this very relaxing hot, cold it is liquid thirst quenching refreshment. This is exactly what I was looking for on this rainy cold day, while the furnace is running, and I am dreaming of warm summer days. Just add ice.

You can find White Peach here.    

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Primula Tea, London Fog

Primula London Fog Tea Includes:
Green Tea , Tropaeolum , Aristolochia debilis Si , Jasmine

My Review:
Today's review is a blooming tea from Primula. Each bloom comes individually sealed. The pod is solid and fair sized, though certainly not the largest flowering tea I have seen.

I placed the pod in my new glass teapot that I bought especially for display teas - to be reviewed later. Filtered just off boiling water was added and then I watched and waited.

About three minutes later the pod had opened allowing the pretty bloom inside to be revealed. This is not a spectacular or overly colorful display, but it is pretty. It filled up my teapot nicely.

The bloom is a creamy yellow tropaeolum otherwise known as nasturtium. The tea brewed to a very light green. It is nearly clear in the teapot but turns much darker in the cup as it cools.

The scent is faint floral jasmine. The taste is likewise a light jasmine. The flower itself may add some background notes but I cannot single it out. The green tea that is gathered around the outside of the bloom is also quite light but pleasant. 

This to my tastes is one of the more delightful of the Primula teas. There is nothing really outstanding about it but then again there is nothing off tasting either. I know that doesn't come off as a rousing endorsement, so let me say my wife and both finished our cup and enjoyed it.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Precious Memories

For Mother's Day -

Mom has a collection of teapots. I have never seen her use any of them. I really don't recall ever seeing her drink hot tea. In our family, tea is prepared in a metal pot on the stove and iced. Lipton tea, iced, unsweetened, that is all I ever recall seeing growing up. It was served with lunch and dinner. You didn't have to ask, it was just there - always.

I digress. Since becoming a bit tea obsessed, I have admired mom's collection but never said anything, except to my wife. She of course told mom. Mom is in her 80's and at an age where she wants to give people things to make sure they go to those who will most enjoy and treasure them.

Mom asked me if I would like some of her teapots. I said I only want the one's that have a story. I want the teapots that mean something to you. So she looked them over and picked out two. One of them I'll tell you about on another day. The one in this picture was the first she took out of the glass cabinet.

Mom's Teapot and My Mug as Reference

The label on the bottom of the pot says Lefton China 911R-N. As best as I can tell it is a simple common teapot and doesn't have much value in and of itself, however to me it is priceless.

This particular teapot came from the hotel gift shop where mom and dad spent their honeymoon. Dad bought it for her to remember - as if she would forget. The hotel was in the town where they lived. Not having the money to travel, this was the best they could afford at the time. In fact for the time it was pretty extravagant in our community. When the 100 room hotel was built in 1923, it was considered one of the finest in Indiana. They were married in 1950. The hotel was demolished in 1994, but their love for each other and this teapot remain.

All the years I walked past the china cabinet full of tea pots, I never knew why this one was in the collection and how special it was (and is).

Mom, thank you for sharing this part of your's and dad's love story with me.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Verdant Tea, Vanilla Citrus Spice

Verdant Tea Description:
Yunnan black tea at its best has the most exquisite citrus and spice flavors to it. A good Dian Hong is cinnamon sweet with orange aftertaste. We decided that we would take this most beloved flavor pairing and bring out to the forefront through a satisfying blend that is beautiful hot and iced.

We start with Zhu Rong Yunnan Black, a spicy and full bodied tea with notes of sweet potato and cayenne. Next we bring out the citrus with orange peel, and draw out spice with ginger, cinnamon, and coriander. Finally, we emphasize the sweetness of the tea with generous whole vanilla bean and toasted dandelion root, creating a creamy and full bodied blend.

Zhu Rong Yunnan Black, organic orange peel, organic ginger, organic cinnamon, organic coriander, organic vanilla bean and pods, organic toasted dandelion root

My Review:
It is late in the evening and I need tea. I grabbed this one thinking it was a tisane blend (meaning decaf). Oops. Looks like I may be up late tonight. It's all good as this is Zhu Rong Yunnan black, which is a wonderful Dian Hong, along with a bunch of spices and other goodies.

I took the leaf picture above and if I do say so myself, and I do, that is one good looking leaf.

I used my press and water heated to 209 F. The steep was two minutes. The brew is dark and a little cloudy from the spices. I was only supposed to steep this 45 seconds at 205 F. Of course I didn't look it up until after steeping. It didn't seem to hurt the cup any.

My first sip reminds me of spice cake. At first I don't taste tea, but as I grow accustomed to the flavors and it cools just a bit the Yunnan tea comes through gently. The main flavors though are the ginger, cinnamon, and orange peel. The vanilla seems very faint to me, adding only a slight smoothness to the cup. There is a bit of pepperiness late in the sip.

I said it before, I am not a big fan of teas that even remind of chai. That being said this is well blended and pretty tasty.

Friday, May 9, 2014

My First Yixing Teapot

I will be the first to admit I have not been a teapot person. I first used a Mr. Coffee to brew tea. Then I 'moved up' to a tea ball. It wasn't long afterwards that a co-worker started using a French Press with his tea. Seeing it was an awesome steeping device, allowing one to watch the leaves dance and unfurl as it brewed, kept the leaves out of the cup, and was super easy to wipe clean, I bought one for myself. In fact I now have two. They have been my main brewing vessels for more than a few years.

Teapots are neat to look at but never really interested me because I tend to brew only a single mug at a time. British style teapots are a way too large for my tea drinking style. I became kind of interested in the yixing teapot once I learned they are generally very small. An American sized mug is considered huge by yixing standards. Of course the price of a purple clay pot is usually quite high. I just could not justify the price on an unconfirmed promise that it would brew better tea.

Recently I ran across the yixing teapots on the Enjoying Tea website. Their regular prices were about half the lowest prices I had seen elsewhere. Low end pots tend to be $40 and up on other sites. Here several of their already low cost teapots were on sale. One of them was the Traditional Purple Clay Bamboo Gongfu Teapot and it was on sale for $6.98. What? That couldn't be correct. But it was.

I had been looking for a small crystal teapot for display teas. They also had one of them on sale at the time for a reasonable price. So I ordered both. Honestly, I was expecting very little from such an inexpensive pot, but ordered it for giggles anyway.

When the pots arrived, I pulled the yixing box out of the shipping box first. The only English on the box says Yixing Ceramics Art. I opened the box and removed the well wrapped lid and pot. It was twice as heavy as I expected. The look and the feel impressed me. This one is rated at 350 ml or 11.9 oz. The perfect size for me and yet huge by Chinese standards. You can see my mug and French press in the background for comparison.

This picture looking inside the pot at the spout, shows the filter holes that keep larger pieces of leaf out of the cup.

I am well aware this is a machine molded pot. The etching on each side may or may not be hand etched. I have no idea how such things are done. I am also aware this may or may not be actual yixing purple clay. Based on what I have read on various sites it appears to be a legit machine molded yixing. In truth I don't care. I love this little guy!

It is actually darker than it appears in the picture. When I first took it out of the box, I ran several hot pots of water through it, wiped with a soft cloth, and let it air dry. No soaps touched this pot. Then I took a low end puerh I've had for years (terrible when I bought it but has aged into a pleasant drinkable tea) and prepared it in the pot. I let it set and steep for a several hours. Then I poured it out, wiped, and let the pot air dry. 

I know there is a good chance this is just my imagination, but the very first pot I brewed for actual drinking seemed more flavorful and alive. Real or imagined, I don't care. Having never been a teapot person, I suddenly found myself unable to wait for the next opportunity to use it again. 

When using, the belly of the pot gets and stays hot, but the handle remains nicely cool. It feels easy to control when lifting and pouring. The spout does dribble a little at first and the pour is kind of slow compared to my French Press. I do sometimes have to wipe up a small amount of tea after pouring. I need to get a tea towel and/or a tea tray to catch the spills. The strainer does keep large leaf out of the cup but small pieces do pass through. If that annoys you, pouring through a mesh filter would solve it. I quickly learned to ignore the bits in the bottom of the cup.

I have used my first yixing several times now for puerh. What I have read recently suggests this shape pot is better suited to oolong. For puerh it was stated the pot should be taller rather than wide. Again, I don't care. This is now my official puerh brewing vessel.

An experienced yixing user could undoubtedly give you many reasons why a more expensive pot would be a better choice. That's fine. This is like my first bike. It was a red 16" bike with training wheels. I remember the day the training wheels feel off and what hill I was coasting down at the time. I didn't think, "Man, I wish I had a better bike." Nope. I just enjoyed the pleasure of the moment. 

Bottom line: For what I paid, I have already had a hundred times more fun out of this pot.

An Update: I knew when I ordered my teapots that Enjoying Tea stated a free tea sample was included with each pot. When I opened the box I didn't see it and promptly forgot about it. In writing a soon to be published review of the second teapot I remembered the offer. So today I wrote Enjoying Tea. I got a reply back very quickly - yes samples should have been included. I still had the box of peanuts in the garage, so a search party ensued. Yep, In my excitement over the teapots I had overlooked the samples. One little tin of tea for each teapot. So a word of caution, if you order a teapot or teaset make sure to thoroughly dig through the package.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ocean Of Tea, Ti Kuan Yin

Ocean Of Tea Description:
Ti Kuan Yin is the most famous Chinese Oolong tea with a great orchid aroma and finish. This tea is nice, light and has a hint of dried apricot. 

Our tea is hand-harvested from the Wu-Yi tea bush and made by using traditional crafting techniques developed in China’s Fujian province. The leaves are tightly rolled and you can get 3-4 good infusions out of the same leaves. Affordably priced, this is a great tea to drink with company.

Sample provided by Ocean of Tea.

My Review:
This is my second Ocean of Tea offering. The first being Earl Grey Premium. I learned from that one to trust the recommended steeping instructions that are clearly listed on the simple, yet well laid out, label. I also found the quality of the tea to be very good, so I am a little more relaxed with this one.

I opened the sample and removed 2 tsp of leaf per instructions. This looks like Man Tea because it looks like camo. There is hunter green, olive green, lighter green, and some tan leaf in the tightly rolled mix. Yep, I could get lost in this.

The leaf went in the press and to it was added filtered water heated to 195 F. The steep time was three minutes. This produces a lot of leaf. A tea ball is definitely not recommended by me. It expands way too much and needs to be free. The liquor is honey golden in color and the wet leaf scent is medium roasted with orchid notes.

The sip is much like the aroma except the roast and the orchid floral notes are very balanced. Another thing I notice is this has a strong honey like sweetness. I do not detect any bite or bitterness, then again I don't expect any. It is somewhat drying. The company description mentions dried apricot. Many of the reviews by fellow bloggers mention it as well. Having never tasted a dried apricot, I don't make the connection. I'll take their word for it. Others also mentioned nutty. On that I will agree, though here I don't make a connection to a particular type of nut.

For my personal tastes, I prefer a greener less roasted tieguanyin but if you are a moderate roasted oolong person, I can find nothing off putting or out of place with this cup. Ocean of Teas' Ti Kuan Yin seems to me to be a solid oolong at a fair price.

Visit the Ocean of Tea website.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dragon Tea House, 2006 Menghai Mount Elephant

Dragon Tea House Description:
Robust leaves from Mt. Elephant, Menghai. Sheng/raw

My Review:
This came my way from a friend's generosity. One source I found on the internet claims this is so named because on the mountain where this is grown there used to be a large tree that resembled an elephant. Works for me.

The sample I have is loose leaf not cake. I hope to have a camera of my own soon to start taking pictures for this blog. I never think about borrowing the wife's camera until after I have started to write. Of course then it is too late.

The leaf is large broken pieces that resemble grass. It is obvious this is a raw pu'er. Or is it puerh, or just puer? If you're interested here is a link to a thoughtful explanation for the different spellings.

I used a yixing to steep this in today. I'll do a review one day soon. What I'll say here is I love this little guy. I have never been a teapot person, but this is so much fun. I used about 5 g of leaf and steeped for around 45 seconds. That may have been a bit long. The brew is golden orange, which seems kind of dark for sheng, but this is a 2006 tea. The wet leaf is brown and green resembling leaf bits found in an outdoor pool or pond. In fact that is probably the best explanation of the wet leaf scent - pond water.

The sip reveals definite sheng flavors. The taste is quite mineral. It is bright, edging towards metallic but doesn't cross the line. It also tastes kind of green pond soaked leaf like. If you have had sheng before that probably makes some sense. There is a slight saltiness. Late in the sip it seems somewhere between fruity and lightly floral but not strongly enough I can give it a name. The first cup is only mildly sweet. It is somewhat drying but does have an astringent bite.

The main element that excites me here is way down in my lungs I can feel a lightness and a coolness like menthol or camphor without the smell. It lingers long, long, after the sip is gone. I can feel this working its way through my innards. That is another cool part of puerh and especially raw tea.

Later cups cups are honey colored as I reduced the steep time of the second to 15 seconds. The deep cooling, open lung freshness, and the wonderful tea working through my stomach with healthy bacteria and energy, continues.

The flavor of raw puerh may not appeal to all. For those who enjoy it or at least like it, the energy in a good tea after sipping is where the real enjoyment is for me. If I use the term correctly this is cha qi, which basically means good tea energy. This is not the same as a caffeine buzz. I used to read things like this and think 'whatever', but having experienced it more than a few times I assure you it is an excellent part of the tea experience. I have to say I really like the energy of this one.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Ocean Of Tea, Earl Grey Premium

Ocean Of Tea Description:
Perhaps the most famous blend of black tea in the western world, Earl Grey Tea remains a cherished favorite. This is our favorite of the Earl Greys. Made from the finest black tea blended with just the right amount of oil of bergamot, this show-stopper will renew your love of Earl Grey and have you craving a second cup. 

Wonderfully smooth, slightly tangy and extremely well balanced. The aroma is amazing and you will love the smell of a freshly opened bag!

Sample provided by Ocean of Tea.

My Review:
This is a new tea provider to me. When I opened the envelope the samples arrived in, I could smell faint traces of glorious bergamot. I didn't have time to sit and enjoy a cup just then and had to put the samples on the shelf. This one sat there taunting me until now.

The love the simplicity of the sample label: Company name, tea name, brief description, and three graphics giving brewing instructions. The printing is large enough for older blurry eyes to read it easily first thing in the morning. The sample pouch is flat black and resealable.

Opening the bag and removing a spoon of leaf, the BOP appears much darker than the picture suggests. The aroma is fresh clean citrus. It is very lemony. Times a wasting, let's brew some tea.

I used my press as normal, and filtered boiling water. The steep was 3 minutes. Ocean of Tea says 4 but I always err on the side of caution with my first tasting of a black tea base. The liquor is standard orangey/red and the wet leaf is cinnamon colored and highly fragrant. I could sniff bergamot all day.

OK, this could have withstood a 4 minute steep. I would probably use 3 again anyway. Based on the dry and wet leaf aroma, I was prepared for a blast of citrus. That is not what is in the cup. This is smooth and balanced. There is a moment with each sip when the astringency tickles the sides of the tongue. This gives way to a velvety mid sip with a touch of dryness. Late sip the lemony bergamot flavor moves in without totally dominating, causing the mouth to water. The aftertaste has traces similar to cinnamon notes.

The base tea is ever present but hard to single out. It is not abrasive and rough like many of my Ceylon based Earl Grey's. Neither is it flat and two dimensional like Twinings. I like Twinings but do find it lacks presence. This Earl Grey Premium from Ocean of Tea has depth with no rough edges from the base.

This is a smooth well balanced Earl Grey. There is enough bite to be pleasing. The bergamot is wonderfully lemony without being overwhelming, or worse, wimpy. I believe an Earl Grey junkie, such as myself, would find this to be a very satisfying cup to start the day. I love the smell of bergamot in the morning.

Visit Ocean of Tea.