Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, White Chai

The Persimmon Tree Description:
Our white chai is perfectly blended with white tea, chai spices, lemongrass, coconut, fruit pieces and peppercorn for a delicious bold taste. It comprises sweetness from the fruit pieces fused with a bold kick from chai spices and peppercorn.

Ginger Root, Lemon Grass, Cinnamon Bark, White Tea, Pineapple Pieces, Cloves, Dried Coconut, Cardamom Pods, Red Peppercorn, Apple Pieces, Natural Spice Flavor, Natural Cinnamon Flavor

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
This is a new arrival at The Persimmon Tree. So of course I need to try it. I have stated on The Everyday Tea Blog before that I am not a big fan of chai. I don't hate it. I just never crave it. This one is a little different. It has a white tea base instead of the usual black. I love white tea, so here's hoping the difference tips the scales.

Opening the tin, I see an interesting collection of pieces and leaves. The cardamom and cloves tickle my nose while I look. The first to catch my attention are the pineapple pieces and the red peppercorns. Next I notice the lemongrass and white tea. There are many more smaller components that I can't readily identify.

I used 185 F water and a 3 minute steep in my Bodum press. As it is brewing I concluded I have way under leafed. White tea is light and fluffy. It takes more leaf than black tea to equal the same weight. On top of that there is a lot of other stuff in the blend.

The brew turned out bright yellow and on the cloudy side. The wet leaf is intensely spicy scented. The mug is likewise spicy but not over the top intense.

The sip is at first peppery with a bite. It isn't adding heat, just spice. As my senses adjust and the cup cools a little the flavor rounds out. Now I am tasting the combination of ginger, cardamom, and clove. More adjusting and I catch faint wisps of apple lightly coated in cinnamon. I cannot single out the pineapple or the lemongrass, which is fine by me. They do seem to be filling in between the other notes. I also can't say I am really able to catch the white tea. It is possible that is due to under leafing. The coconut adds just a touch of creaminess to the mug.

OK, chai is never going to be a favorite type tea for me. I do find the absence of black tea makes this far more enjoyable to my tastes. This is the second white tea based chai I have tried. They are different from each other and I like both more than a traditional black chai. The spices in this one are bold but well thought out.

You can find White Chai here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Vintage Black

The Persimmon Tree Description:
Vintage Black loose-leaf tea is a delicious addition to anyone's tea collection. This flavorful blend of bright, brisk Nilgiri loose black tea and smooth rich Yunnan golden buds makes the perfect pick-me-up. Enjoy on its own, with milk and sugar, or iced with a splash of lemon juice.

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
You ever wake up thinking, "Man, I need a cup of tea." You look at your collection and everything seems too fru fru or wimpy for the morning cup of bold that you are needing. Well, me too. This morning in fact. Then I remembered I had this setting to the side waiting to be reviewed.

The Persimmon Tree Vintage Black Tea
When the top is removed from the canister, the nose is met with tea. It is kind of fruity and winelike with a healthy dose of malt but mostly it is rich, comfortable, tea.

On examination the dark leaf reveals some golden tips in the broken Yunnan leaf. There are also dark little pellets that I assume to be the Nilgiri in the blend. Nilgiri is grown in southern India and most of it is of a crush tear curl production method (CTC). It appears that is the case here as well.

Prepared in 195 F water with a 3 minute steep in my Bodum press. The result is a hearty brew in the familiar orange brown color. No question. This is tea.

The taste is satisfying for an early morning cup. Strong enough to catch your attention without being bitter. It has a good amount of astringency as do most breakfast teas. It tastes woodsy. While hot I find it has a leather taste. Puerhs that I like, I often comment of having a horse tack note, like the smell of worn saddle leather. This is not puerh. It is a black tea blend but I find it to have leather notes that are even more like the horse than what I normally encounter. I really like that. I haven't noticed others recording this note, so maybe it is just me today. I also notice malt in the aftertaste.

For the milk and sugar crowd, this would take it well. I used sweetener (Splenda) and it livened up the flavors and slightly reduced the astringency. This is exactly what I was craving today.

You can find Vintage Black 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, June 19, 2014

Teavivre, 2014 Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea

Teavivre Description:
The historic Huang Shan Mao Feng is well-known as one of the ten famous Chinese tea. This Ming Qian Huang Shan Mao Feng is a kind of pre-ming green tea. Pre-ming tea has strict requirement of the picking time and its making standard, thus the bird-tongue appearance could been perfect formed, as well as the brisk flavor. Both of which are favored by tea lovers.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
I tried to review this years production several days ago but quickly learned the pollens and other allergens in the air had robbed me of most of my sense of smell. This was good but it was just green tea. From previous experience, I know better. Hopefully today I am capable of giving this the attention it deserves.

I have reviewed Nonpareil Haung Shan Mao Feng before in 2013. This is the 2014 Nonpareil version. If you click on my pictures they are supposed to expand. I think my dry leaf picture reveals a tea as beautiful as any Bai Mu Dan (white peony). The leaves are small and have a fresh malty aroma.

It is beginning to look like my borosilicate glass teapot is quickly becoming a favorite for teas that I want to capture with a camera. To the teapot I added the leaf and water heated to 185 F. I let it steep for around 3 1/2 minutes.

As you can see the liquor has only the slightest yellow tint in the pot, although as it cools in the mug it does become more honey in color. I used a strainer when pouring to keep the small leaves and buds out of my cup. There would have been several in the cup without it, not that I would mind.

The leaves of this varietal  are very small, yet whole and fresh with many buds. The aroma of the wet leaf is so heavily steamed vegetable. I always call it spinach but it probably isn't. It is green and intoxicating.

The sip is very crisp with a good bite, edging on bitter, and an instant drying sensation. That doesn't necessarily sound inviting but if you have had Mao Feng before you might better understand this is a very good tea. Beyond the immediate reaction the vegetal green leaf taste is quite evident and is lightly buttery. It is accompanied by a nuttiness others call chestnut. I really need to get some chestnuts and catch this sensation for myself.

I have described this in a way that makes the taste sound larger than is actually in the mug. This is a mild gentle cup whose intensity is in its ability to draw you in and hold your attention.

Visit the Teavivre website.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Steepster, Jasmine Pearl Select

Steepster Description:
Picked from the Da Bai Hao cultivar, this high grade green tea is gently picked and hand rolled. The tea is then meticulously dried with fresh jasmine to impart its distinct floral aroma and flavor.

Origin: Fujian, China

My Review:
Steepster is an online community of tea drinkers. We share reviews as expected but it is the social aspect that keeps me involved. If you are a tea lover, you should come join us.

The creators of Steepster put together a samples of the month type subscription that many signed up to receive. This tea has its origins with Steepster Select. I received it in a tea swap. Examining the sample I am puzzled as to its point. Steepster is not a tea company. If I like it, where do I get more of it? I don't have an answer. I guess its purpose is to introduce you to new types of tea and not a particular tea.

My next issue is that the bottom of the unopened sample was not sealed properly. This happens. I have never seen a complaint from any of the Select members. I mention it here because it potentially affects the rest of the review.

I removed the pearls for examination. They still smell very fresh. The jasmine is aromatic with hints of grapes and honeysuckle. The pearls are very solid. They sounded like marbles as they hit the exam plate. They also seem smaller than previous pearls I have encountered.

I placed the pearls into my clear glass teapot and added 10 oz of 200 F water. This steeped for two minutes. The steeping information was clearly displayed on the sample envelope. As you can see the leaf exploded in the water. It was one of the liveliest dances I have witnessed in a long while. I applaud and celebrate the event. I believe this is the first time I have had tightly rolled leaf that completely unfurled on the first steep.

Some of the wet leaf is quite large. There is also an amount of buds with two small leaves. It seems more common for better tea to be of uniform leaf size.

The liquor is slightly yellow tinted in the pot and very clear. In the mug it turns much more honey colored. The taste was kind of metallic. I wasn't expecting that. I added a little sweetener to tame it. The jasmine is pleasant and natural tasting. I just don't care for the metallic note in my cup of jasmine.

I hate being overly critical, especially of Steepster's Select subscription. It is certainly not undrinkable and I think had I gone with a shorter steep time I would have enjoyed it more. That being said I hope the next few Steepster samples impress me a bit more.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Teavivre, 2014 Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea

Teavivre Description:
Superior grade, 100% certified organic green tea, our Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea is handmade in Hangzhou used traditional methods. With a slightly sweet, delicate orchid like aroma , it combines a great tasting tea with great health benefits.

Harvest time: April 15, 2014

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
I hesitate to use my own pictures as Teavivre has some of the most beautiful leaf pictures of their products. In keeping with my new direction of using my own work as exclusively as possible I trudge on. As you can see the leaf is several shades of green from yellowish tinted to forest green.

The aroma out of the bag is pleasantly sour and sweet. It always reminds me of fields of freshly baled hay. I used half the sample or about 3.5 g in my clear teapot along with 10 oz of 185 F water. The steep time on the label is 1 to 6 minutes, in trying to compromise with western tastes. I use 2 minutes when steeping a mug full and much shorter times with a gaiwan.

Once the water hits the leaf, I become a Pavlov dog. Seriously, the scent is so wonderful. I recall back just a few years ago being totally satisfied with my little grocery store bag of green tea. I must confess, I still think some of it tastes pretty good, but you aren't going to get this kind of glorious scent out of a paper bag.

Check out how most of the leaf remains hanging from the surface of the water. The liquor looks nearly clear under the lights. It turns more of a light honey yellow in the mug. I used a strainer when pouring, to keep the two leaves and a bud out out my mug.

What can I say about the taste that wasn't said in my 2013 review of this tea? First off, can I tell a difference between this years offering and last? Nope. Too much time has elapsed between them. Either way, the short version is they are both excellent.

Lately a lot of the green teas seem to remind me of corn. This is no exception. Maybe it is even popcorn. It isn't so much buttery as it is milky and thick. It is quite crisp with a good edge that suggests bitter but isn't. There is also a lot of just good clean greeness in the mug. There really isn't a better way for me to describe it. This is spring in a mug.

When reviewing the Tai Ping Hou Kui, I remarked that its taste was similar but completely different than Dragon Well. Today, I would say the similarity ends with them both being green and tasty. Dragon Well is such a wonderful tea. I love it hot or cold and all points in between. Just make it a good one like this, for maximum effect.

You can find this and other great teas at Teavivre.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Teavivre, 2014 Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea

Teavivre Description:
A fabulous tasting green tea from Anhui. With uniquely shaped large flat leaves, TaiPing HouKui is quite different from other green teas and is thought of as one of China's top ten teas. Our tea comes from the village of HouKeng, where the tea was first developed.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
I previously reviewed the 2012 production of Tai Ping Hou Kui here. Today's review is for the spring 2014 production of Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui. The leaf really is interesting. It looks a bit like green beef jerky, but I'm a guy and beef jerky (and bacon!) is a great visual image to put in our head.

The dry leaf scent is fresh and grassy. I used the entire sample of 5 g in my clear glass teapot and added 12 oz of water heated to 175 F. I let it steep for 2 minutes. The result is a yellow green tinted liquor that is bright and clear. I knew the glass teapot was great for watching the leaf. I was slightly disappointed to learn the smallish opening at the top does not give up the scent of the wet leaf near as well as my press. What scent I  got was vegetal but not dramatic.

Once again I find this tea to verge on bitter and sour without crossing the line. It should be noted, Teavivre says this is not bitter at all. Again this year I attribute that either to a difference in tastes or more likely brewing methods. I followed the western recommendations on the sample package. Possibly had I followed the Chinese gong fu method, using a gaiwan and very short steeps with a small amount of water, the results would be different. I'll try that next time.

The taste is almost dragonwell yet completely different. It is buttery and the flavor is a combination of corn, peas, and light notes of possibly green beans. My sipping preference is pretty much unlike every one else I know. I can't drink anything really hot - beyond a sip. I actually almost always prefer the cup once it has reached just warm and on down to room temperature. This tea is no exception. I catch more notes and find more relaxing enjoyment with this the cooler it becomes.

While Tai Ping Hou Kui is not my favorite Chinese green tea, it is an interesting and delicious cup.

Visit Teavivre.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Primula Tea, Oriental Beauty

Primula Tea Description:
Primula Flowering Teas are made by aritsans in China. The flowering teas are comprised of hand sewn AA grade Green Tea with all natural flowers.

My Review:
I often see Primula Tea in kitchen supply stores in the area malls. I did an online search trying to get a better description and an ingredient list. I pretty much could not find either. The flowers in this one appear to be all jasmine.

The blooms come individually sealed. Opening the bag releases a pleasant but slightly strong jasmine scent. The bloom itself feels solid and at the same time very light, given its size.

I heated water to boiling and poured it into my 15 oz clear glass teapot that I bought specifically for such teas. I then placed the ball in the water. This was an attempt to prevent the water from damaging the bloom. My results suggest knocking a few leaves off would have been preferable as this bloom did not want to sink to the bottom.

Eventually I lightly tapped it to get the open bloom to glide to the bottom. Amazing how much lift is in a tiny little air bubble. As it slowly submerged it became apparent that my beautiful little teapot isn't tall enough for this tea bloom to be properly displayed.

The cream colored flowers are prettier and more delicate than they appear in my picture. It would have been nice to see the full display. I hesitate to use more water (this is listed at 15 oz) as I don't want it to spill. The 12 oz I used is enough for a couple small western cups.  

The tying of the green tea leaf is not the best job I have ever seen. I know I couldn't do it but normally the leaf is a lot more attractive.

As you can see the tea is quite light in color. It has only a light jasmine scent once brewed. The taste is really light. I have had primula tea before and it was a lot more bold. Perhaps this one is past its prime. What flavor is present is of course lightly jasmine but there is also another note present that reminds me of globe amaranth. I really don't like globe amaranth. It is the little red ball of petals often seen in flowering teas. I don't see any here but that flavor note is present. It isn't unpleasant enough here that I won't finish the pot.

Flowering teas are really neat as a table decoration and a conversation piece with friends and a meal. If you are looking for a great cup of jasmine tea... I would suggest dragon pearls.


On a completely unrelated topic: I just built a light box in an attempt to take better pictures. I wish I had a more attractive den with lots of natural light as I prefer pictures with more natural settings. Trust me there is nothing natural about the cramped chaos that is my den. Leaf picture previously were framed on top of my laptop - not the best idea. For now the light box seems my best option. I learned a lot from my first pictures. The main thing is the light box is not wide enough. I had to crop the pictures to remove exposed side seams. When I build light box 2.0, I'll try to snap pictures along the way just in case you might be interested in how simple it is to put together.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Verdant Tea, Traditional Tieguayin

Verdant Tea Description:
Partially oxidized traditional Tieguanyin recalls sweet and savory kettle corn with woody incense undertones and a touch of tart berry . This tea starts with rich candied violet flavors paired with a sweet caramel toasted aftertaste. The green, juicy fruit flavors unfold and reveal steamy banana custard profile with notes of butterscotch.

The mineral notes in this tea remind us of the Li family’s Wuyi oolongs, accented with marigold flavors and toasted marshmallow. This tea continues to yield beautiful flavor over many steepings. Enjoy this hot or ice it for a rich and sweet summer treat.

My Review:
I got this one in a tea trade with a friend. She wrote Yummy :) on the sample packet. I think that means she approves.

Cutting the top off the sample and removing the leaf reveals dark mossy looking leaf that is tightly rolled. It isn't the hard shiny pellets I normally associate with this type oolong. It makes it appear more woodsy. I can detect only a slight green oolong aroma from the dry leaf.

I used my press and the entire sample which looks to be about 8 g. To the leaf was added 10 oz of water heated to 205 F. I steeped 30 seconds. Steeping recommendations came from the product brewing page of the Verdant Tea website.

30 seconds is not a lot of time for rolled oolong leaf to open and expand. It did loosen and double in size. The scent of the wet leaf is a surprise. I know this is traditional tieguanyin and yet based on the dry scent I expected a more green aroma. This is roasted without question. In fact the leaf is quite strongly so. The liquor is a lovely bright and very light yellow.

Verdant's descriptions are always so colorful. My taste buds are not so developed. Given the scent of the wet leaf, I am again surprised by the flavor. This should be strongly roasted by the aroma but it is not. Instead it is at first buttery and salty, savory, then sweet with floral notes late in the sip. Underneath the entire sip sits a light roasted nuttiness that is very reminiscent of the toasted rice in genmaicha. The floral note comes off as green oolong to me rather than violets. There is a certain amount of cheek tingle that I normal get with ginger, though here it is from astringency that leaves the mouth slightly dry.

This will continue to develop over several more infusions. I can say after the first mug that this is an interesting and complex tieguanyin. I also have to agree - this is Yummy :)

Visit Verdant Tea.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Clear Glass Teapot

Teapot with mug for size reference
Enjoying Tea Description:
This beautiful teapot made entirely of heat resistant borosilicate glass is the perfect tool for enjoying loose tea. The roomy removable filter allows tealeaves to expand and provide full infusion of the leaves. This is a good glass teapot to show off the beautiful color of your tea. It is also an excellent vessel to display the blossoming of art tea.

My Review:
Welcome to today's review of my new crystal teapot. This is the Calming Sea Filtering Glass Teapot by Vistabello Glassware. I bought it on sale from the Enjoying Tea website. I purchased this at the same time as my yixing teapot. Each were well wrapped in their own boxes inside a single larger shipping box.

I have wanted something like this for a while to properly prepare blooming teas. My French Press is short and wide, so either the blooms lack sufficient depth for a proper display or I am brewing more than I want to drink at one sitting. I have been afraid to use a dinner glass as I was concerned the shock of the near boiling water would cause it to shatter. Until now our best choice has been my wife's 4 cup Mr Coffee carafe but it is not very pretty to look at. This teapot is very nice looking.

Teapot with lid and glass infuser
The Calming Sea Teapot is made of borosilicate glass, just like my press, so I feel safe using it. The website says this is dishwasher and microwave safe. I'll take their word for it as I won't be doing either. It has a clear glass infuser for use with loose tea though I likely will not use the infuser and instead strain the tea as I pour.

The teapot is very lightweight. So much so, at first I checked to make sure it was glass. It is also very small. The website lists it as 450 ml or 15.3 oz. For ease of handling and pouring, I think 12 oz is more realistic leaving a little airspace at the top. This teapot is the perfect size for my needs.

The opening is just large enough that I can clean the interior will relative ease. The spout is nicely shaped. I spilled some the first time I used it as tilted it too quickly causing it to leak around the lid. If I pour slowly and evenly at first, not a drop is lost.

So far this has performed very well and I am quite pleased with the results.

A word about ordering - when you buy a teapot or teaset from Enjoying Tea they include a free sample of tea. It is randomly selected and placed in the shipping box. The box is filled with shipping peanuts. Don't be a doofus like me and not look through the box carefully. Fortunately I did not throw away the box full of peanuts. Once I realized there was supposed to be a sample (OK Enjoying Tea told me so in an email response to my query about the free tea offer) I was able to find the two neat little tins that came with my two teapot order. It is a good day when you find free tea in your order.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Enjoying Tea, Cinnamon Black Tea

Enjoying Tea Description:
This tea is made from top grade orange pekoe Ceylon with cinnamon 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 sweet cinnamon flavor and with touches of mild astringency. A fantastic tea, great for relaxation.

Price: $5.99/4 oz

My Review:
This tea was included in the package with a recent teapot purchase. I nearly missed it. The packing box was filled with packing peanuts. When the package arrived my wife removed the boxes my two new teapots were in and didn't know to search through the peanuts. In her defense the tea comes in a tiny, tiny, but cute one ounce tin.

I opened the tin and was met with a fresh cinnamon scent. Looking in the tin there are obvious cinnamon pieces throughout. The black Ceylon tea base is powder coated in cinnamon, turning it brown and looking more like a wet Yunnan black tea leaf. The leaf pieces are pleasantly large for a Ceylon black tea. This is not dust.

With the leaf in the press, I added boiling water and steeped for three minutes. The brew is a deep orange/red. It is bright and clear.

My experience with cinnamon black tea runs two extremes. My first encounter was also one of my very first purchases as a teen. It was Bigelow Cinnamon Stick. The scent of the Enjoying Tea version brings back memories of Bigelow. It was bagged and a bit two dimensional as I recall. My other experience was with Harney & Son's Hot Cinnamon Spice. That one is very sweet and very potent. It is like drinking liquid Red Hots.

Sipping this is very different from either of my earlier experiences. The cup smells richly cinnamon and that is just how it tastes up front. It never reaches extreme levels and quickly gives way to an earthy Ceylon base. I don't recall Ceylon ever emoting earthy to me before. It does have a good bite to it. Adding a bit of sweetener mellows it out. It has some degree of cheek tingle.

I am pleasantly surprised. Cinnamon black tea is not something I would think to pick out on my own. I found this to be an enjoyable cup that sits squarely in the middle of my previous experience. It is not too flat and it is not so over the top. Nice cup.