Thursday, December 31, 2015

Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Company, Earl Grey Black and Jasmine Green Tea

Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Company Description:
This is a Special Blend of Earl Grey Black Tea and Jasmine Green Tea. An intriguing blend of Black and Green loose tea leaves. We combine our house Earl Grey which is a blend of Chinese and Indian Teas scented with Oil of Bergamot with our House Jasmine loose green tea from China. An interesting combination which we think works very well giving you a very pleasant balance in cup between the citrus of the bergamot and jasmine blossoms.

Sample provided by Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Company

My Review:
Last review of the year people. 2015, where did you go? Seems like I just barely got to know you and you're all but gone. Now I have to try and get used to the idea of 2016. At least we have tea to help us make the transition.

The last tea of the year is from Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Company. They use the name Tea And Coffee Dot Com Limited for their online presence. They have been around since 1982, carry over 700 different teas and coffee, yet I am just learning about them.

This is a blend of their Earl Grey Black tea and Jasmine Green tea. The Earl Grey is a blend of Chinese and Indian black teas lightly scent with oil of bergamot. The Jasmine green uses a Chinese green base scented with jasmine petals.

The tea came well protected in a peanut packed box. The pouch is attractively labeled. It does include steeping directions. My only complaint here is the top is not resealable.

Once open the wonderful bergamot citrus aroma rolls out and makes me smile. It is a cold, cloudy, dreary winter day outside but there is bergamot inside. A good day.

The leaf is attractive. I lightened the picture so it would show better. Actually it is much darker and appears to be an all black tea with nearly black pieces and some golden tips. Upon closer inspection, the dark green tea leaf pieces can be seen as well as an occasional stray jasmine petal.

I used boiling water and a 3 minute steep per directions. I used my French Press. I probably should have used a proper English teapot, but, you know, laziness. Need I say more.

The tea pours a bright orange tea color.

As I taste I am at first left a little undecided as to how I feel about this tea. Those who know me, know that I have an Earl Grey addiction. I like to call it a passion but let's be honest, it goes way beyond passion. I want my bergamot strong and the base tea to be its equal. I want it to something the Vikings would have fought over to possess. This is not Viking Earl Grey. Neither is it Grandmama's prissy purfume filled cup.

On the other hand, one of my complaints about flavored teas is I want to taste the base. I want to taste tea. This is a lightly scented tea, so the base teas really shine through.

What I get when tasting, is a woody flavor with a gentle touch of smokiness, maybe this is a Keemun base, though the smoothness suggests Yunnan. It does not say in the description. I also catch a controlled amount of bite from the India tea, and can easily pick out the Chinese green tea. It is pleasant in the aftertaste but not so obvious that I can identify it beyond green.

The bergamot is present but no where near what the aroma suggests. Really, if you generally hate bergamot because you find it too powerful in the cup, then this is for you. The jasmine is, to me at least, slightly easier to pick out in the taste. It is very light but well done and natural. I added sweetener to the cup and it took it very well.

So where does that leave us? Well, for the Earl Grey addicts among us, be prepared. This is not a bergamot bomb despite the dry aroma. Neither is it a bouquet of jasmine flowers. What it present is a delightful blend of teas, each with something unique to offer to the cup, along with a gentle light-handed scenting of citrus and floral that emerge as the sip progresses.

Happy New Year All!

You can find Earl Grey Black and Jasmine Green Tea here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Good Earth, Mango Me Crazy

Good Earth Description:
It’s the little things in life that make us smile. Like the crazy, happy feeling you get with a first peek of sun or toes in the sand. Or in this case, some Mango Me Crazy™ tea. Blended with a bold variety of breezy fruit flavors, this white tea will have you feeling like summer is just around the corner whenever you enjoy it.

White tea, rosehip, sweet blackberry leaf, natural mango and mangosteen flavor with other natural flavors, mangosteen peel, chamomile, hibiscus, citric acid, steviol glycosides (stevia), natural flavor.

Sample provided by Good Earth

My Review:
I'm feeling a little less than 100% today. We used a couple plug in air fresheners in the house. I learned I can't be around them as it flared up a pretty severe respiratory attack. Beyond the air fresheners, this is not a good time of year for those of us with breathing issues. First its colder out so outside air is not a big part of the day. Then every store you go in seems to have candles burning or heavily scented wreathes and potpourri. At least there is tea to give some comfort.

Today, I wanted something easy and light to remind me of warm summer air. This bagged offering from Good Earth is a white tea flavored with tropical fruit. I have never actually experienced ocean breezes but today I am imagining that I am on the beach typing this review.

Each bag contains 2 g of leaf. They come sealed in individual foil envelops to increase freshness. The packaging is bright and cheery. I only have one envelop and it does not have brewing instructions, although from previous experience with Good Earth, I know it is on the box.

Since I do not have printed instructions, I planned to default to my old tea bag ways of boiling water and a 4 minute steep. Except as the water heated, I just couldn't do it. I stopped the water at around 195 F. I just can't boil white tea unless I know it is recommended.  

The scent as I open the envelop is really nice. I have never been to the tropics and I have never smelled a real mango. The aroma here I find closely resembles a fresh peach but more prickly and just a touch tart.

When I look at the ingredients, it has me scratching my head. Rosehips? Hibiscus? Chamomile? You know what though? It actually works here. What I am tasting is the mango flavor shining through. The other ingredients seem to be added to fill out the experience. They add fullness and a touch of tart, without drawing attention to themselves. The addition of stevia is almost welcome, except it does add that odd stevia bitterness in the aftertaste. On the other hand, I am not sure if the fullness of the tart fruit bite would present without it, and certainly it would not be as sweet as fruit. It definitely does not need any additional sweetening.

This was a pleasant change of pace. I would like to try it again sometime but iced and under a tree on the beach.

You may find Good Earth Mango Me Crazy at your local Walmart or Kroger stores. It is also available online through Amazon, or order direct from Good Earth.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Company, Orange Cookies

Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Company Description:
Orange Cookies Flavoured Black Tea! A super new spicy loose leaf Tea. Combining pieces of Sweet Cinnamon Spicy Cardamoms Cloves and Fruity Pepper with lovely chunks of Sweet Apple pieces. A wonderful concoction with the scent of juicy Spanish Oranges.

Black Tea, Apple pieces, Cinnamon bits, Coriander, Flavouring, Cardamom pods, Orange slices, Pink Pepper and Cloves.

Sample provided by Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee

My Review:
The Kent and Sussex Tea & Coffee Company is new to me, though it was established in 1982. It is the trading name for three companies. The one that will be of interest to most of you here is Tea And Coffee Dot Com Limited, as that is the online shop where some 700 different teas and coffee can be found.

Today I am reviewing Orange Cookies Tea. It is a black tea. First lets discuss the packaging. The box arrived from England in perfect condition. Inside was a large amount of packing peanuts to protect the two 50g sample packs. The pouch shown here is bright and cheery despite my lighting. I do find two flaws with the bag.

First, there are no steeping parameters. Unless it is a real finicky tea requiring special handling (which this is not) then this is not that big of a deal. I will note that the brewing instructions are listed along with the description on the website.

The second requires a little more effort. The bag is not resealable. 50g is a lot of tea and it will last me quite a while. I cut the top off, folded the bag down and paper clipped it. Not the best, but I don't have an empty tin to dedicate to this one.

Moving right along, after cutting the top, I gave it the sniff test. The scent is soooo calming. It is definitely orange - not the candy fake kind - along with some subtle warming spices. Honestly, even if I end up hating this (not likely) the leaf would make an awesome room freshener.

Looking at a scoop of leaf, I notice a lot of small black tea pieces, an orange piece, a cardamom pod, pieces of apple, pink peppercorns, and coriander seed. I have to look harder to see the cinnamon. Maybe I could see the cloves if I knew what I was looking for. I can definitely smell it lightly.

I opted to use the French press to brew my English tea, that probably started in India (the plants of which can be traced back to China), and I'm steeping it in America. I feel so International.

I used boiling water and a 4 minute steep.

The brew pours a typical orange red color. It still smells incredibly delicious.

The taste is lighter, gentler, than I expected. Based solely on the ingredients, I expected a chai assault of spices. Nope. Just like the aroma, this is mainly a pleasant orange tasting tea with the spices filling out the flavor rather than trying to steal the stage.

The flavor kind of goes orange, cinnamon and clove, cardamom, then drifts into the slightest heat from the pink peppercorn. So subtle but a nice touch. It has a sweet lingering aftertaste.

After initially tasting this with no additions I did add sweetener. I don't think it necessarily needed it, I just wanted it that way. It takes sweetening in stride. To me, it makes all the delicious flavors pop a little more.

I don't think I have ever had an orange cookie, so I can't make that cookie connection, however, this is such a pleasant cup. I can see myself curling up on the couch this winter with a blanket, a book, and a cup of this one.

You can find Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Company Orange Cookies here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wooree Tea, Imperial Blend

Wooree Tea Description:
Wooree Tea's Imperial Blend Green Tea comes from the Hadong region of south west South Korea. Hadong is recognised as the best tea growing region of South Korea. The entire production is done by hand with meticulous care, demanding a sensitive touch and correct timing. Freshly harvested young shoots are gently fired in great iron cauldrons heated by wood-fuelled fires, adding to each vintage’s unique hue, fragrance and flavor.

Sample provided by Wooree Tea

My Review:
Wooree Tea is a recent start up. There is not a lot of personal information on their About Us page. It does state that 10% of sales goes to to help South Korean orphans. The website address and the postal mark are New Zealand based.

At the time of this writing Imperial Blend is the only tea Wooree has listed. There are some teaware items and a link to donate to Korean orphans.

I used the product packaging picture from Wooree's site as my sample came in a bubble wrapped ziplock baggy. The leaf picture is mine. I actually had to post edit the picture to lighten it up as it is a very deep green. The individual leaves are lightly twisted and small in appearance. I didn't notice much aroma coming off the dry leaf.

Brewing instructions were included on an accompanying letter. Preheat cup and pot. Use 1/2 to 1 tsp per person. Add water slowly and cover for 3 minutes. A water temperature of 80 (176 F) was recommended.

I used 2 tsp because I'm making a 12 oz mug of tea. The tea was steeped in my clear glass teapot.

The pot picture is a pretty good indicator that a little hot water made for some major changes. The leaf has turned my pot into a flooded forest. There is a lot of leaf here.

The leaf is the smaller Chinese type as opposed to the much larger Assam leaf. I don't think I've mentioned yet that this is a green tea. One sniff of the spinach aroma coming out of the pot makes that pretty obvious. I might have gone Ooooh out loud, but there are no witnesses.

The color in the pot has a definite green tint. Once poured it looks more like liquid sunshine with just a touch of haziness. That may be my fault as it was closer to 4 minutes on the steep, once I found my strainer, and I did use double the leaf. Notice how clear the tea appears in the pot picture.

OK, so I have a nice looking dry leaf, that becomes a forest of full leaves when steeped, and has a neat aroma. How does it taste?

As good as I imagined.

There is very little of what I would consider to be bitterness. There is a light bite that I find very welcome. The taste is sweet. Vegetative with out being particularly grassy. It is very similar to a Chinese green. The big difference is the additional note that to me tastes like hazelnut. I am also getting something like a citrus tartness (without the citrus taste) very late in the sip. Finishes with a pleasant, sweet, and slightly drying aftertaste.

I have time for a second mug and possibly just as, or more, importantly, I want one. This is an easy sipper. I only steeped for about 1 1/2 minutes on mug two. It is about the same color.

The taste is lighter than the first, of course the steep time is less than half. That said it is very similar to the first and still full of flavor. What I called citrus tartness in the first may be closer to camphor but again without a taste associated with it, just a feeling. Has more of a seaweed taste than vegetative and there is a touch of mineral. Hmmm, the two cups sound very different but in reality they are closer than the description.

As I mentioned this is an easy sipper. I feel certain I could get a third mug, and though I may want it, I am out time for today. If you love green tea and want something a little different this is a good one.

You can find Wooree Tea Imperial Blend here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Good Earth, Wild Chaild

Good Earth Description:
It doesn’t matter if it’s Monday morning or Thursday night, it’s okay to bring out the Wild Chaild™. With tantalizing chai spices and smooth caramel flavor, this curiously exotic tea gives you the sweet you need with just the right amount of spice to make whatever you’re doing more interesting.

Black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, natural caramel flavor with other natural flavors, natural banana flavor with other natural flavors, natural flavor, ginger root, Chinese star anise, nutmeg, chicory root, cloves, black pepper, steviol glycosides (stevia).

Sample provided by Good Earth

My Review:
I recently scanned many of my chai reviews. They are often very similar. I start out by saying I never crave chai, and generally I go on to report that I did in fact enjoy the cup. I do wish I could put my finger on why I react to chai this way. I have no horrible experience or memory associated with chai. I love all the ingredients. Hmmm. I may never know.

This is a tea bag version. Each bag contains a healthy 2.3g of leaf. Yeah! This is enough to make a hearty cup of tea. Each bag comes in its own protective envelop. Yeah! Nothing worse than stale tea before you are halfway through the box.

Wild Chaild? Why is this called Wild Chaild? Opening the envelop, I am hit with a heavy dose of cardamom and other similar spices. Yeah, this could be a wild ride, let's see.

I heated the water to 200F. Rarely do I ever use full on boiling water anymore. For my tastes just off boil generally makes a pleasantly smooth black tea.

The string is plenty long, however, even a long string won't keep the tag out of the cup if you pour too quickly and don't pay attention. Fortunately, I had a spoon nearby and I had the good sense to use it rather than my fingers.

The steep was 4 minutes. As you can see, the cup is a deep orange/reddish brown. It smells pleasantly of cinnamon, clove, and cardamon.

Tasting, I first notice the sweetness. This does have stevia added. That said it isn't over sweet, especially for chai. Compared to the dry scent, the cup aroma and taste are more subdued and balanced. There is a hint of flavor that takes the normal chai profile right off the beaten path. What is it? According to the ingredient list, this has natural banana flavor. Now, it isn't a banana tea. It is just a hint, but it is a cool twist. So you start out cardamon and clove, then turn momentarily toward banana without really getting there, before straightening back into a warm cinnamon, pepper, and ginger finish. I do catch brief hints of banana in the aftertaste. As the cup cooled way down, I could catch notes of star anise that are not present when the cup is hot.

I did not add milk as chai is usually steeped with milk. Maybe I will try it that way later. Even without it it this is pretty tasty. If I were to change anything, I would leave out the stevia. Most of us have our own preferences on whether and what type of sweetener to use. Second, its chai, so I don't really expect to taste the black tea, but that may well be why chai and I aren't as attracted to each other as I might like. See, I want to taste the black tea. I know totally unrealistic.

As a chai tea this is a nice twist. The cup was empty before I was ready.

You can find Good Earth at your local Walmart and Kroger stores, or online at Amazon. You can also order direct from Good Earth.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Gold World Century LTD, Mountain Top Green Tea

Mountain Top Green Tea Description:
Our tea comes from the serene mountain of Southern China’s Guangdong Province.

Sample provided by Mountain Top Green Tea

My Review:
A little background, as this will be kind of a different experience for me. Recently, I was contacted by Nathan Burchfield, founder of Gold World Century LTD in Hong Kong, and asked if I would like to review their high mountain green tea. Of course I said yes. Nathan has begun to market his own brand of tea. This particular tea he discovered early in his 6 years living in China. As of this writing the tea is not readily available. The plan is to begin selling it from the company Facebook page. If the tea is still not listed for sale on the page when you visit, message them and see when it might be available for you might try it.

Upon receipt of my sample, I opened the envelop and pulled out a really pretty hand painted cloth tie bag. Inside the bag was a resealable pouch containing what seems to be at least an ounce of leaf.

My first exposure to the tea is the sniff test. Here I get oats, malt, and hay. It is fresh and pleasing to the senses. I removed a scoop for the visual inspection. I am seeing a very dark leaf. I would have guessed this to be a black (red) tea by looking. It is brown with hints of green. The leaf is loose twists.

I used my imagination to come up with the brewing parameters. I used about 3g of leaf in my clear glass pot and water heated to 185F. The steep time was 2 minutes. The liquor is a deep amber color as prepared in my style. A gaiwan would undoubtedly produce something entirely different.

The aroma from the leaf after pouring caused me to pause and notice. It had a sweet aroma with more than a hint of spiciness. It reminded me of cardamom, or something along that line. Very unexpected. In addition there is a kind of earthiness that suggested puerh. It has been a while since I have caught this many nuances in the steeped leaf, which is now forest green and lush.

Ok, so I finally get to start tasting! First thing I notice is a complete lack of bitterness. Also, the bite is so slight as to almost not exist. There is a slight feeling of drying on the cheeks but I kind of like that. I am trying to come up with words... I've used mineral and mountain streams in a few reviews lately. I hate to do so again, but seriously, here it fits the clean taste. At the same time this is quite different than most any green that comes immediately to mind. There is some sense of a vegetative taste. That only kind of captures this tea. You recall how I compared the aroma to suggesting a kind of earthiness as in puerh? That is the feeling I am also getting with the taste. It is similar to a sheng (or raw) puerh without any of the harsh bitterness.

I can see why Nathan quickly became enamored by this tea upon discovering it. While not so different as to be unapproachable or weird, it is somehow different from the standard fare one normally experiences in Chinese green tea - and I happen to love Chinese green tea. The only other review I have seen of this tea is on T Ching. There it is compared as a bridge between oolong and green, allowing fans of one or the other to comfortably crossover (my paraphrase). I saw this tea as a bridge between green and sheng. To me, this differing view shows just how interesting this tea actually is, as it refuses to be defined. If you get the chance to try this tea - do it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Teabook Subscription Service

Teabook Description:
Teabook answers the call for pure unadulterated loose leaf tea. Offering a monthly membership of seasonal loose leaf teas. Teabook is for tea drinkers and tea lovers keeping pace with modern life. Our wish is that tea drinkers enjoy and experience the clarity and wellness benefits that come with steeping pure loose leaf tea - conveniently and affordably.  It's great tea. Made easy.

Sample provided by Teabook

My Review:
Today's review will be a little more picture intensive than normal.

For an explanation of just what Teabook is, allow me to quote from their FAQTeabook is a loose leaf tea monthly subscription service. For $24.99 a month, Teabook sends you a delicious collection of the season's best loose leaf teas.

Now, what I think makes Teabook different from other subscriptions is not what Teabook lists in the FAQ linked above. For me, the huge difference is all the teas are packed in individual serving size envelopes. Rest assured there are no paper tea bags inside. This is loose leaf tea. I love this idea. It takes what is so convenient about a tea bag and turns it on its head.

You wake up all fuzzy headed. You're running late. You NEED tea. Grab a packet, pour the contents into the tumbler, add hot water, and go. Arrive at work, and more hot water, and continue to enjoy.

Each month's Teabook box contains 9 packets each of two select teas. My November box contains a Dragonwell green tea and a Dian Hong red (black) tea. Next month will be something different - maybe an oolong or white tea. In addition each month, the box contains a single packet from the special collection. This month the special collection tea was Honey Sweet Green / Xiang Ming. So each month you will receive 19 packets of tea. That is roughly $1.32 per packet. You should be able to steep the same leaf all day, making this a pretty good deal for the subscription member. (Click the pics below to enlarge)

A couple paragraphs back I mentioned a tumbler - your first box includes a double walled glass tumbler!

Twisting off the lid reveals is a metal filter screen. This can be removed for easy cleaning. To use, simply unscrew the filter section and add the leaves directly from the packet. Add hot water - the tumbler holds about 10oz - and let steep.

The leaves remain in the tumbler while drinking. This has become known as 'grandpa style' brewing. It is common practice in many parts of the world, especially by daily tea drinkers in China. This is a convenient way of having tea all day long. When the tea level drops, just add more hot water. Keep doing this until the leaves have given their all. This works best according to A Tea Addict's Journal, if the water level does not drop below halfway - and this link actually suggests 2/3.

Today I am having the Dragonwell green tea. The leaf smells fresh and grassy. I added water heated to 175F. I gave it a couple minutes. The longjing aroma through the strainer was pretty awesome. I actually was concerned I would loose the aroma. Instead the top seems to concentrate it. Tasting, I burnt my tongue. Double walled glass holds the heat. Safety tip - leave the lid off until it cools to a drinking safe level. Due to the double walled construction the outer glass remains relatively cool.

You might think leaving the leaf in the tumbler would produce a bitter drink. Apparently, that is the beauty of the individual serving packets. The flavor was bold without being bitter. I was very pleased with the result.

If leaving the leaf in the tea while you drink does not appeal to you, pour the tea into a mug, of course it defeats the convenience factor. You are also free to not use the tumble to steep in, but it is just so darned cute I can't help myself.

You can cancel at anytime. More details are available at Teabook

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Good Earth, Pomegranate Burst

Good Earth Description:
Sure we all have responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle into a routine. Break things up with the tingling intensity of Pomegranate Burst™. Blended with the goodness of green tea and the unexpected tart flavors of pomegranate and cherry, one sip will be enough to shake up an ordinary day.

Green tea, hibiscus, elderberries, licorice root, natural pomegranate flavor with other natural flavors, raspberries, sweet blackberry leaf, natural cherry flavor with other natural flavors, citric acid, natural flavor, pomegranate flakes (pomegranate, corn starch, maltodextrin, lecithin), steviol glycosides (stevia).

Sample provided by Good Earth

My Review:
Lately I have been scurrying around like the proverbial headless chicken. Wow. I just need to slow down, catch my breath, and have some tea.

Today, I am once again having a simple quick and convenient cup from a tea bag. I love pomegranate tea, so I have high expectations with this one.

The box contains 18 individually wrapped tea bags. Each contains a little over 2g. I always try to point out the weight as many companies skimp on the leaf, making a good cup difficult if not impossible.

Opening the envelope I catch the first notes of pomegranate and I like what I am smelling. Then I catch cherry notes and it drifts off to somewhere between Kool-Aid and medicinal. I heated the water to 200F and steeped for 4 minutes.  As it steeped the red flowed from the bag. Back during Halloween this would have made for some great, and obligatory, vampire and blood comments.

Tasting... Hmmm... I don't dislike it. It is more of a I wish it were different kind of thing. Personal preference here, and I usually try to keep personal taste out of it, I wish this did not contain hibiscus. There I said it. I find its tartness and very presence unnecessary. I get they are trying to give the illusion the tartness is from the cherry but, well, just no.

I also wish it did not contain stevia. Stevia is bitter. If you like it fine. In some blends I like it, here it is too much. Too much sweet and bitter aftertaste. I prefer to add my own sweetener (Splenda for me) when I think it will improve the taste. Adding my sweetener now makes this way too sweet.

The negatives aside, the pomegranate and cherry actually mix well together. So the core taste is pleasant but I feel Good Earth is going to find a very limited group who will appreciate this cup. That is kind of a shame as they have good ideas here, they just need to learn to edit.  

Check for Good Earth tea in your local Walmart or Kroger store. You can also order direct from Good Earth.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sanne Tea, 2014-2015 Oriental Beauty

Sanne Tea Description:
Oriental Beauty is also known as Bai Hao (white tips) Oolong, or Champagne Oolong. The beautiful name, many people believe, is from Queen Victoria. When brewed, the leaves generally spread in water, like a graceful lady dancing with gorgeous finery.

Samples provided by Sanne Tea

My Review:
What we have here is a side by side comparison of Sanne Tea's Oriental Beauty from 2014 and 2015. It should prove interesting to see if I can detect subtle differences from one harvest to another from the same farm.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, this will not be the comparison I wanted to present. Why? I was not paying attention. Simple as that. My intention was to follow the directions on the sample label - they are identical for both samples. The entire 6g sample of each was used in water heated to 180F. The first steep time was to be 60s. What I failed to check was the kettle was not empty when I added my 6oz of water (200ml). So, when I poured, before I realized, I had filled my 12oz mug. Since both teas need to be brewed with the same parameters to keep it fair, I now have to use more water in the second mug. I also lengthened the first steep to 2 minutes to compensate.

One subtle detail that always impresses me about Sanne Tea is the handwriting on the back label. The tea name including the oriental characters, and steeping parameters are all filled in by hand for each package. Lulu is an artist with a heart for detail.

Looking at the leaf, (2014 on the left) both show all the correct colors of brown, red, green, white, and yellow. I think the yellow is the most difficult to catch in all the leaf of this type I have reviewed. Even though it appears just the opposite in my pictures, the 2015 version seems overall darker. It also seems fluffier but that may be simply a settling thing, still this is what I noticed.

Both samples have a light roasty, lightly malt, and fresh scent.

Until disaster struck, my intention was to brew these in identical mugs then pour the brew into smaller cups. This would allow me to literally compare them side by side. Now I find myself in need of both mugs for the one cup. After the panic, I realized I had other options. Since I used the entire sample all I could think of was how do I save this mug.

The 2014 Oriental Beauty liquor is caramel in color. The taste is honey with a  vibe similar to muscat grape. The aftertaste is lingering, sweet, and a combination of fruity and floral. There is a slight rough textured bite. It is not unpleasant and certainly not bitter. Just before it drifts off into the aftertaste I get a neat leafy hit - I can think of no other way to describe it. This is a solid cup of tea.

While steeping the 2015 Oriental Beauty, I noticed an amazing aroma . Maybe the previous sample had the same wonderful scent and I missed it. I also noticed this is much lighter in color. It is a dark honey color. Hmmm. The taste is extremely close to the previous year. It is honey with muscat grape. I am also getting the combination of fruity and floral in the lingering aftertaste. The difference between the two is this one does not have the rough textured bite. It is simply smooth. The leafy taste just before the aftertaste kicks in, is also reduced.

I really think it is too close to call which is better - especially given my faulty comparison. It is likely that I steeped the first mug longer than I thought. This would easily explain the differences.

What I learned is both teas are very good and both will take panic and bad technique in stride. Tune in next time for another exciting episode of tea brewing disasters! Even those of us who brew a lot of tea, have those days, more often than I care to admit.

You can find Sanne Tea 2014 Oriental Beauty here

You can find Sanne Tea 2015 Oriental Beauty here

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Red Leaf Tea, Caramel Matcha

Red Leaf Tea Description:
For those with an unrepentant and unwavering sweet tooth, there is no better tea than sweet caramel matcha. This fine tea blends the eastern traditions of matcha with the modern caramel flavor to brew a delectable tea that is sweet to take as a mid-morning snack, before lunch aperitif or after dinner relaxing drink. The toned-down caramel matcha is ideal for those who need a sweet tea without adding any extra sugar.

Pure Matcha powder from green leaves, Caramel Natural Flavor

My Review:
I've already had my usual morning cold milk/matcha latte. This morning I mixed strawberry and French vanilla matcha from Red Leaf Tea. It was very good, although I may prefer each of them by themselves, as I don't want anything getting in the way of the flavor of either. Weird, but true.

I thought I would have this one as a treat after lunch. I have read so many positive reviews, I wanted to check it out for myself. That being said, I am not a major craver of all things caramel, so we will see.

This is the basic grade matcha sample. It is what you get if you don't click anything but sample when you order. The powder is a greenish yellow-brown.

I used about a level teaspoon of powder in my mug and added 4 ounces of milk. Using a battery operated frother, I was able to completely fill the mug to overflowing with froth. I used the spoon to stir the mix to make sure I had gotten all the powder off the bottom blended in with the milk. This is why the mug doesn't look full in the picture. After the picture was taken, I added more milk.

So my first sip was pleasant enough. To me it was a little too light for my tastes. It didn't seem like it was worth all the fuss I had read about it.

Then I added a half packet of Splenda - equivalent to about 1 tsp of sugar - and what a difference. Caramel topping like you would add to ice cream or caramel like found in candy bars, is ok once in a while but I don't get too excited about them. This on the other hand was delicious enough I could enjoy it everyday.

This is obviously sweet but it isn't gross sweet even after my addition. It is very smooth and buttery feeling. The taste seems so natural and totally resist getting all up in my face. The perfect comination of flavor, sweet, and texture. I'll have this one again.

You can find Red Leaf Tea Caramel Matcha here

Monday, November 2, 2015

Good Earth, Tropical Rush

Good Earth Description:
Picture yourself in a lush expanse of rainforest, the sun peeking through the thick canopy. Okay, if that’s not how you’re spending your day, Tropical Rush™ Organic is just what you need. Made from organic, all natural ingredients blended with flavors reminiscent of a tropical island, this green tea can be your quick escape to the sweeter side.

Organic green tea, organic lemongrass, organic natrural flavor, organic orange peel, organic natural lime flavor, organic natural mango flavor, organic natural pineapple flavor, organic licorice root, natural flavor, organic chamomile.

Sample provided by Good Earth

My Review:
My plan today was to review a couple different teas. Instead my wife took me out for BBQ, where I ate way too much and enjoyed every bite. Now the temperature outdoors is in the 60's and headed possibly to 70 before evening. Normal for this time of year is in the mid 50's, so yeah, I'm cutting my indoor tea time down some and enjoying this unusual day.

I grabbed Tropical Rush because it was the first in the samples, and besides it sounded light and refreshing after the glorious digestive abuse I inflicted upon myself.

I did not see any steeping instructions on the sealed envelope. I wanted to treat this the way I think the average tea bag drinker would handle it, but I just could not bring myself to use full on boiling water. Instead I heated it to 200 F and steeped for 4 minutes. I removed the bag.

The dry bag had a pinneapple mango scent. The steeped tea is more of a mango aroma. The color as it began to steep was green but as it continued it became more honey colored.

The taste is a little different than anything I have had previously. I am still trying to decide if that is good or bad. Strangely, this doesn't have stevia some of Good Earth teas contain and yet I still catch a bitter edge I associate with stevia, in the aftertaste. The main taste is a combination of mango and pineapple. I wish I caught the lemongrass, orange, and lime, but sadly I can't single them out.

I have to be honest and tell you I am not enjoying this one. I am taking in to account that I don't care for pineapple and only slightly like mango. For me, the bigger issue is this just doesn't seem very balanced. That surprises me as most of Good Earth teas have been wonderfully blended.

You can find Good Earth Tropical rush at your local Walmart or Kroger store, or buy direct online.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Oollo Tea, Oriental Beauty

Oollo Tea Description:
Renowned for its beautiful five colour dancing leaves. This traditional beauty exudes apricot and peach scents followed by indulging orchid, muscat grape, and apple flavours.

Varietal: Qingxin Oolong/Jinxuan Oolong
Grower Name: Zhen Family
Location: Pinglin, New Taipei, Taiwan
Elevation: 500m
Harvest: 2014 Spring

Sample provided by Oollo Tea

My Review:
Today I was delighted to read up on this tea and learn its secret is Vampires! More on that in a moment. First, something else I learned reading Oollo's website; Oriental beauty is the name British royalty assigned to this tea for it's "beautiful colours and shapes. It seemed like a lady dancing in the tea pot".

What gives this tea its unique characteristics is the green leaf hopper that bites the leaf and feast on the tea leaf juices like vegetarian vampires. Seems totally appropriate on the day before Halloween.

I have a 5g sample in a sealed aluminum bag. The label has brief brewing instructions. There are expanded options on the website.

Opening the bag at first gives up very little in the way of aroma. Then I catch floral notes that seem to grow as I linger. Oollo mentions orchids. To me it was more reminiscent of peony.

The leaf is gorgeous. The five colors associated with higher quality leaf can be seen - brown, red (more of a cinnamon), green, white, and looking closely, touches of yellow. The yellow/white is the result of the vampire biting leaf hopper.

I decided to use the entire sample for a western steep. I was originally going to split it for a gung fu session - until I read about the dance of the leaf that caught the British royal's attention.

Never wanting to miss a good dance, I heated water to 195F and grabbed my clear glass Bodum press. The steep was a short 1 1/2 minutes. So I guess I am back to doing a hybrid method from years passed, where I use western water amounts and eastern time and temperatures. Seems to work for me.

As for the dance, most of the leaf hung vertically from the surface. A few leaf dove to the bottom. What made this interesting was not the ballet I was expecting, rather the slow graceful swelling of the leaf as it began to fill the pot. There were several leaves that gyrated and twitched. I don't know, maybe they were Miley Cyrus wanna bes. Forget it, scratch that image. I know. Too late.

The steeped leaf is mostly complete leaves and buds joined to stems. From this side of the steep, I see no evidence of the work of the green leaf hopper. The scent is honey and fruit.

The liquor is clear, bright, and more the color of syrup than my camera captured. It is kind of a honey/caramel.

Tasting, I am asking, are you sure this is oolong? I know it is on heavily oxidized end of the scale but this seems like a Nepal black tea. It lacks the heavy roasting that many dark oolongs possess and for that I am glad - not personally a fan of heavy roasting.

So what I am tasting is raisin drifting into muscat grapes. It also has a nutty, deep woods presence to it. Late in the sip I sense it opening up with floral notes. Again, to me, it is peony. Very good. I am still making a Nepal/Darjeeling comparison in the flavor.

This should go several more steeps. I may find out later today. Right now an earache and head cold are making me feel less than up to the task. It has to be couch time somewhere, right? Definitely aspirin time.

You can find Oollo Tea American Beauty here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Good Earth, Sweetly Twisted

Good Earth Description:
Keep guessing from the first sip to the last mouthful with Sweetly Twisted™. Starting out sweetly enough, this tea takes a tangy left turn to an unexpectedly refreshing place, sending your taste buds on an impromptu getaway. Hope you have some vacation days left.

Hibiscus, black tea, rosehip, lemon peel, chicory root, natural flavor, sweet blackberry leaf, lemon oil,  licorice root, natural vanilla flavor with other natural flavors, citric acid, steviol glycosides (stevia).

Sample provided by Good Earth

My Review:
Good Earth has so far been a fun break from the 'serious' teas. I like that I can find this brand locally, though it takes a little effort to find all of their different fusions.

As has been the case with all of these teas, the box contains 18 tea bags each packaged in an individual sealed envelope to maintain freshness. The majority of this brands offerings contain slightly more than 2g of leaf. I applaud them for giving us enough leaf to make a real cup of tea.

Opening the envelope releases a scent that is familiar and yet I can't quite figure out what it is I'm smelling. This brings to mind some type berry flavor.

Pouring boiling water into mug, brings about a quick transitioning of the water from clear to deep red. Aw oh, hibiscus. I looked at the ingredients and hibiscus is first on the list. My wife loves it. Me not so much. Good Earth has proven themselves worthy of my continuing on with this cup. I also notice blackberry leaves in the ingredients which explains the aroma and the box graphic suggesting a berry connection.

The aroma is berry and a pleasantly vanilla.

The name of this tea describes the taste pretty well. It hits you with an immediate blast of stevia/licorice root then turns suddenly to tart hibiscus.

I let my wife taste it. She said it certainly doesn't need sweetener. She thought for a moment then added the taste "wasn't bad". That's as close to a detailed review as I ever get from her. My opinion, this one is not for me. I did not enjoy the tartness of the hibiscus and I did not enjoy the strong bitter stevia aftertaste. The stevia reminds me of saccharin. Sorry Good Earth, but its true we can't like them all. If you enjoy hibiscus and stevia, have I found a tea for you.    

You can find Good Earth Sweetly Twisted at your local grocer or direct from Good Earth.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sanne Tea, Taiwanese Green Tea - Cold Steep

In all the time I have been reviewing tea on The Everyday Tea Blog, I have never reviewed the same tea twice in back to back reviews. If I have something to add, I usually handle it by updating the original post. I am making an exception today.

Yesterday I reviewed a hot western steep of Sanne Tea, Taiwanese Green Tea. Today I am writing about a cold steep version of the same tea. The results are different enough to warrant a separate entry.

I love iced tea but for whatever reason I seldom cold steep tea. I'm not sure why, as it is incredibly simple. I grabbed a glass bottle that once contained some particularly mediocre store bought tea. I then placed 3g of loose leaf tea in the bottle, filled it with cool water, tightened the lid and placed in the refrigerator. The next day I have cold tea just waiting for me.

You can do this with any tea (even tea bags) or herbal. Some will work better than others. Experiment and have fun with it.

When I grabbed this today I decided to pour it into another bottle to strain out the leaf. I grabbed a funnel but never thought to grab a screen, so I got a couple leaves in the second bottle. In many parts of the world, they would not bother trying to strain in the first place, so its all good.

The color is a beautiful gold with light green tint. The taste is the reason I felt this deserved a new post. This is just simply delicious and refreshing. It is so sweet, I have no desire to use any additives. The first note that hits me reminds me of the first hot cup. It has a sweet corn/buttered popcorn flavor. Then I catch what seems to be a roasted hint, except this particular green tea was not roasted. So, maybe it would be better to call this a nutty flavor. Finally, I catch an abundance of floral notes reminiscent of Taiwan oolongs. It is a very nice orchid sweetness that carries on into the aftertaste.

As much as I enjoyed this tea hot, I have to tell you this tea really shines as a cold brew.

You can find Sanne Tea Taiwanese Green here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sanne Tea, Taiwanese Green Tea

Sanne Tea Description:
This Taiwanese Green Tea comes from Pinglin District, New Taipei City, near the Feitsui Reservoir area. For centuries, the environment has been strictly protected in this area. Mr. Chen, the fourth generation of his tea family, earned the organic certification in 2010, and became one of only 22 organic tea farmers in this area.

Unlike non-fermented Japanese Green Tea, Mr. Chen’s Taiwanese Green Tea is lightly fermented, about 5%, making the tea less pungent and less bitter than Japanese Green Tea. After it is picked, the fresh leaves go through a short withering process. Unlike other green tea makers who pick immature tea buds, Mr. Chen only picks the well-grown tea leaves, which contain sufficient nutrition to generate exquisite flavors. After harvest, the fresh tea leaves were naturally withered under the sun and gentle breeze. Compared to blower withering, natural withering keeps the tea’s innate aroma. Next step, the stir is the key for making excellent green tea. Insufficient stirring would make tea smell moldy and fusty; over stirring would lose the freshness of green tea. Only an experienced tea master can adjust the amount of time and temperature during stirring, extracting the correct notes from the fresh leaves to impart a wonderful sweetness.

Sample provided by Sanne Tea

My Review:
Sanne Tea invited The Everyday Tea Blog to review a few of their new products. I quickly jumped at the opportunity as the previous teas were very good.

Today's tea is a new Taiwanese Green Tea. Taiwan is noted for their exceptional high mountain oolongs. They also have some fabulous black teas (Sun Moon Lake I love you). Lesser known, especially in the west, are the green teas that did not hit the global market until the mid 20th century and most of us are just hearing about them now.

This is a 6g sample that came in a resealable pouch. It looks like brown market wrapping paper on the outside but is lined to preserve freshness. The package front is elegant in its simplicity.

The back of the pouch is what most catches my attention. The pertinent information is hand written with a brush pen. I find this personal touch and attention to detail refreshing in a world of shove it out the door. Taking the time to do it right is very tea.

Opening the pouch, I get just a light whiff of green. If I have to find a word, I guess grassy is the best choice.

I poured the entire sample on to a plate then divided it in half. 3g went into a glass bottle. I filled it with water and put it in the fridge for a cold brew test in about 12 hours.

Examining the remaining 3g, the leaf is large pieces, some lightly twisted, some not so much. The leaf is various shades of green with an abundance of white tips on the end of the leaf.

I used the glass French press as usual. Water was heated to 175 F and once added the steep was a short 60 seconds.

Permit me to run off on a brief rabbit trail, I have always read tea bags release the flavor more quickly than loose leaf. I just don't get that. I have never steeped a tea bag for only 60 seconds. I think it is more fair to say a tea bag releases most of its flavor in the first steep, reducing the usable number of steeps to one - two if you like weak tea. Loose leaf usually steeps multiple times, has a more complex taste, and often results in a different experience with each.

OK, back to this tea. The resulting liquor I found to be one of the yellowest cups I can recall. The product page calls it light green. Possibly the difference is they may have prepared this in a gaiwan and I used the press.

The steeped leaf has really been rejuvenated. They are big plump green leaves. The scent is between green vines and grassy.

Tasting the very clear liquor, I taste sweet corn. I was expecting more of a seaweed flavor, but my brain and taste buds are calling this corn. It is incredibly smooth with no hint of bitterness. I am not noticing much in the way of drying astringency. The taste turns even sweeter toward the end.

As it approaches room temperature the flavor is reduced and it becomes more of a fresh mineral stream taste. I still find it pleasantly refreshing. The aftertaste remains green and grassy.

The second cup was steeped for 90 seconds. The color of this cup does have a slight greenish tint. The aroma out of the press is far more nori (edible seaweed). This difference is an interesting example of my rabbit trail comment above.

Cool. The taste is also a 180 from the first cup. The taste is bold nori. There is just enough bite to be interesting without being bitter or astringent. The finish is sweet and grassy. I notice just a slight tingle in the cheeks. As the cup cools the bite subsides, though never disappearing completely. The taste remains a mix of seaweed and grass.

This leaf should stand up to three more steeps, and I still have the cold brew to comment about, but not today. It is my oldest son's birthday, so we are getting ready celebrate with him. However, I have enjoyed my time this afternoon with this one from Mr. Chen's garden. Thank you Sanne Tea.  

You can find Sanne Tea Taiwanese Green here.