Monday, September 28, 2015

Red Leaf Tea, Pumpkin Pie Matcha

Red Leaf Tea Description:
Despite its unique name, pumpkin pie tastes very similar to sweet potato pie. It is sweet on the palate and when combined with the enriching hints of exotic Matcha, becomes more balanced and delectable on the palate. Pumpkin Pie Matcha can be adapted to suit the occasions of young children because of its sweet beckonings and also the occasions of adults because of its delectable taste. This understated delicious snack can be an excellent choice as an in between meal snack for those who are not afraid to experience true adventure. It's surprisingly sweet taste both delights and enriches the palate with unexpected pleasure.

My Review:
It's fall and as a tea drinker that means trying the obligatory pumpkin inspired tea. This year I went a different route and ordered this flavored matcha from Red Leaf Tea.

I'll start by saying I love pumpkin pie. About this time of year I can almost imagine the very reason I was put on this earth was to eat pumpkin pie. We all know that isn't likely to be true but it's my fantasy and I'm sticking to it. That said, it makes me sorry for tea companies that I review. I know they will not capture the true flavor of pie. Pumpkin spice sure, but not pie and crust.

So this one is intense out of the packet. The spice is quite strong when I open the bag. I mostly notice clove. To a lesser extent it is cinnamon and allspice.

Viewing the powder it looks typical of kitchen grade matcha. Upon closer inspection I see sparkles of possibly sugar crystals although the ingredients are listed as "Pure Matcha powder from green leaves, Pumpkin Pie Natural Flavor".

I used my usual heaping teaspoon of powder with a couple ounces of cold 2% milk. With my electric frother I worked this up until it was almost entirely a creamy foam. Then I added more milk until the foamy mix reached the top of the tumbler.

You can see in the picture how much foam is still present. It makes for a thick creamy dessert drink.

I read through the reviews on Steepster. Most of them praise this for capturing the essence of pumpkin pie. I will have to say I respectfully disagree. This is not pumpkin pie. At least it is not any pumpkin pie I have tried, and I have tried a lot.

That said, it is still pretty good. It is very sweet. It is also heavy on the spice. This reminds me of the powdered Chai mix a friend and I used to buy at Sam's Club. We went trough several large cans of the stuff. Every time we would swear we weren't going to get another, but before long one of us would crack and away we would go again.

So, this is a very sweet decadent dessert treat. I could become addicted, but as with virtually every pumpkin themed tea I try this time of year, this is pumpkin spice, it is not pumpkin pie.

You can find Red Leaf Tea, Pumpkin Pie Matcha here.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Little Red Cup Tea, Premium White Peony

Little Red Cup Tea Company Description:
Grown high on Guzhang Mountain in Hunan Province, this White Peony (Bai Mudan, 白牡丹) tea is one of the best we've ever tasted. Whole leaves plucked by hand and dried in the sun make for a full-bodied brew rich with floral notes of honey and melon.

Pull it out for guests, gift it to someone you admire, this tea is special.

Fair Trade premiums from the sale of this tea, as with the other teas from Hunan, are used by the growers for equipment purchases and much needed public works and sanitation projects.

Sample provided by Little Red Cup Tea Company

My Review:
White tea - tea drinkers are divided on it. Some, especially the Assam drinking crowd, find it to be too subtle. Others, including myself, find its depth of flavor something not be be missed. White Peony, or Bai Mudan, seems to be a good middle ground for the two groups. It has a bolder flavor than Silver Needle and still maintains a good flavor profile.

This one comes to us from Hunan Province in China. I try to always enjoy the aroma of the just opened package before looking at the leaf. I don't want my eyes to sway me before my nose has a chance. I was not disappointed. The scent is pure white peony. It always seems dark to me. It also reminds me of fall. There is a leaf aroma like deep in the woods on a crisp autumn day. Along with it is hints of hay and melon.

Now I move on to visually inspecting the leaf. Check it out: there is plenty of silvery tips, ample leaves of cinnamon, and deep brown, as well as light touches of green. White Peony leaf is just lovely to look at.

I used what appears to be a lot of leaf by volume, but white tea leaf is so light and fluffy it just takes more. My resealable sample did not have brewing parameters, so I jumped over to the website and read 180 F for 3 minute steep.

The result is a dark honey colored brew with gold edges. The steeped leaf is deep browns and greens.

The taste is just what I expect from White Peony. Like the scent it tastes dark to me, while the feel is light and refreshing. The main element to me is dried leaf (again an autumn feel). There is also a touch of honey, though it is not overly sweet.

If you are in the white tea fan group, this is a lovely example of a good White Peony. If you are of the not a fan of overly subtle tea club, this one is bold enough to enjoy on a sunny afternoon soaking up some of the final warm rays before winter takes over.

You can find Little Red Cup Tea, Premium White Peony here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

3 Leaf Tea, Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Three Leaf Tea Description:
All of our signature hot chocolate blends contain 3 or less ingredients. Our blending begins with raw, organic cacao (ca·cao) which creates a smooth rich chocolate base without any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Cacao is the purest form of chocolate where the bean is cold pressed to separate the oil from the protein and fiber. The pressed cakes are then finely milled into a powder to become the finished product. Because high heat is never used, cacao is a raw product. We believe using raw cacao versus using processed cocoa (co·coa) is better for you, and more delicious!

Vegan, Gluten Free 

Ingredients: Pure cane sugar, raw organic cacao powder, natural flavors

Directions: Whisk 2 tablespoons into 1 cup of hot milk until well blended.

Sample provided by Three Leaf Tea

My Review:
Yes, I know, this is not tea. Since I have reviewed many herbal 'teas' on this blog, I feel it is acceptable to review a natural ingredient hot chocolate, and besides, it's hot chocolate!

3 Leaf specializes in flavored matcha but also offer a selection of loose leaf teas and hot chocolates.

I have really been looking forward to trying this since it arrived in the mail but it has not been the proper weather with highs in the 90's. We have suddenly been thrust into some solid October like weather so today's 45 F morning seems just right.

The entire sample is required for this cup. The powder looks a little like rooibos but of course that is the finely ground cacoa with some added sparkle from the pure cane sugar.

I heated the milk in the microwave then poured half of it over the powder. Had I been thinking I wouldn't have poured the powder into the mug until after the microwave, because now I have two mugs to clean. D'oh!

I then grabbed the mighty MatchaDNA frother and began mixing. In mere moments I had a hot thick and creamy mug of chocolaty foamy goodness. I slowly poured the rest of the milk in the mug and took the glamour shot.

The first taste is not what I expected. It was better! I have had the common grocery store variety of peppermint hot chocolate. It is watery with over the top mint in the face. This blend from 3 Leaf is very different. The first thing I notice, after the foam on my nose, is how deeply cocoa and rich tasting is this mug.

It is sweet but not overly so. I probably notice more because I never add sugar to anything. My Splenda monkey won't let me. So the rare treat of cane sugar is more apparent to my senses.

The next thing that comes to mind on first sip is, where's the peppermint? Then mid sip, it slowly rises and fills your mouth with cooling. It really is more sensation than taste. That is some beautiful restraint. When I'm drinking tea I want to taste the tea first, then the added flavor. Same with hot chocolate. I want to taste decadent rich chocolate. Then give me a little something extra to add to it, not take away. That is exactly how this peppermint hot chocolate fulfills it's role, and it does so perfectly.

Excellent work 3 Leaf!

You can find Three Leaf Tea Peppermint Hot Chocolate here.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Red Leaf Tea, Cheesecake Matcha

Red Leaf Tea Description:
When the much loved cheesecake is combined with exotic Matcha, the resulting Cheesecake Matcha is unforgettable and very delicious. With its creamy and buttery undertones and a hint of Matcha spiciness, a Cheesecake Matcha treat can easily take its place among the everyday favorite snack choices. This versatile treat adapts to the palate and can sometimes taste salty or creamy or sour depending on who is enjoying it. This varied taste makes this delectable treat truly exceptional and very favored among those who prefer non sweet snacks in their refreshment alternatives.

My Review:
I begin everyday, and I mean every day, with a cold 2% milk and matcha latte. I want the milk for the nutrition (milk does a body good) and to protect my stomach from my morning medicine. I want the matcha for the flavor and the caffeine. One of the side benefits is the natural antioxidants found in the powdered tea leaves.

Normally, I drink it with added Splenda and maybe a light splash of vanilla and caramel syrup. I like kitchen grade matcha fine for this, but truth be told, the expensive stuff tastes even better if you can afford it.

I recently ordered, I believe, 8 different flavored matcha samples from Red Leaf Tea. I don't drink a lot of preflavored tea since discovering loose leaf unless it is for a review. These I got because they sound like fun!

Opening the sample bag, I smell the powder. It reminds me more of cookie dough than cheesecake at this point. The powder is kind of a dull yellowish green. This sample is made with basic matcha. You can get the good stuff if you like for extra money.

I used two of the pictured spoons of powder - 1/2 tsp total, in a glass mug and added half a cup of milk. Then, I used my new milk frother to mix and foam. I love the frother and highly recommend getting one for your latte needs. After filling the mug with foam, I slowly poured in the rest of the cup of milk. I gently ran the frother at the bottom to fully mix everything.

The result is a bone white colored mug with a foamy top.

In tasting, I bounce between, yes it tastes like cheesecake without the fruit topping, to no, it tastes like Celestial Seasoning Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride. Now, I must tell you, I have multiple boxes of said Sugar Cookie in my possession. Locally, it is available only for a brief seasonal time each year. It is a must have.

The biggest difference is the smooth creaminess of this frothed blend. It has a buttery lightly salted taste. The light salt is probably just my brain trying to dissect the flavor and not an actual element.

My opinion is this cheesecake matcha needed no added sweetener. The ingredients listed on the website are "Pure Matcha powder from green leaves, Cheesecake Natural Flavor". I followed the directions. Normally I would use closer to 2 tsp of powder in 12 oz of milk. Here I used 1/2 tsp in 8 oz, and I was happy with the result. The longer I sipped the more I made the cheesecake connection.

I think if you tossed some berries in the cup it would make for an even better sensory delight.  As prepared, I can see my nightly winter Sugar Cookie may have some morning competition!

You can find Red Leaf Tea Cheesecake Matcha here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Oollo Tea, Baozhong Oolong

Oollo Tea Description:
Grown in the serene mountainous terrain of Wenshan, Taiwan. The twisted leaves produce elegant lilac and vanilla fragrances while developing delicate sweet, floral notes. 

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

Sample provided by Oollo Tea

My Review:
I feel like I have abandoned the blog lately. This is only the second review this month. No, I haven't been sick. No, I haven't moved on. Mostly it has been so blasted hot all month. 90 F + everyday does not equal a great desire for hot tea. Mostly, I have been chugging gallons of a bottled green tea. Don't judge me.

Today, the temperature broke and it will cap out around an awesome 80 F. So, that is reason to celebrate with tea and a review.

The sample I received has a clear and simple label. The sample is not resealable. It appears to contain about 10g of leaf.

My first clue as to what to expect came when I cut open the bag. I literally said, "Oh, Wow!" out loud. This is wonderfully fragrant of lilac. As I enjoy the scent the floral aspect lowers and I start catching sweet field hay. Truly nice.

The leaf is large, and twisted, with various deep shades of green. The leaves are attatched to the stems. I thought I knew Baozhong, but this is fresher, more alive, in appearance than I have experienced before.

Today I will once again employ the use of my favorite brewing instrument, a Bodum French Press. I love it and would with out question buy another if an unfortunate mishap should befall it.

I used a cup of filtered water heated to 185 F along with half the sample (about 5 grams of leaf).  I let this steep for 2 minutes. The label range is 1.5-4. I almost went the four minutes because I probably won't have time for the 3 cups this should make.

The leaf stayed pretty much on the surface of the water and only partially relaxed. No dancing for these shy leaves.

The resulting cup color is liquid gold. The picture definitely does not do it justice.

The cup aroma is sweet lilacs and after reading the company description, I can agree with vanilla notes.

The taste is softer than the scent suggests. At first I think a longer steep should have been used. As I adjust and the cup cools a little this opens up. The floral aspect is met with a delicate spice that almost has me rummaging through the wife's spice cabinet to figure out what it could be. Without doing that, because my wife would be upset with me, the best I can imagine it, is a custard and nutmeg combination done lightly and elegantly. The aftertaste lingers with a classic Taiwan oolong vegetal taste.

There is not an hint of bitterness and no astringency. No smoke. No roasted notes. Nothing even remotely off. It is sweet tasting and creamy feeling. This is really a pleasure to drink. Very nice.

You can find Oollo Tea Baozhong here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tea Pots n Treasures, Merri Mint

Tea Pots n Treasures Description:
Beautiful green flat China Tea, young hyson green, vanilla beans, blood orange peels, rose hips, peppermint.

My Review:
Almost a year ago, a couple friends came for a visit to enjoy our new porch addition. Our friend Kim, had a shopping bag full of tea with her. She said take what you want. I tried showing some restraint because I have nearly an entire tea store in my den already. All the tea in the bag came from Tea Pots n Treasures in Indianapolis, Indiana. They were closing one of their locations and had the tea on clearance. Well, this is an opportunity to try a new company so I grabbed a half dozen or so that sounded interesting. Well, actually, I grabbed a lot more but slowly whittled the pile down to a manageable level.

Then I got very sick and just wasn't writing and tasting much tea at all. These have been sadly, but not intentionally, forgotten. Until now. I'll take their age into consideration as I taste.

About the time my friend gifted us with the teas, I saw a story on the morning news about Tea Pots n Treasures. One of the owners blends the teas herself in small batches. See currently has over 900 blends! The website is a little hard to maneuver and you won't find all the blends listed as all aren't always in stock. They will even prepare custom blends upon request.

Anyway, Merri Mint - The ingredients sound delicious. I opened the bag (clear plastic but I have stored it in a dark drawer). The aroma is interesting and complex. None of the elements really dominates. The mint may be most obvious but mint is kind of that way. The vanilla, rose hips, and blood orange are all discernible as you stop and dwell on the scent. Really smells nice.

Removing a couple healthy scoops, I see some straight flat green leaf and some that are curled. I also see the orange peel. At first, I thought raisins were in the mix until I realized it was the rose hips (d'oh).

I used an infuser basket today and a clear glass mug. Why? They were feeling neglected. The mug is just a whiner, I use it everyday. I just don't brew in it very often. To the mug I added filtered water heated to 180 F. I steeped for approximately 3 minutes.

When I removed the basket from the mug, I was a little surprised by the color. Doesn't look like green tea. Oh yeah, it's the rose hips again. At first glance it looks like 'tea', you know, standard orange pekoe black tea. Then you notice the purplish red tint. It's kind of festive looking.

My first sip reveals the age of this leaf. That said it is still quite flavorful. It just no longer pops. Because of the age I added some sweetener to revitalize the taste. It worked.

Like the dry aroma, there is a lot going on. First, the coolness of the peppermint. It is my favorite of the mints, especially in tea. It has all the bite without tasting like chewing gum. Next I notice the hose hips and the blood orange merge into kind of their own unique taste. It is tangy, but not quite bitter. Almost floral, and almost fruit. It is sort of deep and earthy. The closest comparison I can come up with is a tart cranberry, plum, and orange. Mixed with the mint it is very different. Then, there is the vanilla pulling the whole thing together in a wonderful creamy way. I can taste the green tea but it has probably suffered the most from the long storage.

Despite the age issue, this is pretty good. My wife liked it as well. She commented on the vanilla. It has caffeine so she can't have much of it but said she wanted to drink it anyway.

You can find Tea Pots n Treasures here.