Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Petit Tea, Opulence Lavender Green

Picture Credit: Petittea.com
Petit Tea Description:
Opulence Tea Infusers combine premium quality, anti-oxidant rich tea directly and the convenience of a tea bag. Unlike tea bags, these Tea Infusers do not collapse when steeped in water, allowing tea leaves the desired space to uncurl and release delicate flavours and aromas to the water they steep in.

These modern tea infusers are an elegantly superior alternative to the tea bag and loose leaf tea. Designed to hold tannin longer to keep teas from becoming bitter brewing that perfect cup every time, regardless of how strong you want it.

High grown green tea flavored with lavender flowers and natural lavender oil.

Sample provided by Petit Tea

My Review:
Truth time - I love just about every kind of tea I have experienced with few exceptions. When I received these samples and saw Lavender Green on this one, my natural reaction was to flinch and put it off until last. Lavender, thus far, is not on my love list. So far, it has been on my too avoid list.

The however is the previous Petit Teas have been very good. So I am going out on a limb and giving them the benefit of the doubt. It also occur to me that if I hate this one (because I just might), I will still have some to review that I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy later.

Long introduction aside - this Lavender Green is one of four blends packaged in the Opulence Variety Pack. Inside the box the aluminum infusers are individually wrapped and boxed.

Once the infuser is removed I sniff. It is perfumey as lavender tends to be, yet not so strong that it offends me - yet. I proceed cautiously.

I used 190F water. The box says freshly boiled. I just couldn't do that to green tea. The box also advises to use a 2 minute steep. At 2 minutes the brew was very lightly colored so I added an additional 30 seconds. Why? I'm a rebel at heart.

The liquor is light green with a slight yellow tint. It only has a faint flowery scent. Fingers crossed. I'm going in....

Hmmm.... interesting, and not at all what I was fearing. Yes, it's lavender but at a very pleasant level. I've had lotus teas that were far more in your face. I quickly took a second and larger sip to confirm the experience. I actually like this. The taste is somewhere between the aforementioned lotus and a mild jasmine. Underneath it is a neat green tea that expresses itself as kind of earthy in combination with the lavender. It rises up quickly at mid sip and pushes its way into the end.

I did not add any sweetener at first. It doesn't need it. For science I mixed in some Splenda mid cup. My advise is don't, or at least try it first. I think it took away from the taste and muddied it.

I am seriously shocked how much I enjoyed this one. Reminds me of the jasmine tea I used to think I didn't like until I had some that was blended correctly. I am now a big fan. Way to go Petit Tea!

You can find Petit Tea Opulence here.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Teabook, Honey Sweet Green / Xiang Ming

Picture Credit: Teabook.co
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:
I previously reviewed the Teabook monthly subscription service. For $24.99/month including shipping (within the US), you receive 9 packets each of two select teas (18 total), plus one special collection packet (today's review), and with the first Teabook order a glass double-walled tumbler.

The teas change each month. My Teabook was from last November and included one special collection packet of Honey Sweet Green (Xiang Ming) from Yueyang, Hunan Province, China.

The tea is packed in an individual serving bag. Once opened I catch the scent of a fresh field.

I poured the leaf on the plate and suddenly realized how much leaf I have been using lately. It must be closer to twice this amount. That's what happens as time goes on and you don't use a scale.

I tried to research this tea but a Google search reveals pretty much nothing. This tea must sell under an alternate name elsewhere. The closest I came was leaf used to make a puerh. This is definitely not puerh. The leaf is long slender light twists. It is very dark. If you get the light just right it does reveal some green highlights.

In the pot it goes, along with fresh filtered water heated the 185F. I steeped for 2 minutes. The dance of the leaf was interesting. Not that there was much movement, but in noting some leaf hung suspended midway between the surface and bottom. The remainder was equally split between top and bottom.

The liquor is bright and clear. It is honey yellow with just a hint of green cast. This smells incredible. It reminds me of a floral high mountain oolong.

The taste is even better than the scent. Definitely don't add sweetener to this. It is just gorgeous the way it is. It is sweet and floral but not so much as to be in the least perfumey. There is a wonderfully cleansing astringent bite running throughout the sip. It almost borders on metallic but never crosses the line. It turns thicker late in the sip, like the way milk feels as you sip. Perfection in a cup. I can think of nothing to complain about or warn against with this one.

Each month the special collection tea is something new, so I don't know if you will get the opportunity to experience this particular tea - which is a bit of a shame. If this is indicative of the level of quality of each month's special tea then you won't be disappointed.

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

Petit Tea, American Breakfast

Petit Tea Description:
A perfect blend of the finest black whole leaf teas from Darjeeling and Assam. This full bodied blend has the vitality to awaken and stimulate the metabolism. The name probably came from this tea’s ability to help digest a full American breakfast.

Black Tea

Sample provided by Petit Tea

My Review:
It is a snowy gray day outside. I have been awake since 4:00 am, having not fallen asleep until after midnight. Yep, one of those days. When trying to decide what tea to have this day, this one seemed like the obvious choice.

I have reviewed a couple teas so far from Petit Tea. I am finding them to be a very good choice. I especially love the infuser. It is quick, convenient, and easy like a tea bag but with a loose leaf taste. I am not opposed to bags. I use some myself, but there is no denying they, more often than not, mute the flavor of the leaf or worse, they add a paper taste. These single serve infusers are aluminum with rows of holes to allow water to circulate around the enclosed leaf.

This American Breakfast is a blend of Darjeeling and Assam tea. Let's get started and see what we think.

I heated fresh filtered water to boiling and poured over the infuser in my mug. I noticed the infuser contains 2.5 g of leaf. That is the amount I would normally scoop out for a mug if I were using loose leaf. The dry infuser has a really nice clean leaf scent.

I steeped for 4 minutes. I meant to go 3 but, well, you know how those things go or more correctly don't. The result is a reddish brown liquor. It is shiny, bright, and clean.

I appreciate the use of Darjeeling in this tea. It gives the mug aroma a fruity woodsy scent. When tasting, I first notice the fruity (grapey) muscat flavor combined with the woodsy or nutty flavor of the Darjeeling. Although I am not a big fan of straight Assam, I like it in this blend. It adds a briskness that Petit calls cleanly astringent. I often hesitate to use the word astringent as people usually freak out thinking I mean bitterness. That is not the situation here. Without some astringency tea tastes flat and boring, while too much may make you pucker. Here Petit has achieved that balance that adds character and interest to the cup without distraction.

I added a little sweetener halfway through the cup and while it did not bring out any new notes, it took sweetening in stride. If you normally use additives, this one can handle it. I did not add milk as it is not my custom to do so except occasionally with chai. I feel confident this tea could handle it fine.

Once again, I find myself pleased with Petit Tea. If you are looking for a solid compromise between the convenience of a bag and the full unobstructed flavor of loose leaf grab a box of these infusers and see what you think.  

You can find Petit Tea's American Breakfast on Amazon and from the Petit Tea website

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Republic of Tea, Mrs. Patmore's Pudding Tea

The Republic of Tea Description:
This decadent dessert tea has the homemade flavors of vanilla sponge cake drizzled with rich caramel sauce. The full-bodied base of premium black tea lends itself well to a splash of milk, making it a perfect afternoon tea to partner with puddings, scones and shortbread.

Black tea, sweet blackberry leaves, carob bits, natural caramel and vanilla flavor

My Review:
First, I have to admit I have never seen a single scene from any Downton Abbey episode. I realize it has a cult like following. I just happen to lean way more sci-fi than Downtown.

Second, I am often hesitant to try Republic of Tea offerings. I really like their tins and per cup they aren't out of line with similar teas. This one retails for $12.99/36 bags or roughly $0.36/per cup. My hesitation centers around the size of the bag and the lack of string.

The bags are unbleached paper and round. They lack a string and tag - to reduce waste I assume. If you leave the bag in the cup, which you really shouldn't do, you won't mind. If you properly remove the bag, you have to fish it out. I'm easily annoyed, yes, but I want a string and tag - or better, give me loose leaf.

I only have one tea bag of this so I cannot confirm the amount of leaf in each bag. I also can't find this information on the Republic of Tea website, Amazon, or anywhere else. I am not going to guess but will say it does not look like enough leaf for a mug.

I did find one mention in my web searching to use a 6 oz cup. Rather than quibble over whether a cup is 6 oz or 8 oz (it doesn't really matter as a proper mug is 12 oz!), I heated the water to boiling and poured 6 oz over the bag. The steep time was 3 minutes.

The dry aroma is similar to the steep aroma. I had trouble deciding what notes I was catching. It reminds me of the kind of teas my wife enjoys. It made me think of Superberry by Townshend or a brambleberry tea she liked.

I read the company description and my reaction isn't even close to what they stated. I'm a fat boy, I know what sponge cake and caramel sauce taste like. I am not fooled.

I looked at the ingredient list and would have never guessed blackberry, caramel, and vanilla. Although now that I know, I can catch glimpses of each one. While the blackberry is the strongest, it is the vanilla that I can most recognize. I can't taste the black tea at all.

I added Splenda to see if it separated the flavors and it really didn't, in fact, the tea is naturally sweet enough the addition was kind of in the way.

I've read many reviews from fans of this tea. I am not joining the club today. I don't hate this by any means. I've previously admitted my bias with the brand, that is not the issue here. I personally am not a fan of teas flavored similar to this one. If the ingredient list sounds lovely to you - then it probably is a lovely tea, in your home (humor intended here).

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Petit Tea, Opulence Bergamot Citrus Tea

Petit Tea Description:
Premium Natural Tea in World Class Tea Infusers
Elegantly luxurious, amazingly convenient

Unlike tea bags, Opulence Tea Infusers do not collapse when steeped in water, allowing tea leaves the desired space to uncurl and release delicate flavours and aromas to the water it steeps in.

Premium Black tea with sliver tips & natural bergamot oil.

Sample provided by Petit Tea

My Review:
A couple days ago I reviewed the first of my Petit Tea samples. On their website they list a variety of teas in various steeping formats including classic teabags, pyramid sachets, and these cool infusers. The previous one I tried was an Earl Grey and I thought the infuser method was easy, convenient, and tasty. Looking forward to trying another.

The Earl Grey was from the Petit Tea line. Today's tea is from their Opulence line. This one is Bergamot Citrus Tea. I have no idea what the difference is between the two teas, as other than the name, I don't see a clear explanation on the website. I am however, more than willing to investigate by tasting.

The Opulence line appears to be sold only in a Variety pack containing 2 infusers each of 4 flavors. I was sent all 8 infusers but not the outer box. Each infuser comes film wrapped and in its own individual box. I see no information regarding leaf weight. Since I do not have the outer box, that information may be listed. It is not on their website.

I heated fresh filtered water to boiling and steeped for 2 1/2 minutes. The box suggests 2 minutes but I chose to go longer because I like a stout cup. The result is an reddish orange cup with a light bergamot scent.

OK, I see the difference immediately. I completely appreciate the name Bergamot Citrus. Had they called this Earl Grey, this is one EG junkie that would have felt let down. Instead, I am experiencing a smooth black tea with a slight bite towards the end of the sip, accompanied by a light touch of citrus. While my personal tastes lean towards a bold Earl Grey, I find myself enjoying this lighter refreshing cup.

The tea base is the real star here with a solid woody taste. My guess is this is Assam but it is only a guess. The citrus adds interest and fills in the edges. The taste is cleaner and more defined than is seldom if ever possible with any paper bag tea. Seriously, if you don't have the desire to brew loose leaf, these infusers are really close in taste. I'm not sure I could tell the difference with the identical leaf brewed both ways. Hey, I see an experiment coming - for science!

You can find Petit Tea Opulence here.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Stash, White Christmas

Stash Description:
Dream of a white Christmas as you sip this delightful holiday tea. A unique blend of white tea, cool peppermint and a hint of ginger. Adding a touch of sugar or honey brings out the distinct flavor notes.

white tea, peppermint, ginger root

My Review:
Yeah, yeah, I know - Christmas is over. Except, it was sunny and shirt sleeve weather around here on Christmas. Today it is bitter cold and windy with blowing snow. The trees are covered and it just feels like the proper time to drink this one.

I discovered Stash Tea years ago just as my adventure into new teas was beginning to blossom. A local yard and garden center kept a big bowl of assorted Stash teas near their door to encourage people to try them and hopefully buy them. It seemed to work on me at least. I had not seen this one before now.

I have three bags to experiment with, a gift from a friend. Going online to check out the box reveals a weight of 29g for 18 bags. That translates into 1.6g per bag. You should keep your cup small - say 6 oz, I chose to purposely ignore my own advice because who drinks only 6 oz at a time in the land of supersize it. Seriously Stash give us at least 2g. 2.5 would be better.

I used boiling water for the first cup. It does not tell you on the envelop that Stash recommends 150-170F water. Maybe it is on the box. It is on the website. My conviction is most bag tea drinkers will ignore directions and use boiling or near boiling water.

I'm also of the opinion most people will leave the bag in the cup. I however chose not to do so and removed it after three minutes.

The aroma is decidedly peppermint. It is not overwhelming. Cooling peppermint is also the predominate taste. It is at a pleasant level. With the first bag I prepared a few days ago, I could not readily detect the ginger. Today it seems more accessible. It adds just a small hit of heat at the end of the minty chill. Now that I am experiencing it, I find it kind of a neat shift. The only other ingredient listed is the white tea. I really only catch it around the edges of the sip and it seems muted. I do sense it as more present in the aftertaste.

I did add sweetener to the cup as I thought it was improved by doing so. Feel free to disagree.

I decided to go ahead and use the final bag with water heated properly to 160F - mid range of the recommended temperature. The cup was steeped for three minutes.

So did it make a difference? I have to say yes! The cup seems naturally sweeter and the flavor more rounded. With cooler water the white tea comes to life a little more. The bag gets in the way of this tea and it is still a bit muted but do pay attention to how you brew this one. You will be rewarded.

Reading back, I feel like I gave White Christmas a bit of a hard time. If you are just beginning to broaden your tea experience or are just looking for a pleasant convenient bagged tea, this is well done. I think the personal issue for me is the muted flavor. Experience can sometimes sidetrack the enjoyment of a simple cup.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Petit Tea, Earl Grey

Petit Tea Description:
A perfect blend of fine Indian black teas, glorified with Silver Tips tea and oil of Bergamot, ranks it among the finest Earl Greys today.

Black Assam & Darjeeling Tea, Oil of Bergamot, natural Flavouring.

Sample provided by Petit Tea

My Review:
I have snow on the ground and falling temperatures outside. It must be January. This calls for some piping hot tea!

Today I am reviewing Earl Grey from a new tea company Petit Tea, and a new to me brewing method - what they call a tea infuser. From their website:
Tea Infusers are elegantly modern alternative to the tea bag. Amazingly convenient to use, Tea Infusers let you brew whole leaf teas directly in a cup, without tea pots, strainers or stirrers. Placed in a cup just pour hot water directly over the Tea Infuser and your world class tea is ready to sip.  No ‘tea things’ needed. The Tea Infuser works as a strainer and a stirrer. Imagine the convenience of brewing your favourite premium leaf tea, in a cup on your office desk. Unlike tea bags Tea Infusers do not collapse and compress when steeped in water, allowing tea leaves the desired space to uncurl and release delicate flavours and aromas.

I received the above pictured Variety Pack containing 2 each of Earl Grey, Darjeeling Green, & Mango Monsoon, and 3 each American Breakfast & Masala Chai Latte. Each infuser is individually wrapped in clear plastic. I'll be reviewing all of them eventually.

Of course the Earl Grey junkie in me grabbed it first. The shiny aluminum (guessing) infuser holds a healthy 2.5 g of leaf. The infuser itself is riddled with tiny holes to allow the water to flow through without letting all but the most minute traces of leaf out.

Once the outer wrap is removed, the bergamot scent is released. It is quite potent (which I like).

I followed directions by using boiling water and a 3 minute steep. The infuser was noticeably heavy with swollen leaf after removing from the mug. There was minimal dripping.

The aroma is much more refined in the brewed cup. The color is a rich reddish orange.

The use of Darjeeling and Assam makes for a smooth cup. Ceylon is what I typically encounter in Earl Grey. The blend used by Petit produces a cup without harsh edges or bitterness typical in many Earl Grey teas. Here you can easily taste the base and not flinch.

There is a tangy brightness to the citrus without being perfumey or soapy. To my tastes it leans on the milder side on intensity. You do not have to search for it yet it doesn't assault your taste buds. Next I added a touch of sweetener. It takes it really well. I liked it this way, as it seemed to broaden both the bergamot flavor and the tea base.

I decided to try a second cup from the infuser. I used boiling water and a 4 minute steep. The cup was a little lighter but not much. I believe next time I will try using a 2 1/2 minute first steep and a 5 minute second. Or maybe I won't as the second is actually still pretty good. Making two cups from the same infuser effectively cuts your cost in half. The current website price (less shipping) translates to abt $0.50/infuser or $0.25/cup.

I really did not know what to expect from the infuser system. This tea was very nice. The infuser was easy to use and pretty much mess free. This is especially perfect for the office where loose leaf can be a hassle and a bag just won't cut it.

You can find Petit Tea Earl Grey by itself or in the Variety Pack on Amazon or direct from Petit Tea.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Good Earth, Sweet & Spicy Caffeine Free Herbal

Good Earth Description:
Is there anything better than when opposites attract? The master blenders behind Sweet & Spicy ® don’t seem to think so. Bursts of sweet orange tangle with spicy cinnamon in a naturally caffeine free Rooibos red tea infusion.

Rooibos, chicory root, natural flavor, rosehip, cinnamon, lemongrass, peppermint, chamomile, ginger root, anise seed, orange oil, orange peel.

Sample provided by Good Earth

My Review:
Today I am reviewing the last of the Good Earth teas. The hardcore loose leaf crowd may not understand, I have to admit I have enjoyed this leisurely journey back to my corner store roots.

I am finding the last decade has brought about some real change on the local tea aisle. There is more variety and better blending of ingredients. I am always going to choose loose leaf for its depth and complexity when I want to meditate upon the cup. Sometimes, I have to admit though I just want a simple relaxing cup to sip. For me, there will always be room for a decent bagged tea.

What we have here is a caffeine free flavored rooibos. From the picture of the box (I only have a single bag), I note there is 40.5 g and 18 bags. That makes each bag contain 2.25 g. Enough for a civilized cup of tea.

Each bag is individually foil wrapped. Opening the envelop, I get a hit of cinnamon and numerous other spices and herbs that I cannot readily identify.

I heated the water to boiling and steeped in the mug for 5 minutes. The brew is a reddish orange and is clear and bright.

The first thing I'll note about the taste is I cannot single out the rooibos. I personally prefer it this way. Rooibos has a unique woodsy flavor that I often find harsh and scratchy. So I am happy to see it hiding in the background. I do taste cinnamon, it is the predominant flavor but not hot or overwhelming. The orange, peppermint, and chamomile seem balanced and trade spots during the sip. You have to watch for it as its kind of unexpected and kind of neat. The lemongrass, ginger, and anise stay just above the rooibos as fill in flavors.

There is a lot trying to happen all at once in the cup, as such it can seem a bit muddy. I found the addition of just a little sweetener really helped the cup to pop.

It's caffeine free and perfect for long cold winter evenings of relaxing, hopefully with a fire and something good to read.

You can find this and other Good Earth products at your local Walmart or Kroger store, online at Amazon, or direct from Good Earth.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Bigelow Peppermint Bark Herbal

Bigelow Description:
The refreshing combination of peppermint and chocolate in our Peppermint Bark all natural herb tea is hot and cool all at the same time. A warm treat on a cold day with a minty finish your taste buds will thank you for. Add a little sweetener and it's just like a decadent dessert.

We use a special foil pouch to protect your tea from any air, moisture and surrounding aromas. So open and enjoy the unparalleled flavor, freshness, and aroma of Bigelow Tea everywhere you go!

Peppermint, Chicory, Rose Hips, Low-fat Alkalized Cocoa Powder, Licorice Root, Natural Chocolate Flavors with Other Natural Flavors (Soy Lecithin)

My Review:
I've never seen this one on the store shelves. It says new in the box picture so it may have only been introduced this year. I love a handful of winter themed bagged teas. Most of which I buy enough to have all year round. I am looking forward to trying this one, not just because it is minty chocolate, but because it is Bigelow. We go way back. In fact the very first tea I ever bought was Bigelow Constant Comment. I shudder to think how many years ago that was and all I'll admit to is the tea came in a container with a metal top and bottom.

I only have the one bag that came in a Christmas card. An internet search shows it comes in a box of 20. Each individually foil pouch wrapped bag contains 2g of ingredients. The envelop says to steep for 5 minutes. So I boiled some water and set my timer.

The string is long enough to keep the tag out of the water if you don't pour into the mug too exuberantly. After 5 minutes the brew turns as dark and orange as if it were a black tea, yet this is an herbal.

The dry scent is peppermint and chocolate as is the brew scent. The taste is just a little flat. It is obviously peppermint and at a pleasant non-threatening level. The chocolate on the other hand is just not coming through as much as I would like.

I added some Splenda and it helped brighten the flavor. It still lacks the decadent level of flavor I had hoped to encounter. It is tasty enough, it just lacks a wow factor. I think if I had more of this to experiment with I could lift it to the next level by adding some cacao nibs.

I find what I am seeing here is pretty typical of chocolate teas. They never quite live up to what my brain expects. It would help if I could just get it through my head I am drinking an herbal tea and not a hot chocolate. I know that but it never helps.