Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tivelasi Pottery, Handmade Ceramic Teapot

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Tivelasi Description:
This piece is thrown on the wheel in stoneware in three pieces, the handle is added to the lid, and the spout is attached.

Our ceramic teapot is hand-brushed with food-safe, colorful glazes with Autumn decoration.

Each piece of our pottery teapot is handmade entirely by the hand of the craftsman who has manufactured it.

Sample provided by Tivelasi Pottery

My Review:
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This review will be a little more picture intensive than normal because teapot and mugs! Not just teapot and mugs but handcrafted in Bulgaria.

When Tivelasi Pottery contacted The Everyday Tea Blog, I couldn't say yes fast enough. Then I started looking over their teapots and found myself flipping pages trying to settle on one teapot. There are a lot of styles, colors, and sizes from which to choose.

Before I get too far along let me introduce Tivelasi Pottery. As you will see from the site they produce a wide range of products. I'll let them explain. From their About Us page:
TIVELASI Ltd was officially launched in 2014. Our aim is to promote the amazing handmade Bulgarian ceramic items. We provide a wide variety of handmade products: serving plates, bowls, beer mugs, coffee cups, milk creamers, wine cups, pitchers, teapots, salt pepper shakers, fruit bowls, and ashtrays. All of our products are available in different sizes, colors and patterns. 
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I finally settled on the 23 oz classic style from the Autumn collection. This one struck me for multiple reasons. First, I wanted something with color but not too out there, if you know what I mean. Then I wanted a smallish teapot as I seldom have the opportunity to share large quantities with others. A 2-3 cup pot would be sufficient. (For those who do need a big teapot, Tivelasi has teapots ranging from this 23 oz pot up to a 50 oz teapot. I narrowed it down to a couple favorite options. Next I looked at the different cups and mugs that were available with each style - they vary from style to style so look  around.

Now, I know almost zero about Bulgaria (I've watched their soccer team on TV), and even less about handcrafted pottery. So I did a little research. Some of the pottery is earthenware and some is stoneware.

What is the difference? If I understand correctly, earthenware is made from a clay that is porous. Unglazed earthenware easily absorbs moisture and can absorb the tea. With a Chinese Yixing pot for instance, this is a valued property but may require dedicating a single type tea to each pot. Stoneware is denser, impermeable, and more resistant to scratching.

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As far as the absorption properties of each ceramic type, it makes no real difference here as the teapots are fully glazed. The glazing is lead free and food safe by the way. Also, at this point I'll mention that according to Tivelasi all their handmade pottery items are Dishwasher, Microwave, Food Safe. Even so, I am certain this beautiful set will never see a dishwasher or microwave.

I decided upon the Autumn teapot because it is stoneware. It should therefor be more resistant to my less than graceful antics. Bonus for me is the mugs I chose are earthenware. I figured this would allow me to get a little feel for both ceramic types.

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The mugs I chose are 8.5 oz. Also available is a cute little 4.7 oz cup. The cup is stoneware.

The mug is lighter in weight than I expected. It is comfortable to hold and the lip is easy to sip from with no dribbles. Yeah, that stuff is important to me. Once filled the handle remains cool.

Turning the mug upside down, I get a look at the beautiful red clay which is exposed only here around the edges.

On the bottom is stamped Handmade and I'm assuming the craftsman's name.

Another interesting feature is the lighter colored areas on the mug and the teapot are recessed and rougher than the shiny glazed areas. It is obvious from looking at the bottom that the lighter areas are glazed and not exposed ceramic.

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As for the teapot, it feels substantial when you hold it, even while empty. I love the colors and the textures. It sort of looks old, slightly worn, and metallic, but of course it isn't.

The interior of the teapot is fully glazed.

The profile is low so there is no danger of tipping this over. It is the perfect size for my needs. So how does it work?

I noticed right away there are a couple things to think through if this is going to be a working pot and not just a beautiful addition to the decor. The opening in the top is very small. You are not going to put a hand inside this pot. Also the handle over the top seems like a concern for filling - but it turns out this really wasn't a big deal.

In order to test drive my teapot I chose to use my favorite comfort tea - Ahmad Earl Grey. I considered using teabags for a brief moment as it would be easy, but decided I would figure out how to use loose leaf. For a moment I considered just putting the leaf in the pot. I decided I don't have a proper flexible tiny bottle brush to reach down the spout later during clean up.

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Then I remembered I had these neat reusable fabric drawstring bag thingies. I added enough leaf for two mugs.

Next I warmed the teapot and mug while heating water in my kettle. Do not put your ceramic teapot on the stove to heat the water. It is not designed to be used this way.

When I poured the boiling water into the teapot, I quickly realized my concern over the handle was not an issue. Didn't spill a drop.

Put the drawstring bag of leaf in the pot and steeped my usual 3 minutes. The pot itself was quite warm when the timer beeped. The handles were more than comfortably cool.

The tea poured easily into the mug. I did have to be careful not to tip so much as to allow tea to overflow out the top. By the time I finished my first mug several minutes had passed. It was enough time for the mug to get near room temperature. Not the mugs fault. I type slowly. The point is, I poured my second cup and it was still warm - not hot - but much warmer than the end of my first cup.

I am quite happy with the beauty and utilitarian aspects of this teapot. I know I will treasure it for years.

You can find Tivelasi Pottery Autumn Handmade Ceramic Teapot here.

Friday, March 25, 2016

3 Leaf Tea, Silver Snail

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3 Leaf Tea Description:
This white tea is grown in Fuding, in Fujian Province in China. The tea is made from the buds that grow on bushes then lightly roasted and rolled. As the buds dry, they twist into small spirals. For being a white tea, the taste is strong with a gentle sweetness that follows each sip.

Sample provided by 3 Leaf Tea

My Review:
I am in the middle of Holy Week services at our church. I play guitar and write out the chord charts for the team. Add on to this updating the church website and trying to write on this blog, and you get a little bit of how my days have gone lately. I mention this because I have been absolutely swamped. It is like a full time job at the moment. And then we get to add seasonal allergies on top of it all. I don't normally review stress relieving bubble baths here so I guess we should have some tea.

Today, I am steeping the last of this season's samples from 3 Leaf Tea. Silver Snail is listed here as a white tea from Fuding which is the home of great white teas. The leaf is rolled into loose balls and resembles jasmine pearls without the jasmine.

Looking at the balls you can understand why this is listed as a white tea. There is a lot of silver colored buds present. I have discovered in my research that the Chinese debate among themselves if this is a white or a green.

My sense of smell is a little out of sorts at the moment. Sniffing the dry leaf I get notes of marine, but again I am probably missing a lot.

I put the snails into my press and added freshly filtered water heated to 175F. I let it steep 2 minutes while I rinsed and warmed my mug.

When I returned I found the press was filled with buds and leaves. In comparison, White Peony also contains a fair amount of leaf in addition to buds, while Silver needle is composed of only buds. While I was expecting the latter here, it is obvious this tea contains a lot of leaf.

Generally, I find the mix of leaf and buds produces a less nuanced tea but a stronger flavor. People who normally drink stout black tea or don't like subtle light flavored teas should consider the white teas that contain more leaf. I believe it would make a better match.

The steeped leaf has a warm and inviting vegetal fragrance. The liquor is a golden yellow.

The aroma off the mug seems to have nutmeg and floral notes. It smells quite lovely.

The taste is really hard to define. It is definitely different than any white tea I have had before. On the other hand it doesn't come off as really a green tea either. It has a well defined bite travelling throughout the sip. It is the good kind of bitter. This sensation reminds me of a Chinese green. Like the aroma, I am getting traces of spice, nutmeg in particular, and floral. It is not on the level or intensity of a green high mountain oolong, yet that is my point of comparison. There is also an earthy woods flavor that kind of rests under other notes. This earthy quality speaks to me as a white tea.

As I said earlier this is a hard to define tea. The flavor is strong and would probably strike most people as a green tea when tasting. That is not s bad thing. Even though it has a strong flavor, there is good depth to the cup. This has some unique and interesting qualities whatever angle to approach it from.

You can find 3 Leaf Tea Silver Snail here.

Pique Tea, Promo Code

Recently I reviewed the Pique Tea Crystals. The reviews generated a lot of interest, curiosity, and skepticism from readers. I will admit I had a doubtful opinion myself before trying the crystals. In fact after posting my reviews, I mentioned to Pique Tea that I thought this sounded to good to be true, but it is really a good convenient tea.

Their response?

We get the too good to be true reaction pretty frequently, too. That's why we really just love getting people to try it. The proof is in the cup! :)

One of the drawbacks to convincing people to try their tea is that it was only offered through a subscription plan. Well, that has changed. I noticed it in the last couple reviews and now it is official - you can buy individual boxes of Pique Tea with or without signing up for a subscription plan.

To that end, Pique Tea has made a promo code especially for The Everyday Tea Blog. It is good for 15% off your first order. Use the code EVERYDAYTEA15 when ordering to take advantage of the offer. 

In case you haven't read my reviews yet, Pique Tea is currently available in 5 varieties; Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Jasmine, Sencha, and Mint Sencha. There is also a variety pack that contains some of each (highly recommend this option).

Most of us live in a crazy busy world where we pound on the microwave door and yell at it to hurry up. Sure when we do have that rare moment of down time we want to steep our leaf and meditate on the cup. If only there was a way to put some quality steep in our hurry up and go lifestyle. Oh, wait, that's kind of the idea behind Pique Tea.

Pique Tea brews the tea in a controlled environment, then removes the water turning the brew into packets of crystals. You add the crystals back to water and instantly have a perfect cup.

Please know, I am not being paid or compensated for this post. I did receive a Variety Pack for review. It disappeared very quickly. My purpose here is simply to help tea drinkers through there hectic day without resorting to over sugary ready to drink beverages or poor quality office tea bags - who knows how long those have been there. You have a choice.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Lov Teas, Wellness Tonic

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Lov Teas Description:
The Wellness Tonic Tea is a powerfully healing blend of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and antimicrobial elements, boosting vibrant health. Beautifully steeped in deep yellow, it is a delightful way to bathe your cells in vitality.

Lemon Balm*, Chamomile*, Nettle*, Rosehip*, Echinacea*, Ribwort*, Ladies Mantle*, Turmeric*, Elecampane Root*, Sage Leaves*, Blue Mallow Petals*, Rosemary*, Thyme*
*100% Organically Grown

Sample provided by Lov Teas

My Review:
I don't recall the last time I reviewed a herbal tisane. I know it has been a while because my wife asks every time the postal carrier drops off a new box of teas, "are there any I can drink in there?" She is one of the poor unfortunate souls who cannot tolerate caffeine. She is okay with that as long as there are tasty herbals in the world.

Today's tea will be a first time review on the Everyday Tea Blog for Lov Teas. I love this quote from their home page:
Löv Teas is an Amsterdam based, ethically obsessed, organic herbal tea company. We represent a holistic lifestyle that goes far beyond just tea.
Löv is a soothing vehicle for consciousness.
I received a sample size of this one. The bag is not resealable. There appears to be enough in the pack for 5 servings more or less. Cutting the top off and giving it the sniff test offers up a calming savory spiciness that reminds me of our summer herb garden. I am catching the rosemary, tyme,and sage. My wife, knowing nothing of the ingredients besides chamomile, says she smells turmeric. Good nose! There are traces of other herbs that I am not familiar with present in the mix as well.

Removing enough for two mugs, I recognize the chamomile flowers. There is a lot of different green leaves, bits of leaves, and something violet. No idea what I'm looking at.

I used my press and enough leaf for two mugs. Fresh filtered boiling water was added and the steep was 10 minutes. I noticed at first the water turned a cool green. As the steep continued, this changed to a honey/caramel color.

My wife took the first sip since she is the expert. An exact quote aftrwards - "Oh Wow!" I prodded for additional insights but they were not forthcoming beyond she would not necessarily drink it everyday but that it was really good. Then she asked me to save the leaf so she could try a second cup. She accomplishes this often with herbals, so why not.

As I taste, I'm looking at the ingredient list trying to figure out what would have a kind of minty like taste. I'm guessing it is the sage. As with the aroma, I recognize the basic herbs from our garden and the chamomile. There are a whole variety of other notes present that I can't recognize or describe. What I can tell you is this is very complex. The flavors blend perfectly together without becoming muddy. It is cooling and calming at the same time.

This is a unique taste experience for me. My wife emptied her mug very quickly. That is a good indicator the herbal person in the house approves this tea.

You can find Lov Teas Wellness Tonic Tea here.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Petit Tea, Mango Monsoon

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Petit Tea Description:
A rare blend of full bodied Indian Black Teas masterfully balanced with aroma and taste of the world’s best mangos. A fitting flavour from the home of the mango, India.

Indian black teas, natural mango flavoring

Sample provided by Petit Tea

My Review:
Sadly today I am reviewing the last of the Petit Tea infusers. But not too sad as I have several from the Om series already in the review line up and some from the organic line that Petit has asked The Everyday Tea Blog to taste. It's good to be me.

The Infuser product line is a series of 5 teas packed 12 to a box in an individual serving aluminum infuser. As simple to use as a tea bag but without the paper taste. The leaf has plenty of room to expand within the infuser. Water flow through the infuser seems more than adequate to achieve a solid cup of tea.

Though each of the different Infuser teas are sold separately, mine is actually from the Variety Pack. If you are curious about the Infusers, I highly recommend the Variety Pack to get the full range of the experience.

Okay, so I heated a mug of water to 195 F. You could (and I probably should have) use full boil. Poured over the infuser in my clear glass mug and steeped for 3 1/2 minutes.

The result is a deep orange/red brew. There is only a light fruity scent.

With a name like Mango Monsoon, I honestly expected an overwhelming amount of fruity smells and tastes. That does not describe this tea. Mostly that makes me happy because strong flavors often translate as artificial. I mostly mention this so you have a better idea of what to expect.

The taste is very smooth. It is earthy and reminds me of forest or woodsy. Rich and full bodied. The mango flavor picks up mid sip and carries through the aftertaste. Honestly, while pleasant tasting, it just barely rises above the flavor of the tea base. Generally speaking that is the way I want a flavored tea to behave. I want to taste tea. There is a tongue tickle late in the sip from a slight astringent bite. It is not overly noticeable but does add a little character to the cup.

I added a little sweetener mid cup and it took it well. I'm not sure it totally needs it as it brings out no new flavor but it is not going to hurt the cup either if you prefer a sweeter tea.

It is possible my use of less than boiling water held the fruit flavor down. I'll not be able to find out as my son walked off with the second Mango Monsoon that was in the box. Dirty rat. Hope he enjoyed it.

You can find Petit Tea Mango Monsoon here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Free The Tea, Organic Mint Bliss

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Free The Tea Description:
A refreshing take on a classic green tea.  Made with only highly selective organic ingredients, this tea is as pure as it tastes.

Premium organic green tea is blended with organic peppermint and dashed with organic spearmint leaves.

Sample provided by Free The Leaf

My Review:
Warm weather has at least briefly appeared, making me even more ready for spring. Of course with the warmth comes lots of rain and budding plants releasing their early pollen. So my head is a little stuffy and I am surrounded my people coughing. I need tea.

Today I look at Organic Mint Bliss. It is included in the Revitalize Teaser Box along with samples of three other teas. I have previously reviewed Sweet Matcha Vitality here. The Revitalize Teaser Box also includes an infuser. This pack is intended to introduce people to the world of loose leaf tea. That may sound unnecessary to you and me but the reality is the vast majority of the world's tea is bagged. Loose leaf is still a very small part of the tea world.

This sample of Organic Mint Bliss has its own neat little tin. The top is clear so you can see the contents. It should be stored out of direct light and away from heat sources. There is enough leaf in the tin for 5-7 servings.

Their is a plastic outer seal around the lid. After removing, the lid twists off. Go at it slowly to avoid sudden spilling. Once open I immediately catch fragrant mint.

The leaf is small broken pieces. There are a few larger leaf pieces and a stem or two. It looks like dried cut grass.

I used my French Press as my brewing vessel. This is my favorite way to prepare a mug of tea. I do not press the plunger all the way down but even if I did, it would not crush the leaf. I like the press because I can watch the leaf as it steeps. For me this is an important part of my personal tea ritual.

The leaf (about 1 1/2 tsp) was placed in the press, then 10 oz of clean filtered water heated to 175 F was added. I steeped for 3 minutes.

The result is a honey colored mug of tea. The aroma is mint. Mostly I smell spearmint, though the ingredients suggest there is actually more peppermint. I am not a big fan of spearmint in anything. That is probably why I notice it more. We humans tend to dwell on the wrong stuff.

Finally get to taste. Definitely getting a nice icy hit of the mint at the back of the mouth. It is a pleasant refreshing sensation. While I can't separate out the peppermint (maybe you can), I know it is here because the spearmint is held back to a responsible more adult level.

I only catch the green tea in fleeting moments. I can't hold on to it long enough to really describe any individual notes from it. It seems to blend in with the mint. I know it is there but it wants to remain a back up singer in this melody.

Normally, I'm told you don't add sugar to green tea. Pish-posh. Sure try it without additions first, but feel free to add sweetener and see if you like it. There is no wrong way to prepare tea - as long as you like the result. Here I thought it brightened the cup without taking anything away.

If you are new to the world of loose leaf tea, I do recommend starting with a variety of samples to get a better feel for what you like. The Revitalize Teaser Box is one such option.

You can find Free The Leaf Revitalize Teaser Box with Organic Mint Bliss here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Petit Tea, Masala Chai Latte

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Petit Tea Description:
This remarkably assertive tea is a blend of robust Indian black teas, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves & other spices that make the Chai Latte  "America’s favourite".

Indian Black Tea, Cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, spices

Sample provided by Petit Tea

My Review:
Today we look at another of Petit Tea Infuser. These are single serve rectangular aluminum sticks packed with whole leaf tea. They come 12 in a box and each contains 2.5 g of tea. The infuser has a series of punched holes to allow the water to flow through the infuser. The infuser itself is large enough to allow the leaf inside to expand freely.

I have been fairly impressed with all the Petit teas I have tried so far. Up for review this time is a Masala Chai.

I recently did a little reading of my past chai reviews. Most all of them go something like this: I don't hate chai but I never crave it either, however I like this one.  I promise to try and not say the same thing again here.

That promise is made easier by the scent I catch as I open the plastic outer wrap. This smells so good. It is the typical spices one expects with chai and yet the aroma is more pleasant to me. It is soft and sweet cinnamon. The clove and cardamon meld together very well without overwhelming.

I used 200 F water and nearly a 4 minute steep in my mug. As you can see it results in a rich caramel color. The scent is still delighting me.

The taste is lighter than I expected. I am used to being pelted (ok often assualted) with spice. My wife says it tastes like it smells, but that is not exactly what I tasted. This, to me, has almost a light rose note along with the gentle spices.

Next I added some sweetener as authentic chai is generally served very sweet. I chose to use some restraint on my additions. I think I made the right choice. This is really good. Along with the spice I caught before, I notice a pepper note. It was less developed sans additions.

Last but not least, I added a splash of milk. It is my understanding authentic chai is cooked on the stove using milk instead of water. I'm using a shortcut. The result is tasty. I turned around and noticed the cup was completely empty. Chai never disappears that fast when I drink it.

My recommendation is add the sweetener and the milk for a wonderfully tasty cup. Just be prepared to make a second cup soon after.

You can find Petit Tea Masala Chai Latte here.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Pique Tea, English Breakfast Organic Black Tea

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Pique Tea Description:
Silky. Malty. Smooth as Al Green’s voice. Our English Breakfast is a special blend of organic Ceylon tea from the world-renowned Idulgashinna Estate in the Uva region in eastern Sri Lanka, and a superior Assam from a boutique estate located in Northeast India near the Namdapha National Park, which is recognized as one of India's richest areas of biodiversity. These medium-black, slightly tippy leaves of the Assam brew to a medium amber cup with a earthy and well-bodied malty taste. 

100% certified organic ingredients
Sourced from Fair Trade Certified tea farms
Batch tested to ensure antioxidant levels and no heavy metals

Sample provided by Pique Tea

My Review:
Today we will be looking at the 5th and final of the samples found in the variety pack from Pique. Each is available for separate purchase, but with a monthly subscription from Pique you can save 20%.

Pique teas are individual serving sized packets. Pique steeps the tea in their facilities, then turns the brew into crystals. The result is far different from any thing resembling instant tea that I have ever experienced.

Pouring the contents from the packet into my mug, the color reminds me of rooibos. The texture is similar to hot cocoa mix.

The moment the boiling water hits the mug, the crystals completely dissolve, leaving a beautiful deep orange tea with bright ruby tones. Pique notes this as a medium amber. My result is much different. I'm impressed with how dark and rich the color appears. It has a solid woodsy malt scent.

The first thing I notice when tasting is not what is there, but what isn't. All the Pique teas so far have had a sharp bite. I believe I likened it to a citric feel in one review. It is completely absent in this mug. This is amazingly smooth. This surprises me from a blend made with Ceylon and Assam.

What I do taste is smooth and malty. There are light notes of floral and fruit. It has the woodsy notes one associates with a breakfast blend. At the end of the sip, just before slipping into the aftertaste, this blossoms into a touch of an edge. This light astringency breaks the mellow mold and adds extra interest.

This is a tasty breakfast blend, however, just as with the other Pique teas, I want to know how this works as an iced tea. I took another packet and poured it into a 12 oz bottle of icy cold water and shook it. The result is a more robust tea than its hot counter part. For me this is a perfect combination. I like a hot breakfast tea that packs a lot of flavor but doesn't jolt me awake. I want my iced tea with more edge. For some odd reason this tea does both.

You can find Pique English Breakfast Organic Black Tea here.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Lectric Cafe, Milk Frother

Lectric Cafe Frother, batteries included
Lectric Cafe Description:
The milk frother is an affordable kitchen tool that you can benefit from morning after morning. This frother packs a powerful punch - With a 15,000 RPM motor, it can effortlessly whisk up some milk (preferably warm), creating a nice frothy foam - which is the same thing you get with a latte or cappuccino.

My Review:
A little over 6 months ago I wrote a review for a MatchaDNA Milk Frother. Sadly it has quit working already. Asking around, 6 months to 2 years seems to be the lifespan of most of them. After it expired I took it apart to figure out what happened. I learned there is almost nothing to them. That explains why you can find one for $3 if you are near a bigger city. In my town, you can't find one for any amount of money. That leaves me having to order blindly online.

Blindly factors heavily here. The day I placed the order, I was researching for a few other items I needed after picking out the frother. However, I wasn't paying attention and put the wrong frother in my cart and hit order. This one is red. So was the one I meant to order. I didn't realize what I had done until I had already started using it. Oh well, it happens.

When I ordered it, I paid around $12-13. Today as I write the review it is showing $35 on Amazon. That's crazy. Don't pay that kind of money.

Current price gouging aside, let's look at this frother?

Inside the end cap
I use a frother every day with my morning matcha and cold milk latte. I am far too lazy to whisk by hand but I do like a creamy frothy cup. This is a perfect solution.

This model came with 2 AA batteries. The whisk is stainless steel. The handle is plastic. It has a chrome on/off button on the end cap. The cap easily slides off for battery access.

You can see the inside of the cap in this picture. The small electrical board switch feels solid and I expect it to hold up well. It may not be, but the switch feels a little more high tech than the sliding version on my older model.

I mentioned earlier that when dismantling the dead unit, I discovered there is not much to these things. The whisk and rod are one piece. The rod is part of the tiny motor. The little motors are fairly powerful but have one terrible design flaw. This new one appears to suffer the same design flaw.

Down the barrel of the battery compartment
Looking down the inside of the battery compartment, there are two metal contact points that the batteries push against. That is the way batteries work so it should be fine. Except it isn't.

Dismantling the machine, you would find the contact points are part of the motor. While that is fewer parts, it is also a weak point.

On my old frother, one of the contact points broke off. On a $3 frother you toss it and get a new one. With an $8 one, you snort a little and get a new one. As they start getting more expensive it starts becoming more of an issue.

I have no idea how long this will hold up. I want to believe longer than the last. The end cap goes on smoothly so maybe it isn't placing as much stress on the motor contacts.

In normal day to day operation this performs its frothing duties very well. Though it is not the particular frother I intended to order, I am relatively pleased with it so far. That said, shop around and do not pay anywhere near $35 for any handheld unit that doesn't have a multi-year warranty and a customer service department that take care of any repairs. My suspicion is such a thing does not exist.

You can find the Lectric Cafe Milk Frother here.

3 Leaf Tea, Unsmoked Lapsang Souchong

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3 Leaf Tea Description:
One of the most popular black teas outside of China, Lapsang Souchong is well known for it's distinct dark, smokey aroma. Not all Lapsang Souchongs are created equally - some are smokier than others. Our Lapsang is malty, chocolaty and smooth with a slight hint of smoke. It brews up a beautiful dark red infusion and has a rich but soft lingering aftertaste.

Sample provided by 3 Leaf Tea

My Review:
The no worries edition.

Lapsang Souchong, just the name brings a strong reaction from those who have experienced it. It generally falls in to two camps, the lovers and the haters. The lovers wax poetically of campfires and occasionally bacon or BBQ. To the haters, it's a mouth full of ashes. I'm personally a lover but recall being very much hesitant during my first few cups.

This promises to be a new experience as what we will be reviewing today is an unsmoked version. My first thought was is this a Jin Jun Mei? Upon looking and smelling I realize this is something quite different.

The leaf is dark, almost black, with some lighter brown highlights. At first the aroma is faint. Then I catch something faintly grapey that is followed by a roasted scent. After catching the roasting, I wonder how I missed it initially. It is similar to a dark roasted oolong in scent.

I used a scoop of leaf in my clear glass press along with clean filtered water heated to 195 F. The instructions do not mention a temperature which probably indicates boiling water but I generally start just off boiling when I am not sure. The steep time of 3 minutes was provided.

I commonly use my press because I love to watch a new tea to see how the leaf reacts. This is known as the agony of the leaf. I prefer the dance of the leaf as in my mind the leaf is fulfilling all of its created purpose. This was an enthusiastic dancer, giving everything to the cup. I feel it is my duty to honor the leaf by noticing.

Upon pouring, I get a mug of deep orange tea with ruby red undertones. The scent of the wet leaf and the cup are a deep roasting and cocoa.

At this point, before I taste, I should interject that while I am a big fan of smoky tea, I am not much for dark roasted oolong like flavor. While this is a black tea it does have that heavy roasted scent. If I get less than enthusiastic it may well be because this hits a less than favorite profile for me.

Having said that, I taste, and no worries. The heavy roasted notes stay mostly in the aroma (though it seems to have found and clung to my fingers due to my insistence on playing with the wet leaf).

The taste is hearty, full, and rich. There is no bitterness. There is some sense of briskness but not heavily so. It makes me think of wood, and forest leaves. There is just a hint of smoke but it definitely leans more into a good roasted. As I sort of eluded this isn't that overbearing roasted taste that I don't like. In fact I find this nicely enjoyable.

As I generally try during reviews, I added a tiny amount of sweetener halfway through the cup. I think it brought out burnt sugar and more cocoa like notes that were less obvious before. It is tasty either way but I kind of like it sweetened just a touch more. It would probably take milk in stride if you are so inclined.

I'm now contemplating how it would taste iced, as it may hit the upper 60's outside today. That means iced tea on the porch watching the Amish buggies rolling by. I have let the cup cool to room temperature while typing and I am even more convinced this unsmoked lapsong souchang will get the porch treatment later.

You can find 3 Leaf Tea Unsmoked Lapsang Souchong here.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

James Warren Tea Ltd, Assam 1860

James Warren Tea Ltd Description:
Assam1860 is India's gourmet black tea brand, recently launched from our family-owned James Warren Tea Estates. We have 150 years of expertise in producing some of the world’s best black tea. Our tea has a unique full-bodied flavour that is ideal for black liquor tea or masala chai. We are a team of 10,000 people and strive to make every cup count.

Assam1860 brews a perfect cup of liquor tea and/or masala chai. The brand is perfect for people looking for a good quality product with a personalized sensation.

Sample provided by Assam 1860

My Review:
Recently I was contacted by Assam 1860 and asked if I would like to give an honest review of their tea. Well, of course I would be pleased to do so. Assam 1860 is a new brand from the James Warren Tea Ltd company. The idea is to supply tea direct from the estate to you, avoiding the middleman, and thereby offering you the freshest tea available. In the process they claim to be the first Indian tea brand to be 100% Rainforest Alliance compliant.

I received a box of nylon tea bags, each containing 2.25 g of CTC leaf. The tea is also available in loose bags of CTC. Crush, Tear, Curl, or CTC is often associated with typical grocery store fare by loose leaf aficionados among us. That does not necessarily indicate inferior tea was used.

The box was shrink wrapped. Once opened the individual nylon bags are sealed in their own envelop. This helps protect freshness and increase the useful storage time of the tea.

Opening the envelop, I catch a very pleasant and welcome malty fragrance.

I heated filtered water to boiling and poured over the bag in my mug. The string is fairly short so wrap it around the cup handle or hang on to it, to prevent fishing later.

I steeped for 2 1/2 minutes. The website recommends 2 minutes and the carton says 3-5. I know my system and 3-5 is too long for me, especially with a new tea.

The color is really beautiful. I'm not sure how to describe it but cherry mahogany comes to mind. It really is a deep rich tone. It has a wonderful malty fragrance as well. It smells a little sweet and a little fruity.

Finally getting to taste. Wow. Brisk. It has a solid grab you awake bite that a breakfast tea should have. After the initial jolt, I pick up the malty notes. It is woody, fruity, and mildly sweet. It is exactly all that I expect and more.

Next, I add a little sweetener (Splenda in my case) to see how it handles the addition. It brings the briskness way down, so if you don't like the savage bite I crave, you can make it behave in a civil manner. With the addition the other elements do find more room to express themselves.

It is not my custom to do so, but because I know a lot of tea drinkers add milk, I put just a splash in my mug. It kind of ruins the beauty of the color, so don't bother using a clear glass mug. In this particular case, I must admit it works really well. Really well. I found myself downing the rest of the mug rather quickly. It's not that it adds anything new. It is more like it marries all the flavors together without making a muddy mess. For the first time I understand adding milk and would do so again with this one.

I do not believe Assam 1860 is currently available anywhere in the US. You can order direct from Assam 1860 here. Hopefully some enterprising group will acquire this wholesale and add it to their line up. Very pleased to have tried this one.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pique, Sencha Organic Green Tea

Picture Credit:
Pique Description:
The quintessential Japanese green tea. Our sencha tea leaves are grown in a tea garden in a mountain valley near the West Lake in Zhejiang, China. Bright sunshine during the day combined with cool temperatures in the evening create the ideal environment for growing really great green tea. Unlike other teas, our tea trees are shaded for the last 10 days of their growth to stop the growth of leaves while roots continue to draw nutrients from the ground. That means that all those nutrients are packed into the leaves to create a tea richer in both flavor and antioxidants.

Sample provided by Pique Tea

My Review:
My intention was to start this month with a pot of loose leaf. I just wanted to sit and vegetate while meditating on the cup. The however is the world keeps getting in the way. Fortunately, I still have some teas from Pique to enjoy and review.

Pique has a subscription plan, but they also have individual boxes of tea listed for sale on their website. In addition, at the time of this writing, you can try them for free (there may be a small shipping fee. I did not check).

Pique teas are brewed perfectly in their facilities then crystallized and wrapped in individual single serve packs.

Preparing a cup at home, or on the go, could not be easier. Simply open the pack, pour the crystals into your cup, and add hot water. Now drink. I have even used icy cold water in a bottle added the crystals and shook it. Works great.

When you pour the crystals into the cup the first time, you will probably be like me and feel pretty skeptical. The crystals look a lot more like cocoa mix than tea. Then something magical happens. The water releases all the good tea aroma you expect to catch.

Without stirring, the crystals completely dissolved in my cup with 175 F filtered water added.   As you can see the liquor is a light honey color. What you can't see is the scent. It is very vegative. I thought to myself that it smells more like the tiny spring Chinese greens that I love. As it turns out this tea is grown in China.

I find the origin does make a difference. Japanese Sencha has a much grassier and often marine taste, while the Chinese type is more green vegetation in taste. I personally prefer the Chinese version.

This has all the characteristics I associate with this type tea (Chinese Sencha). In addition there is an almost sharp clean bite. It is almost a citrus tartness. Again, I like this in a tea. Just want you to be aware. If you don't like the bite, it will tone down some with the addition of a little sweetener.

The aftertaste lingers long, slightly sweet, and green.

On yet another day when I don't seem to have the time for slowing down, I really appreciate these Pique teas. I was highly skeptical but have come to appreciate just how good they taste. Add to the taste how convenient these packets really are, and you have a winner.

You can find Pique Sencha Organic Green Tea here.