Friday, July 15, 2016

BeMatcha, Cafe Grade Matcha

BeMatcha Description:
Also known as “Cafe Grade”, the leaves of our Spring matcha are located toward the middle of the tea plant. They have slightly less sweetness and a stronger flavor when compared to the Ceremonial Grades. This makes them perfect for use as an everyday tea, latte, and/or smoothie. Best of all, they contain just as much EGCg (antioxidants) & L-theanine compared to the ceremonial grade teas which can cost twice as much!

Harvested in June (the second harvest period), Cafe Grade matcha is an excellent everyday matcha for drinking.

Sample provided by BeMatcha

My Review:
Today we will be looking at the second or spring harvest matcha from BeMatcha. Last month I reviewed the culinary grade third harvest and found it to actually be drinkable on its own, though it is intended for baking or use in latte type drinks.

The cafe grade matcha is intended as an everyday tea  to be used in lattes and blended drinks. It is considered a step up in quality from the culinary grade. This tea is grown in Japan and certified organic.

I opened the 10g sample and gave it the sniff test. I get a smooth malty scent. Looking at the powder it is nicely green. No brown or yellow tint here. Just fresh and green.

As before, to keep all things as equal as possible, I used a rounded 1/4 tsp. I heated 4 oz of clean filtered water to 165F and mixed in a bowl with a hand held frother. I use old weak batteries so I don't paint the room green.

It foamed easily with many tiny bubbles. The foam is long lasting and held up as I poured the bowl into a clear mug to better photograph the tea. As you can see the tea is a deep green.

The straight taste is very crisp and clean. Initially I notice a mild bite but by the end of the cup it passes from my noticing. It is lightly sweet. The taste is creamy and vegetal with a slightly grassy aftertaste.

Now let's see what happens when we use this as intended in a latte. You fix how you like it, as for me, I prefer mine cold, made with 2% milk and a single packet of sweetener.

I used 2 tsp of powder along with my one packet of sweetener and a couple ounces of milk. With the frother the mixture was turned into nearly a tumbler full of foam. To this I added more milk and stirred.

As you can see the result is a dark green tumbler of green tea latte.

Definitely a different taste experience from the third harvest culinary grade reviewed previously. This has a deeper, richer taste with a nice umami flavor that seems almost dry. There is only a light sweetness. It feels very creamy. Not at all grassy. It is more a dark vegetal/meaty taste.

You can find BeMatcha Cafe Grade matcha here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Adagio, Strawberry Tea

Adagio Description:
Strawberry black tea combines the succulent taste of sweet strawberries with bright Ceylon black tea. Fresh sweet-floral and berry flavor, smooth and sugary texture. It's a treat you'll want to keep for yourself!

blended with black tea, natural strawberry flavor, strawberries and raspberry leaves

Sample provided by Adagio

My Review:
The humidity outdoors is 100%. It has been raining and the temperature is in the mid 80's F. It is kind of miserable outdoors. That sounds like a normal July. Fortunately I have air conditioning and a tea pot.

I am excited to try my second tea from Adagio. My first experience was Earl Grey Green which I loved. Today it is Strawberry. Until a tea friend gifted me with some very inexpensive strawberry tea bags, I imagined I would not like such a tea. Turns out I not only liked it but loved it. After the citrus of the bergamot orange in Earl Grey, strawberry is my favorite fruit flavor in tea. So here goes....

The sample bag is clearly labeled and resealable. Upon cutting the top, the scent of strawberry immediately filled the air. I took a closer sniff and have to admit it was a wee bit overwhelming. At this intensity is is almost a candy level of scent.

A scoop of leaf is removed and I realize I have misread the ingredient list. I thought this contained strawberry leaves. Instead it is strawberries (pieces) and raspberry leaves.

The Ceylon black tea is very dark and appears to be orthodox processed leaf. It is certainly larger pieces than CTC dust.

I steeped the leaf for 3 minutes in 212 F (boiling) water per directions.

The brew reminds me of cherry Dr Pepper in color. It is a deep orange/brown with ruby highlights. The steeped leaf has a nicely balanced fragrance of tea and strawberry. Gone is the candy element, replaced with a more natural scent.

The taste does not disappoint. It is a comfortable level of strawberry taste. Not over the top and not hiding. The Ceylon base is pleasantly smooth with only a light bite towards the end. I find this unusual for a Ceylon black as usually it is the choice of barbarian tea drinkers due to its normally far more abrasive qualities.

Halfway through the cup I added sweetener as I suspect most flavored drinkers tend to do the same. I think I liked the brightness it adds to the strawberry, yet found it altered the base flavor. I am not sure which way I prefer it. Both ways are good but enough different you might try both and decide for yourself.

A sample bag is $2 and makes 10 cups. That figures to $0.20/cup. I find that to be a pretty frugal deal for this lovely cup of comfort.

You can find Adagio Strawberry Tea here

Monday, July 4, 2016

Totem Tea, Kuwacha Mulberry Leaf

Totem Tea Description:
The deep-steamed Mulberry leaves (kuwacha) are uncannily similar to a traditional Japanese green tea like sencha or gyokuro. This uncommon tea is naturally caffeine-free and brews with a silky, vegetal profile. Like a fine Japanese green tea, it has oceanic elements with a smooth, mouthwatering umami texture.

Sample provided by Totem Tea

My Review:
It's the 4th of July. Normally Independence Day around here is hotter than the proverbial firecracker. That is how our June hit us this year. We are getting a break today as its rainy and in the mid 70's F. So to celebrate freedom, the founding of this great nation, and some bearable temperatures, I'm going to brew some tea.

My normal instinct is to grab whatever sounds highest in caffeine. This mulberry leaf, caffeine free, herbal spoke to me today. The folks at Totem Tea say on their website that they have tried similar teas from China and Thailand and they don't quite measure up to this one as it is steamed and prepared similarly to sencha or gyokuro.

Sniffing the sample I notice a pleasant grassiness accompanied by what reminds me of the chaff left over from shucking corn.

Looking at the leaf, if a tea friend had handed me this, I would just assume it was a green tea. Very similar in look and texture to the straight thin blades of sencha leaf.

I followed directions and brewed this at between 195 and 200 F for 45 seconds. This is stated to go 4 steeps. The second and later should begin at 2 minutes and add time as needed.

Pouring into a mug, two things catch my interest. First the brew is green with yellow highlights. Moving the mug away from the light it becomes a darker eerie green. That's pretty cool. Secondly, the steeped leaf morphed into this crinkly mound. It looks like frilly parsley that is very dark green like spinach. Neat. Okay so simple things amuse me.

The taste is unique. There is zero bitterness or astringency. It is smooth with almost no bite. The grassy connection to sencha is very present. There is also an ocean seaweed note, and what to me is best described as a hazelnut element. I think the seaweed/hazelnut combination is what Totem is noting as buttery umami.

We camellia sinensis folks can be quite the snob at times when it comes to herbals. Here is one that bridges the gap. It's late in the day and you want green tea but decaffeinated teas are tasteless? No problem, grab some of this leaf. Naturally caffeine free and pleasantly complex tasting. Truly it is an interesting tea.

You can find Totem Tea Mulberry Leaf here