Monday, December 31, 2012

Chad’s Chai & Tea Co., Finnigan’s Wakeup

Chad’s Chai & Tea Description:
The Irish are known to say that tea should be strong enough to stand your spoon up in it. This Irish breakfast tea is indisputably bold, yet lively with fun flowery undertones. And it will take all the milk and sugar you can give it!

My Review:
This partial sample came in the mail from a tea friend recently. I have never heard of this company before, and that makes me happy. I’m trying something new. The leaf is course cut, dark brown almost black pieces, with some light tan mixed in for good measure. I did not notice any distinct scent off the leaf. It smells like tea.

I did not have steeping instructions so I am treating this like a normal black tea on the first cup. I used one healthy scoop, or half the sample, in my press.  I heated the water to boiling and poured over the leaf, steeping for 3 minutes. My room is fairly dark but in the low light this has an interesting ruby red appearance.

This is very smooth. There is no bitterness and no bite. It borders on wanting to be fruity but never commits. I think there is some Darjeeling in here. There is also just a hint of smoke in the background. Surprisingly, for being so smooth, this is very drying. I can feel the astringency in my gut. If you don’t tolerate black teas well, you will need to reduce the amount of leaf and keep the steep time short. This tastes a lot like Prince of Wales, so I am pretty sure it has some Chinese black tea in the mix. I am also sure I got the water too hot and steeped too long.

On the second cup I heated the water to just starting to boil and turned it off. After about 30 seconds I poured over the leaf. This time I steeped for about a minute and a half. Now the cup is well behaved. The flavor is a little stronger but with out the heavy astringent drying of the previous cup. I can definitely tastes Chinese black tea now. The fruity flavor I mentioned is still there as well. If this doesn’t also contain Darjeeling I would be surprised. This is a pretty good cup.

Visit Chad’s Chai & Tea at

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Two Leaves, Alpine berry

Two Leaves Description:
We turned to hibiscus, blackberry leaves, and orange peel when we created this tea and it reminded us of a wonderful hike in the mountains of Colorado, where we live. This bright berry tea brews up a beautiful jewel-toned shade of red. Perfect for sipping on a cold day, or refreshing over ice.

Price: $7.95 for 15 sachets. Steep twice for $0.26 per cup.

Part of the Complete Sampler Pack provided by Two Leaves Tea Company

My Review
I grabbed this one for a late evening sip as it is caffeine free. The sachet scent is fruity goodness. I couldn't wait to soak it in water. I boiled the water and steeped for about three minutes. They say this brews up a beautiful jewel-toned shade of red. It sure looked purple to me. The scent is one of those interesting mixes you can't quite figure out. Its kind of blackberry but with all this other stuff going on.

From the description on Steepster, this is a herbal potpourri of hibiscus, apple peel, rose hips, blackberry leaves, orange peel, strawberry, and raspberry, that can be enjoyed hot or iced. I tried it hot then let it cool to room temperature.

Despite the strong berry fruit blast in the aroma. I found this to taste a little flat and thin. It is a little tart. That would be the hibiscus. Not really a fan. I added sweetener and it did not improve it greatly. I am not a fruit / herbal sipper. The black and green teas by Two Leaves have all been very enjoyable, so maybe this is good. All I can say is, I loved the smell, but the taste left me wanting.

Visit Two Leaves at

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hampstead Tea, Lime Green

Hampstead description:
The tropical floral zest of lime is a sophisticated compliment to our green tea. This mellow, fresh blend is invigorating and reminiscent of beachside evenings.

Price: $5.19 for 25 bags on or about $0.20 per serving.

My Review:
This is my first Hampstead tea. This is a bagged tea. I want to comment on the bag, or rather the string. There is no staple on the bag. The string is looped and knotted in such a way it holds the bag shut. Maybe I have seen this before and not noticed. More important to me personally, is the fact the string is long enough that pouring the water over the bag does not cause the tag to get sucked in. I hate that. The sealed outer wrap reminds me of a Stash tea envelope.

The dry bag does not have a lot of scent. I steeped this about 2 ½ minutes with steaming water. I could smell the lime and green tea when I removed the bag. It plumped up nicely, Ok here’s the thing. I don’t know how old this is. It was given to me. I tasted this and it tastes like nothing. So back in the water goes the bag.

Another minute steeping brings out the light flavor of what I believe is Sencha green tea. I also catch light notes of the lime. Sadly this bag may be way past its prime. What I am mostly getting is the taste of paper. Based on the way the leaf swelled when brewed and that I can see actual lime zest through the bag, I believe this could have been quite a nice cup.

A fellow Steepster reviewer commented they had a similar experience with this tea. If you have experience with Hampstead tea, I would be interested in hearing what you thought.

Visit Hampstead Tea at

Friday, December 28, 2012

Twinings, Rose Garden

Twinings Description:
From English country gardens to ancient Turkish palaces, there's nothing like the romance and style of a rose. We think the taste and aroma are special, too.

That's why we've blended the elegant fragrance of rose with a light, refreshing black tea. Make a cup, take a moment and prepare to be wooed. Great news - although initially launched as a Limited Edition, Rose Garden is now permanently available, following popular demand.

My Review:
This one came from a my Steepster friend ashmanra. This is apparently started as a limited time edition from Twinings and is not readily available in the USA. It pays to have connections. This is a bagged tea.

Generally speaking, rose teas scare me. Why? Mostly because tea blenders don't know how to behave themselves. If a little is good, a whole lot should be great, right? NOT! I opened the envelope and removed the bag. I smell rose. Red Alert! Shields up! I heated the water and poured over the bag. The steep time was, well... whatever looked right.

I lift the cup and breathe in rose. Phasers on stun! I took my first sip. What? It is not overwhelming. Hmmm. Cancel red alert. This isn't scary. Yes, it is rose but lightly done. I can taste the tea. Balance! How rare. This takes sweetener well. Nicely done. Another solid offering from Twinings.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dens Tea, Kuradashi Sencha

Den's Tea Description:
In 2010, Shizuoka initiated a project to build a replica of the kura that was used by the Shogun Tokugawa who lived from 1542 to 1616. The replica kura was built in Ikawa in Shizuoka at an elevation of over 3,000 ft. Once the kura was completed, our parent company, Shirakata-Denshiro Shoten, was allowed to store a small quantity of first flush tea there.

Tasting Profile: This delicate waves brings a creamy taste. Kuradashi Sencha is aromatic and has a mellow Umami acquired in the naturally cooled kura at Ikawa.

My Review:
I researched this tea after tasting and reviewing. This was a very limited edition tea. I really should look this stuff up first.

This came in the mail from TeaEqualsBliss of SoriTEA Sisters fame. The leaf is dark thin spikes. I used all of what was left in the sample pouch, which was one generous scoop of leaf. I steeped this for about a minute and a half in steaming water. I may have overheated as it was really steaming in the press. The brew is light green. The leaf really expanded. I could have used half as much and had some for another day. I am feeling a bit like an amateur at this time.

The smell of the leaf and the mug is green steamed veggies.

So I take a sip of the first cup - Lord Almighty, I should have used half the scoop, half the water temp, and half the steep time. This is take your face off Sencha. Wow!

Second cup – with just steaming water and a one minute steep. Now this is a good cup of tea. Sweet and green. Grassy but not too grassy. Lingering aftertaste with a bit of bite. I like it.

Visit Den's Tea at

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Twinings, Blossom Earl Grey

Twinings Description:
To capture the moment when Orange trees flower as winter turns to spring, we've created a stylish mix of sweet orange blossom flavour and citrus bergamot.
The result? A black tea that brightens your day and warms you from the inside out. Great news - although initially launched as a Limited Edition, Blossom Earl Grey is now permanently available, following popular demand.

All natural ingredients:

- Black tea
- Natural bergamot favouring with other natural flavourings (7.5%)
- Natural Orange Blossom Flavouring (2%)

My Review:
This came in a recent care package. This bagged tea, as far as I know, is not available in the US. This particular bag made its way to my house from Ireland. I thought it was the British version of the Earl Grey sold here. It is not. as you can see in the ingredient list this is a black tea with bergamot and orange. The bergamot is lighter than Earl Grey. The orange is lighter than in Orange Bliss. Together they make a solid and flavorful offering. Imagine Lady Grey without the lemon. That sort of describes the flavor of this tea.

When the cup was very hot, I wasn't sure the flavors were natural or mingled well together. It just seemed a little off. The more the cup cooled the better it tasted. I actually liked this one at room temperature. This is another solid offering from Twinings though you may have to work at it a bit to hit your sweet spot.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Two Leaves Tea Company, Organic African Sunset

Two Leaves Description:
We call this organic rooibos tea (say "roy-bus") "African Sunset" because red tea is grown in South Africa, where it is cherished for its spicy, herbal flavor. We've added just a touch of lemongrass and lemon zest to brighten up this smooth, decaf cuppa' tea on your palate.

Price: $7.95 for 15 sachets. Steep twice for $0.26 per cup.

Part of the Complete Sampler Pack provided by Two Leaves Tea Company

My Review:
I am not sure I have a lot to say about this one. Known as red tea in the west, rooibos is actually a small African bush and not literally tea. Maybe if you were an expert at rooibos you could tell the difference between different growing areas and climates like many can with tea from different regions. I cannot. To me rooibos always tastes like rooibos, whether it is in a bag, sachet, or loose.

Now let’s move to what does make this one different. I have had rooibos straight up. I have had it blended to taste like everything from pumpkin pie to Earl Grey. In almost every instance the common trait is it has a sandpaper like feeling of scratchiness on my throat. That is until today. This one has just the tiniest amount of lemongrass and lemon zest. It is not enough to make me think – oh, this is lemony. What it does do is take the rough edge off the cup and change the flavor so slightly that I found myself trying to figure what is this I’m tasting. I didn’t have the ingredient list while sipping and I thought maybe it had a little bit of green tea in the sachet. Nope, it’s lemon. Rooibos is never going to be a personal favorite but I found myself enjoying this one.

It’s caffeine free, so it is a good evening choice. Rooibos makes a horrible mess fixed loose in my French Press. Bags often taste like paper. This sachet did not alter the flavor and somehow it held the contents and did not make a mess in the bottom of my cup. That impressed me. The way I usually make rooibos is with a Finum basket. The fine mesh does a good job with fine cut herbals. For pure convenience sake, the sachet was much less work.

Apparently I was wrong, I did have a lot to say about this one.

Visit Two Leaves at

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Twinings, Camomile Green Tea

Twinings Tea Description:
Green tea is known for its smooth flavour and refreshing taste. Green teas are made from leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, the same leaves as black tea. Green teas go through a process where the leaves are heated to prevent oxidation while black teas are oxidized for additional colour and flavour. Twinings' Camomile Green Tea is expertly blended with the finest camomile. The result is a soothing and refreshing tea that brews to a light golden colour.

My Review:
This is the third and final bag I received from Twinings in their recent give-away promotion. It occured to me as I opened this one that in all the years I have been drinking Twinings I don't recall ever having plain old green tea. Well, I am not going to have it today either. This is green tea mixed with camomile. The scent of the bag is mostly paper. I wasn't sure what to do with the water temperature as green likes cooler water and camomile likes boiling. I leaned towards a green water temp so as not to end up with something bitter. The brew was a golden amber, looking far more like camomile than green.

The taste was a balance of green and camomile but leaning more towards the latter. I think that is a good thing as the green was ordinary. It wasn't bad, it was just ok. The camomile was slightly muted by the green. If you find it too strong for you but would like to enjoy its calming properties, this might be a good choice. The honey apple flavor is still there but the bitter aftertaste that often accompanies camomile was greatly softened.

I wasn't sure what I thought of this one when I first started sipping. It wasn't until about halfway through the cup that I decided I liked it. I found myself quite relaxed before the cup was emptied.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Twinings, Orange Bliss

Twinings Description:
Fine black tea expertly blended with the alluring flavour of freshly-squeezed oranges to deliver a delightful tea with a sweet aroma and fresh citrus taste.

Ingredients: Black Tea, Natural Orange Flavour with Other Natural Flavours

My Review:
This is the second of three teabags I received from Twinings. I have tried very few of their teas that I did not like. Twinings has been in business a long time and they know what they are doing. The best part for the Everyday Tea Drinker is you can almost always find at least some of their offerings at your local small town grocer. Admittedly, I have never seen Orange Bliss before, which is why I requested this one.

Upon opening the wrapper, I smell orange. Rather than fresh oranges, it reminds me more of those soft sugar coated candy orange slices I used to eat as a kid. I loved them. Do they even still make them? I am really craving them now. I love when a tea can evoke memories.

I steeped this, using boiling water, for three minutes. Then added sweetener and waited for it to cool. I have had a few orange teas in the past and generally liked the idea but not the execution. Simply put, they tasted weird to me. This one I like and would drink the whole box. Does it taste natural or fake? I can't really say as I don't eat oranges. It tastes just like those candy slices I just mentioned. That’s what I want orange to taste like. So for me it hits the target. Your mileage may vary. *Update before I even post this one. A Steepster friend whose reviews I respect said this does taste like real oranges. So there you have it.

The one complaint I have is the same as I feel about most of Twinings flavored teas. The base is a little too unnoticeable. I would love to see this orange flavor go up against a memorable black tea. I would love to see a good hearty bite in the mix with this flavor and see what magic happens. As it is, this is a sweet mellow treat that I would gladly drink again.

Visit Twinings at

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nature's Tea Leaf, Bergamot Green Tea

Nature's Tea Leaf Description:
Bergamot Green Tea is a select Sencha green tea with genuine, dried pieces of bergamot. The Sencha tea leaves are green and have a flat, smooth, and narrow body. Bergamot, a “Chinese bitter orange,” is a citrus aurantium, a type of citrus fruit that is yellow in color with a pleasant fragrance and sour, sweet taste. When infused, the tea liquid is light yellow. Naturally fortified with antioxidants, our Bergamot Green Tea is potent with a citrusy aroma and a bold and stimulating flavor. With a hint of muscatel, this tea has a pleasantly dry finish you are sure to enjoy.

Price: $6:00/2oz

Sample provided by Nature's Tea Leaf for review.

My Review:
I am home today. I took a snow day. There isn’t that much snow but the wind is howling causing the snow to drift faster than the road crews can plow it. I talked with my sons who both work the night shift. They said it was treacherous out there. I decided to head for the couch. On the way I grabbed a Pop Tart and went looking for tea. I need Earl Grey, but I don’t have any at home. Yeah, it’s at work. I do have an ounce of Bergamot Green Tea.

I opened the pouch and sniffed. Ok, this isn’t Earl Grey. At least not the kind I normally drink. This smells of green tea with light citrus/pepper notes. I heated my water and poured into the press where a scoop of the leaf was waiting. The steep time was about a minute. The resulting brew was yellow turning amber in the cup.

Some teas have layers of flavors that can each be detected as you sip. Some teas are just a muddy mess. This tea is different from both extremes. Here we have closer to a melding of flavors where the green tea and the pieces of bergamot fit seamlessly together. What I mean is there are different flavor elements but you can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. This is Sencha, and light citrus. It also tastes a lot like pepper without the heat. It completely makes me think Gurman’s Pepper Mango, spicy but without heat. This is not Earl Green. It is something completely different and interesting.

Visit Nature's Tea Leaf at

Twinings, Lapsang Souchong

Twinings Description:
Lapsang Souchong tea comes from China's Fujian Province and Taiwan. The unique flavour of Lapsang Souchong is produced by lying the leaves out on bamboo trays and allowing smoke from pinewood to permeate through them. Twinings Lapsang Souchong is an adventurous tea with a unique smoke flavour and a dark rich colour. Drink with or without milk.

My Review:
This is one of three samples I received from Twinings. For years I have avoided lapsang like the plague. I couldn’t imagine enjoying a heavily smoked tea. Having sampled some really good loose leaf smoky teas lately, I am feeling brave. This is a bagged tea but its Twinings and they seldom disappoint. Removing the bag from the envelope and sniffing reveals a strong scent akin to putting your face in the cold ashes of a fire pit. I am not afraid. Well, maybe a little. I steeped with boiling water for only a minute and a half. The room now smells of smoke and it reminds me of bacon. It’s making me very hungry.

The sip immediately brings two things to mind. First, a little over a year ago I would have tasted this and gone, “Eeeeew, Ick!” Today I am thinking this is not bad. Second, I am impressed at the complexity of the smoke flavor in this bag. It moves from the mouth to the throat and then into the nostrils. This is definitely the most heavily smoke tea I have had to date and I am liking it. The aftertaste is long lingering. The base is Fujian and Taiwanese teas. I really can’t comment on the choice of base leaf as I can’t separate it from the smoke.

The second cup from the same bag :) I steeped at three minutes. It is much sweeter. For a brief instance I think I taste leaf, then it disappears again. This cup tastes like pulled pork barbeque. Liking this one a lot.

Third cup! Yes, a third cup. Steeped five minutes. It is lighter but still very flavorful. My exposure to lapsang is limited but this is pretty good tea.

From Twinings website the loose leaf version of this tea has been discontinued.

Visit Twinings USA at

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Two Leaves Tea Company, Organic Chamomile

Two Leaves Description:
Delicious little flowers - that's how we think of our Chamomile. Open up a packet and take a whiff. You'll smell a rich apple scent (in Greek, Kamai means apple) with soft honey notes. It's sweet, relaxing and the best chamomile you'll ever have.

Price: $7.95 for 15 sachets. Steep twice for $0.26 per cup.

Part of the Complete Sampler Pack provided by Two Leaves Tea Company

My Review:
Chamomile is a flower in the daisy family so to the purest it is not tea. It is an herbal or tisane. No matter what you call it chamomile has unique taste. I have sampled only a handful of chamomile ‘teas’. Until now, all of them have been blended with other flowers and herbs. The taste is sweet and a bit honey like. It is kind of flowery, duh, because it is a flower. To me it tastes a something like apple and maybe pear mixed. Ok, I wrote that before I read Two Leaves description, so they agree with what I get from tasting this one. Beyond what they say there is the slightly sour and bitter aftertaste. That adds character when it is not overwhelming. I found this particular one to be very enjoyable. I did add sweetener but it really stands up well on its own.

I have been drinking herbals in the evening to avoid caffeine. Chamomile seems to have a relaxing affect. I haven’t researched this to see if there is a scientific reason, or if it is simply because it is just tastes calming. It doesn’t matter as long as it works. This one does the trick for me.

Visit Two Leaves at

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Two Leaves Tea Company, Jasmine Petal

Two Leaves Tea Company Description:
If it's true you taste with your nose as much as with your tongue, the delicate floral fragrance that lingers atop this smooth cup of green tea will be an otherworldly experience. These tea leaves are dried with jasmine flower petals to absorb the flavor. Inhale, then enjoy.

The Jasmine Petal whole leaf green tea sachet from two leaves™ is a first place winner in the North American Tea Championship's
2012 Packaged Single-Service Class competition.

Price: $7.95 for 15 sachets. Steep twice for $0.26 per cup.

Part of the Complete Sampler Pack provided by Two Leaves Tea Company

My Review:
I haven’t been avoiding this sachet. I just hadn’t gotten to it yet. Yesterday I received an email from Two Leaves stating this one had won 1st place in the 2012 packaged single-service class. It looks like it is time I tried this one out.

I am seldom neutral about jasmine tea. The bagged ones are usually horribly flavored, as are some of the loose leaf teas. I have learned it matters how the tea is flavored. The only way to get that wonderful jasmine flavor in the cup is to use real jasmine petals and let the tea absorb the flavor naturally. Adding oils and perfumed flavoring to the leaf does not give a result that I care to sip. This one appears to have been done correctly and some of the petals have actually been left in with the leaf.

Opening the sachet releases enticing grapey notes of jasmine into the air. The instructions say to use a 3 minute steep. I did not see a temperature on the wrapper so I used heavily steaming water, well below boiling.

I wish that I had tried this before I found out it is a prize winning tea. I don’t want to review it based on someone else’s standards. I also need to admit I read several reviews of this tea prior to sipping it myself. Ack, I am trying to remain neutral. Pressing on.

The jasmine is very natural tasting. It is in no way perfumey flavored. There is a light grapey-ness to it. The level of jasmine is lighter than the dry scent would suggest. Though the flavor is light, the aftertaste lingers long after the sip. There is just a bit of bitterness in the aftertaste from the green tea. The second steep is lighter with no bitterness in the aftertaste.

This is better than any jasmine I have tried in a bag. I have not tried any other sachets to compare it with. While this is better than some loose leaf jasmine teas I have tasted, it falls short of the great ones. What’s the difference? The great ones have a more fully developed complexity of the jasmine flavor profile. Translation – they leave you swooning. This one puts a smile on my face but I don’t lose track of time.

Final analysis: The convenience and anywhere portability of the sachet make it an easy choice over any of the bagged jasmines I have tried. I believe my friends, that is the point, in awarding this the winner of the 2012 single service class award.

Visit Two Leaves at

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Two Leaves Tea Company, Better Rest Blend

Two Leaves Description:
If the sandman has passed you by, try this relaxing blend of chamomile, peppermint, hops and valerian. Lemon balm and rose hips make this herbal tea a soothing and healthy part of your bedtime ritual. Sip, sip, saw logs!

Price: $7.95 for 15 sachets. Steep twice for $0.26 per cup.

Part of the Complete Sampler Pack provided by Two Leaves Tea Company

My Review:
Lately I have been trying to sip something not only decaffeinated, but also relaxing at bedtime. Stress is robbing my body of much needed rest. I am only getting maybe 4 hours sleep on average per night. I got up this last Sunday after only 2 hours. What fun.

Ok, this tea – Most herbals I don’t really care for. Some I kind of like enough I will drink. This one I gulped. Seriously, It was gone way before I intended. It doesn’t look like chamomile in the sachet. It looks more like splinters of wood. It turned dark in my cup. The first night there wasn’t enough light in the room to tell what color this was. The taste is light peppermint and licorice with honey poured over the top. There is no licorice (or honey) in this so it must be the combination chamomile and valerian. In fact I couldn’t single out the chamomile either. I don’t know what valerian is, but I want some. It is on my herb garden list for next year. This relaxed me and shut down my mind. I slept for 6 hours. I would have slept longer if not for that pesky alarm.

I kept the sachet for using the next night. It steeped well for a second cup. This time I could tell this was a beautiful deep bronze color. On day 2, I could pick out the chamomile. The other flavors are still present as well. Once again it relaxed my brain and I got several uninterrupted hours of restful sleep. I need to see if I can find this one in a loca shop. It needs a permanent place in my collection. Thank you Two Leaves!

Visit Two Leaves at

Monday, December 10, 2012

Two Leaves Tea Company, Organic White Peony

Two Leaves Tea Company Description:
White tea is made from the young, unopened bud of the tea plant, and handled gently to preserve silvery white hairs on the leaves. We think that you'll sense the care used to harvest this tea in each cuppa' - it's smooth taste is matched by a soft flavor you can drink all day.

Price: $7.95 for 15 sachets. Steep twice for $0.26 per cup.

Part of the Complete Sampler Pack furnished by Two Leaves Tea Company

My Review:
The wrapper on this one is pink. Pink? Secure in my manhood I press on. The biodegradable sachet contains little flakes of leaf. I use to really enjoy white peony from a tea bag. After experiencing the same in loose leaf form I learned there really is no comparison between the two. The bagged white tea is just very two dimensional. It is flat. So, even knowing the Two Leaves sachets have been very good. I am nervous. I sniff the sachet and it is nicely sweet smelling leaf. Relief. The wrapper says to steep for 3 minutes but does not give a water temperature. Most white teas need cooler water than green tea for a proper cup. I heat the water to steaming and turn it off for a few moments then pour.

The sachet did not plump as much as the others in the sample pack have so far, but it’s all good, because this tastes fantastic. It is a little like fresh hay. It is also a combination of melon and cucumber. The aftertaste is lingering and pleasant. The cup smells really good as well. The colder this gets the better I personally like it. The first cup is miles above any white tea in a bag that I have tried. In fact it holds its own against the loose leaf teas. This makes a very good cup of tea. The second cup is weaker, yet still flavorful.

Visit Two Leaves at

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Zhena's Gypsy Tea, Chamomile Rose

Zhena's Gypsy Tea Description:
This tea is the result of carefully crafted blending, to ensure that the essential harmony of the botanicals healthful properties yield a superb tea experience.

A harmonious blend of select golden colored Chamomile blossoms, rose petals and hibiscus flowers is balanced with serene, soothing notes of fennel, lemon myrtle and orange peel with a floral bouquet that scents the steam. Chamomile is noted for its naturally calming energy and its ability to relax both body and mind. One of our most popular signature caffeine-free blends.

Ingredients: Chamomile Flowers, Fennel Seeds, Hibiscus Flowers, Orange Peel, Rose Petals, Natural Lemon Flavor.

Price: $6.99 for 15 sachets or about $0.46/serving direct from Zhena's Gypsy Tea. Multiple steeps would reduce this per serving. I found his much cheaper online. As low as $0.26/ serving.

My Review:
This came in the mail as a surprise from a tea friend. This is my first Zhena's Gypsy Tea. Of course it's not actually tea. It is an herbal blend. The wrapper is bright and well labeled and includes ingredients and steeping instructions. Opening the wrapper reveals the sachet made from biodegradable, GMO free, corn silk. Inside you can see the mix. It looks a lot like course sawdust and tiny wood chips. Looking closer the chamomile is obvious. I see tiny pieces of flower petals, and bits of fennel.

After steeping the brew is pinkish and not really like the picture. It smells like you might expect - a little rosey and a little chamomile.

In the sip there is a lot going on and it is pretty enjoyable to me. I taste the chamomile. I taste the floral and citrus elements as kind of a unit. While you can separate the floral and citrus elements, they flawlessly fit together. I can taste the rose. I taste the hibiscus though it is mild. It does add a tiny amount of tartness but that mixes with the orange and lemon. I also taste the fennel. I happen to like fennel and was really surprised how it stood out and in a good way.

I am not a big herbal drinker but I liked this one a lot.

Visit Zhena's Gypsy Tea at

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Two Leaves Tea Company, Organic Orange Sencha

Two Leaves Tea Company Description:
We take these big green tea leaves and blend them delicately with Italian red orange flavor for a memorable yet not overpowering citrus flavor. It'll perk up your tastebuds and your mind.

Price: $7.95 for 15 sachets. Steep twice for $0.26 per cup.

Two Leaves Tea Company as part of their Complete Sampler pack provided this tea.

My Review:
I have never seen an orange Sencha before. I tore open the clear outer wrap and caught the first hints of orange. The scent was really nice at first, but quickly seemed overly soapy. Knowing that dry scent often does not translate into the brew I continued on. The water was at a light boil and the steep was around 4 minutes. The instructions are on the outer wrap, but I found them to be a little difficult to see as they are printed very faintly in green. The brew started light green and turned amber as the steep time ended.

As I suspected, the orange flavor is subdued in the sip. This is a light, balanced, cup. It starts kind of earthy, which is a bit of a non-descript term but I can’t think of a better way to say it. Then I notice the orange that gently slides into the grassy textures of the Sencha green tea aftertaste. It is slightly astringent but not bitter. The delicate nature of the cup has almost a milky quality about it.

I appreciate the orange being restrained as it is not a flavor, on its own, that I find appealing in tea. Blended with other citrus flavors, I would want it bolder. Here, it is the perfect intensity for me. The Sencha, to my tastes though, is too light. A couple years ago I would have disagreed, as I did not ‘get’ Sencha. Just read my trashing of Stash Green Tea to see what I mean. Although I posted the review on this blog just last year, it was actually taken from notes originally written a couple years earlier. Today, I want my Sencha to stand up and be noticed.

This is a perfectly acceptable cup of tea. There is nothing really wrong with it, except it does not appeal to my tastes. Maybe I would feel differently had I sampled this tea on a bright sunny afternoon. With its low caffeine and light body, this doesn’t work for me on a dark dreary rain-soaked December morning. I will add, once the cup reached room temperature, I did find this tea to be more to my liking.

Visit Two Leaves at

Friday, December 7, 2012

Two Leaves Tea Company, Organic Earl Grey

Two Leaves Description:
The best Earl Grey teas begin with high quality full black tea leaves, which get their legendary flavor from natural bergamot oil - oil from a citrus fruit grown in Bergamo, Italy. This is an elegant cuppa' tea with tried and true flavor that ranges from a light citrus zip to a deep, smooth black tea.

Price: $7.95 for 15 sachets. Steep twice for $0.26 per cup.

This tea was part of the Complete Sample pack provided by Two Leaves Tea Company

My Review:
I love Earl Grey. It is my favorite flavored tea. I am also picky about it. The bergamot has to be strong enough I that I know this is Earl Grey without having to read the label. At the same time it cannot be so strong as to overpower the tea base. I want to taste tea. Two Leaves teas have been pretty good so far, let’s see if they understand a good cup of Earl Grey.

I tore open the clear plastic outer wrap and sniffed the sachet. The bergamot is strong and citrusy. I do not know from the label if this contains actual bergamot or if it is flavored but given the organic nature of Two Leaves I believe it is natural bergamot. (Edit Fact Check – according to Two Leaves this is natural bergamot)

I guess I need an explanation of what whole leaf means, as this is small cut pieces of leaf, not whole leaves. I steeped in boiling water for about three minutes. The instructions say four minutes but I have to be careful not to overdo black tea. The sachet really plumps up nicely. The smell of the sachet is bergamot and tea. This is promising.

The sip reveals a lighter touch on the bergamot than what the scent would suggest. My normal Earl Grey is by Ahmad but I use Twinings Earl Grey as the reference because most people whether they like it or not have tried it. Using Twinings as the benchmark, this is much lighter. It is stronger flavored than Ahmad No 1 (an excellent inexpensive tea). So if you are familiar with those teas you have an idea of where this fits in. The bergamot leans towards light lemon in flavor.

The tea base is definitely more flavorful than Twinings. This is not bitter. It is a more elegant Earl than I am accustomed to drinking as it lacks the bite of Ahmad. The astringency level is low enough it does not make you pucker. Yet it is drying. A longer steep might have brought out more bergamot but the trade off would be more astringency.

The second cup was steeped at 5 minutes and is even lighter on the bergamot but it is still present. The base stood out more. It is woody tasting and probably fruity but it is hard tell whether I am tasting tea or bergamot. There is still no bitterness or bite. I have tasted this base before I believe it is a rally smooth Ceylon tea.

All in all, while not my favorite, this is not a bad Earl Grey. It got high marks on Steepster.

Visit Two Leaves at

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Two Leaves Tea Company, Organic Darjeeling

Two Leaves Description:
Strong but sensitive -we like that in a tea. These organic, golden orange pekoe tea leaves are grown on the rolling hills of Darjeeling, India. This rich drink evokes the quality tea from India, and we think its subtle astringency pairs perfectly with dessert.
Price: $7.95 for 15 sachets. That's $0.53 per sachet. It will steep twice reducing the cost to $0.26/mug

This sachet is from the Complete Sampler Pack provided by Two Leaves.

My Review:
After trying the Assam, which I didn’t think I would like but did, I am really looking forward to this one. I do love a good Darjeeling. This is labeled as whole leaf black tea and that is obvious even looking through the clear outer wrap into the sachet. The instructions don’t list a water temperature so I went with just beginning to boil. Darjeeling can be a bit fussy about temperature. The recommended steep time is 4 minutes. I forgot to set my timer, so, lets call it 4 minutes… sort of.

Removing the biodegradable sachet reveals it is swollen to the max and extremely stuffed with leaf. I don’t really detect an aroma in the air. If I put my nose close to the cup it is lightly fruity. I take my first sip and oh my, this seriously tastes like a malted milk ball. I looked through other reviews of this tea on the web and no else noted this flavor. Even so, that’s what I got. The Muscat grape taste I was expecting comes in late in the sip and lingers in the after taste. There is no bitterness. I don’t detect a lot of astringency, as a bite, yet is a little drying. While it is hot, I don’t know I would be able identify it as Darjeeling had I not seen the label. Once it cools it becomes more as expected. My experience is limited to a half dozen tea bag versions, and one or two loose leaf versions.

I really enjoyed the first cup. The second was lighter yet very flavorful.

Visit Two Leaves at

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Two Leaves Tea Company, Organic Assam

Two Leaves Description:
Sure, you can sip Assam for breakfast. We encourage it. But we're not going to call this tea the classic "English Breakfast," because that typically refers to a blend of lesser quality teas. These are big, black, organic tea leaves grown in Assam, India, where hot days and cool nights bring out a rich, full flavor.

Price: $7.95 for 15 sachets. That's $0.53 per sachet. It will steep twice reducing the cost to $0.26/mug

This sachet is from the Complete Sampler Kit provided by Two Leaves.

My Review:
I can’t recall the last straight Assam that I reviewed. It has been a long time. Assam, in the past, has always struck me as beige. Nice but not memorable. Let’s see if Two Leaves changes my mind. This is a whole leaf sachet. I have only had tea bag fannings thus far in my tea journey. The sachet comes sealed in a clear plastic envelope. The sachet itself is biodegradable nylon. You can see the leaf inside and it does look pretty much intact and not the tiny dust specks I am accustomed to seeing.

The dry leaf does not have a lot of scent. I heated 12oz of water to boiling and poured over the sachet. The instructions say use a 4 minute steep. Mine was closer to 3 and a half. The brew has nice and dark. I removed the sachet and fought my old instincts to squeeze. If tea hurts your stomach, the two main reasons are over steeping and squeezing the bag – don’t do it! I resisted and instead, I turned it over a few times to drain it. I am amazed at how much it plumped up. Dry, I wondered if there was really going to be enough. Now the sachet is bloated with leaf. Cool.

As the cup sits cooling, I notice the aroma. It is wonderfully fruity, almost like a cherry pipe tobacco. This has me intrigued. As I begin sipping the fruity aroma fills my nostrils. At this point, the tea can taste like water and I am going to like it. Of course it doesn’t taste like water. It is cherry and woodsy. What else is that I taste? Is it malt? Why yes it is and it is good! There is no bitterness. The astringency seems light. This is hardly the beige I was expecting. Thank you Two Leaves for tearing down another wall of preconceived notions and enlightening me.

The second cup was just as tasty as the first.

Visit Two Leaves at

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday Sampler from Two Leaves

Today's post is a review of the complete sampler pack from Two Leaves Tea Company
Two Leaves Description:
Discover each two leaves' tea flavor with this wonderful sampler. Contains one of each two leaves tea sachets - a total of 18 sachets. Find new favorites while enjoying the wonderful world of two leaves tea!
NEW LOOK! We've revamped this sampler box. The white box measures 9" x 4" x 2.5" and contains a tidy, colorful row of all 18 sachets. The compact box will nicely fit in your tea drawer or cupboard. 

Price: $14.95

My Review:
It was like the Holidays came a little early when I arrived home from work to find a package containing this sampler. Since there was no "do not open before Christmas" sticker on the box, I quickly cut the tape and opened. Inside was the white sample box. Oooh it's like a present wrapped inside a present. I lifted the top to reveal the green tissue paper. At this point, being a guy, I thought I was supposed to remove the tissue paper and almost made a mess.  Thankfully the sachets are individually clear plastic wrapped.

The sampler contains one each of - Organic Assam, Organic Darjeeling, Organic Earl Grey, Tamayokucha, Organic Orange Sencha, Jasmine Petal, Organic Tropical Goji, Organic Pomi-berry, Organic Gen Mai Cha, Organic Better Rest Blend, Organic Better Morning Blend, Organic Better Belly Blend, Organic Peppermint, Alpine Berry, Organic White Peony, Organic Chamomile, Organic Mountain High Chai, and Organic African Sunset.

This is an interesting gift idea that most tea drinkers would love to receive. First, because, well - its tea. Second it is a number of different teas and herbals to try. Tea drinkers generally love samplers. I know I look forward to trying these teas and reviewing them on The Everyday Tea Blog. I have previously tried a couple Two Leaves sachets and found them to be quite tasty.

There are a number of other samplers to choose from on their website, but I personally would choose this complete sampler. Although, I really like the look of the teabag teapots in teaware. I have never seen one of these before. Santa, are you paying attention?

Visit Two Leaves Tea Company at

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Zen Tea, Coconut Oolong

Zen Tea Description:
If you love coconut milk sweets and sophisticated oolongs, this is tea for you.Creamy smooth coconut perfectly blended with a floral Bao Zhong oolong with subtle notes of lilac.

Ingredients: Oolong Tea, coconut flavor

Price: $19/100g or $0.48 per 2.5g serving

Sample provided by Zen Tea for review

My Review:
I might as well admit it right up front. Every time I try a coconut tea, especially an oolong, it immediately gets compared to Golden Moon’s Coconut Pouchong. What an amazing tea. It’s almost not fair to the competition. I will try not to let this influence me as I taste this one.

I also must admit this one has me baffled. I love coconut. I love oolong. I love coconut and oolong together. I just don’t much care for this one. I have read the reviews on Steepster and it seems everyone else has loved this tea. I must conclude then, that it is just me. Strange. I was very impressed with the previous 5 teas I have tasted from Zen Tea. Not so much with this one. To me, the dry leaf smells of coconut liquor (alcohol). The wet leaf smells pineapple and the mug smells like gym socks. When the cup cools, it does get creamy and the aftertaste is nice, like a floral tiguanyin. I just can’t get passed the smell. Do read the other reviews, as apparently I just don’t get it. Anyway, following is the review I wrote before seeing what others thought:

Cutting open the sample pouch I am met with an aroma that makes me think coconut liquor – you know, alcohol. I scooped out half the sample and what first caught my eye was the amount of stems in the mix. Hmmmm. This is my sixth tea from Zen Tea. I have been extremely impressed with their offerings. This one is not really moving me so far.

I place the leaf, stems and all, in the press, and add steaming water well below boiling. The steep time was three minutes per the label directions. The smell of the wet leaf I recognize but can’t quite place. I think it reminds me of pineapple with alcoholic coconut. Does that make it a pina colada? It’s very tropical, if you are in to that.

The sip is not as expected. To my taste buds this does not taste like coconut and I don’t get the subtle lilac notes in the description either My impression is, if you would make this really sweet it would taste like kettle corn. That would be ok, except the smell is a little like gym socks. The redeeming feature is the nice oolong aftertaste. It is more than a little similar to tiguanyin.

As the cup cools and nears room temperature the smell either goes away or I just stopped noticing it. The creaminess mentioned does come out to play. The taste remains popcorn bordering on kettle corn.

I always try to put my preconceptions aside and judge a tea on what it is trying to be. Not on what I want it to be. This tea does not match the description, at least not in my opinion. It also does not appeal to my personal tastes.

Zen Tea, I have loved all your teas so far but this one. Coconut Oolong, sorry but I am not a fan.

Visit Zen Tea on the web at

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Zen Tea, Curled Dragon Silver Tip

Zen Tea Description:
The name refers to the unusual and striking shape and color of the leaves, which are rolled into tightly-curled dragon-like shapes with a silvery color. It is a good example of the high level of hand-work. Infused it produces a complex, sweet and somewhat floral liquor. Entirely handmade, it is a must for green tea lovers.

Ingredients: Tippy green tea leaves

Price: $22/100g or $0.55/2.5g serving

Sample provided by Zen Tea for review.

My Review:
The samples come sealed in aluminum mylar pouches with a description and steeping instructions clearly printed on the label. I cut the top off, opened the bag and inhaled. It is a sweet aroma that reminds me of cut raked grass that has been raked and left until it is moist from the morning dew. A truly calming aroma.

I scooped out half the sample and examined the leaf. At first it looks a little like oolong nuggets until you focus on them. They are not balls like pearls. They remind me of the Phoenix Pearls I recently sampled except these are green and silver. Seeing dragon on the label, you can easily make the connection. They are quite gorgeous. Did I mention they smell good?

In the press they go, along with 12oz of well below boiling water. The resulting liquor is a lovely light yellow green and very clear. The curls have unfolded to reveal tiny little whole leaves. The scent of the wet leaf is definite veggies.

The sip is, harrumph, I don’t think I got this as hot as I thought I did. It is cool already. The unaltered taste is a little sweet but light and passes through a short but nice bitter bite that fades into a light green aftertaste. I unapologetically add some sweetener at this point and the flavors really pop. This is now a wonderfully creamy green tea. The bite is smoothed out in the late sip yet asserts itself well in the lingering aftertaste. Zen Tea continues to impress me. This is a really nice cup of green tea.

Second mug. Apparently this is a day I should not be allowed to touch the kettle. I got the water too hot this time. Amazingly the tea did not seem to care. It did not become bitter or gross. After it cooled enough I would not burn my tongue, it turned into almost as delicious as the first cup.

In the hands of a master tea brewing this would be a really good tea. In the hands of a bumbling boob, this is still a pretty good tea. This is not completely idiot-proof tea but it’s fairly close. I think this would go another cup, but I think I have done all the damage I want to do for one day.

Visit Zen Tea online at

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Zen Tea, Phoenix Pearl

Zen Tea Description:
Naturally sweet and smooth with a touch of earthiness. Comprised of only the highest quality leaves and buds, expertly rolled into a pearl like shape. Subtle cocoa notes whisper gently as each pearl unfurls delivering a superior tea experience not to be missed.

Ingredients: Black tea from Yunnan, China

Price: $10/100g or $0.25/2.5g serving

Sample provided by Zen Tea for review.

My Description:
I cut open the sample envelope and breathed in a wonderfully grainy bouquet. Removing a scoop of leaf reveals dark brown and gold ‘pearls’ that appear more as knots than balls. The picture does not do this tea justice. It is quite pretty to look at. As with previously reviewed Zen Tea samples, the brewing instructions are clearly labeled. I used about half the sample in my press with just under boiling water for a three minute steep.

The brew is golden rootbeer colored in the press and much darker in the mug. The nearly unfurled leaf is long and chocolate in color. The aroma is awesome. Just as described, well except the cocoa notes aren’t whispering. They are calling out loud and clear. Mmmm.

The sip is very smooth. There is no bitterness, or anything resembling harsh in the taste. It is mildly drying. I did notice a little tongue tingle early in the cup. The first cup is not how I would define earthy. As I describe flavors, this tastes grainy, with light malt, and definite cocoa notes. There is a kind of wine-like fruitiness in the aftertaste. This is a very nice cup.

Interesting thing about teas like this, the whole time you are enjoying the cup the aroma of the leaf in the press is begging for a resteep. Obeying the call, I found the second cup developed a nuttiness and more plantlike flavors. This is getting closer to what I think of as earthy.

Mug three still had plenty of color and flavor. I did not detect anything new in this cup but to be honest I was pretty distracted. All I know is I enjoyed it.

If you are hoping for a brisk bite I suggest you look elsewhere, but if like me you are a sucker for the smooth deep mellow flavors of Chinese black tea then this is an exceptional example.

Visit Zen Tea online at

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Savoy Tea Co., Caramel Apple Almond

Savoy Tea Company description:
The sweet goodness of apple with roasted and caramelized almonds and a touch of cinnamon will whisk you back to simpler days. A herbal (because it doesn't contain the actual tea leaf) this is a sweet caffeine-free indulgence for all ages.

Caffeine-Free Ingredients: apple pieces, planed and crushed almonds, cinnamon pieces, beetroot pieces, flavoring

Price: $10/4oz

My Description:
This came in the mail as a surprise gift from a tea friend. It is my first Savoy Tea. I really should start reading the ingredients before I start steeping. This is my first cup of the day and I really need caffeine to kick start me into the morning. Unfortunately this is an herbal tea. I will try not to let the lack of morning buzz influence my review.

The mix is kind of pretty and autumn looking. It is comprised of little light brown chunks of stuff. Dry it smells nicely of almonds. I steeped this with just under boiling water for about 12 minutes per the instructions clearly printed on the label. Savoy gets extra points for the ingredient list and the instructions. Thank you. This brews up somewhere between pink and red in color. It looks festive and dessert-like. The aroma is cinnamon and nuts.

In the sip you notice the almonds throughout. At the front you catch apple that quickly melts into what I think is the beetroot. I do not know what beetroot is or what it is supposed to taste like. Maybe that is what I am tasting, and maybe not. I can’t describe it and can’t even tell you if I like it. Maybe it will grow on me, and maybe not. This is quickly overcome by a nice cinnamon blast. Not the harsh kind. Rather like cinnamon on a Cinnabon roll. Mmmmm Cinnabon.

This would make for a very nice twist on hot cinnamon cider sitting in front of a fireplace late in the evening.

Visit Savoy Tea Company on the web.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tea From Taiwan, Zhong Shu Hu Oolong Tea

Tea From Taiwan Description:
Zhong Shu Hu oolong tea comes from the Zhong Shu Hu area of Ali Mountain (Alishan) – one of the most famous tea producing regions of Taiwan. The climate here is cool and moist with cloud cover and mists every day. These conditions are ideal for tea because the plants grow very slowly and produce tender, flavorful tea leaves and buds.

Zhong Shu Hu oolong tea has a sweet taste and refined aroma. Each brewing brings out new flavours and taste sensations. This tea has a complexity that provides continuous nuances with every cup.

Zhong Shu Hu oolong tea can be re-brewed up to six times while maintaining an excellent flavour. We recommend the Gong Fu method of preparation to bring out the best of this excellent tea.

Sample provided by Tea From Taiwan

Price: $43/150g or $0.86/3g serving

My Review:
This is my third brightly colored sample pack from Tea From Taiwan. I cut off top and sniffed. There is not much scent in the package, just a light oolong with maybe a hint of mint like notes. The leaf is rolled in typical fashion and is a darker than the other samples I’ve tasted from Tea From Taiwan. No instructions are printed on the label so I used half the packet or about 3g in my press with 12oz of heavily steaming water. My steep time was two minutes. The resulting liquor is bright yellow and quite clear. The aroma of the wet leaf is lightly buttered vegetables. The brew is an aromatic floral. I can catch the scent while the cup is sitting on the desk.

I begin the sip with out additives. While hot, like yesterday’s oolong, the flavor starts very light. Then, I think butter, no wait; it’s more complex than that. As a child I would do stupid things, like put my tongue on the aluminum window frame. I know, I know. Anyway, the sensation I get when tasting this is like the aluminum frame but with butter. Actually this is way better than it sounds. As it cools, the aluminum disappears and is replaced by a more traditional green oolong floral flavor. The aftertaste is lightly floral and not as noticeable as the previous samples from Tea From Taiwan. A nice cup.

Now I add my Splenda. Oh, wow! Definitely add sweetener to this if you don’t object to the practice. This has come alive. It’s alive! It’s alive! Now the flavor is much fuller. It is lightly nutty and floral, but the main difference is a very prominent spiciness. On one sip I think this reminds me of apple crisp. On the next, I believe it is nutmeg. Whatever, it is just good. The aftertaste is also stronger and more joyous, though not nearly as long lasting as many oolongs. This is now a really good cup. At this point, I grabbed a brownie from the break room. The flavors blended like they were meant to be together. Awesome.

Cup two also steeped for two minutes takes off right where cup one ended. I took one taste without additives and tore open the packet with even pretending I was going to drink it unsweetened. So good.

Cup three I pretty much shipwrecked. I appear to have been distracted and must have added two packets of sweetener. Wowza is this sweet. Still nice and spicy with a good solid aftertaste but wowza is this sweet.

Cup four starts slightly mushroom tasting but once it cools it picks right back in with the spicy floral green oolong flavor.

Oolong fascinates me for a lot of reasons, the main being the small amount of leaf you think you are starting with, and the massive amount that you find in the press on the second or third steeping.

This may be my favorite of the samples I received from Tea From Taiwan. The Hua Gang had the single most amazing first cup but this one stays delicious through many steeps.

Visit Tea From Taiwan Website.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tea from Taiwan, Shi Zuo Oolong Tea

Tea From Taiwan Description:
Shi Zuo oolong tea (wu long tea) is grown in the Shi Zuo (Stone Table) area of Alishan (Mount Ali). At an altitude of 1300 meters, Shi Zuo has a cool, moist climate that is ideal for growing tea.

Shi Zuo oolong tea is hand picked and hand processed in the traditional manner of Taiwanese High Mountain oolongs. The processing results in ball-shaped tea pellets which consist of two or three leaves and a bud. These pellets open up during brewing to release the full flavor of the tea.

In order to experience the full potential of this tea, we recommend brewing it Gong Fu style. This method of brewing brings out the sweetness and complex undertones that mark this tea as one of the best that Taiwan has to offer.

Sample provided by Tea From Taiwan

Price: $41/150g or $0.82/3g serving

My Review:
I cut open the brightly colored sample packet and was greeted with a lovely grain aroma. The nuggets are tightly wrapped and grayish green in appearance with some lighter streaks. There are no steeping instructions printed on the sample so I used half the sample (3g) in my press with 12oz of heavily steaming water. My steep time was 2 minutes. The liquor is bright and excellently clear with a yellow color. The leaf has only partially relaxed, and has a fresh light steamed vegetable scent.

I begin this tasting without additives and the disclaimer that I normally add Splenda to my hot teas, although I almost never sweeten my iced teas. While hot, the best I can describe this is to compare it to a swell effect on a guitar. Once the strings are strummed the sound starts tiny and swells in volume until it fills the room. Being unaccustomed to unsweetened tea this starts very light, almost watery and swells to a crescendo in the floral aftertaste. The breath is left cool and fresh. The taste of this first cup is similar to a tiguanyin but lighter.

Adding Splenda brings out nutty or plant notes that change to a light coppery taste only momentarily before fading into the floral aftertaste. I can’t say whether this is better with or without sweetener. It is neither. It is just different. It does turn lightly buttery as it cools. Maybe it would have done that anyway had I waited. The cooler it gets the more I like it. Room temperature it develops a sort of cinnamon note.

The second cup @ two minutes was very similar to the first but more pronounced. I found myself enjoying it a little more. I am also noticing the spice I caught in the cool cup is now more of a light clove note late in the sip. With cup three @ about 3 minutes, I am just accepting this appeals to me more the colder it gets.

This is a light green oolong similar to tiguanyin without a heavy aftertaste. It is still going strong after three mugs but I am out of time.

Visit Tea From Taiwan website.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tea From Taiwan, Hua Gang Oolong Tea

Tea From Taiwan Description:
This premium-quality oolong tea is grown in the Li Shan mountain range at an altitude of 2400 meters. The climate of these high mountains is ideal for growing fine oolong tea. The cool air and high humidity produce a tea with full, robust flavor and long-lasting aftertaste.

The brewed tea has an exquisite aroma and brews to an appealing amber liquor. The leaves can can be re-brewed many times while maintaining a full flavor.

Tea grown on Mount Li (Li Shan or Pear Mountain) is the most prized oolong tea in Taiwan. It is ideally suited for gong fu style brewing.

Sample provided by Tea From Taiwan

Price: $61/150g or about 1.22 per 3g serving

My Review:
The sample packet is brightly colored and vacuum-sealed. I cut open the top and noticed an oxygen absorber packet. The dry leaf has no appreciable scent. The sample is 6g so I used half of it for this round. The nuggets are very tightly packed and dark green with some lighter colored streaks. There are some stems visible.

There are no steeping instructions on the packet so I used my normal parameters - 3g of leaf in my press with water that is heavily steaming but well below boiling. I steeped for 2 minutes. The leaf pretty much stayed near the surface. The color of the liquor is a light yellow. The wet leaf is not completely relaxed and there is already a lot of it. The wet leaf aroma is that of steamed spinach. The liquor scent is green oolong – kind of floral.

I sipped this without additives and it is the single most buttery almost popcorn flavored tea I have tried to date. Really exceptional. By mid sip it blooms with a short floral blast. It literally comes out of nowhere. Just as it almost reaches a point where it would concern me it just disappears, fading into something akin to the smell of a geranium plant mixed with the taste of dandelion. The aftertaste is lingering green oolong and floral. Ok, the more I sip the more I am sensing a spice flavor. I believe it is nutmeg or something that I associate with squash pie. What a ride!

I added sweetener so see how it would respond. I must say this is the exception to the rule as far as my tastes go. It actually tastes so delicious without the additives that I wish I hadn’t tampered with it. Trust me, that seldom happens. I love my Splenda but not with the first cup of this wonderful tea.

With cup two I noticed the leaf had expanded to the point I could not see through the press. The color of the tea in the cup is a little darker yellow with a tint of light green. The butteriness is very much reduced. This is now a highly floral green oolong. The aftertaste is somewhat like biting into the rind of a watermelon.

The third cup is much lighter in flavor. It still has a strong and lingering aftertaste.

I really like this. Highly recommend!

Visit Tea from Taiwan website

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Nature’s Tea Leaf, Buddha Hand Oolong

Nature's Tea Leaf Description:
Organic Iron Buddha Hand Oolong Tea are strips of tea leaves with a dark green and black bloom. The leaves are naturally withered under the strong sun, oxidized, and then tightly wrapped and rolled. The Buddha Hand Oolong, so named for the resemblance to the leaves of the fruit tree "Buddha's Hand" or "fingered citron", has a delicate aroma and an audacious flavor that is refreshing when served hot or cold.

My Review:
This sample was provided by Nature’s Tea Leaf. The dry leaf is interesting. It is rolled, but not in balls, rather more as elongated pods that resemble the cocoons I find on our cedar trees. The dry scent is grain. Once I put it in the press I thought I detected cocoa. Neither of these scents do I think of when thinking oolong. I used a half of my scoop, looked at it in the press and thought, this is not enough so I nearly doubled it. The water was heated to almost boiling. I steeped per instructions at 3 minutes.

The brew is a pale yellow as best I can tell in my dark office. The wet leaf scent is best described as green. It is not vegetable or floral, just green, with the faintest of roasted notes. The leaf has not unfurled completely so I am not sure what we have yet.

The sip when hot is a little light on the first cup. It first seems non-descript, then suddenly bam, bam, bam. It goes from tasting watery to mineral, then immediately changes to floral, followed by mellow roasted. The aftertaste lingers long and floral of green oolong with a cooling breath sensation. Pretty awesome for one sip. Yet it is so light, that gulping this, you would miss all but the roasted note and aftertaste. As the cup cools I am noticing more of a woodsy taste early in the sip. The roastiness reminds me of light genmaicha, the floral aftertaste is somewhere between tiguanyin and high mountain oolong but more subtle than either.

Steeping a second mug resulted in a press full of huge leaf - ok I didn't need as much as I thought. It is still not completely unfurled but there is a lot of it. Oddly, it stills smells just green. The brew is golden. The roasted taste has mostly gone in to hiding. It is replaced by a creaminess. The aftertaste continues to grow stronger. It is now largely tiguanyin, but the cooler the cup, the more it takes on a citrus type flavor.

I decided to try something different on the third mug. I used a cold brewing technique I have only started experimenting with recently. I poured cool water (not heated) over my leaf and set the press aside for an hour and a half. The result was the most flavorful cup yet from this tea. Seriously good. The sip was what I call geranium as that is what it reminds me of as I taste. It had the same great aftertaste as when I used hot water.

I know this has many more cups in it, as it is only improving. Unfortunately three cups is all I have time for this day.

What I really like about this one is the complexity. It morphs and mutates during the sip and through the temperature changing as well as with different steeps. The downside is I am not sure how well the first cup translates to the average western tea drinker’s tastes. I have noticed a tendency to embrace big flavors. This may start too subtle for a lot of tea drinkers and be overlooked by those more familiar with the bite of the Assam monster. The aftertaste of Buddha Hand is quite strong and delightful even in the first cup and only intensifies in later steeps. Hopefully that will be enough to grab the attention of any one trying this wonderful tea for the first time. This one deserves to be steeped multiple times.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Nature's Tea Leaf, Dragon Pearls Green Tea

Nature's Leaf Tea Description:
Dragon Pearl Green Tea is made using tender leaves plucked in early spring. These silvery buds are partially withered, lightly fired, wilted, and baked to enhance the quality and silvery-white appearance. The tea is then moistened with light steaming so the buds can be twisted and hand rolled into a pearl shape, then baked to amplify the smooth flavor and aroma. When you infuse these pearls in your tea cup, you will see the top two leaves and the bud spring to life. Dragon Pearl yields a smooth body similar to white tea with the rich, semisweet flavor of roasted chestnut. A great tasting tea to enjoy anytime.

My Review:
This generous sample was provided by Nature’s Leaf Tea. This is an unflavored green tea rolled into tiny little balls. I love the look of dragon pearls. Each individual pearl is hand rolled and I always find them amazingly beautiful. As is my habit I sniffed the pouch, and it may be my imagination, but the leaf has a minty green aroma.

The steeping instructions are printed on the package. It calls for 1 tsp of leaf per 8oz of water. I used 12oz so I guessed at 1 1/2tsp – the pearls make it a challenge to figure out how much leaf you actually need. Of course not as big a challenge as a tightly rolled oolong. This calls for a cool temperature of 175F and a one minute steep.

After steeping the brew has only the palest yellow-green tint. In fact in almost just looks like water. The leaf is only part of the way unfurled and has a nice green steamed vegetable aroma.

In the sip I notice no bitterness or astringency. There are no roasted notes. This is simply clean fresh Chinese green tea. It has a milky feel as it is swallowed. The aftertaste is lingering and pleasant. It leaves a cooling sensation on your breath. This is a nice solid cup.

The second cup at 1 1/2 minutes is very light pea green. The leaf scent reminds me of lake water which is much more pleasant than it may sound. This cup is much sweeter. Still quite good.

Cup three at 2 minutes. I can’t really comment on the taste as I had pepperoni with lunch. The leaf is completely unfurled. It is comprised of rather large leaves. I had to play with it for a moment (because I am a big kid) and it is soft and fluffy.

Cup four at 3 minutes is tasting a slightly mushroom with a metallic edge. It is still nicely flavorful, however I am going to halt steeping here on this one.

On Steepster, I called this the Sara Lee of teas. After all, who doesn’t like Dragon Pearls? This is a really solid Chinese green tea.

Visit Nature's Tea Leaf on the web.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Nature's Tea Leaf, Silver Needle White Tea

Nature's Leaf Tea Description:
Organic Silver Needle White Tea has exquisitely shaped buds enveloped in white down. This white tea excites with its savory aroma, rich body and a sweet flavor with rounded finish that is soft and airy on the palate. White Teas which include our Organic Silver Needle variety are known to promote weight loss and stimulate the metabolism. This low caffeine antioxidant packed tea is delicious hot or cold and can be enjoyed any time of day.

My Review:
The one ounce sample was provided by Nature’s Leaf Tea. The pouch is stuffed with beautiful white and grayish-green leaf. Not only does it smell so fresh and amazing but it also is the softest silver needle leaf I have encountered. I love silver needle. I am looking forward to this cup and trying not to get my expectations too high.

I used my wooden scoop to gather a generous portion of lovely leaf and placed it in my press with 12oz of water heated to a cool 175F. I steeped for about 2 1/2 minutes. The instructions say 4-5. This brewed up to the lightest of tinted liquors. The wet leaf still has a lot of white down in it. The smell of the leaf makes me think of a field of grain, maybe alfalfa.

The sip is a light, refreshing, white tea with a lingering fresh aftertaste. This is a nice complex cup, much more so than a white peony. I find it most refreshing when it reaches room temperature. It is kind earthy, a little fruity with some oats thrown in for good measure.

Next I added a little leaf and a little time to see how that would affect the taste.
While the second cup is steeping, I want to comment again on the aroma of the leaf in the drained press. The whole time I was sipping, this wonderful scent was rolling out of the press, keeping me distracted. Wow, this is fresh.

Ok, adding more leaf and time makes for a darker and bolder cup. It does not bring out any new flavors. I like my white tea to be delicate, so for me the shorter steep is the correct one. Either way this is a very nice silver needle.

Visit Nature's Tea Leaf on the web.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nature's Tea Leaf, Fujian Congou Black Tea

Nature's Tea Leaf Description:
Fujian Congou Black Tea is a quintessential black tea that consists of long leaves rolled into slender, striped tea leaves from the Fujian province in southern China. Congou tea is made from large mature leaves and specifically does not include the bud. With its celebrated history Fujian Congou black tea has a rich and uplifting aroma and when infused has a pleasant, smooth, and rich flavor that promotes balance and harmony.

My Review:
This is my cup of the morning. The generous 1oz sample was provided by Nature’s Leaf Tea. The packaging has steeping instructions clearly shown on the front. The one thing it lacks is a description of what is inside. I don’t know if that is a plus or a minus. One the one hand, I would rather not have a preconceived notion of what I am about to sample. One the other hand, I have never had a Congou tea before and I don’t know what to expect.

The dry leaf is dark, small, sharp, and wiry. It smells of grain. I used 1 1/2tsp for 12oz of water heated to approx 195F. I steeped for 2 1/2 minutes in my press. The brew is dark caramel and still has the grain scent as does the wet leaf. The leaf is small fairly evenly cut pieces and chocolate in appearance.

There is no question this is a Fujian tea from the very first sip. It has that honey sweet, grainy goodness with more than a hint of malt. It has the yam notes. Yet there is something unique about it as well. It has what I can only describe as a darker edge way low underneath that comes out more in the sweet lingering aftertaste. The cooler the cup becomes the more I am detecting this as a roasted note or light smoke.

As the cup emptied I noticed the scent of the leaf still in the press. It was fruity with hints of chocolate or to be more exact, cocoa. I needed a refill. Cup two is similar to cup one, sweeter with less of the darker notes.

Cup three is lighter and is still very flavorful.

I read a description somewhere on the net that compared Fujian Congou to a cross between Yunnan and Keemun. Yes, I agree. It is very similar to a Bailin Gongfu I sampled but with the Congou I could not bring the chocolate notes out in the sip.

This is a very nice black tea. Fans of Fujian teas will love this. Those who generally dislike black teas, as too harsh or bitter/astringent, should give this one a try.

Visit Nature's Leaf Tea home on the web

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nuvola, Taiwan Muzha Ti Kuan Yin Tea

Nuvola Description:
The saffron-coloured Muzha Ti Kuan Yin Tea has a light fruity aroma and a melting creamy mouth-feel. The flavors are strong and long-lasting even after several infusions, which leaves a sweet lingering sensation in the mouth.

My Review:
This is going to be a short review today. I wanted to note here that I have read ‘nutty’ used in reviews often, I may have even used it myself before. Honestly, I have never really known if it was nutty or not. Until today. My first thought when sipping was definitely, this is nutty! Then I note roasted/smoky, followed by creamy. I read the reviews by others, and the company description on their website, and it appears I got this one right. Woot! Oh, and YES, it is good. Thanks Nuvola.

Visit Nuvola Tea's Official Site

Friday, October 19, 2012

Zen Tea, Tieguanyin Monkey Picked Oolong Tea

Zen Tea description:
Produced in Fujian, China. In appearance this tea is a dark-roasted, highly oxidized and of a coffee-bean colour. The dry-leaf aroma is of spices and flowers. The dominant flavour of the brewed tea is dried peach with a lingering fruit and spice aftertaste. The aroma is long-lasting with hints of sweet honey and spice in combination. This tea aids digestion and also can boost energy levels.

My Review:
This sample was supplied by Zen Tea

The dry leaf is dark browns and cinnamon colored. There are a few stems visible. The pellets are solid and not as tightly packed as I normally think of with oolong. The scent they call flowers and spice. To me it is closer to paint like. Knowing that the brew is often quite different than the dry experience, I press on – literally, I guess, as I steep in a French press.

I used a healthy scoop of leaf and heavily steaming water. The steep time was about 1 1/2m. The liquor is a beautiful clear yellow / green. The leaf is not completely unfurled and is quite dark. The wet leaf aroma has a prickly sort of scent like sticking your face in a geranium. Quite different than the dry smell.

The sip reveals a light oolong. I may have under steeped. Zen Tea describes the main flavor is peach. I get what they are saying, but to me it comes off as more orange. There is a lingering floral aftertaste.

The aroma of the second cup is much darker and roasted. The taste is sweet and much more developed. The first cup was a bit ordinary. The second steep yields a really good cup.

Third cup was similar to the first cup. The leaves are almost unfurled and some of them are pretty large. It has kind of a floral melon aftertaste.

My review seems kind of blah towards this tea. I assure you the reviews on Steepster were much more positive. I guess this one just doesn't appeal to me as much as it did to others.

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