Monday, February 20, 2012

Yamamotoyama, Hoji-cha

This is a bagged tea. I bought it because I wanted something I had never tried before, I like the oolong by this company, and it is cheap. $2.29 for 16 bags. This is labeled as a roasted green. The bag smells a bit smoky. I brewed it for 2 minutes with below boiling water even though directions called for boiling. The scent of the wet bag reminds me of Genmaicha. The brew is surprisingly almost as dark as a black tea.

First sip is too hot for me to catch much taste, so I got a slice of Jewish sweet bread while the cup cooled. Wow, did the bread help bring out the flavor. No bitterness or hint of astringency. I thought by the smell of the bag it might taste a bit smoky, but its not. This is a simple roasted green tea like the box says. Hojicha is a bancha tea that has been roasted traditionally over charcoal. I steeped a second cup with a new bag and this time used boiling water per the directions. It made only a slight difference in taste.

Bottom line: Could you do better? Sure, but for a $0.14 tea bag it is pretty darn good.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Harney and Sons, Earl Grey Supreme

I received this sample sachet in the mail from a friend. The label says four black teas, SILVERTIPS and bergamot. The bergamot aroma when I open the envelope is nice. The tea in the sachet is very finely cut – almost powdery. That surprised me a bit. It may not be normal, as who knows what sat on top of it in the post office. I steeped this for 3 minutes in just boiling water.

I had read reviews of this tea before hand and kind of knew, how this tea gets interpreted depends on what level of bergamot one finds pleasing. On the one end of the bergamot scale I put the Tazo Earl Grey I bought locally, which I couldn’t detect any bergamot in it at all. (Turns out either this was very old or had been exposed to heat and sunlight) On the other end I place Empire Tea Services Earl Green, which is highly flavored and very floral. In fact I had to cut it with another tea the first couple weeks I had it, just too tone it down. Halfway between these two extremes I put Twinings EG. It is bright and citrusy. Ahmad EG has just slightly less bergamot but a nicer base flavor profile to my palate. On the same scale, Ahmad No 1. is halfway between Tazo and Ahmad EG. Harney and Sons EG Supreme I place just below No 1. on my bergamot scale. Confused yet?

Let me simplify - You can taste the bergamot, especially as the cup cools, but you have to be paying attention. If you are looking for that citrus blast, then this tea will be quite disappointing. For that reason I wish H&S’s would have left Earl Grey out of the name and just called it Supreme. As a lightly flavored black tea this is really good. It is rich and malty. The bergamot actually supports the base instead of the other way around, and it does an excellent job of it. I do find this slightly astringent, like an Assam, as it leaves me with a bit of a dry mouth feel.

Earl Grey? Not on my bergameter scale. Wonderful lightly flavored black tea? Absolutely.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Southern Season, Zhen Quo Super China Black

The dry leaf is fluffy and oh so soft. It is a pretty mix of tan and dark browns. It kind of resembles a dark version of Bi Lo Chun. The dry scent is a bit cocoa to my nose. I steeped a healthy scoop for 2 ½ minutes in below boiling water. This is just a hunch since it worked so well with the Teavivre black teas.

The brew is dark but not too dark and has honey/caramel notes. The wet leaf is small torn pieces and chocolate in color.

The aroma in the cup is very similar to Teavivre’s Golden Tips. It’s fruity and winelike. The sip images sweet dried hay. The aftertaste is mildly honeyed. Absolutely no hint of bitterness or astringency. From beginning to end this is a very good cup.

Second cup, full roiling boil for 4 minutes. This is very similar to the first cup. No bitterness or astringency. Just good sipping.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Harney & Sons, SoHo Blend: Chocolate & Coconut

The leaf is very dark and smaller than the picture suggests. I don't know what the pretty purple flower petals are but they are only for decoration, and do not affect the flavor. The dry leaf aroma of this is milk chocolate. I steeped it for 4 minutes w/boiling water. The brew is muddy looking in the pot. In the cup, it looks like, well, tea – with a bright and clean appearance.

There is no escaping the chocolate scent before, during, or after sipping. The tea is present in the taste but is in the background a bit. The coconut comes into play in the aftertaste. I don’t think I used enough leaf (1 tsp) on this, my first attempt. I still managed two cups and I think it might go a third. Next time I will up the leaf. This is a nice dessert cup with a pleasant lingering aftertaste that leaves you craving more.

Update - Just got home for the evening. The leaf was still in my press so I thought I would see if this one would go a third steep. It is a bit thin but the coconut is really shining through on this steep. I think this is my favorite cup of this yet. Glad I pushed this further.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fusion Tea Room, Carrot Cake Rooibos

I don’t remember the last time I had rooibus and I have never had honeybush before, which is also listed as being in here. I looked at the dry leaf and wondered, am I supposed to drink this or eat it? There are whole walnuts, raisins, and pieces of carrot in the mix. The leaf (bark, whatever rooibus and honeybush are) looks kind of like redwood chips. The steeping pot smells awesome. This would make a great potpourri if it weren’t tasty. Steeped 9 minutes per instructions printed on label.

In the pot this is murky, reddish brown, and mysterious. The cup smells kind of rooibus but with the spices it takes on more of a cherry aroma. There is no bitterness, and nothing harsh. No one flavor really jumps out. All of this mixes together really well. The rooibus is tamed, so it is not the horse stall straw taste I normally associate it with. I can’t say anything in this makes me think carrot cake other than the name on the label. That being said, the aroma is wonderful. The taste is solid and well thought out. Normally when there is this many ingredients (11 listed) I find it over done, but that isn’t the case here. This is an excellently flavored rooibus. Hey, and the after cup aroma is amazing as well. The second cup was just as tasty as the first. Seriously good.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Zoomdweebies, Lemon Flavored Black Tea

I was given this sample. It says on the label this is a black tea with lemon peal with natural and/or artificial flavor(s). There were no brewing instructions on the label so I used my standard for black tea – 1 tsp, 3 minutes, and boiling water. This is CTC leaf (very small pieces) with pieces of lemon peal. The liquor appears clear and dark but not too dark. The sip is not what I was expecting. I thought this was going to be a brisk in your face wake up you sleepy head tea with a slap of citrus. Not at all. This is a medium bodied, smooth black, with just a hint of lemon and only enough bite and malt to be interesting. Kind of like Prince of Wales with the touch of lemon. A pleasant start to my day.

Wait a minute ladies and gentlemen, I think something is happening. I kept smelling spices this morning. I thought maybe it was the Hot and Spicy Cinnamon calling out from the drawer (drink me, drink me). I ate a couple sesame sticks, a moment ago and then grabbed my cup. I don’t see it on the label but I am getting spices now that the cup is cooling. If it is my imagination, I hope I don’t wake up until I finish the cup.

Cup 2. It is not my imagination! As this stuff cools it tastes like Lady Grey minus the floral bergamot flavor. What a fun cup. I am sharing this with a co-worker who drinks Twinings. I know he will absolutely love this.

So now after writing this glowing review, I discover Zoomdweebies has become 52Teas and Man Teas. Sadly, this wonderful tea is not listed as a blend by either of these companies.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Den's Tea, Bancha Suruga

Bancha is a grade of Japanese tea harvested later in the season. The early harvest is called Sencha. Bancha is considered the lowest grade of green tea. Don’t let that fool you this tea is quite good.

The dry leaf looks like tiny grass clippings and it has a faint grassy aroma. I steeped 1 ½ tsp for 1 ½ minutes at about 180d. The liquor is clear with a faint yellow/green tint. The wet leaf unfolded to reveal shredded pieces. To me the wet leaf smells like stew beef. My description may not sound appealing to you but it’s making me hungry. Poured into the cup this takes on a faint grassy aroma.

The sip is vegetal – like broccoli and spinach maybe, becoming grassier as it cools, but never a heavy grassiness. There is the tiniest bit of bitterness which is common to Bancha and not a bad thing. The aftertaste has some fruitiness in it. Cups 2 and 3 were equally tasty.

If green is your thing, this is an easy one to love. Interesting, complex, and you don’t have to work at enjoying it. A wonderful tea. It is a winner.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Life In Teacup, Jasmine Dragon Pearls

The sample came to me from a friend. I could not find this tea on the company website. Maybe it has been discontinued or maybe it is seasonal. Either way it is a shame as this is quite nice. The dry pearls smell of root beer. Yum. I steeped this for 3 minutes with just below boiling water. The mostly open leaf is whole two leaves and a bud, and smells intensely jasmine. A few months ago I would have run for the hills, but now I can’t wait for this to cool down so I can taste it. The clarity of the brew is excellent. The color is the palest yellow green. The sip has grape notes at the front, and a peachiness beyond the wonderful jasmine. This is really, really nice. The first cup was exceptional. The second was very good. Cup 3 is pleasant but mild. It is milky. There is not near as much flavor as the earlier cups. Two solid steeps is the apparent limit on this one.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Two Leaves and a Bud, Gen Mai Cha Green

I had never had a genmaicha before. This friend supplied sample is in a silk pyramid. I steeped it for 3 minutes in below boiling water. Oh My Goodness, does this smell great as it is brewing! Roasty, toasty, Rice Krispies in my cup. The brewed bag is full to busting as my Grandmother used to say. The brew is clear and light amber/green.

This reminds me of back in Junior High when the school put oats in the hamburger to make it go further. To this day I crave oats in hamburger. Now I don’t have history with this tea, so I have no built in craving, but I can imagine that same need for stretching is how this tea came in to being. So I did a little research… According to Wickepedia, that bastion of always accurate information ;^) genmaicha did originate to stretch the leaf so the poor of Japan could enjoy their tea. So my oats in hamburger analogy is pretty accurate.

Genmaicha is traditionally made with bancha, a lower grade version of sencha, which is also a Japanese tea. This tea is also known as popcorn tea as some of the rice pops while roasting, resembling, well, popcorn.

I like it but I am still trying to wrap my mind around the taste. Both interesting and truly different than anything I have had before. I have no point of reference. By reading other reviews I assume this is an excellent example of this type tea. Once I develop a taste for genmaicha I will probably agree.

Update - Had another cup this morning – from yesterday’s sachet! Never throw them out until you try. I am actually enjoying this more the second time around. I steeped it too long yesterday. Today I am not drinking this because it is interesting or different. I am enjoying it because it is good, really good.

Visit the Gen Mai Cha webpage.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Choice Organic Teas, Wild Forest Black

I have bought Choice teas before I think, but have apparently never logged any of them. This one, I have never even seen before now. It is a bagged version in a paper envelope. The Ingredients listed as simply Organic Black Tea.

First off, the provided brewing instructions (For best results brew 4-5 minutes) will result in a really harsh cup of tea. I went 3 minutes and even at the shorter steep this is very astringent. Cotton mouth astringent. If I had another bag of this I would try 1-2 minutes.

Now on to the positives. This is pleasantly malty. It also has an interesting taste which hints of leather – a first with a black tea for me. I think with a little patience and brewing artistry (getting the most out of a bag is as much an art as it is with loose leaf) this would be a really nice cup.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tazo Wild Sweet Orange

This has been in my drawer forever. I have been afraid to try it. It is a bagged herbal infusion and not a real tea. I will give it my best try… Ok, Starbucks what were you thinking when you bought Tazo? Hibiscus, blackberry, orange, and spearmint. How could this be anyone’s idea of good? I at least waited until the cup cooled before dumping it out. Gross. I could write a longer review but you get the point.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chocolate Mint

We are having an exceptionally warm spell at the beginning of February and it has me in the mood for spring. That reminded me of last spring when my wife and I were wandering through the Farmer’s Market when we happened upon something I had never heard of before… a Chocolate Mint plant. I said, “Seriously?” To which the herb grower said, “Seriously!” So I bought it. I was warned to keep it in a pot unless I wanted it to take over the flower bed. We heeded the warning and put the plant in a large pot on the deck. It grew just fine in partial shade.

It’s pretty fast growing. Once it had some size to it, the plant did not mind having its branches trimmed often. We plucked a few leaves at a time and used them fresh. We also cut multiple stems, bundled them together, and hung to dry. Once dried I stripped the leaves from the stem and put them into an airtight jar.

Chocolate mint is a member of the peppermint family. Who cares right? What you want to know is does it taste like chocolate? My wife perceives it as highly chocolaty. Me, I think it hints at chocolate with a stronger but not overwhelming cooling peppermint. Other people can’t detect the chocolate at all. I think the real secret is to not anticipate a heavy chocolate blast but rather a subtle touch.

What does this have to do with tea? I use the leaf in my tea mug. My wife uses the leaf in her coffee cup. I have also read of it being used in cookies and cakes. For tea, I used 3 to 5 leaves per cup. It will re-steep twice. My favorite use was with a cheap puerh. On its own the puerh was fishy and musty smelling (not good). With the chocolate mint it became a divine drink. Experiment and you may find some awesome uses for this herb. I personally do not like spearmint in tea as I think it tastes like you are drinking with gum in your mouth but I find this mint very tasty.

The plant is hardy and should come up again this spring. If it doesn’t, I will be heading for the Farmer’s Market. I highly recommend you give it a try. Just make sure to grow it in a pot.