Monday, May 27, 2013

Cuppa Crew Tea Company, Super Fancy Formosa

Cuppa Crew Description:
An absolutely stunning Taiwanese oolong that’s nearly a black tea. Look for hints of peach and baked pastry – truly delectable!

Excuse me while I steep another cuppa….

My Review:
I won an ounce of this in a contest - yeah me!

The tea is packaged in a resealable pouch that looks like brown wrapping paper on the outside but it is aluminum or mylar on the inside. Point is, the tea stays fresh. The leaf is broken pieces of leaf that looks like, well, dried leaves. The dry aroma is mostly like hay and bark and is ever so slightly roasted. It reminds me of fall, but it is a wet cool spring day, so close enough.

I used a healthy scoop of leaf in my press with water heated to heavy steaming. My steep time was around 2 1/2 minutes. The brew looks bronze in the press but much darker in the mug.

This is very different than any oolong I have had before. It reminds me of Darjeeling. It is almost a black tea with no smoke and only the lightest roasted notes. I can kind of agree to peach notes because I read it. I am not sure I would come up with that description on my own. I am getting light and fruity with wood notes. This is not a bold black flavor. it is smooth with no astringency, bitterness, or bite. Two thumbs up!

The description says this tastes pastry. I am not sure what that means. It is almost malty but not, almost cocoa, but not. It’s not really yeasty. It does kind of taste like the crust of bread – kind of. Maybe bread dipped in Darjeeling, without the Muscatel. Wow, I’m at a loss. One thing I can tell you is the problem with this tea – it keeps disappearing out of my cup.

This is my very first Formosa Oolong. I must say I really am enjoying this one.

Visit the Cuppa Crew Tea Company and check this one out!

Friday, May 24, 2013

TeaVivre, Liu An Gua Pian 2013

TeaVivre Description:
A great find for those looking for a more green tea with more character!  Like several of our other teas, Liu'an Guapian is deservedly in the list of China's top ten teas.  Made only from larger, mature leaves that are rolled up during processing, the dry leaves have a distinctively plump shape to them – giving rise to its Chinese name of “melon seeds”.  Very uncharacteristic for a green tea, it has a quite sweet taste and strong aroma, that is also overlaid with an almost smoky, spicy tang.

Sample provided by TeaVivre

My Review:
My review today is for the April 2, 2013 harvest. I have already reviewed a previous version of this tea. Instead of showing the leaf as usual, I decided to use a cupped picture. I just thought it was a beautiful image of the liquor.

The scent of the dry leaf is like a cut dried field and slightly sweet. This tea is made from mature leaves without buds, new leaves, or stems. It is rolled so that it resembles little spears or trumpets. In China it is known as melon seed. It is the color of dried grass. I used the entire sample (7g) in my Finum basket and steaming water for a 1 1/2 minute steep.

As you can see from the picture, the liquor is very lightly yellow colored. It is clear and bright. The nose is vegetal and not as strong as the description suggested. The leaf turns brightly green after steeping.

Prepare today with more leaf than last years sample I am getting a different flavor profile from the first cup. This is green and vegetal laid over a mineral water bed, if that makes any sense. The creaminess I caught using less leaf last year now comes in late in the sip. I am also picking up the taste of corn. I don't recall ever using that term in a review before. Using more leaf also brings with it a green bite late in the sip.

My first thought after finishing the cup was that I preferred brewing this in my usual western mug style more than the quasi-gong fu style I used today. My second thought was I need another cup of tea. The leaf has really expanded after the second steep. I only went one minute on this cup. The brew is darker and more honey colored.

Upon sipping I am delighted with this cup. It is creamy and mineral at the same time. It is very green tasting and much sweeter than the first cup. The bite is barely present. The aftertaste really lingers. The third cup will have to wait until I return from the movies. I look forward to both.

 Visit the TeaVivre web site.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nina's Teas USA, Demain

Nina's Teas USA Description:
Raspberry and strawberry coupled in tenderness will make you melt in pleasure. A green tea to overindulge in!

This is the last of the latest round of samples provided by Nina's Teas USA.

My Review:
I opened the sample packet this evening and was greeted by the delightful scent of strawberries and raspberries. I could sniff this leaf all night... or I could just brew it up! The leaf is dark and shiny just like in the picture.

I used a 6oz Corelle cup and my Finum basket. The water was heated to steaming and I steeped for three minutes. The result was a liquor that is bright and clear and the color of honey. Did I mention the aroma? Smells so good.

The sip is lightly fruity. This is not an over the top flavored tea. The strawberry is the main flavor. I had a strawberry salad earlier this evening. So I can tell you this tastes natural. The raspberry is lighter and supports. It is easy to pick it out in the scent as you breathe will sipping. Also very natural.

The green tea is easily detected in the sip as well. That is something I always appreciate in a good cup. In lesser blends the flavoring overwhelms the green base. Not here. Lovely and vegetal. There is a slight bite at the end. I like it, but a shorter steep would probably eliminate the bite.

I added a small amount of sweetener to make the fruit flavors pop. The second steep was just as flavorful as the first. Maybe my favorite part of the sip is the lingering berry aftertaste. This is a wonderful cup. Thank you Nina's for sharing this with me.

Nina's Paris has been blending masterful fragrances for 300 years. They have brought this mastery to their USA tea line. You can currently find their offerings on Amazon. They plan to open an ecommerce webstore at ninasteastore.

Monday, May 20, 2013

TeaVivre, Nonpareil Huang Shan Mao Feng Green tea

TeaVivre Description:
The historic Huang Shan Mao Feng is well-known as one of the ten famous Chinese tea. This Ming Qian Huang Shan Mao Feng was picked on March 23, 2013, is a kind of pre-ming green tea. Pre-ming tea has strict requirement of the picking time and its making standard, thus the bird-tongue appearance could been perfect formed, as well as the brisk flavor. Both of which are favored by tea lovers.

Sample provided by TeaVivre.

My Review:
You have no idea what I went through trying to make this tea - or apparently how badly I am in need of a introspective moment with a good cup. Let's just say the last several minutes, filled with dropping and spilling, almost resulted in outward cries for something (anything!) to go right. It happens.

I opened the sample packet and took a whiff of the sweet and slightly sour scent of this lovely leaf. In appearance it looks just like the picture. TeaVivre recommends 7g of leaf for an 8oz pot of tea. So I used the whole sample for this review. Today I am using a Finum basket and a mug. I normally would use my press but given my tendency today to drop everything I touch - the fairly indestructible Finum makes more sense.

The water was heated to heavy steaming, then allowed to cool. I steeped for 1 1/2 minutes. The resulting liquor is very clear and light yellow/green in color.

In the sip, the first sensation I get is of clean mineral water. This quickly changes to a smooth creaminess and then the flavor begins to rise with the grain taste of oats accompanied by more vegetal notes. What I call oats, I have read other reviews that refer to this as chestnut. Afterwards, a nice astringent green bite kicks in. TeaVivre calls it brisk, and it is, but not anything like the bite of an Assam based tea. The aftertaste is fresh and hangs around like it is begging me to take another sip. So of course I must oblige. Later I notice there is a fair amount of cooling sensation present as well.

I had the second cup with supper. it stood up very well to a spinach/strawberry salad with orange poppy seed dressing and a honey glazed Parmesan chicken thing my wife made up. This combination brought out some spicy notes that weren't obvious before.

Mao Feng refers to picking one bud and two leaves. Huang Shan literally means yellow mountain. This version is an early picked or pre-ming tea of Te Gong grade or nonpareil. Nonpareil is French for without equal. I really don't understand what all that means but this is considered a better quality grade of tea. I can tell you this is a very nice cup of tea. It is just what I needed to relax my mind and body. I am back in my happy place.

The leaf will re-steep for a total of three times. I will be trying this one again with my normal western approach of 2.5g in my mug with a longer steep. I'm curious to see the difference between the two methods.

If you want to learn more about this tea and how it is grown and processed go to the Nonpareil Huang Shan Mao Feng product page.

You can also go to the main page of TeaVivre's website by following this link.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Misty Peak Teas, 2013 Yiwu Spring Sheng Pu'er

Misty Peak Teas Description:
This is a wonderful tea to drink today, and a very ideal tea to invest in to allow to further mature.The tea is produced in Yiwu, Xishuangbanna Yunnan China: the birthplace of tea and the most renowned village in the world for Sheng Chaa Pu’er. Nearly every collector and enthusiast holds to Yiwu Village as their most prized choice for Pu’er Tea.

Price: $74.95, Available is a Bing/cake/disc of the finest Sheng Chaa Pu’er(Green Pu’er Tea). We also have them available in the bamboo wrap, 7 at a time. ONE BING WILL MAKE ROUGHLY 600-800 CUPS OF TEA…THATS A PENNY A CUP, while tea bags at the store are about 75 cents each cup. Inquire for orders of more than 2, as quantity may be limited. Each cake is 357 grams, and was produced this year.

My Review:
Misty Peak Teas offered several Steepster members a sample of their sheng pu’er for review. I jumped at the opportunity. When they said they would drop a sample in an envelope, well, they weren’t kidding. Upon opening the envelope I discovered a large chunk of compressed leaf and a lot of bits of leaf that had come loose in the mail scattered all over. Having never received a sample this way it amused me.

The chunk of leaf is about 7g. I used the entire sample. Normally I would only use 3 1/2 grams and 10 ounces of water per cup. I am not doing my normal thing because Misty Peak Teas has specific instructions they say to follow. I can’t actually prepare it their way either, because I lack a clay pot, so their directions are also out the window. I’ll try to follow the general idea where I can. I used a Finum basket to hold the leaf and a tiny Corel cup to steep and sip from. I will use about 3.5oz of water in the each steep and cover with the Finum basket lid. This serves just fine as a budget gaiwan.

I used boiling water for a rinse of a few seconds to make sure to remove any impurities. Pouring out the rinse, I let the basket set a moment to further wake up the leaf.

1st steep @ 10 seconds
The brew is clear and honey colored. The wet leaf has an earthy kind of wormy smell. The sip, however, starts light then becomes earthy/woodsy and slightly creamy. There is nothing off-putting about the taste. It seems kind of salty. I do notice strong camphor notes at end of the sip leaving a tingling, cooling sensation, with a feeling of a dry coating all around the checks mouth and tongue – I have never experienced it to this degree. This is slightly astringent which is not surprising as it is a young green tea.

2nd steep @ 10 seconds
The leaf is loosening up nicely. The brew is chestnut in color. The taste is less earthy and now becoming more metallic – it reminds me of touching aluminum with your tongue (I was a weird kid). It changes late in the sip - kind of fruity. Feels dry and more astringent. I now notice a sticky lip feel.

3rd steep @ 15 seconds
Is this the same tea? It seems much sweeter up front this go around. Mid sip it has bite, like one would expect from a green or even black tea. Then it melts into a smooth creaminess mixed with some astringency making for an interesting combination. This is nice.

4th steep @ 15 seconds
The leaf is now nearly filling the Finum basket. This is very similar to the 3rd steep but with less bite and more smooth. The main thing I noticed with this cup was how quickly it disappeared! Yum!

5th steep @ 20 seconds
I am slow to pick up on fruit notes in tea unless I am drinking a flavored tea. Even I noticed it in this tea on the second cup. I just don’t know what fruit it is, apricot maybe? Anyway it is quite strong in this cup and the aftertaste.

6th steep @ 20 seconds
The brew is getting darker with each steep as is now a light orange. The cup has changed once again. Now it is more mineral and copper tasting. It makes the insides of my cheeks and my lips tingle. The creaminess has also disappeared.

Ok, that’s between 18 and 24 ounces of tea already. Time for an intermission! I had to run errands and took a break of several hours. I just left the leaf in the basket. Time to get drinking again...

7th steep @ 25 seconds
Pretty much the same as the 6th. Mineral but very smooth and easy to drink.

8th steep @ 30 seconds
This is becoming lighter in color. It now looks like honey. Throwing a tiny amount of sweetener in really brings this cup to life for me. Of course I am a sugar junkie.

9th & 10th steeps at 1 minute
I decided to combine the last two cups I am going to do for this test run. This cup returns to creamy with a woodsy edge. Once again I added a bit of sweetener. This toned down the astringency and made for a great finish to the review. I believe the leaf has more to give but I have run out of day.

Some Final Thoughts:
I really enjoyed this young pu-er a lot. I think it would have survived several western mug style brewings with as much ease as it did gaiwan style.
A cake of this could potentially make 750+ cups of tea if you steep each 5g of leaf 10 times as recommended. That makes this $0.10/cup not $0.01 as noted on Misty Peak’s website. Someone made a simple math error and I don’t think it was me. Even if you only steep the leaf 5 times that still results in a frugal $0.20/cup. A bing really can be economical over the life of the leaf and a good sheng pu-er will only gets better with age and proper storage.

Visit Misty Peak Teas web site.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Nina's Teas USA, Gyokuro

Nina's Teas USA Description:

(From Uji tea gardens, near Kyoto, Japan)
Gyokuro is the most prestigious of the Japanese teas, its name literally meaning “pearls of dew.” The tea leaves, coming from the first harvest, are shaded for a few days before being hand picked. They are steamed, dried and rolled length-wise. This tea, shiny and clear green in colour, will surprise you with its smooth and silky texture. The jade green infusion is mellow and fresh with slight accents of the sea.

Sample provided by Nina's Teas USA

My Review:
That last couple weeks have not been very conducive to tea drinking or review writing. The spring weather changes and high pollen count have definitely taken a toll on my head. Today I am feeling up to tasting this tea from Nina's. This is my first Gyokuro.

The leaf scent is very fresh and grass-like. I poured the entire sample into my press and added water heated to a temperature similar to what I use for white tea. That means cooler than for a normal green tea. The brew is jade in color and the nose is vegetal, yet reminds me of what I can only imagine is the scent of the ocean as I have never been to the coast.

I have had Sencha on several occasions. This is not Sencha. I think grassy tasting when I picture sencha. This does not taste overly grassy to me. It is more vegetal with light grassy notes, and a light mineral touch. By using the lower brewing temperature there is no bitterness. Nina's description is spot on. This is smooth and silky. Oh, and look, Nina's mentions slight accents of the sea! I didn't just imagine it (I start my notes and while adding them to the blog I grab the company description).

As I mentioned, this is my first Gyokuro. I don't know by comparison if this is a good representation of the type. Given my previous experience with Nina's teas, I suspect it is of high quality. I can say with confidence that I very much enjoyed this cup.

Nina's Paris has been blending masterful fragrances for 300 years. They have brought this mastery to their USA tea line. You can currently find their offerings on Amazon. They plan to open an ecommerce webstore at ninasteastore.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

TeaVivre, 2013 Bi Luo Chun Green Tea (Pi Lo Chun)

TeaVivre Description:
Made only from tea leaf tips in an involved process that results in it having a tight rolled up shape, Bi Luo Chun is renowned for its strong fruity aroma and mellow flavour.  A plantation growing Bi Luo Chun is amazing to visit, with the tea plants mixed in with a variety of fragrant fruit trees to give the tea its aroma and taste.  TeaVivre's Bi Luo Chun is premium grade direct from the slopes of Dong Ting mountain, has a bright green color and strong almost citrus aroma to it.  An amazing tea!

Sample provided by TeaVivre

My Review:
This review is for the 2013 spring harvest of this tea. I have previously reviewed the 2011 harvest.

I'm not going to lie to you. I freakin' love this tea. There are so many teas  from TeaVivre that I love, it is hard to pick a single favorite, but this one is really close to the top of the list. First off, the leaf just looks so cool. I called it old time upholstery stuffing last time because it is woolly looking and the color is just so interesting. The aroma of the dry leaf is fresh and a combination of sweet and sour, like a fresh cut field of grain.

This steeps up nearly clear with an amber tint. The wet leaf scent seemed vegetal and lightly floral today.

A good cup of tea should catch your attention. A great cup of tea will block the rest of the world for a moment. A sip of this tea affects me this way. It starts with a touch of grain - oats, and over a year after first tasting this it still reminds me of Cheerios. There is also a floral touch similar to a green oolong. Late in the sip it turns creamy. The aftertaste is pleasantly creamy and grainy.

The leaf resteeps well. I highly recommend this to Chinese green tea lovers. For those who really aren't sure what they like, TeaVivre sells samples of all the teas they carry. Samples are a great way to become acquainted with a variety of new teas without a big commitment.

Visit the TeaVivre website.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Nina's Teas USA, Tigre Blanc

Nina's Teas USA Description:

Orange flowers, peach
A semi-oxidised tea with the soothing taste of peach blended with orange flowers. Make time to enjoy a cup of this tea and appreciate a sheer moment of peace and serenity.

Sample provided by Nina's Teas USA

My Review:
Man, the cool wet spring weather and the abundance of pollen in the air have knocked me out of tea drinking commission lately. I think the worst is past, so let's drink some tea.

I opened up the sample packet and breathed in the aroma of peach and orange. It is not overly heavy and is quite nice. There is also a darker scent in there as well. Pouring the leaf into the press and adding heavily steaming water reveals the roasty notes of the oolong base. I steeped for about 3 minutes. The brew is caramel in color.

By the roasted scent of the wet leaf, I was expecting this to taste like a heavily roasted wuyi oolong. Instead the flavor is only mildly roasted, more nutty actually. At the beginning of the sip it tastes lightly peach. Then oolong picks up. Toward the end of the sip it turns back to peach with an ever so light touch of orange. This has a natural sweetness but still handles added sweetener if desired. The peach lingers long in the aftertaste. As the cup cools, the peach picks up in intensity, yet remains balanced. This is a worthy cup.

I did not try this myself, but another reviewer prepared this as a cold brewed tea and stated it was delicious.

One thing I have learned is that Nina's Paris has been blending masterful fragrances for 300 years. They have brought this mastery to their USA tea line. The flavors are generally light, always refreshing, and wonderfully natural. For now you can find their offerings on Amazon. They plan to soon open an ecommerce webstore at ninasteastore.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Teavivre, Organic Nonpareil Ming Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea

Teavivre Description:
The fresh Organic Nonpareil Ming Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Tea provided by Teavivre is picked before Tomb-Sweeping Day, an important solar term in Chinese agriculture. Ming Qian (Pre-ming) tea is seldom damaged by insects. Its buds and leaves are delicate and tender. With a mellow taste, it is emerald green in color and quite beautiful in appearance. Since the weather is relatively cold before Tomb-Sweeping Day, the number of fresh buds is limited and they grow slow. Therefore, a few leaves can meet the picking standard. Compared with those picked after Tomb-Sweeping Day, Ming Qian (Pre-ming) tea is of top grade.

Harvest time: March 8 - March 10, 2013

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
For those of us who don't know the word 'Nonpareil', I looked it up and found it basically means without equal. I opened up the sample packet and took a deep sniff of the leaf. It is slightly sour like a fresh cut field. The leaf is flat, straight, and emerald in appearance. I normally follow Teavivre's directions for steep time and temperature. The leaf amount I am not following. The Chinese apparently like to use a lot of leaf as this calls for 8g per 8oz water. That is a lot of leaf. I am using half the sample or roughly 3.5g.

The resulting liquor is yellow tinted and very clear. The wet leaf was an amazingly hearty steamed spinach aroma.

The first thing I noticed about the sip is it is so smooth. It is slightly sweet and has a milk like feel across the tongue. I have also had the Superfine and the Premium versions of this tea. Each has the basic Long Jing flavor, yet each is different. This is the most mellow of the three. The Premium had the most bite. Teavivre says this has a chestnut like taste. I am not familiar with the taste of chestnuts, so I can't verify the similarity. To me it is a non-bitter Chinese green tea grassy with a woody kind of bamboo flavor. The aftertaste lingers nicely.

This tea is not cheap at $3.18 per 8oz cup when prepared per Teavivre's instructions, compared to $1.95 for the Superfine and $1.18 for the Premium. By American standards this is at the higher end of the price scale to most of us for a loose leaf tea. The higher price reflects the quality and limited availability of this tea. If you steep the leaf three times (highly recommend), it will reduce the cost to $1.06/cup. Remember what you paid for a cup on your last trip to Starbucks, and you didn't flinch? Hint - it was more than $1.06. If you cut down the amount of leaf as I did, you will also be cutting the price per cup at least in half. Now remember what you paid at the restaurant for low quality bagged tea. For the same money, or far less with multiple steeps, you could be enjoying this top notch and rare Dragon Well as a special treat.

For everyday use the Premium Dragon Well is excellent and works out to $0.34/cup if you steep 3 times. I have not tried their entry level Dragon Well yet but from other's reviews it is still a very nice tea at $0.23 with three steeps. That is certainly in the everyday range. If you have not tried a Dragon Well tea, Teavivre sells sample sizes of all their offerings and shipping is free with a $30 purchase.

Visit the Teavivre website.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Review of 19 Lessons On Tea

I downloaded the Kindle version of this guidebook by 27Press from Amazon. I don’t actually own a Kindle, so I also downloaded a reader app for the PC. Both were free at the time. Yeah me! The softback book normally sells for $7.99. The Kindle version is $2.99. The book is 118 pages. It is an easy read. I read it in one sitting.

This is a basic primer that also covers some ground often left out of other books. It starts at the beginning explaining what tea is, where it comes from, and how the leaves become tea. None of this is overly deep or technical and it doesn't need to be to inspire a little awe and respect for the leaf you are steeping.

It expands from there with a chapter on each basic types of tea – green, white, yellow, oolong, black, and puerh. It covers what makes each type different and lists some of the major variations within each category. The yellow tea chapter is a nice addition, as it often gets neglected.

There are also chapters on specialty tea (blended and flavored) and even herbals. Though not technically tea, I find the inclusion of herbals makes for a more rounded discussion without being critical of those calling it tea.

There is a chapter covering how to brew. Others cover teapots, accessories, how to buy, and more. It really covers a lot of ground in a little space, and it does it well for the most part.

One area where I find it falls short is including opinions on whether to add milk, honey, or lemon to each category of tea. This is a personal call. If you enjoy white tea with additives, what does it matter to someone else? If you never add anything to Irish Breakfast, as long as you enjoy it who cares? It is your cup. Enjoy it as you please. I could understand it the authors had simply stated that traditionally one would prepare a tea a certain way, and left it open to personal tastes. One size does not fit all.

The authors did make some errors in the book concerning caffeine.  They perpetuated a couple myths that are repeated often. The first is in the chapter on white tea where it is stated white tea has "lower levels of caffeine than any other type of tea." In truth, some white teas have quite high caffeine levels. It varies from varietal to varietal.

The other error concerns a decaffeination myth. Despite what is claimed, steeping for 30 seconds, dumping the cup down the drain, and then resteeping does not remove the caffeine. It does pour a perfectly good cup of tea down the drain. Caffeine is released throughout the useful steeping life of the leaf. If you want a decaffeinated tea, you will have to buy one specifically processed to remove the caffeine. You cannot rinse it out. Repeating the myth does not make it true.

Overlooking the few trouble spots, this is an enjoyable read. It is clearly written and well thought out. My advice is save a tree and $5 and opt for the ebook version.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Nina's Teas USA, The sur la Lune

Nina's Teas USA Description:
Blueberry, passion fruit, raspberry, orange Oranges, passion fruit and red fruits united in harmony to bring you a balanced blend of delicious flavours.

Sample provided by Nina's Teas USA

My Review:
First take a moment to check out the picture. This alien looking leaf is what I found when I opened the sample bag. The aroma is blueberry and citrus. This, as far as I recall, is my first blueberry tea. Dry it smells pretty awesome.

In the press it goes with near boiling water for a 3 minute steep. I am not sure what Nina's recommends. I just used my stock flavored black tea brewing method. The cup is nice and dark with a bright shininess. The wet leaf aroma is berry and citrus with a dark carmel roastiness.

The last tea by Nina's that I reviewed was Magicienne. I said it reminded me of eating cotton candy at the fair. This one is a good follow up. It is like a grown up version of the shaved ice drink we often enjoy in the summer. The flavors are so balanced that I really can't separate them - other than the blueberry. I drank this warm and found it very nice, but I feel certain that iced with a little sweetener this would be amazing.

Nina's Paris has been around for over 300 years. Just recently they have begun to sell tea in America. You can find at least some of the offerings on Amazon. They also plan to open an ecommerce webstore at ninasteastore.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Starbucks Double Wall Ceramic Traveler

Starbucks Description:
Starbucks® Double Wall Ceramic Traveler, 355 ml/12 fl oz

Our popular ceramic travel cup features our Siren logo and a new splash guard for an optimal drinking experience. The double wall construction helps keep hands cool and drinks warm, and the locking lid minimizes spills when secured properly. Grippy rubber pad on bottom. Holds up to 355 ml/12 fl oz of coffee or other favorite beverage. Handwash recommended, do not microwave.

Price Paid: $10.95

My Review:
No, I have not switched to coffee, but I am going to review this travel mug from Starbucks. We have several travel mugs in the cabinet. Some have handles. Most don't. All of them are stainless steel on the outside and plastic on the inside. My wife uses them for coffee. She likes them. I don't. Why? No, it's not because my wife nastied them up with coffee, even though she did - eeeewww. To me, the plastic sucks most of the flavor out of the cup. I asked other tea drinkers, and most told me they stopped using travel cups for this very reason. The flavor sucking is not as severe as drinking from a paper cup, but ceramic has spoiled me.

Try this experiment for yourself. Brew your favorite tea and pour into a paper cup, a plastic cup, and a ceramic one. Give each a taste and see if you agree - the ceramic just tastes fuller and richer.

So, I went shopping for a ceramic travel cup. I was surprised the best price I could find was this ceramic cup from Starbucks. With its double wall construction, the cup is heavier than I expected. It felt about twice as heavy as my favorite 12oz home mug. Many reviews I read thought this seemed flimsy. I have no idea why. Maybe they changed the design before I bought mine as it feels very solid to me. It should go without saying, this is ceramic so no matter how solid it is, if you drop it, it is probably toast. Or maybe that would be croutons!

The lid press fits into the cup. There is a ledge around the inside lip that acts as a seat for the lid. It does not screw into place and therefore could, and probably would, come out if the traveler gets knocked over. The center of the top slides and closes solidly enough to prevent splashing.

In using the cup, I found the outside stayed cool enough to hold comfortably. Yet, the top rim of the cup is very hot when the tea is first poured in to the cup. I guess the positive side of that is it serves to remind you near boiling tea is about to hit your tongue. My impression is the all ceramic traveler cooled more quickly than the stainless and plastic versions. That is not only fine with me, but preferred. I cannot drink really hot tea. It did remain nice and warm for quite a while, more so than my home mug. There is a version of this cup that has a stainless exterior. It is roughly $5 more. I suspect it would stay hotter longer, which I would not like.

Now to get to what is really important to me. First, the ceramic feels good on the lips. Second, this fits securely in my car cup holder. Third, I realize any time a lid is put on a mug you are going to muffle the flavor some, as your nose is restricted in catching the full bouquet, even so, this cup does not suck all the flavor out of the tea like the plastic versions.

Bottom line - whenever packing a standard mug is not practical, this ceramic travel cup works very well for me. The price was good. The taste is good. I am a happy sipper. You can find this traveler at your local Starbucks or in the online store.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Teavivre, Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea

Teavivre Description:
Dragon Well (Long Jing) tea can be ranked as the first of the ten famous Chinese tea, have gained a lot of reputation around nation and abroad. In china, there are many good dragon well teas while only few of them is able to pass the international organic certification. Teavivre choose this tea from the origin place of dragon well tea, Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province. Based on the guarantee of being organic, the picking of materials and producing are the top among dragon well teas. You won’t be disappointed whether you’re organic food lovers or tea lovers who chasing high quality of teas.

Harvest time: March 10 - March 20, 2013

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
This review is for the Spring 2013 production of this tea. In January 2012, I posted my review of the premium grade Dragon Well from the 2011 production. The leaf reviewed here is organic and a of higher quality grade leaf. In examining the leaf it appears exactly as the picture portrays it. The dry scent in the sample bag is slightly sour and reminds me of fresh baled hay.

I used 3.5g, or half the sample, in my press and brought the water to a heavy steam, then let it cool a moment before pouring over the leaf. The steep time was about two minutes. The aroma of the wet leaf is wonderful. It makes me think stew beef and buttery beans. The liquor is light yellow green and very clear and bright.

The sip is crisp and fresh. Using the long end of the recommended steep time gives this a slight bitter edge with a mineral finish. A shorter time would produce softer edges, though I find the longer time produces a very refreshing mug.

This doesn’t make me think buttery or creamy. There is more a milkiness to the feel. The taste is vegetal, sure, but also what I guess is best described as nutty. I find it more savory than sweet. The aftertaste lingers, though not as long as some green teas I have had.

I wish I had some of the premium grade left for a side-by-side comparison. Going strictly from memory (usually not a good idea) I believe this version is brighter with less of a roasty feel about it.

This makes a very nice cup of tea.

I would never intentionally think to ice this, but as I was typing my notes the mug reached room temperature and I must say I really liked this cold.

Teavivre has quickly become one of my favorite tea companies. The quality of everything I have tasted from them has been excellent. At the time of this writing you can get free shipping with a $30 purchase.

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