Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lipton, Blueberry Pomegranate White Tea

Lipton Description:
Savor every sip of this delectable taste treat of luscious blueberry and succulent pomegranate. White tea is an ancient blend created from the tips of tea buds before the tea leaf blossoms, and perfect with these fresh fruit flavors.

White tea, green tea, dried apples, rosehip peel, chicory root, cinnamon bark, licorice root, ginger root, orange peel, modified cornstarch, natural flavors, dried blackberry fruit pieces, dried black currant fruit pieces, pomegranate juice solids, dried blueberry fruit pieces, dried raspberry fruit pieces.

My Review:
My son popped in today with a box of this to share an afternoon cup of tea. He even got out the cups and steeped the pyramid bags. All I had to do was enjoy. Yep, pretty awesome!

Dry this smells very nice. Not overly strong but quite fruity. You can see the leaf through the bag. As you can read in the ingredient list, there is a lot of different things in the bag. Once steeped, it does not plump as much as I expected but I believe that is due to the large amount of fruit pieces.

The taste is mainly blueberry. I really don't taste the white (or green) tea, but I can't say I am really disappointed. This is very lovely fruit flavored. I wish I had looked up the ingredients before the cup was gone. Maybe I could have separated some other flavors out. Everything melds so wonderfully together. Sometimes a tea with a lot going on can taste muddy. That is not my impression here.

Noted for the record, we used well below boiling water. I left the sachet in the mug just to see what would happen. This never became bitter but did manage to develop a mild bite on the sides of the tongue. If you are getting a bitter cup, try using cooler water.

If you like a sweet fruity no fuss sip, this is well done.    

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back To School

Last week I walked into a college classroom for the first time in 30 years. I was nervous and thrilled at the same time. The two hour lecture left my head spinning and for a moment I doubted whether I should be there. Then I looked around the room and saw the same panicked look on at least half the class. The two hour lab time that followed was filled with inquiring minds trying to make sense of all the information.

I am a drafter. I knew this was my career from 7th grade. For the last 25 years I have been a 2-D AutoCAD user. Upon being 'downsized' earlier this year, I learned the world had changed and I had been left behind. Every interview I managed to arrange ended once it was discovered I did not know how to draw in 3-D. So now I find myself in the confusing but fun world of Solid Works 3-D modeling.

What does this have to do with this blog and tea?

First, I find myself a bit frantic at the moment and the blog is being a little neglected. I will get back to regular updates soon - I hope.

As for tea, after the class it became clear I needed to find a laptop that was new and powerful enough to handle the software I was to download for homework. My Internet speed and WiFi usage limits are too restrictive to allow me to use my desktop computer. I got a 17" HP Pavilion and took it to Starbucks, where I sat for five hours downloading the program. Why Starbucks? My wife insisted they had the fastest public WiFi in town. I doubt it but they did have the coffee she really wanted. I ordered an iced Tazo Earl Grey.

I have never really been that impressed with Tazo. This day was a completely different experience. This may have been one of the best Earl Grey's I have ever tasted. Apparently I have never had a fresh enough tea from the purchased boxes. This tea was solid and not overdone but strong just as I like it. The bergamot was equally strong and quite fruity with a hefty floral note late in the sip. It ended with a nice astringent bite that wrapped the sides of the tongue. I still can't believe this was Tazo. I left very tired from the download but majorly impressed with the tea.

Now I am off to do more homework.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Shanghai Tiantan International Trading Co, Temple of Heaven Special Gunpowder

Product Description:
The best Gunpowder Green Tea is Temple of Heaven Brand. It's not only famous in China but also all over the world.Gunpowder Green Tea derives its name from the shape of its finished tea. The very dark green tea leaves have been rolled into little pellets which look like gunpowder to some connoisseurs.Meanwhile people call it Gunpowder Because: The tea is so well curled and tightened which looks like a small ball or pearl; when you put the tea into your hands, you feel it is heavy; when you pour boiling water into the tea, you can see all large tea leaves spreading out immediately just like explosion. Good Gunpowder Tea uses older tea leaves unlike other varieties of green tea. Tea steeped from Gunpowder has a dark golden color, roasted or toasted taste with a strong aftertaste lingering in the front palette, and a strong roasted or toasted aroma. You can also judge the quality of Gunpowder Green by its appearance. The well tightened and curled tea looks like tiny pearl with dark-green shining color.

My Review:
This is a staple on the shelves in Asian and international food marts. At least it is around here. Registered as Temple of Heaven brand, this tea is distributed by Shanghai Tiantan International Trading Co. It is very inexpensive and deceptively packaged. The little cardboard cube holds 125g (1.41oz) of tea leaf. It is about 1/3 the size of a Twinings tin holding the same weight and 1/3 the price.

Removing the plastic outer wrap and opening the box reveals a paper sack holding the shiny tightly curled leaf. I have had this tea years ago, before I understood what it was. I recall thinking it was strongly smoky like a Lapsang Souchong. Today this has little aroma.

I checked the expiration date on the bottom of the box. This is well within the best by date. It has probably been exposed to too much heat and light. Or my memory is just wrong. My intention is to use this by adding herbs I have grown and just experimenting. Still, it is disappointing knowing my review of it straight may already be tainted.

This is a danger of buying from a food market that does not specialize in tea. Things aren't always properly cared for and can sit too long. Since this is the real world conditions you may encounter, I press on.

Because this leaf is so tightly compressed, I used less than I would normally think necessary. I did not have the product description above when steeping this, so I was unaware they recommend boiling water. I used 190F water in my press and steeped for about 3 minutes. The result is a golden orange brew that is slightly cloudy. It reminds me of apple cider that is nearly clear. The pellets expanded in to large pieces of leaf.

The taste is lightly roasted or toasted, just as claimed. It is similar to a very mild genmaicha. Slightly sweet. Not really astringent but there is a hint of a bite. There is no bitterness. Halfway through the cup I decided to throw in some ice cubes. This made a very refreshing and inexpensive iced tea! Next, I decided to see if the leaves would stand up to a second steep. The wet leaf instead of a toasty aroma is more seaweed. The brew is lighter, more orange. Instead of cider it looks like a glass of Lipton when all the ice has melted. The taste is more earthy than before, not toasted. It is a different cup. A little weak but drinkable.

This tea won't knock your socks off but for what I paid, it is better than it has to be. I am looking forward to adding mints, verbena, and who knows what else in some mad scientist experiments.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Empire Tea Services, De-caffeinated Dakota Sunset

Empire Tea Services Description:
Chocolate Hazelnut flavored black tea with chocolate bits.

Price: $10.00/3.5oz (100g) or $0.20/serving @ 2g

I took the photo myself. Any advice on how to get a clearer image with a pocket digital is much appreciated.

My Review:
This comes from one of only two tea shops within driving distance of my home (The other is a Teavana). My wife and I recently visited their warehouse and she picked up this tea. It is not on their website, so I don't know if they blended this on the spot especially for my wife or just don't have it listed. They do sell a Dakota Sunset, but this is a decaffeinated version. It is black decaf Ceylon tea, chocolate nibs, and hazelnut.

I  prepared this in a mug using microwaved water - never my favorite way of brewing. A Finum basket was used to hold the leaf. The leaf is finely cut and dark. You can spot either the chocolate or hazelnut in the mix - or maybe it's both.

I can't recall if I have had a hazelnut tea before. I imagine I would not forget as this loose tea has a very unusual aroma. The best description I can think of makes it sound just wrong - the tea smells kind of like gym socks. See, I told you. My wife agrees but she loves the taste. She finds it a very relaxing late evening sip. I have to agree.

My wife is the experienced one with this tea. Her advice is don't over steep it or it will get bitter. She routinely steeps this 6 times! I like my tea more stout and manly, so I don't know if I could get that many cups out of it. Usually three is about my limit with Ceylons.

The taste is lovely, smooth, and relaxing. It is mostly a light hazelnut flavor. The chocolate is a quiet background note. The tea base I find difficult to single out. It is really like the three ingredients meld together into one. Steeped correctly there is no bitterness. It is a bit drying but honestly, I kind of like that in a tea. This is a nice simple tea for our quiet evenings. Just what we wanted.

Visit Empire Tea Services on the web.

Friday, August 16, 2013

52Teas, Mango Flavored Black Tea (Iced Tea Series)

52Teas Description:
Approximately 1.2oz. (Yields one gallon)

Ingredients: Premium Indian CTC tea, natural flavors.

My Review:
This tea is not listed on the 52teas website or in their archives, at least I did not see it there. I have no idea how old it is. (I believe it may be three years old) I got this in a mystery box of teas sent by someone reducing their stash.

I like to keep a record of everything I try. You never know if this will show up again. I also wanted an excuse to use my new dorm fridge I put in my den. If I had a microwave and a day bed, I'm not sure I would ever have to leave, except to get more tea.

I was under the mistaken belief that the sealed pouch contained a giant tea bag. So I rather carelessly started to tear it open, when to my surprise CTC started spilling out everywhere. It was really only a tiny amount but it made me stop and pay attention.

The leaf is a very fine powder. It is so fine in fact it looks like the dust used in many tea bags. Not all dust is created equal. This is unadulterated premium Indian tea. I used half the envelop in my press. Man that looks like a lot of tea. I steeped the leaf four times using 16oz of boiling water each time - the limit of my press. As a batch would finish steeping, I poured it into a half gallon container until with the fourth it was filled.

The result was a half gallon of beautifully ruby red tea. I should have tried some hot but instead I poured the brew into four 16oz glass bottles, sealed, let it cool a bit, then placed in the fridge. Its aroma was lightly mango.

The next day I removed one of the bottles to sip/chug as needed. Maybe this sample is just to old. The result is definitely mango but weak. Now that may be all most people want from an iced tea. My heritage thinks iced tea should be made strong enough to walk off on its own. I almost never add sweetener to iced tea, though I almost always do add it to hot tea - probably quite the opposite of most people. After tasting, I did go ahead and add some to this.

With sweetener this is more lively though still not my style. If I take a big chug it does fight back a little. The mango lingers pleasantly in the aftertaste. Assuming this tea is not so old as to have lost its flavor, then I would say this is a mild and enjoyable iced tea. Not my style as I want big flavor in an iced tea. However, it could be this is just too old and nothing I said represents how this tea tasted new.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nina's Teas USA, Lapsang Souchong

Nina's Teas USA Description:
A Black tea from the Chinese province of Fujian. The tea leaves are dried over the smoke of pine fires to give a rich, distinctive smoky flavour which accompanies savoury or spicy flavours perfectly.

Sample provided by Nina's Teas USA for review:

My Review:
Lapsang Souchong. Possibly the most divisive cuppa known in the land of tea. Only sipping puerh could possibly result in a wider range of opinions. As it says above the leaf is smoked over pine fire. The smoke can run the range from light and sweet to BBQ'd pork, and on to ashes.

My experience is limited to only a handful of tastings. In that handful I have experienced the full range of smoke. I have no idea what to expect today. Opening the sample and inhaling reveals heavy sweet smoke.

I steeped this for three minutes with 200F water in my press. The room seemed filled with the aromatic pine smoke.

First sip, and all I can think is Nina's you have completely surprised me. I have reviewed several samples. They have all been exceptional and elegant. Nina's teas are like a sophisticated lady. One that turns heads but commands respect without demanding it. This tea is totally another side of the lady that shocks and delights but still never causes you to lose the respect.

This cup is perhaps the heaviest smoked Lapsang Souchong I have tasted but it is not ashes. This is fully developed sweet pine smoke. It actually tastes like pine to me. It is sweet without the bacon or pork BBQ notes. While it is heavy it has layers of taste as you sip.

One more mention - I was concerned this tea would be overpowered by my lunch. I knew I should not review a new tea with a spicy lunch but that is just how it worked out today. I had a salad bowl of greens with banana peppers, provolone, chicken, and chipotle ranch dressing. I forgot all about the spicy flavors in the bowl after the first sip. This tea strangely cleansed my palate. If you are having an overpowering lunch and are not sure what can stand up to it without clashing, I think I just found it.

Cup two was prepared the next day. I couldn't help myself. As I approached my den the pine smoke grabbed my full attention. This cup is every bit as full of layers of smoky pleasure as the first. Now it slightly reminds me of bacon. Excellent cup especially considering the gap between first and second.

Cup three is lighter but still plenty of delightful flavor.

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 AmazonThey plan to open an ecommerce webstore at ninasteastore.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Nina's Teas USA, Ceylon

Nina's Teas USA Description:
A copper gold coloured and aromatic tea, this Ceylon comes from the south of Sri Lanka. A tea that will marvelously accompany any moment of the day

Sample provided by Nina's Teas USA

My Review:
Have I ever had a straight up cup of Ceylon? Hmmmm. Surely I must have, but none come to mind. Ceylon is the base of most Earl Grey teas I drink, so it is not like we are strangers. We are more like casual acquaintances. Maybe it is time we got to know each other a little better.

I opened the sample and inhaled. It isn't revealing a lot. I get light tobacco leaf from the experience. The leaf itself is very finely cut. I almost used a Finum basket thinking this might pass through the mesh of my press. Sanity or the challenge kicked in and I used the French press and boiling water. The steep was, well, as long as it took to toast a bagel. For this tea to pass the audition it has to stand up to a breakfast bagel.

The brew is dark and the nose is sweet and lightly fruity. My first sip was tea. OK brain, time to wake up. The second sip is, at first, light and flows or flutters down to a more toasty level.  There is some sweetness. There is a note that makes me think green leaves. There is a fruitiness that reminds me of Darjeeling. At the end it rises up against the sides of the tongue in just a touch of astringency. It does not grab your throat like some Assam breakfast teas. This is a smooth tea with no grit.

Nina's flavored teas have all been so successful in their quality. I wasn't sure how they could maintain that level of excellence with a CTC Ceylon - but they have succeeded. This is a very nice tea. It stood its ground against the cream cheese and bagel without either suffering in the combination. So this tastes very good on its own. It works well with others. Yep, it passed the audition.

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 AmazonThey plan to open an ecommerce webstore at ninasteastore.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Empire Tea Services, Earl Grey Supreme

Empire Tea Services Description:
A blend of Ceylon teas, Bergamot flavoring and Orange peel. Outstanding!

Price: $9.50/4oz

My Review:
If you have been reading this blog for long, you know I love Earl Grey. I also love Empire Tea Services. They were my introduction to quality loose leaf tea. My wife and I have tried several of their teas, including three Earl Grey varieties - Green, White and De La Creme. Some how I have never gotten around to Earl Grey Supreme, until today.

This is one of their micro-blend teas, which means it is blended 10 pounds or less at a time. It is fine cut CTC leaf with visible pieces of orange peel. The picture represents this well, except it can't give you that wonderful aroma of bergamot and orange that is trademark to Empire's Earl Greys. For the uninitiated it is quite strong. If you only like a touch of bergamot in your cup, just move along as this is not for you.

I used about 3g of leaf steeped in my press with boiling water for about 3 minutes. The result is a pleasingly dark cup of bergamot scented bliss.

The sip bergamot and orange. Not overwhelming (by my standard) but very intense. The Ceylon is hiding in the background. It pops out of hiding more as the cup cools. This is not the least bitter but it is a touch drying. I added Splenda and it is almost too sweet even for my sweet tooth. Note to self - hold the sweetener! One thing I have learned with Empire's micro-blend line is this will mellow out as the leaf ages a few weeks. I recall when I first tried their Earl Green, I mixed it with another unflavored tea for a while to tone it down until it aged. Another thing I have learned is their teas re-steep well.

Cup two was steeped around 3 1/2 minutes. I didn't really time it. The brew is deep red. Very pretty. The sip is still bergamot and orange but there is a peppery quality about it. I can feel it on the sides of my tongue. The Ceylon base is more obvious in this cup and it is very smooth. No bitterness, slightly drying. This is classic Empire Tea Services Earl Grey.

Cup three (yep, from a CTC Ceylon!) is lighter and reminds me of Twinings at this point. Well, except the base tea is better. I sipped part of the cup, then added ice and enjoyed a chilled bit of refreshment. Iced Earl is quite delicious.

This is a tea for bergamot lovers. By adding the orange bits it does take it of center just a bit. Sometimes when a company messes with my earl, by adding things to it, I get a little bent out of shape. Here it still remains faithful enough to the original that I enjoy the change.

Empire Tea Services lists this tea on their Tea Temptations web site.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Nina’s Teas USA, Taurus

Nina’s Teas USA Description:
Strawberry pieces, strawberry and cream flavors

My Review:
So, if someone asks you if you would like a cup of rooibos, what is your immediate reaction? Too often the reaction is - No thanks. My own take is generally, it's OK and if offered I'd try it. 

That is exactly what happened with this sample. Nina's asked members of Steepster who would be willing to try this blend. I'm no fool, I said pick me, pick me!

I have come to respect Nina's Teas USA as being masters at crafting a wonderful and elegant tasting cup. Let's see if they can blend rooibos in the same magical way. 

The sample looks like standard rooibos. There is only a slight scent, but nothing that really grabs my attention. I poured the sample into my Finum basket, boiled some water and poured into the cup. The steep was around 4 minutes.

I took the first sip and was totally surprised. I don't taste rooibos. Instead this is a very light cup of strawberry. It reminds me of the wild strawberries that grow in our fence row. It is slightly green tasting, not at all tart. This is very nice. I passed the cup to my wife. She said, "ooh strawberry but its kind of light". My son took a sip and also thought of wild strawberry. 

At this point I added some sweetener. OH WOW! I don't care if you never add sweetener - just do it! This is amazing. The cup now explodes with flavor. It is like a big juicy bowl of sweet strawberries and cream. I do catch a slight woodsy aftertaste of the rooibos. It blends so well with the berry and cream that you won't mind. There is no tartness from the berries and no rough edges from the rooibos.

I am impressed at how really good this tastes. This is a caffeine free tisane you can actually look forward to sipping.

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 AmazonThey plan to open an ecommerce webstore at ninasteastore.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Empire Tea Services, Moscow Nights

Tea Temptations Description:
Ceylon tea, Bergamot, Lapsang Souchong, Spanish Safflower petals and Thistle.

My Review:
While restocking my wife's favorite tea (Tea and Herbs) I asked if they had a smoky Earl Grey. A sample of this was tossed in with our shipment (Thank You ETS!).

First, a note of confusion that I will attempt to straighten out. This company, I have known for years as Empire Tea Services. Their newly re-launched website shows their retail name as Tea Temptations. After contacting their president, Lalith Guy Paranavitana, I have learned that ETS is the wholesale side of the business and Tea Temptations is the intended retail arm of the company. Lalith admits this may confuse people initially and ETS has very strong name recognition in the industry. So far now at least I will continue to use the Empire Tea Services name and direct you to the Tea Temptations web store.

I wish I had taken a photo of the tea in the resealable sample envelop (adding my own photos is something I hope to do in the future). The spanish safflower had worked its way to the surface. This gave the appearance of hot embers, along with the wonderful smoke emanating from the pouch it gave this a cool, almost ominous, vibe. So let's crank up a little Enter Sandman and have at it.

I used about 3g (2/3 scoop) of leaf and 12oz of water heated to 200F. I steeped in my press for 4 minutes. No, I did not look for steeping instructions. I just went with what felt appropriate.

The brew looks bronze in the press but much darker and 'thicker' appearing in the mug. The scent is sweet and smoky. I am digging this. It's funny, a year ago, the aroma alone would have sent me scurrying for cover. Today, I'm all bring it on!

The sip is sweet and smoky but the smoke is incredibly smooth. There are no rough edges. This is not a heavy Lapsang Souchong despite my attention to the smoke notes. The addition of the Ceylon gives it a rolling bubbling taste sensation. How can it be smooth rolling at the same time? I don't know, but that is the best way I can describe it.

The bergamot is present and clean but not anywhere near the dominant flavor. So be aware this is not an Earl Grey, but Tea Temptations does not call it by that name. It is a wonderful moderately smoky (they say light) tea with a hint of bergamot adding a bright yet subtle citrus element late in the sip that breathes a welcome bit of lightness into the cup.

This is not exactly what I was expecting, but erasing expectations from my mind, this is very tasty and interesting on its own merits.

Visit the Tea Temptations website.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Yet Another Tea Bag Vs Loose Leaf Article

You've seen them. They’re everywhere. I am talking about the articles touting the superiority of loose leaf tea over the lowly tea bag. The fight never ends and just like the picture here of Linus and Lucy, you know it won't end well for one of them. I've decided it’s about time I voice an opinion on the subject.

Is there a difference between loose leaf and teabags? Absolutely. It’s settled. Stop fighting. The end.

Why are you still reading?

OK, being serious, I review and enjoy a lot of bagged teas. One of the reasons this blog exists is to present the everyday tea drinker with reviews of teas they can easily find at their local grocery store. I also must admit once I discovered higher quality loose leaf tea I was blown away by what I had been missing, so I review a lot of loose leaf here as well. I have heard it said life is too short to drink bad tea. I agree, but the choice between bags and loose is not always so simple.

Perfectly Good Reasons To Drink Bagged Tea:

  • Convenience – this is the main reason most tea in America comes from a bag. 
  • Accessibility – Every corner grocer carries tea bags.
  • Variety – There is a wide range of flavored and unflavored teas easily available even locally.
  • Economics – A $2.50 box of 20 tea bags translates to about $0.13/cup. That’s pretty cheap.
  • Portability – Stick a tea bag in your pocket/purse/lunchbox and if you have access to hot water, you have access to tea.
  • Shelf Life – A box of tea bags will keep on your shelf a long time if the bags are individually wrapped in mylar envelops.

Tea as a beverage has been around for thousands of years. Until the early 1900’s it was always brewed loose. As bagged tea caught on with a world in a hurry, what went in the cup changed with it. The tiny specks of tea known as fannings, or dust, used in most bags today, partially came about because the early bags did not expand enough to allow large leaf pieces to interact with the water. Preferences changed with the bag as well. People learned to like that fannings released all their energy quickly. You could brew one good, stout, fast cup, and move on. In my opinion, this is why pyramid sachets weren't invented earlier in history.

Taste, what about taste? You didn't mention taste and dust is just the scraps from the factory floor. It tastes inferior to loose leaf.

Taste is subjective and fannings are bought as larger pieces and intentionally crushed to make dust. They are not leftover floor scrapings. How could they be? There is far more tea sold in bags than loose leaf.

Now if you want to talk complexity, I will absolutely agree, loose leaf wins hands down. Bagged tea is generally blended so every bag taste exactly the same, every time. Loose leaf, on the other hand, gives up its flavor slowly and it changes from cup to cup and season to season.

Perfectly Good Reasons To Drink Loose Leaf:

  • Complexity – A decent quality loose leaf will have depth far beyond anything from an ordinary bag. 
  • Steepability – A good leaf can often be used to steep a number of times. Each cup will reveal something new. 
  • Variety – With the Internet, even those in the tea barren wasteland have access to a near infinite number of excellent teas.
  • Economics – If you enjoy steeping more than once, doing the math reveals loose leaf is not a lot more expensive than bagged. Sometimes it is even cheaper. Regardless, It is almost always cheaper than restaurant or coffee shop tea. 
  • Meditation – This is a little subjective. I find a cup of bagged tea may charge me up or relax me, but loose leaf often takes me to another level of meditative introspection. I sip and world around me disappears. 
  • The Snooty Factor – This one is a little tongue in cheek. People look at you a little odd when you have a room full of loose leaf tea. You get to feel superior. It is like you know something they don't and even if you told them they might not get it. 

The one reason that is NOT acceptable to drink loose leaf, is so that you can criticize or belittle others for enjoying tea bags. You may dislike, even hate, a particular tea or method of preparing tea. That is OK, but it does not give you authority to put down someone else for enjoying it. Sorry to be so harsh.

Not everyone is interested in the complexity of the cup. Not everyone has the desire to steep more than once. Some people just enjoy a simple fast no fuss cup. Some like it straight, some with milk. Some will use sugar, sometimes lots of sugar, or sweeteners (I have a personal Splenda monkey on my back). It's all good. There is no one-size-fits-all right way.

In the world of tea, there is no reason for the Us Vs Them mentality. All true tea is made from the leaf of the camellia sinensis plant. It is time we unite and accept one another in our differences. While there is much variation in quality, and numerous ways to prepare it, we tea people all enjoy our cuppa. We should not think of it as Loose Leaf Vs Tea Bags anymore but rather Loose Leaf AND Tea Bags. There is room for both. Life is too short to drink tea with a bad attitude.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Blue Raven Tea Company, Pomelicious Pomegranate

Blue Raven Tea Description:
An elegant and healthy blend of white tea, rose blossom leaves and pomegranate bits with pineapple added for a tropical twist.

My Review:
This is my first experience with Blue Raven Tea Company. Looking at the leaf in the package it appears much darker than most white teas. The resealable one ounce pouch has a product label on the front and a description with steeping instructions on the back. When I opened the pouch I was met by a lovely scent of rose and fruit. 

I used two heaping wooden spoons of leaf and 12 oz of water heated to steaming briskly in my press per instruction. The instructions say to steep this for two minutes. I went at least three as I got distracted. 

The wet leaf is large broken pieces and light green in color. I can see rose blossom pieces and small bits of pomegranate and pineapple. The brew is lightly orange in my cup. Smells nice. The nose is rose and pomegranate. 

The sip is similar to the scent. Rose predominates but not in an overwhelming way. This is supported by the pomegranate. I cannot single out the pineapple, which for my tastes is a good thing. There is a certain amount of bitterness here. I am thinking this is probably due to my over steeping and not the fault of the tea. I will check this in the re-steep. Once the cup cools, I can taste the white tea in the aftertaste.

For the second cup from the same leaf, I watched the time more carefully. The good news is there is no hint of bitterness. The bad news is the rose and fruit flavors are all but gone when the cup is hot. As it cools the rose and fruit come back but lightly so, there is also an additional peppery note that shows up in the cup.

I'm not convinced I should give up just yet. I am going to start fresh tomorrow with new leaf and an eye on the clock. The flavor of the first cup is very nice just bitter. I think this is just one of those teas that is a little temperamental and demands some attention. I think it will be worth it.


Day two. I began this session with a little less leaf than yesterday. I used 1 full scoop that came with my press. I heated the water to 180F and timed the steep at two minutes. The results were visually the same as yesterday.

The sip is very lovely. Blue Raven calls this elegant. I can agree with that description. This is an altogether different cup than the previous day. There is not a hint of bitterness. The rose is still the centerpiece but it is less so today. The pomegranate is right beside and only a step behind. I can easily taste the white tea. There is a creaminess almost like vanilla. I am not sure where it is coming from, possibly it is the pineapple. This is an extremely pleasant cup.

For the second cup with the same leaf, I added 30 seconds to the steep.  The second cup like yesterday is less flavorful when hot. There is no bitterness. I do not notice the pepper note I experienced yesterday. The flavor of the second does pick up nicely as the cup cools - which is the way I prefer my tea so I am OK with it. If I were determined to drink this really hot and get two cups from the leaf, I believe I would steep the second another minute or so. A possible better option is to pour the first and second steeps into a teapot to mix them together.

This is a good example of the need to pay attention to what you are doing and take notes. Had I just blasted through the first cup and moved on, I would have missed the delightful cup this leaf can produce. I have at least one more Blue Raven tea to review in the near future and I am looking forward to it. Next time I will follow directions.

Visit the Blue Raven Tea Company site.