Thursday, December 26, 2013

Teavivre, Rose Dian Hong Black Tea

Teavivre Description:
Rose Black Tea has pink rose flower mixed in the tea leaves, carrying a strong fragrance of roses. After the Dian Hong black tea is made, the tea worker will add rose flower and pure rose extractives in to the tea, giving the black tea a rich rose scent. If you like high floral scent, this Rose Black Tea will be a good choice.

My Review:
I received a sample bag of this tea with my Black Friday order. I stocked up on a couple of staples - Yunnan Dian Hong Golden Tips, and Golden Monkey Black Tea. I also grabbed a jasmine green tea, and some powdered green tea. I won't need to buy tea for a very long while - but I probably will anyway. It's an addiction and I can't deny it.

So on to today's lovely leaf. The picture from Teavivre's site is, as always, a good representation of what you get. My rose bud was mostly cream colored with pink tones below the surface of the outer layer. The leaf is long and twisted with beautiful shades of brown. The aroma is only the faintest of rose. I have only recently started to warm up to rose teas. My early experience was akin to perfume and just too girly. The scent of this is promising.

I used about 3.5 g in my press with water heated to 194 F. The steep was 4 minutes. The liquor is a deep amber/light orange. The wet leaf scent is mostly Dian Hong with the lightest note of rose. The cup aroma is a little heavier on the rose but still in the delicate stage.

I always expect Teavivre to deliver a flavorful tea and this does not disappoint. There is an amazing balance of black tea to rose flavor. Neither dominates. I will say if you are expecting a strong rose presence, this is probably not one for you. Early in the sip I experience the slightly malty/honey/caramel wonder that is Dian Hong. Then mid sip the rose blossoms but remains light and delicate. The flavors meld together in a creamy textured delight that passes into the sweet aftertaste.

Think you don't like flowery teas? You should grab a sample of this with your next order. A very nice tea.

Visit the Teavivre website.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Rivertea, Criss Cross

Rivertea Description:
Prepare to reap an abundance of wellness with this gem from the breathtaking peaks of the Anhui Province of China. The refreshing flavor of this tea with notably brisk notes and a slightly sweet aroma will make you feel so alive. The slightly vegetal essence of this Criss Cross green tea translates on your tongue as light and tangy with a fresh green flavor. Enjoy this tea for sunny afternoons; this sparkling cup of jade green is sure to be the highlight of your day while giving your soul the essential boost of wellness it needs!

My Review:
Another I received in my contest win from this new company. I received 50g of this one. Enough to play for a while. The packaging is a cardboard cylinder. Inside the tea is protected by a zip lock bag.

I am not sure how the name Criss Cross came about or what it means to Rivertea. Removing a scoop of leaf reveals dark slender twists. I am not exactly sure what this is but using Anhui Province as a starting point this appears to be Tunxi tea.

The scent is fresh and grassy. I used a scoop in my press with water heated to 158 F per directions. The steep was 2 1/2 minutes. The resulting liquor is very clear and golden green in color. Very pretty. The wet leaf has a steamed spinach/peas scent.

The sip is crisp. Just a touch of mineral and the good kind of bitter. Further sips reveal a fresh vegetal taste. There is a sweet lingering aftertaste. This reminds me of some of the best green teas I have had from China. A very solid offering from Rivertea.

Visit the Rivertea website.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rivertea, Tea Of Kings

Rivertea Description:
Are you looking for a tea regal enough to be worthy of the delicate embrace of your finest china cups? This Lychee black tea is a delightful, refreshing blend from the distant Congou region of China. Your first, intense sip will fill your senses with the succulent flavour of Lychee - the most revered fruit by many Chinese Emperors. Take another sip and you will unlock an entirely new level of flavours, the sharp, enlivening lichee now being caressed by fruity tones of grape, and the sweet, fragrant essence of roses. This black tea called “The tea of kings” is not a cup that can be hastily consumed - it demands respect and attention, and is an experience worth taking the time to get right. Treat yourself to some well deserved time out and add a touch of regality to your day with this fruity, complex delight.

My Description:
Another sample I won from Rivertea in their pre-launch promotion on Steepster.

The Rivertea website had not launched at the time I tasted this. I got the opportunity to inspect some of their product in advance. Yeah me! Their site is up and running now. A link is at the end of the review.

The sample is once again packaged in a resealable zip bag. The label clearly list ingredients and steeping recommendations. Both the zip lock and the label are much appreciated touches.

The leaf is small pieces of cut black tea. The scent is faint of lychee.  I used about 4g of leaf in my press with boiling water. The steep was 3 minutes. The resulting brew is light orangish brown. The fragrance is still lightly of lychee.

I did a little research and found lychee is a tree that grows naturally in Southeast China. The fresh fruit has a "delicate, whitish pulp" with a floral smell and a fragrant, sweet flavor.

The taste of this tea is similar to a cross between rose and lilac in my opinion. The main difference is I often find lilac teas to be overwhelming. While this cup is lightly flavored, I am finding this is not really my thing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. The simple truth is it reminds me of the fragrant soapy bath products my wife enjoys.

I would certainly be happy to sip a cup with friends, but it is just a little too girly for me. I used to say that about rose teas and have only recently come to appreciate them. So maybe in the future I will  find this tasty.

Visit the Rivertea website.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

River Tea, Dragon Pearls

River Tea Description:
For those moments when you need some inspiration, this Jasmine Dragon Pearls will bring your imagination to life. Dragon Pearls green tea is a rare specialty from China. Only the youngest and most tender leaves are repeatedly blended with fresh, very fragrant jasmine flowers, a process that is repeated at least 8 times, at the end of which the flower petals are removed and the tea leaves are carefully hand rolled into small, tight pearls. The jasmine aroma is closed in and unfolds fully when infused giving the tea an exquisitely fragrant perfume and taste. Its colour is so intense and palpable that the tea almost appears like a syrup. A pleasure for the eyes, nose and palate, a fragrance that will inspire your days!

My Review:
This is another sample won in the River Teas promotional contest stating what you would do for the last 100g on earth of your favorite tea. You can read my winning entry here.

The entire package is carefully and delightfully wrapped. You get the sense that care went into every detail. The sample itself is a green resealable pouch. Yeah for resealable! The pearls inside are on the small side with only a light scent of jasmine suggesting what might lie ahead. Honestly, the scent of the dry pearls suggested I would not care for this offering. It seemed a bit fake or something.

I used about a tablespoon of pearls. They suggest 1 tsp for 8oz. I am using 12oz and would rather overdo the leaf. The recommended temperature is around 156 F. I set my kettle on the lowest setting (175 F) and shut it off as it reached the recommended temp. I steeped for 3 minutes.

The result is a lovely golden yellow with a nice jasmine fragrance. The pearls are far from relaxed and reveal a nice looking leaf.

Sipping proved my earlier fears were unfounded. This is a lovely and sweet natural tasting jasmine tea. It is not overly perfumey. There is some dryness associated with the sip. There is also a lingering jasmine aftertaste with the green tea separating in the taste.

I am glad I was wrong about this one. I rather like it.

Visit the River Tea website.

Friday, December 13, 2013

RiverTea, Earl Grey Rose

RiverTea Description:
Just like in a romantic movie, this beautiful pairing of the classic Earl Grey and the elegance of sweet rose petals creates an enamoring affair worth talking about. There’s nothing like your favorite black tea blend, geniously complimented with a tantalizing new flavor to switch up your everyday cup. Enjoy the signature flavors of Earl Grey, a rich black tea with the crisp citrus notes of Bergamot oil, dazzled by the sweet, delicate flavors of rose and peony blossoms. Break from your usual routine and add a little romance to your life with an alluring cup of Earl Grey Rose.

Black tea, Peony blossoms, Bergamot flavouring, Rose flavouring

Sample provided by RiverTea

My Review:
Rivertea is a new start up operating out of Berlin. I entered and won a contest they held in preparation of their opening. The contest was to tell what you would do for the last 100g on earth of your favorite tea. You can read my entry here. The prize was 4oz of my choice and 3 samples of my choice. This tea was one of the samples.

The package arrived in about one week after mailing. It arrived in pristine condition. I opened the box and was met by a welcoming sticker holding tissue wrapping in place. Inside covered in packing peanuts were two tins and three samples all in excellent condition. Also included was a small sack tied with ribbon. Inside were three coasters in a leaf shape representing the company logo. All very nice touches and appreciated.

The sample bag is green recyclable plastic. The label lists the tea name, ingredients, and steeping instructions. A lot of the samples seem to expect you to go to the internet or guess how to prepare the tea. So again this is appreciated. I started to cut the top off when I realized it was a zip lock bag. Very nice! I never know how to keep a sample fresh if I don't use all of it. Zipping it is much more convenient than my usual paper clip method.

Opening the bag I am met by big petals. Yes, I see them listed in the ingredient list now, but the peony blossoms surprised me. The scent is light of rose and bergamot. I steeped 1 tsp in boiling water for almost 4 minutes per instructions. The result is a bit muddy looking with a light floral aroma.

I am pretty sure I under leafed for the large mug I am using. I'll try again with a 6 oz cup later. For now what I am getting is light and delicate in flavor. I can taste the black base tea. There is a touch of bitterness that I think comes from the long steep. I would normally only steep for 3 minutes with a new black tea. I can smell citrusy bergamot. It's taste is light and well suited to the cup. The rose is even lighter but blends exceptionally well. The more the cup cools the richer the bergamot becomes. The rose remains an accent flavor, present but not dominating. That seems to be a tough thing to pull off with a rose tea.

The bergamot and rose are both listed as flavoring. Both taste very natural.  I need to do a little investigating and find out what flavoring means in this case.

Day two: I poured the remaining sample on a plate and took the picture above. It's pretty, but if you aren't used to the big petals you can understand how I under leafed yesterday. Today I steeped for 3 minutes with boiling water. This has much more bergamot fragrance.

With more leaf there is a definite tartness to the cup. Actually, while hot there is not a lot of difference between yesterday and this more heavily leafed cup. The tea base comes through with a woodsy flavor. The bergamot is the strongest element but not in an overdone manner. Those looking for a citrus blast will have to wait for the cup to cool. I didn't try it but I imagine this would be good iced. The rose again remains a support flavor.

Visit the RiverTea website.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Life In Teacup, An Xi Tie Guan Yin Traditional Charcoal Roast

Life In Teacup Description:
Production Year: 2012
Production Season: Fall
Production Region: Anxi County, Fujian Province
Style: Traditional charcoal roast

Sample provided by Life In Teacup

My Review:
This is the last of my samples provided by Life In Teacup. The sample comes in a vacuum sealed pouch. Inside is another tightly sealed plastic wrapper. The pellets are tightly rolled. Given the label of traditional charcoal roasted, I was expecting a heavier smoked scent. Instead the aroma is green and fresh like hay.

I used about 2/3 of my scoop in the press with boiling water. The steep was approximately one minute. The leaves have barely relaxed and are slightly spicy and seaweed in scent. The liquor is clear sparkling and golden honey colored.

In the sip I am not getting anything like what I expected. This is not a heavy roasted or smoky cup. It is light and savory. There is orchid or floral, there is fruit, and honey in the sip. I am also catching nut or woodsy like notes. Also present is a spicy hint that seems to my palate to be some combination reminiscent of osmanthus, ginger, and cinnamon. The aftertaste is sweet with that fuzzy vine sort of taste common to good green oolongs.

This is priced at $3.99/oz. I have paid more than that for a box of tea bags. According to Life In Teacup each scoop of leaf will steep 5-7 times. Even if you only steep it twice that makes it less expensive than grocery store oolong tea and I pretty much guarantee you this is a whole lot better. A very nice offering with a lot of depth.

Visit the Life In Teacup website.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Simple Loose Leaf, Casablanca Earl Grey Green

Simple Loose Leaf Description:
A unique blend of our nutty Organic Gunpowder and Nilgiri Black Indian Tea flavored with peppermint leaves and citrus bergamot oil. A wonderful and surprisingly delicious variation on the traditional Earl Grey. Enjoy this aromatic cup hot for a delicious uplift, or for a Moroccan twist, add a bit of sugar.

Peppermint, Organic Chinese Gunpowder Green Tea, South Indian Flower Orange Pekoe Black Tea, N/A Bergamot Flavors

Sample Provided by Simple Loose Leaf

My Review:
I LOVE EARL GREY! There I said. Actually, in Internet terms I guess I shouted it. I love Earl Grey black. I love Earl Grey Green. I love it white, smoky, or creme. While I enjoy all manner of tea, from the unpretentious to the exquisite, Earl Grey is the one type I would find most difficult to live without. I usually have several varieties on hand at all times.

When Simple Loose Leaf generously offered to allow me to review their subscription service, this is the first tea I added to my basket. The subscription service is extremely flexible, you get to choose which teas you want, how much, and how many. It is a really cool idea that I have enjoyed and do recommend.

The price of the teas vary depending on your subscription choices. This one for instance, ranges from a high of $0.20/cup at 1oz to a low of $0.07/cup for 4oz of tea. That is pretty inexpensive. So far the teas have been even better than the price suggests.

Now on to the review. First the packaging. The label lists the ingredients and a second label on the back of the pouch offers steeping guidelines. This is much appreciated. The pouch itself has a resealable zip strip top. The back of the pouch has a vent that aids in removing the air trapped inside the pouch when closing. This is a totally awesome addition!

This is a unique blend that includes both black (Nilgiri) and green (gunpowder) teas along with glorious bergamot and peppermint. Peppermint? Sure why not, it sounds interesting.

I opened the bag and removed about 3g of leaf. The leaf is small chopped pieces of leaf. It looks fresh and smells very worthy of the Earl Grey name. I steeped for two minutes in my press with water heated to 180 F. The resulting brew is nicely burnt orange.

I took my first sip. It was nicely (some would say heavily) bergamot. My first reaction was where is the peppermint, but before I could even complete the thought the peppermint came rushing up from underneath. Emphasis on the rush! It leaves a chilling breeze on the lips, just like it should.

I can taste the green tea early in the sip and the black base mostly in the aftertaste. I am not noticing any bitterness or dryness associated with astringency. I did add sweetener for the Moroccan twist as Simple Loose Leaf suggests. Oh, who am I kidding? I added sweetener because it is Earl Grey and I like it sweet.

Interestingly, the cooler the cup becomes the more prominent the peppermint.

This is the only bergamot/peppermint tea I have ever seen. I rather enjoyed it. If you are a weenie this might be too intense of a thrill ride for you. Earl Grey adventure seekers should give this a try.

Visit the Simple Loose Leaf site.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Life In Teacup, Bai Ya Qi Lan Oolong

Life In Teacup Description:
It is from Southern Fujian, made with the same tea cultivar as for Wuyi Qi Lan. However, this tea is nothing similar but everything different from Wuyi Qi Lan. It has gentle yet long lasting orchid fragrance from dry leaves to several infusions later.

Price: $3.99/oz

Sample provided by Life In Teacup

My Review:
First off, I usually don't list the price unless the tea is very expensive or is quite a bargain. If this tea turns out to be tasty then it is in the category of quite a bargain.

The sample is vacuum packed. There is no English on it except the little sticker Gingko at Life In Teacup put on it. Inside the leaf is sealed in a plastic wrapper. Removing it allowed the tightly rolled leaf to slightly expand.

The dry leaf is much darker than I expected. I thought it would be green rather than brown. The scent I can't describe except to say it smells very fresh and alive, like sticking your face into green plants. It is not grassy. It is more vine-like.

I used half the sample - I'm guessing 3.5g. I heated the water to 195 F because I wasn't sure and steeped for 2 minutes. Ginkgo uses only 30s on the first steep and you can see from the picture how light is the color of her liquor. Mine is more golden. The wet leaf is only partially relaxed and has an even deeper vine-like fragrance.

The taste is again difficult to describe. I can taste some very light notes of roasting which is the only similarity I am getting to any Wuyi I have tried. There is an almost pineapple element in the taste. The two combine to give it an earthy quality. A floral fragrance is also making itself known mid sip. Often oolongs, especially tieguanyin have what I call a geranium taste - others who don't care for it have called it latex. Here the floral fragrance is more subdued. Life In Teacup says this is a gentle orchid fragrance. I know nothing about the fragrance of orchids but if this is it then it is wonderful. This ends with a sweet aftertaste.

I love teas that leave me befuddled to describe. This is such a tea. It is green and earthy. It's fruity. Kind of floral and kind of roasty but not too. Sorry folks that is the best I can do. At the price I suggest you just get some and experience it for yourself.

Visit the Life In Teacup website.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Life In Teacup, Ron Gui

Sample provided by Life In Teacup

My Review:
I don't have a description from Life In Teacup for this one. The leaf is big and dark. I used two scoops of leaf as it is hard to judge until it is in the bottom of the press. I used 200 F water and steeped about 3 minutes.

As this was steeping the roasted aroma poured out of the press. It made me notice and say, "Wow!" inside my head. The brew is deep orange almost root beer in color. The wet leaf is even darker now, resembling huge leaves of ripened puerh. This is an oolong to don't panic.

This is a medium-heavy roasted tea. Smelling very much like what I associate with Wuyi oolong. The taste is not what I expected. Sure the roasty flavor is present but along with it is a prickly floral flavor somewhere between mango and geranium in taste. There is also a spicy element I can't put a finger on. I did not find it to be bitter or astringent.

At this point I added sweetener to see how it affected the cup.

I find sweetener often brings out flavors I miss otherwise or takes away some bad elements. Not that there are any bad elements present here and it really did little with this tea anyway. It warmed the flavors so they were more rounded and flowed together. I can definitely pick out the taste I often associate with tieguanyin.  It pulls the roasty notes down in the front of the sip so they explode a bit more at the back.

If you enjoy a darker wuyi oolong this is a nice one.

Visit the Life In Teacup website.