Monday, September 29, 2014

What-Cha, Nepal Second Flush 2014 Dew Drops Green Tea

What-Cha Description:
A refreshing green tea resembling dew drops, with a great citrus nose and wonderful fresh grass taste.

We are proud to source all our Nepal teas direct from Greenland Organic Farm, who are very much at the forefront of a burgeoning Nepali tea industry dedicated to producing high quality artisanal teas. Greenland Organic Farm are completely pesticide and chemical free farm dedicated to producing tea in an ethical and fair manner. Greenland Organic Farm is located in East Nepal in the shadows of Mt. Kancghenjunga at an altitude of 3,000m.

Sample provided by What-Cha

My Review:
Good grief, where did summer go? We are still enjoying warm days and sunshine, but the cool nights are bringing lots of color to the trees. Oh well, that just means we will soon be drinking a lot more hot steamy cups of tea.

Today I am reviewing a green tea from the mountains of Nepal. As always the sample is well packed in a resealable silver pouch. The label is simple, clear, and well thought out.

First impression comes with inhaling the aroma from the open bag. It has a light pleasant grassiness. The leaf itself is rolled into little balls. They are larger than gunpowder green but smaller than most tieguanyin I have seen. The pellets are dark green. There are also a few twisted loops of leaf.

Using the press and water heated to the recommended 75 C (167 F) the leaf was steeped for 2 1/2 minutes. Recommended time is 2 - 3 minutes.

The result is a yellow cup. It was nice and clear until I added the last few drops of liquid from the press without a strainer. That brought with it a little cloudy silt.

The wet leaf has a steamed vegetal aroma. The leaf is partially relaxed. The appearance surprises me a little as it is a lot more shredded looking than I expected. I have to remind myself this is Nepali tea and not Chinese. Steeped, the leaf pieces have become fresh and green.

The taste is crisp, clean, and refreshing. It is grassy with a neat sharpness throughout the sip. It is the sort of good bitter that I like. There is no doubt when you taste, this is green tea.

I notice the insides of my cheeks tingle and the grassy taste lingers long after the tea is swallowed.

This seems more savory than sweet to my tastes. I have a major sweet tooth so you may disagree. For science only, I added some sweetener ;) My opinion is this doesn't need sweetener and is not particularly improved by adding it. The addition, however, did make the citrus note mentioned in the company description obvious to me. I was tasting it before but not recognizing it as such. It also added an earthy woods note under the flavors early in the sip.

The second cup is a more cloudy than the first, and I did use the strainer for the entire cup. The color is similar to the first. The leaf now has more of a marine scent.

The taste is less grassy and more earthy, leaning towards mineral and mushroom. There is plenty of flavor in the cup, it is just a lot different than the first. I am not noticing the bite of the first cup and the cheek tingle is substantially reduced.

I personally relate better to the flavors of the first cup, though both were easily drinkable.

You can find Nepal Second Flush 2014 Dew Drops Green Tea here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Jasmine Pearls Green Tea

Jasmine Pearls!
The Persimmon Tree Description:
Our exquisite Jasmine Pearls green tea comprises young, green tea leaves infused with fragrant jasmine blossoms and hand-rolled into beautiful pearls. As they steep the leaves unfurl to give you a smooth, delicately sweet infusion with the most divine aroma.

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
The Persimmon Tree packs all their teas in these round tins. When I received this month's package, the postal service had wreaked havoc upon it. This tin was slightly smashed on the backside. I should have documented this with pictures but at the time my only thought was to check on the tea inside. It was fine. A little reshaping of the tin and everything seems to be sealed.

I have said it before, and I'll say it again, I used to hate jasmine tea back in my tea bag days. The problem, apparently, was because what I had tried was jasmine flavored (probably not even natural flavor) rather than jasmine scented. With better quality tea, jasmine petals are added to the leaf for a period of time and then removed. Tea naturally absorbs odors, good or bad. In this case it is a beautiful thing when done correctly.

Dry Pearls
After reshaping the tin, I removed a scoop for examination.  These are about a 1/4" in diameter. They appear fairly even in size and tightly rolled. It would benefit us to take a moment to appreciate the artistry involved in growing and processing the tea we drink. For instance,with this one each individual pearl is formed by hand-rolling the leaf. Good tea is more than just a drink.

The pearls have a light jasmine scent that is vaguely grape like to my senses. I added the scoop of pearls to water heated to 175 F and steeped it in my press for 4 minutes per instructions.

The resulting liquor is slightly cloudy when very hot but clears as it cools a little. It is a brassy sort of dark golden in color. The scent is pleasant and is not overpowering, perfume, or soapy.

I have a mountain of leaf in the bottom of my press. Yeah, I might have used a little too many pearls. The expanded leaf reveals mostly intact leaf. I see some that are two leaves and a bud joined to the stem. This is a little pricier than many of The Persimmon Tree's offerings and I think this is reflected in the leaf.

The taste is like the scent. It is lightly floral and yet it reminds me of Grape Nehi soda. I know that is crazy and I almost never hear anyone else compare jasmine to grape, much less Grape Nehi, but I call 'em like I taste 'em. Most reviews I've read mention honeysuckle. Well, sort of, but I live in the country surrounded by wild honeysuckle and tea never really brings this image to my mind.

I am noticing the tea leaf really comes through in the aftertaste.

After tasting, I added sweetener (don't shoot!). Of course jasmine is fairly sweet on its own so give it a try sans additions first. Jasmine will take sweetening well if you have a really sweet tooth.

Abundant Wet Leaf
This is a little drying and has just a touch of bitterness. I suspect this may be due to my using a few too many pearls, or possibly the length of the steep.

I find neither the dryness nor bitterness in the first cup to be strong or detracting. I mention it only for those who are super sensitive.

Now, purely for the purposes of research (a-hem), I steeped the second cup with the same leaf for two minutes. The liquor is much more yellow in color.

In this cup I am not noticing any bitterness or dryness. I also find the flavor to be much less, well, intense. Personally, I like the taste of the longer steep. If reducing the number of pearls doesn't result in a perfect cup for you, a good compromise might be to hold the first steep to 2 1/2 minutes and the second at around 3 minutes or more. Always be willing to adjust the brewing parameters to your own tastes.

This is a solid Jasmine Pearls offering. Its naturally scented, and is flavorful without being overwhelming.

You can find Jasmine Pearls Green Tea here.

10% of The Persimmon Tree's profits will be donated to the Project HOPE School Foundation.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Secret Garden Tea Company, Children's Hospital Vanilla Black Tea

Sample Packaging

The Secret Garden Tea Company Description:
A playful blend of  baby rosebuds, vanilla, and bergamot that reminds us of childhood tea parties. Proceeds go to BC Children’s Hospital.

Black tea, rosehip pieces, rose petals, blackberry leaves, natural flavors.

Sample provided by The Secret Garden Tea Company

My Review:
The Secret Garden Tea Company is located in Vancouver Canada. Having successfully run a small tearoom since 1995, they have just ventured into online tea sales. That's where The Everyday Tea Blog comes in. I was asked if I would like to review samples of their offerings. Well, of course I would!

Pretty Leaf
The samples are of very generous size. The bag is a paper exterior with an aluminum interior. To close you fold over the top and restick the seal. The label as you can see has the tea type handwritten. There are no steeping instructions. These can be found in their FAQ section on the website.

The leaf itself is quite colorful and highly aromatic. Rose petals, rosehip, and blue cornflower petals are mixed with the black tea leaves. The aroma is unmistakably rose with less obvious bergamot notes underneath. I am note really able to pick out the vanilla at this time.

Dark spot in the center is a reflection
I used about 3 g (1 1/2 tsp) of leaf with 10 oz of water heated to 205 F. The website calls for boiling. I let it steep for 4 minutes. The result is a bright red/orange cup. The liquor is nicely clear. The aroma is much like the scent of the dry leaf. I am impressed by how much the wet leaf has expanded. I never expected it, so this is a happy surprise.

Taking my first sip, I can tell you, if you don't like rose this may not be the cup for you. It is not perfume water but it is definitely rose.

I can also not so much taste the vanilla as feel its affect on the cup. It just feels creamy. By the name I expected vanilla to be the primary note. I am not too upset that it is not. I quite like it when the vanilla stays back out of the spotlight.

The bergamot is very hard to detect. It comes under the rose to give it fullness. I have never thought of bergamot being used in a support role. It handles the chore well.

The black tea base only makes its presence certain occasionally, and then for mere brief moments. I think I can detect it all the time but at the same time I'm never really sure. It is smooth with no bitterness. This is slightly drying, yet not in a bad way.

Wet Leaf
This was the first tea that I chose from their varied webstore selections. What caught my eye, and makes this blend special, is stated in their product description. All the proceeds from sales go to the BC Children’s Hospital.

Canadian shipping rates are pretty outrageous and that may make it difficult for The Secret Garden Tea Company to develop a big web presence. If the shipping doesn't scare you off, then pick up some of this, if for no other reason than because the cause it supports is worthy.

I have only recently begun to appreciate rose scented teas. I had several cups of this one and enjoyed them all.

You can find Children's Hospital Vanilla Black Tea here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Mandarin Cream Oolong

Mandarin Cream
The Persimmon Tree Description:
Our Mandarin Cream tea awakens the senses with oolong loose tea leaves, hints of cream and a stimulating citrus finish. Blended with lemon myrtle, marigolds, and natural essence of vanilla, Mandarin Cream is a rich and smooth tea experience with an utterly heavenly aroma.

Organic Oolong Loose-Leaf Tea, Organic Lemon Myrtle, Marigold Petals, Natural Flavors

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree.

My Review:
This one is listed as a bestseller on The Persimmon Tree website. What The Persimmon Tree does not say on their site, but does mention on the label, is the oolong in the tin is Pouchong. As always I appreciate the solid tins that help with storage.

Dry Leaf
I approach this tea with caution. I like vanilla in my cup but often find such flavors overdone for my tastes. Opening the lid, there is a very pleasant vanilla fragrance present. I must admit, pouring the leaf on the plate to examine made me hungry. The vanilla is very present but not overpowering or alcohol like is nature.

The leaf is pretty with the big lightly twisted pieces of leaf varying in shades of green from olive to quite dark. The lighter green leaf may actually be lemon myrtle. The yellow marigold petals add a splash of interesting color.

I used around 3 g of leaf in my press with water heated to 195 F. The steep was 4 minutes. This produced a slightly cloudy mug of yellow sunshine. Meanwhile the Pouchong leaf has expanded and mostly relaxed. The leaf remains partially folded. I can tell this is mainly large pieces of leaf.

Sunshine In A Mug
The Persimmon Tree use natural ingredients in their flavored teas. What catches my attention though, may be why others are occasionally not as impressed. The flavors are generally more subtle than the flavor blasts of most other products I've tasted. That is the case with Mandarin Cream.

Notice there is a big difference between subtle and flavorless. This mug has plenty of flavor. It just doesn't beat up your senses expressing those flavors.

The vanilla is the primary flavor component, yet it is very pleasant and just the perfect level for my tastes. I can barely catch the lemon myrtle under the vanilla. I think it could stand the volume being turned up just a little.

Adding a little sweetener does just that without making the mug too sweet. I try not to use sweetener at first while reviewing. Often I have discovered the cup does not need it. This being more of a dessert type tea, I feel it benefits from the addition. Try it both ways and see if you agree.

Wet Leaf - Mostly Large Pieces
The Pouchong of the first cup shows up late in the aftertaste if you wait for it. I really don't get any strong orange type flavor here. To me that is what Mandarin implies. I think if I imagine orange sherbet, I can loosely make the connection as this is creamy. It just isn't particularly orangey to me.

Since this is an oolong, it should steep again. We must investigate!

Without sweetener the second mug is quite green oolong tasting - not a bad thing. Once sweetener is added, the vanilla reappears and moves to the background. This is maybe more creamy now, and the orange connection grows stronger. It remains mostly a hint yet present. Mostly, this is a nice cup of Pouchong with a light flavored background.

This makes an interesting cup that I appreciate for finally delivering a vanilla based tea that I enjoy. I personally expected a bit more lemon and a healthy dose of orange. Since orange is not listed as an ingredient, this must not be the profile they were going for with this blend, despite the name. This is nice as is, and tasting the tea is more important than tasting flavors to me, so unless that can all be accomplished without sacrificing the tea taste - it should be left alone.

You can find Mandarin Cream here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Not Exactly Tea Related

I have made comments here and on Steepster about our construction project. Since I have gone a lot of days without drinking tea and writing reviews, I thought I would include you in on what we have accomplished.

The house we live in, I designed, and had built in 1991. While it was a small simple home it was almost more than we could afford. Our second son was born just before the home was completed. We had to cut some corners when having it built. Instead of the large covered porch we wanted we settled for a tiny deck. It was not even big enough to set on. But we raised our two sons and have had many happy years here.

The picture above was taken this summer. Many of the trees on our property had become infested with the ash borer beetle. In total we had over 40 mature trees dropped in our yard. We are still cleaning up the mess. We had 5 trees cut in our front yard. They weren't infected but were too close to the house, and were in the path of the porch we were finally able to build.

This picture was taken just a couple days ago. What a difference this made to the looks of our home. My wife and I have been pretty much living on it since the nailing slowed down. This is truly a dream come true for us. The gutters have not been installed, and the clean up is still in progress, but otherwise the job is complete.

Now I am going to lecture you for a moment. Two years ago I was downsized out of a job. We were afraid we would loose our home because we still had a mortgage, no income, and no prospects. In addition I was having serious health issues. It would have been easy to give up but I didn't. Now two years later we have this beautiful addition. My point is never give in. You can always quit tomorrow, but today just keep going. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

What-Cha, Nepal Second Flush 2014 Sencha Green Tea

Well Labelled Sample
What-Cha Description:
The best Sencha we have come across from outside of Japan, it has a lovely algae nose and a light grassy taste.

We are proud to source all our Nepal teas direct from Greenland Organic Farm, who are very much at the forefront of a burgeoning Nepali tea industry dedicated to producing high quality artisanal teas. Greenland Organic Farm are completely pesticide and chemical free farm dedicated to producing tea in an ethical and fair manner. Greenland Organic Farm is located in East Nepal in the shadows of Mt. Kancghenjunga at an altitude of 3,000m.

Sample provided by What-Cha

My Review:
Miss me yet? I haven't posted in a long time. Our construction is over and things are beginning to settle back to normal. That means I have a lot of catching up to do with reviews. I think I can handle that!

Kind Of Makes Me Think Pine Needles
I have not had a lot of Japanese Sencha, so my ability to give an honest comparison, to this one from Nepal, is not likely. What I can do is taste it and tell you what I think. Once again, the sample is well packaged and clearly labelled. I really appreciate not having to go to a website to get recommended steeping parameters. I also appreciate the sample is large enough for me to experiment if I think tweaking the time and temp will give better results.

The leaf on this one is long slender twists that are dark olive green with some lighter green sprinkled throughout the mix. It has a nice fresh grassy scent.

I used 1/3 of the 10 g sample in my press and added filtered water heated to 167 F. I let it steep for two minutes.

A Light Yellow Liquor
The reward for my effort is a very light yellow cup. It stays roughly that color even as it cools. The leaf a steamed spinach aroma to my senses. What-Cha says the brew has an algae nose. It really didn't strike me that way but possibly that would be your interpretation.

I love the taste. It reminds me of Chinese Mao Feng or possibly Xinyang Maojian. I don't have either on hand at the moment to do a comparison. It has a sharp bite with the good kind of bitter that really tastes refreshing. It is followed by a smooth moment of grassiness that begins to be overtaken by a mineral type taste but before the transition fully occurs it moves on into a bright finish. It does have some moderate mouth drying but not the stomach burn I associate with astringent black teas.

If you sip slowly, this takes your tongue on a nicely complex roller coaster ride. Does it taste like Sencha? As I noted at the beginning, I have no idea. I can say it is exactly the kind of green tea that catches my attention.

Wet Leaf
The one negative I would mention is the wet leaf appears to contain a lot of pieces rather than whole leaves. By the appearance of the dry leaf, this surprises me. I am not sure if or how it affects the flavor, but if you are one of those odd people like me, who play with their leaf, you notice such things.

I am not sure how many cups this will produce but I am about to go for a second. I have really missed my time with tea lately. I am so happy to see I have grabbed a good one today.

The second cup produces a cup of similar color as the first. I payed closer attention to the nose. It doesn't smell like seaweed or ocean to me but, yeah, I can see how this could be considered to have an algae aroma. The taste is lighter but that may be my fault. I didn't really time it as I was typing.

I enjoyed this tea - thank you What-Cha for sharing it with me.

You can find Nepal Second Flush 2014 Sencha Green Tea here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What-Cha, Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Oolong Tea

Resealable Sample!
What-Cha Description:
We are proud to source all our Nepal teas direct from Greenland Organic Farm, who are very much at the forefront of a burgeoning Nepali tea industry dedicated to producing high quality artisanal teas. Greenland Organic Farm are completely pesticide and chemical free farm dedicated to producing tea in an ethical and fair manner. Greenland Organic Farm is located in East Nepal in the shadows of Mt. Kancghenjunga at an altitude of 3,000m.

Sample provided by What-Cha.

My Review:
I haven't had much opportunity to sit and quietly sip tea of late. Today I am doing my best to stay out of the way of the construction crew building my porch. The pounding on the roof is only a little distracting - in a good way. We have waited 24 years for this porch addition.

So, back to focusing on tea. I know oolong is a generic term meaning the leaf is oxidized more than green tea and less than black tea. That is a wide spread from about 8% oxidation to 85%. There is even debate on these numbers. Doesn't matter, I know oolong when I see it - unless it is from Kenya, or in this case, Nepal.

The Dry Leaf
Oolong isn't always rolled into little balls. This one is interesting to look at fresh out of the bag. If you told me it was a white tea or even a green, I would believe you. There are ample amounts of silvery buds and olive green leaves. There are also light brown and dark brown leaves. They are large pieces, and lightly twisted. The aroma is somewhere between dried fall leaves and fresh dried tobacco leaf.

I used 1/3 of the sample or approximately 3 g in my press with water heated to 196 F. The steep time was supposed to be 3 minutes but, well you know, squirrel! So it was more like 4 minutes. The brew turned out a shiny caramel color.

A Caramel Brew
How to describe this tea? This is light tea. By that I mean the flavor isn't big and bold like a morning blend. This has more of a lazy afternoon taste. My brain thinks it is similar to a Formosa oolong that I remember from years past but memories are often wrong.

As prepared here, there is has no bitterness or astringency. It is smooth and without bite. As with the dry leaf aroma, the taste reminds me of fall leaves. It simply has a woodsy taste. You do not have to search for the flavor but it doesn't beat you over the head.

The mouth feel is mildly creamy which matches the description on their website. I do not get the orange notes they mention, just pleasant woodsy leaves.

I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something, since I used more water than I intended - around 12 ounces. There were a couple of ounces left over in the kettle, that I did not remember leaving, so the mug was fuller than expected.

Leaves After Brewing
Trying again, with the same amount of leaf, the only thing I planned to change was the amount of water - this time I used six ounces. I kind of got distracted (again) researching on Google and let this steep for about five minutes instead of the intended three.

What I got with this time was a very bitter cup. The flavor otherwise was still similar to the first, light and woodsy.

My words of warning are don't over steep this one.

I tend to really enjoy light straight teas, especially complex white teas. For me this tea was fine though not overly complex. If you love big, bold, highly flavored teas, this one may prove too light for you to enjoy.  If on the other hand a quieter simple woodsy flavor appeals to you, this might be a good fit.

You can find Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Oolong Tea here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Good Life Tea, Angel Falls Mist

Good Life Tea Description:
Rising from an internationally sourced collection; the extraordinary blend of flavors in our Angel Falls Mist tea is not for the faint of flavor. Rather, it will delight even the most dubious lover of rich flavor collections. Think you're the man who's tried it all? The woman who's love of tapestric fruity profiles could never be satisfied? The connoisseur who knows just what the day has in store when he's confronted with a tea with more than six point sources of flavor in its collection? Think again. Angel Falls Mist describes such complexity in an herbal tisane, you'll hardly be done with your first hot cup before you're ready to ice a batch.
That's how versatile this blend is. Iced, hot: it's ready to surprise you. Can you imagine the accent that this tea would have if it could speak? Hailing from Canada, the U.S., Thailand, and Spain; its ingredients bring variety to a cohesive point: it's fruity, reflective collection.

Sample provided by Good Life Tea

My Review:
This is the last of the three samples I received from Good Life Tea for review. This is listed as a Tisane Fruit Tea on the Good Life Tea website. The ingredients as far as I can tell are dried apple, hibiscus petals, rosehip pieces, strawberry pieces, dried orange, calendula petals, and natural flavors.

I have to be honest, as soon as I opened the sample and caught the scent of the leaf, I knew I would not like this one. I can pick out the hibiscus right away. I just don't like it. Sorry Good Life Tea. I'll do my best to proceed. It also has an aroma of fruit, but not really what is listed. Yeah, maybe I pick out a hint of strawberry but to me it is more like a raspberry/blueberry blend or black currant.

I used my cup with infuser basket. I added all the sample and 8 oz of boiling water. I put the lid on the cup and let it steep for 6 minutes.

The result is a purplish tinted cup. I actually like the looks of it. It reminds me of juice or even wine. My picture appears out of focus. The reality is the lens fogged over on all my shots and this is the best I could do. It is very gray outside and I had to use the lightbox. That made for a bright setting and a hot and humid one as well.

On to the taste. You recall how I said earlier, I knew I wouldn't like this one? Well, I haven't changed my mind. It is kind of tart from the hibiscus. The apple, I think, is the other main flavor I am detecting. I can't single out the orange or strawberry and to be truthful, I don't want to try. I just don't like these type drinks.

That said, my wife who cannot have caffeine, loved this one. She likes the superberry type tisanes. This fit right in that category for her. She slammed down the first cup and had me steep another. She iced that one and insisted I try it. It is cold and watered down from the ice but it still does not taste good to me. She disagrees. So there you have it. Based on the list of ingredients you will know which side of the fence you want to stand.

If you enjoy fruit tisanes, you can find Angel Falls Mist here.

Friday, September 5, 2014

What-Cha, Kenya Silver Needle Purple Varietal White Tea

Sample Bag
What-Cha Description:
A most unique white tea which has been produced from purple varietal tea plants. This gives the tea a unique plum like taste alongside the delicate subtle fruity tones expected from a silver needle tea. A very rare and newly developed tea which is not to be missed.

Sample provide by What-Cha

My Review:
Oh look, a purple tea! Or is it a white tea? Taa Daa, it's both! This tea originates in the Mount Kenya Region. Having never experienced a white tea from Kenya, I have no idea what to expect, so let's get started.

All the What-Cha teas I have reviewed have come in aluminum ziplock bags to keep the tea fresh. They are clearly labeled with brewing instructions. There is a best by date on the label but not a harvest or processing date. I personally don't mind, but know some of you expect such information.

Dry Leaf
I opened the bag and breathed in what I can only describe as hay and plums. The dry leaf really does smell wonderful. I tried to use my bamboo scoop to pull out about 3 g or 1/3 of the sample. The leaf is so long I kind of gave up and just grabbed it with my fingers.

The leaf is gorgeous isn't it? Long silvery buds covered in fine hair. It is almost to beautiful to steep... almost.

So in the press it goes with water heated to the recommended 176 F. I steeped for 2 1/2 minutes. I noticed all the leaf was floating at the top of the water. The wet leaf has swelled some and turned a little greener but hasn't changed drastically in appearance.

White Tea Liquor
The liquor is almost entirely colorless. Looking very closely it has fine white hair from the leaf floating in it. I quickly checked What-Cha's website and their picture matches my results. The wet leaf had a fresh hay and plum aroma so I figured I was on the right track.

Once it cooled enough for me, I took my first sip. Hmmm. Maybe I should have steeped longer, or used less water? I like subtle teas. They draw me in an take me places I never experience with bold teas, especially highly flavored ones. This one, I am finding to be too subtle even for me.

The flavor is extremely light and I really cannot identify what little I am catching. Hmmmm.

Deciding I just prepared this incorrectly, I tried again. I used way less water and heated it to about 190 F. I let it steep for about 5 minutes.

Wet Leaf
The liquor was equally light as the first (about the color of Karo corn syrup). I did not see any fine bud hair in this, the second cup.

The taste is still pretty much missing. What light notes I am getting are kind of reminding me of potato with a slightly sweet aftertaste.

I really don't understand what is going on. Every other tea I have tried from What-Cha has been exceptional. By all appearances this one should be equally amazing.

I'll contact What-Cha and see if they have an suggestions. If I can bring this one to life, I am more than willing to do a rewrite. At the moment I have to say this one, as beautiful as it is, left me wanting.

You can find Kenya Silver Needle Purple Varietal White Tea here.

After the less than stellar results yesterday, I decided to give this tea another go today. This time I am using a 90 ml gaiwan. I poured the remaining leaf from the 10 g sample into a plate and divided it in half. It turns out I did use pretty close to 1/3 of the leaf yesterday - so good eyeball.

I put a little over 3 g in the gaiwan with water heated to 176 F. I let it steep for 3 minutes. The result was a liquor that was a little more colorful than my previous attempt. The wet leaf had a sort of bread scent to it. The tea now has some flavor. It still reminds me of potato but in addition there is more of a white peony flavor as well. This fades into what I can only call a pine note. Later cups develop a dry floral almost oolong aftertaste. In many ways this reminds me of camellia flowers but lighter in taste.

While I could not make this tea work western style yesterday, it does produce some light and interesting flavors in a gaiwan with longer steep times of 3 minutes. I think the real delight of this tea is knowing you are drinking a purple varietal white tea from Kenya.  It is still going to be too light for most people's tastes. This might work as a western steep with a really long steep time of 8 minutes or so. Further research to be done with the remaining leaf.

Further Update:
After several days of no time to experiment with teas, I finally had an opportunity to get back to this one before moving on to the next.

Today I am retrying this western mug style. I took out my press, the last of my sample leaf, and around 8 oz of water heated to 190 F.  I let it steep for 8 minutes. The result is similar to what I experienced with the gaiwan. It tastes a little less of potato and more white tea like with some fruity notes late in the sip.  Definitely use hotter water and a longer steep to pull flavor out of this one.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Good Life Tea, Belgian Chocolate - Rooibos Tea

Sample Bag and Leaf
Good Life Tea Description:
A supple, vitamin-rich, fat-free Rooibos base meets a cacao infusion and the results are as tantalizing as the blend of South African and Belgian implies. Calendula and other natural flavors add to the unique, brassy, rich flavor collection as a whole. Cederberg is known for the lingering, incomparable flavor of its Rooibos leaves. This “red bush” is known to South Africans as a relaxant, antioxidant, and provider of a flush, melty flavor. In this case, the always-blendable Rooibos plays off of the coal-ish, insular pleasures of cacao to form what is often described as a “truffle” note.
A medium-flavored "red tea", Belgian Chocolate is a quirky treat, especially for those who have already discovered the pleasures of Rooibos. Perfect as a luxury tea (and perennial gift favorite), Belgian Chocolate is a tea to be savored. Which makes it such a pleasant surprise that it's lineup of health benefits includes an impressively-broad vitamin scale.

Sample provided by Good Life Tea

My Review:
Sample Label
The last few weeks have been very hectic. I've been with my wife as she has had one medical exam after another. More than a few thousand dollars later the conclusion is acid reflux. Thankful it wasn't more serious, but honestly, couldn't they have tried treating it first and then do tests if it didn't ease up? We are also having a porch built on our home. Finding time to drink tea hasn't been easy.

It's 90 F today and feels like 100, but that isn't going to stop me from enjoying a cup of rooibos. This one has cocao in it. Opening the sample packet this smells insanely chocolate.

In addition to the rooibos and cacoa, there are also thin petals in the mix. The description above mentions calendula, I Googled it and discovered calendula is also called pot marigold. I don't think the petals add a lot to the scent or flavor but it does add interest and color.

I used my mug with an infuser basket. The basket as it turns out is not quite fine enough mesh for the tiniest of rooibos pieces but it did hold back most of it. I used boiling water and steeped for about 4 minutes.

Dark Chocolaty Goodness
The brew is dark and resembles coffee. The wet leaf aroma is strong of rooibos. The mug scent is chocolate.

I first tried this with no additives. It starts out rooibos flavored but without the usual harsh ending to the sip. About midway into the sip it switches to light chocolate. It has an almost minty feel. The taste is thinner than I expected based on the strong scents. It has a mineral element that reminds me of spring water.

Next I added sweetener to it. I haven't been using much Splenda lately but hey, this is chocolate. To me that implies sweet indulgence. So into the mug goes a packet of Splenda. My wife would say I just ruined it. I have to disagree.

The flavor pops out of the cup now. I mean it is the same, just bigger. In one sip the flavor bounces back and forth between rooibos and chocolate and swirling in minty fresh notes as it does. As I get closer to the bottom of the cup, I notice the color is a beautiful deep orange burgundy.

I can count on one hand the rooibos teas I have tried and actually would enjoy sipping again. This is one of them. It is a very pleasant chocolate treat without the guilt.

You can find Belgian Chocolate - Rooibos Tea here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Teavivre, Xi Gui Ancient Tree Raw Pu-erh Cake 2013

Sample Pack
Teavivre Description:
Xi Gui Raw Pu-erh 2013 is quite changeful in taste. Maybe you are familiar with the typical bold and unconstrained features of raw tea, or have tasted the mild and gentle characteristic brought by our Wild Tree Pu-erh. But this Xi Gui tea is a combination of both.

The initial several steeps bring high aroma and pure sweetness, also a hint of stringency, followed by a quick sweet aftertaste. The tea liquid leaves sweet and rich fragrance, lingering wonderfully in the throat. You can feel saliva secreting spontaneously in your month.

About seven or eight steeps later, the teas shows more tender and mild flavor, carrying a light orchid fragrance, tastes mellow and pure, along with a long, sustained aftertaste.

Sample provided by Teavivre.

10 g Dry Leaf
My Review:
Today we start the month of September with a pu-erh. This is a raw pu-erh, harvested and produced in 2013, so it is quite young. Very young raw pu-erh can be quite astringent and bitter. We shall see how this one behaves after steeping.

Upon opening the sample, the leaf is lightly compressed and much of it is loose. It is various shades of silver, brown, and olive green. The leaf is mainly long and lightly twisted. Some of it is flat strips and with the coloring pattern it reminds me of bacon. Yeah, I'm such a guy. The leaf has a floral aroma mixed with hay.

Honey Colored Liquor
I decided to sort of follow Teavivre's suggestion and use the entire 10 g sample in my Yixing pot. I did use a lot more water than suggested. They used a 100 ml gaiwan (a little over 3 oz), I chose to use 8 oz as my large Yixing will hold at least that much. Boiling water was added and the first steep was 20 seconds.

I was rewarded with a honey colored liquor.  Using the gaiwan, Teavivre shows the color as light yellow. Possibly mine would have as well if I had taken the picture in a white cup, but I doubt it.

The wet leaf has a definite seaweed aroma. There are no off scents in the leaf or the cup. The leaf appears to be two leaves and occasionally two leaves and a bud, which explains the silver in the dry leaf.

Bracing myself I take the first sip... I can relax now. This is actually quite mild. Sure it is slightly bright like raw sheng tends to be but not in an overpowering way. It is slightly mineral and slightly mushroom, yet neither are strong or offensive. Crisp, I think fits this nicely. The aftertaste really hangs on and seems floral to me.

A Huge Pile Of Wet Leaf
I noticed on the second cup it started out light yellow but by the time I was through pouring it was back to honey. So my slow pour is adding some steep time. Tastewise this is very similar to the first cup but stronger and a little more astringent. The aftertaste reminds me of tieguanyin oolong. I am also noticing brief notes of leather as I exhale after sipping. I caught this on the first cup as well and thought it was just wishful thinking (I love leather in pu-erh).

Cup three was the sharpest so far, but still good young sheng flavors.

Cup four returns to a more mellow cup by reducing the bright puckering bite. It now begins to pick up a more fruity flavor like maybe apricot. The aftertaste still lingers with an oolong like floral quality.

This shows no signs of letting up but that is a lot of tea in one setting so I'm going to stop here with the review.

If you enjoy raw pu-erh, or are just curious, this is a really nice one.

You can find Xi Gui Ancient Tree Raw Pu-erh Cake 2013 here.