Friday, November 28, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Herbal Balance

The Persimmon Tree Description:
Herbal Balance is a smooth blend of organic peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, fennel, and licorice root. This delicious herbal tea is caffeine-free and will help restore the balance of your digestive system.

Organic Peppermint, Organic Chamomile, Organic Lemon Balm, Organic Fennel, Organic Licorice Root

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
Today is the day after Thanksgiving in America, also known as Black Friday. A day of shopping madness to official kick off the Christmas season, though let's be honest, the decorations have already been up for a month. If you are so inclined as to participate, I hope you found some real bargains. I prefer not to be involved. I'd rather stay home and eat pumpkin pie for breakfast. Of course with the over eating at family Thanksgiving meal, the next day can find your system pretty much the worse for it.

Today's tea (actually a herbal - but the point is the same) is billed to help restore the balance of your digestive system. Sounds like a good idea to me, and just what is needed.

Opening the tin, I catch peppermint. I happen to like peppermint. The other ingredients aren't jumping out at me, though there is a grassy type scent accompanying the mint. I am not sure where it is coming from based on the ingredient list but it smells pleasant.

 The leaf contains lots of chamomile flowers and I can see some fennel. The dry grassy clippings look like shredded peppermint and lemon balm. I've grown these plants before in my garden. I don't know what licorice root looks like and I see nothing that stands out as unfamiliar.

Once again I used my Republic of Tea mug with metal strainer basket. After filling with 205 F water, I covered the mug with the lid. The steep time was roughly 5 minutes.

The result is a tea colored brew that is very pleasantly mint scented. It doesn't show up well in the picture but the leaf has revitalized to a fresh green color. For this herbal leaf, the strainer mug works very well. The mesh is fine enough that none of the leaf slips through.

The primary taste here is the peppermint. It gives a chilly blast to the cheeks as you sip. Following the mint I detect the chamomile and the combination of fennel and licorice root. The chamomile, of course, has a light apple like taste. The fennel / licorice root is lighter and mellowed by the lemon balm. Fennel and licorice root are flavors that might not appeal to some, although I like them both. Here I doubt anyone would find them offensive since they are light and muted. At first, I thought I couldn't single out the lemon balm, as I continued to sip I realized I was catching its scent at the beginning of every sip.

I often drink bagged peppermint teas or chamomile late in the evening as they are caffeine free. This is my first combining of the two. I have to say I really like it. I am not sure how much good it will do at relieving the damage done yesterday, but it can't hurt, and it is quite tasty. Reviewer approved!

You can find Herbal Balance here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Herbal Grey

The Persimmon Tree Description:
This caffeine-free herbal alternative to Earl Grey black tea comprises fragrant bergamot essential oil and hand-crafted organic fair trade rooibos, delivering a sweet, deep red infusion with fruity and floral notes. This delicious herbal tea is a real treat with milk and rock sugar, and can be enjoyed any time of day.

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
Hello from space - the final frontier! I finally have my internet woes sorted out. We went with satellite internet. It is not cheap and you can't game with it, but that is the price of living out in the boondocks.

So today I have chosen an herbal to review. This one is a South African rooibos flavoured with bergamot oil. You know me, if there is any association with my beloved Earl Grey, I must try it. This also happens to be a decaffeinated herbal, so no worries about late evening or night time sipping keeping me awake.

Upon opening the tin I immediately catch gentle notes of bergamot before I even get the lid completely removed.  It is a light, yet natural and pleasant, citrus scent. The leaf (bark, stalk?) always reminds me of finely chipped cedar. This seems extra shiny to me.

I heated to water to the recommended 200 F. This was steeped in my Republic of Tea mug with a stainless filter basket. I prefer a Finum basket as the mesh is much finer on those. Since my wife is using both (both!) of the ones we own, that leaves me little choice.  I'll survive.

I steeped for about 4 minutes with the lid on the mug. Removing the lid reveals a dark orange red brew. There are some tiny bits of rooibos floating on the surface. This is the issue with using this mug. Rooibos requires a very fine mesh filter to avoid floaters. Again, I'll survive.

The scent is pretty absent of bergamot. Brewed this has a mellow aroma of rooibos. I do attribute the mellowness to the bergamot. Straight rooibos often has a sharp scratchy aroma and taste. This does not.

When the cup is hot, I taste only the tamed rooibos. I like it well enough, however it is not what I was expecting.

As the cup cools I begin to catch more and more of the wonderful citrus I crave. It is still light but obvious.

I guess I can look at this two ways. First, the rooibos is tamed. There is no harshness or scratchy aftertaste. So as a relaxing herbal cup this succeeds. Second, as an Earl Grey alternative this really leaves me wanting. Bergamot and rooibos really do compliment each other, so I want this cranked up several notches.  

If you drink your tea very hot and are expecting a stout Earl Grey, you aren't going to get it. If on the other hand you would like just a touch of bergamot, or simply a way to like the sometimes overwhelming taste of rooibos, then this may well fit your need.

You can find Herbal Grey here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Plum Deluxe, Mindful Morning Blend

Sample Bag
Plum Deluxe Description:
The mindful morning blend is the Plum Deluxe take on classic Earl Grey.
Everyone loves Earl Grey, but we found a way to make it even better so that we can start every day with a tea blend that is truly luxurious. We began with our absolute favorite black tea, Ceylon – it is a tea from Sri Lanka that has a gentle vanilla flavor to it. We then added a tiny pinch of sweet honey, a bit of flavor and color with the cornflowers, and topped it off with the bergamot oil that makes earl grey so famous. The orange peels give it a final flavor boost.

Sample provided by Plum Deluxe.

My Review:
I was recently contacted by Andy at Plum Deluxe and asked if I would like to review one of their teas. Looking through the online teashop, all of the choices sounded equally inviting. I chose Mindful Morning Blend. Why? Uhmmm, because it has bergamot in it. I am nothing if not predictable.

dry leaf
When the bubble wrapped envelope arrived, it did not escape my attention that it was plum colored. Opening the outer package and removing the ziplock bag, I can already catch hints of the aroma. This smells truly wonderful. More on that later.

The label lists a brief description and the ingredients. Missing are steeping instructions. The base tea is Ceylon, so I'll use standard black tea parameters.

Update - after reading my review, Andy wrote, "When people order they get an email with brewing info, but you're right, it's not on the labels.  It's on the new ones now since people often misplace the email or gift the tea."

I have to admit part of the description made me smile. "Pairs well with quiet moments & good conversation." I can pretty much say, any tea I drink first thing in the morning, will not be accompanied with good conversation. I am not a morning person. Neither is my wife. We tend to avoid each other until both have had their respective morning cup. I will agree as an afternoon tea, the aroma alone would enhance the conversation.

A very full mug
The blend has dark chocolate colored Ceylon leaf, cornflowers, orange peel pieces, and something I have never seen before - honey granules. I really am not detecting the bergamot scent. What I catch is honey and orange. It smells so good, I want to scoop up a handful and eat it.

Instead, I put the leaf in my press with boiling water and steeped for about three minutes. It is a good thing I used more leaf than usual, as there was a little water left in the kettle and I filled my mug a little fuller than intended.

The brew color is dark caramel/orange. I can smell the tea in the wet leaf. The combination is sort of chocolate, orange, and honey. I don't mean to dwell, but it smells so nice and inviting. It isn't candy. It isn't citrus. It isn't floral. It is kind of all these things.

Once it finally cools enough to taste, I am not disappointed. The sweet citrus, and not really chocolate but along that vein, flavors are joined by a vanilla like taste and texture. This does not require added sweetener, yet it is not overly sweet by any means. I am detecting no bitterness. Ceylon teas especially when bergamot is added can be very drying. This one is only mild drying.

Wet Leaf
Now if you are one of those rare tea drinkers who avoid Earl Grey because you don't like bergamot, I think this one will surprise you. Seriously, this is not Earl Grey in the traditional sense. The bergamot is very light in my opinion.

The ingredients are USDA organic and fairtrade certified. Plum Deluxe has a small variety to choose from but they do their own blending. What I get with this cup is not heavy handed or in your face. It is very tastefully blended.

Plum Deluxe was founded in 2007 as an online community to help people create moments that matter. The tea came later. Quoting from information I was given about their tea story:

Tea is a beverage that can’t be rushed – you have to give it a few minutes to steep. By encouraging our readers to drink tea, we’re helping them slow down just a little, and perhaps giving them a minute or two each day to be still.

I completely agree with this philosophy. I can also highly recommend this blend.

You can find Mindful Morning Blend here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Teavivre, Jasmine Bi Luo Chun Green Tea

Teavivre Description:
After the Bi Luo Chun Green Tea is made, they will be put together with large numbers of jasmine flower in a room. That’s why this tea carries a heavy jasmine fragrance. When brewed, it taste refreshing with sweet aftertaste.

My Review:
This tea has three things going for it before I even open the package. First, it is Teavivre - one of my very favorite tea providers. Second, it is Bi Luo Chun - one of my very favorite green teas. And third, this is jasmine. Before tasting Teavivre's high quality offerings, I did not like jasmine, but they do it right. Their jasmine premium dragon pearls are crazy good.

With that introduction, it sounds like this tea almost doesn't have to work to get a good review. You never know something could still go horribly wrong.

Opening the sample releases the scent of jasmine. As always, it is very pleasant and natural. It is rather strong though.

I poured the contents on a plate and was surprised. The Bi Luo Chun I have reviewed before was long twisted curls of loose leaf. This is rolled tight like a mix of dragon pearls and tieguanyin. I see a couple petals of jasmine left over from the scenting process. The color is olive green with silver streaks.

The sample is about 7g so I chose to divide it in half and save some for another day. Into the press it goes with 185F filtered water. The steep was two minutes.

The dance during steeping was pretty interesting. The pellets fell to the bottom and bubbled like an aquarium airstone. After a few moments some of the leaf began to rise while the pellets unfurled and waved in the joy of release.

Then, and this was awesome, some of the whole leaves began to rise up. It reminded me of an old Saturday matinee monster movie. I could hear Godzilla roar in my head while watching. It still resembles a sea monster once safely beached on a plate. Definitely one of my favorite steeping shows in a long time.

I recommend a clear teapot so as not to miss this display.

The liquor is golden and clear. As the scent suggests this is more heavily scented than most of the other jasmine teas I have tried from Teavivre, with the exception of Silver Jasmine Green Tea.

Even though this is fairly strongly scented, it is not over the top, and it tastes natural. I find with 3g of leaf and the two minute steep in a 10oz cup this is a bit drying and brisk. I like the briskness but if you don't, I would recommend starting with a one minute steep and adjust from there. Lowering the temperature a little would help tame it as well.

I can taste the tea beneath the jasmine, especially late in the sip. It gets kind of grassy and in the aftertaste it adds a fruity element. I read one review that suggested melon. I think that sounds accurate. The aftertaste really lingers.

The cup is a little sweet. Even so, if you have a real sweet tooth, I have always thought jasmines take sweetening rather well.

You can find Jasmine Bi Luo Chun Green Tea here.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

What-Cha, Nepal First Flush 2014 Emerald Green Tea

What-Cha Description:
A delightful green tea with a brilliant apricot taste combined with hints of nectarine, one of our favourite green teas.

Sample provided by What-Cha Tea Redefined

My Review:
November 1st already? What happened to summer? More important at the moment - hurrah! I seem to still have an internet connection at the beginning of the month! My provider went out of business and now I am just waiting to hear from the carrier about future options. Trying to stay positive in an area without many choices.

Today, I reach the bottom of the box What-Cha sent for me to review. I can't say enough nice things about my dealings with What-Cha. Their tastes are similar to my own. Almost all of their offerings are single source natural and unflavored teas. They carry many teas that are more traditional or common types but the majority are off the beaten trail type teas.

Take this one for instance - Emerald Green Tea, from Nepal. I don't see this offered on every other internet site. That peeks my interest.

The leaf is mostly large full leaves and connecting stems. Though dry, they appear fresh. The scent is like fall leaves.

Using my press and charcoal filtered water heated to 176F. The leaves were steeped for 3 1/2 minutes. I was busy getting the computer up and running and missed the dance. The outcome was some of the leaf hung from the surface, while others rested on the bottom. The remainder drifted in between. I'm sorry I didn't get to watch.

The scent was steamed vegetables with a fruit note that upon reading What-Cha's description I can agree is nectarine.

You can see buds in the picture, as well as two and three leaves joined by a stem.

The liquor is a bright and shiny yellow with maybe a hint of green. It kind of depends on the light. (duh)

The taste is light and crisp. At the front it is vegetal with just the slightest bite. This drifts momentarily through spring water before changing to a floral grassy aftertaste that lingers. No bitterness and no astringency.

I do catch hints of apricot in the taste. This might be the power of suggestion as I read the website tasting notes. I caught the nectarine more in the aroma than in the actual sip. Regardless, this is a delicate but very pleasant green tea.

What I love about this tea is it is similar to a lot of the better Chinese green teas I've tried but still unique in its own way. In addition, it amazingly bears no resemblance to the Nepal black or white teas I have tried from What-Cha.

I loved the other teas as well. That is not my point. While all of their Nepali teas are sourced direct from Greenland Organic Farm, all of them taste different. I find that cool. It speaks highly of the artistry of the farmers. Of interest to many of you, all the Nepal teas are chemical and pesticide free.

A huge thanks to Allistair at What-Cha for allowing me to sample and review some of your offerings. Much success to you.

You can find Nepal First Flush 2014 Emerald Green Tea here.