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Canny Scots: Coffee bust

T Ching - Tue, 09/23/2014 - 12:04

This is Part 2 of Dananjaya Silva’s post about the history of tea in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).  Follow the link to read Part 1: Canny Scots. 

By the late 1850’s 80,000 acres of inaccessible jungle had been felled and the land planted with coffee. By 1867 Ceylon briefly became the worlds largest exporter of coffee. This was the height and heyday of the Ceylon coffee industry.

A small rust coloured powdery patch (Hemileia vastatrix) on the coffee leaves was first noted on the outlying plantations in 1869. This disease was first ignored as the opening up of jungle was continued, while the effects on yield per bush were masked. The disease that started on a few outlying plantations spread its way through 250,000 acres of cultivated land, ruining the estates and the lives of the men who had risked it all. Many of these once proud men packed up and left Ceylon, financially and mentally broken. Yet others carried on with their pioneering spirit, by uprooting every single coffee bush and replanting with tea.

Coffee planter, tea planter & pioneer

Well before the coffee collapse, tea seeds of Assamica Jat were sent from the Botanical Gardens in Calcutta (modern-day Kolkatta) to the Peredeniya Botanical Gardens near Kandy in the late 1830′s. Small experimental plantings were conducted. Some of the more enterprising coffee planters planted patches of tea on their estates. Most, however, were gripped by coffee mania.

Mr. James Taylor from Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire Scotland, undertook the first commercial planting of tea. Loolecondra estate near Kandy is the original home of Ceylon tea. On Loolecondra, the first seeds were planted and the initial manufacture of tea was conducted – not in a factory as you would today – but on Taylor’s bungalow veranda.

By 1867, the first shipments of tea were sent to the London auction and were declared to be as good as the flavours from China and India. Ceylon was brought into the world of tea, and the coffee men begun planting the hills of Ceylon with what is now a common sight.

As the collapse of coffee had left a lot of proprietors short of money, old coffee stores were turned into tea factories. Tea plantations required plucking to take place every day, requiring larger populations of workers to be recruited.

Tea machinery flowed into Colombo port from Britain’s industrial towns. “Davidsons of Belfast” and “Marshalls of Gainsborough” equipment was transported up the rickety roads; elephants became invaluable means of transport for creating the modern estates.

As the crop of tea steadily increased, the need for purposefully-built tea factories was realized. Many of the factories found in the hills today are the very factories that were built by these men. In some cases, the original equipment is still used.

History in the Cup

The pioneering work of these men can be seen all over Sri Lanka’s high country. From the estate names, to the roads, to the economic opportunities that tea provides to Sri Lanka’s economy, the importance of these innovators is evident.

With the Commonwealth Games that have taken place in Glasgow, golf’s Ryder Cup in Gleneagles, and an independence referendum which failed last week, it is a big year for Scotland. Hopefully Scots – and people all over the world – can find the time to brew up some history in their cup this coming year.

Happy Sipping!

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Apple on the Green Tea from Pluck Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 09/23/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Pluck Tea

Tea Description:

Warming, soothing and fruity with a hint of cinnamon. This dried apple tea has been layered with premium green tea and just the right amount of spice for a flavourful but sophisticated tea, hot or cold.

Apple on the Green features MacIntosh apples grown in Niagara Ontario.

Learn more about August’s Postal Teas shipment here.

Learn more about subscribing to Postal Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

OK, so far it’s been 2 for 2 with this month’s box from Postal Teas.  I loved the Peach tea and I’m loving this Apple on the Green!  Apple isn’t always the easiest flavor to get right in a tea.  But this is one of the best apple teas I’ve tried … at least that I’ve tried recently!

That’s because everything is balanced nicely.  The green tea has a sweet, slightly grassy, slightly creamy flavor that seems to elevate the apple notes in a very pleasing way.  The apple has a strong flavor, but it doesn’t taste fake.  It has a very good, authentic apple-y taste.  The cinnamon is strong enough to be tasted and add a vibrant zesty flavor to the cup without giving the tea too warm or spicy a flavor.  Everything is done just right with this blend!

OK, so I know that Pluck is a Canadian company and I don’t mean to take anything away from that, but this tea seems very “American” (United States) to me because here we’re all about the apple pie.  This cup of tea is like apple pie a la mode without the crust.  The creaminess of the green tea gives it an a la mode sort of flavor, the apple is sweet and juicy and the cinnamon gives just the right amount of warmth – it’s just like a delicious apple-y filling that my gramma would make for her amazing apple pies.

Maybe this tea is just making me feel a little sentimental.

To steep this tea, I used my small teapot and measured 1 bamboo scoop into the vessel.  I heated the water to 180°F and poured about 12 ounces of tea into the teapot and let it steep for 2 minutes.  Then I strained off the tea and enjoyed.  For the resteep, I added an extra minute onto the steep time but did not increase the temperature.

So far, this is the best tea that I’ve tried from my Postal Teas boxes.  This tea has made my subscriptions worth it.

This one also offers a pretty decent resteep.  The apple flavor is a little softer than in the first steep, but it’s still quite tasty and I think it’s well worth it to resteep these leaves.

Vanilla Cacao Tea from Tisano

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 16:00

Tisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos

Where to Buy:  Tisano

Tisane Description:

If you love chocolate cupcakes this is the tea for you… In the 19th Century Dutch settlers in South Africa created an herbal infusion from the Rooibos bush. It is a caffeine-free natural source of antioxidants with a milky and nutty flavor profile. Combining Rooibos, Vanilla Beans and Cacao Tea creates a creamy chocolate dessert in a cup minus the calories, sugar, fat and packed with antioxidant goodness.

Learn more about this tisane here.

Taster’s Review:

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  This is so good.  Definitely one of the very best rooibos blends I’ve ever had.  And it’s all because of the chocolate, baby!

To steep this tisane, I used 195°F water and steeped it for 12 minutes.  I used 2 tsp. of leaf for 12 ounces of water.  This produced one serious cup of YUM!

Just as the description above suggests, this tastes like a liquefied chocolate cupcake!  The rooibos adds just enough of a nutty, sweet flavor to give this just the right cake-ish flavor.  I like that I can taste just a bit of the natural nutty tones of the rooibos without this tasting too much like rooibos.  You can taste those nutty flavors but it doesn’t taste so distinctly like rooibos.

The vanilla is a strong note too – sweet, creamy and luscious!  YUM!  For those of you who like the flavor of a latte but want to limit your dairy intake, the vanilla in this gives it just the right creamy, almost latte-ish like flavor that you don’t need to add milk or cream.

But the real star of this cup is – not surprisingly! – the cacao shells!  By now, those that have been reading my reviews enough should be aware of how much I love cacao shells.  I think that they’re the perfect component to a chocolate tea.  It adds a better chocolate flavor to a cup than cacao nibs do, better than chocolate flavoring oil does, and much better than chocolate chips/chunks do.  Cacao shells are the KEY to a chocolate-y tea!

And this is chocolate-y!  Rich and decadent and absolutely SINFULLY chocolate.  So yum!  The vanilla gives it just enough of a “milk chocolate” sort of flavor and enough of a creamy texture to satisfy that craving of a chocolate-y dessert (like that aforementioned chocolate cupcake!)

I don’t usually offer a “highly recommended” recommendation to a rooibos blend … but this one has earned it.  I highly recommend this one!  Two thumbs up!

Tea People Russian Caravan

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China and Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: varied black and green
Ingredients: black and oolong tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teapot and mesh infuser
Liquor: dark amber

This is what I affectionately refer to as a "kitchen sink" tea. It's a blend of Keemun and Lapsang Souchong along with a Formosa oolong for good measure. The taste was actually quite a bit softer than I was expecting. It had the requisite smokiness but in a more subtle way. There was surprisingly little astringency. A subtle hint of brown sugar sweetness lingered in the finish. Perhaps that came from the oolong? All of the Russian Caravan teas that I've tried before contained Assam so that probably explains why I found it to be so mild. It was definitely still bold enough to take milk and sugar but I was perfectly happy to drink it straight. If you are a fan of this type of tea, it's good quality and fairly economical. They are based in the UK but it works out to about $10 for 3.5oz. This isn't a tea that I would drink all of the time but I can definitely see myself craving it on a cold winter evening.

Russian Caravan sample provided by Tea People.
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Innovative tea space

T Ching - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 12:02

Retail establishments are getting more creative.  In the Pearl district of Portland Oregon, there is a terrific shop called Christopher David. It’s an interior design shop, and a floral market, and a cafe.  It’s such a great space that welcomes you inside to explore and wander about. A similar venue opening in Florida next month: Black and Denim.

Black and Denim will be sharing their space with Te Bella -  which will be serving whole leaf teas.  This is an innovative concept in retailing. To have the pleasure of drinking wonderful whole leaf teas in a stimulating and varied environment is the best of all worlds! Art galleries have incorporated a similar concept, again opportunity for visual exploration while quietly sipping a favorite tea. The shared-cost concept should find a few entrepreneurs ready to move forward with their longed for tea shop – financially unattainable before the possibility of a shared lease agreement – 50% less leasing cost. This as a win/win/win scenario.  Two compatible retailers get to enhance their spaces with the partnership; the consumer gets the best of both worlds. Hopefully this will allow more independent tea shops to compete a bit easier with tea conglomerates that are moving into neighborhoods and malls around the country.  I’ve always been partial to the small, privately owned tea shops.  How about you?

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Buckingham Palace Garden Party Tea Blend from English Tea Store

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black & Green

Where to Buy:  English Tea Store

Tea Description:

The Buckingham Palace Garden Party tea loose leaf blend from English Tea Store is a delicate medium tea with a hint of Earl Grey and Jasmine. This is a lighter afternoon tea.

Every May, the Queen holds a garden party at Buckingham Palace, a lovely English springtime tradition. The tea that is served is a long time favorite, a delicious Palace medley specially selected for this occasion. Intriguing hints of high-grown pure Ceylon Earl Grey blend effortlessly with the soft jasmine from Fujian Province. Couple this with malty Assam (from the estate of Borengajuli) flavory Dimbula Ceylon (from Hatton), brisk and golden cup East of Rift Kenya (from Kambaa and Kagwe) and you have one of the most flavorful teas to come from the British Isles. Each cup is a cup of mystery – the flavors all come to the fore at separate times – one minute you taste the Earl Grey, the next second you can almost feel the soft floral notes of jasmine and finally you get the satisfying fullness of the Assam Ceylon and Kenya blend. Enjoy this tea and be a part of the annual tradition in the west gardens of Buckingham Palace, without having to dress up.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This Buckingham Palace Garden Party Tea is an example of a tea that I should have read the description of before I brewed it, because by simply looking at the loose leaf, it is difficult to tell that it’s a blend of black and green teas.  I should have used a slightly lower temperature to steep this tea!  And there is some bitterness as a result.  I steeped this for 3 minutes using boiling water, and I think I should have used water that was closer to 180°F.  Even with the bitterness, it isn’t a bad tasting tea, but I think it could be better.  Unfortunately, I don’t have more of this tea to experiment with it.

The aroma is lovely!  I can smell the bergamot and the jasmine, but neither offers an overpowering fragrance.  This seems to be nicely balanced between the two classic ingredients of jasmine and bergamot.

The black tea is rich and flavorful.  I can taste the malty notes of Assam and the aforementioned bitterness may be a result of the Assam’s presence in the blend.  The bitterness is not something that I find off-putting as it’s not an intrusive flavor.  It doesn’t get in the way of me tasting the other flavors of the tea nor does it get in the way of the enjoyment of the overall cup.  I’d rather the bitterness not be there, of course, and if I had a little more of this tea, I’d experiment with it a little to figure out a better way to brew it so that the bitterness wasn’t present.

The green tea is a little less discernible than the black tea.  This isn’t surprising, as green tea tends to have a lighter flavor than black tea.  However, that isn’t to say that the green tea can’t be tasted because I definitely taste it’s softer, somewhat vegetal taste and a silky texture that is unmistakably green tea-ish.

The jasmine is a sweet, exotic note that compliments the tangy bergamot.  The bergamot it not as strong as I typically like a bergamot in an Earl Grey blend, however, since this is a “garden party” blend (for Buckingham Palace, no less), I can let the softer bergamot slide because a stronger bergamot essence may very well overpower the delicate notes of jasmine and a good balance between the two has been achieved here.  It’s a pleasantly floral, tangy cup that is very satisfying.

Overall, an enjoyable cup that I’d suggest as an afternoon cuppa.  It’s not quite robust enough – in my opinion – to serve as a breakfast blend or that first cup of the day when you need that jump start.  This is ideal to serve to guests though, and makes a lovely cup of tea to enjoy in the afternoon, even if your garden party is a party of one.

2014 Darjeeling 2nd Flush Goomtee Oolong Tea from What-Cha Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 09/21/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  What-Cha Tea

Tea Description:

A delightful oolong tea which evolves and develops with each subsequent brew. A great fruity nose with a complex taste of orange and spice.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I was really happy to try this Darjeeling Oolong from What-Cha Tea.  Darjeeling Oolong teas tend to be a bit more difficult to find and they’re so lovely that whenever I have the opportunity to try them, I’m excited!

And my excitement was justified because this second Flush Goomtee Oolong is really quite delightful!

I brewed this Darjeeling Oolong the same way I’d brew other Oolong teas, using my gaiwan.  I heated the water to 180°F and measured out 1 bamboo scoop of leaves and placed them in the bottom of the gaiwan bowl.  Then I gave the tea a quick rinse (15 seconds) and discarded the liquid, and then proceeded to infuse the tea for 45 seconds for the first infusion and then for each subsequent infusion, I added 15 seconds onto the steep time.  My first cup was composed of a combination of the first two infusions; the second cup was a combination of infusions 3 and 4, and so on.

My first impression of this tea?  Deliciously sweet and fruity!  I taste the promised notes of orange and spice.  I also taste a sweet, grape-y note.  It’s quite smooth and very pleasant to sip.  A little earthy and woodsy, with delicate spice notes that are peppery and warm.

Later infusions offered even more fruit notes.  I started to pick up on an apple-y note in the second cup (infusions 3 and 4).  The sweetness of the cup reminded me almost of a brown sugar sweetness.  The cup is smooth yet crisp and vibrant.  The light spice notes perk up the flavor.

What I love about Darjeeling Oolong teas like this is that they offer the best of Darjeeling and of Oolong in one cup.  It’s smooth and creamy like I’d experience from an Oolong, but I am still tasting notes that are familiar with a second flush Darjeeling teas.  I can taste notes of muscatel and the wonderfully warm spice notes and gentle woodsy tones.

With the third cup (infusions 5 and 6), the flavors became a little more unified and soft.  The spice tones were not quite as defined as they were in the first two cups, but I found the sweetness from the fruit notes as well as that sweet brown sugar-y note more than made up for the waning spice notes.

This is a really lovely tea.  I enjoyed its many infusions (I infused this tea a total of eight times!) finding that the 2nd cup was my favorite because the spice notes were still quite zesty and I liked the way these spice tones married with the fruit notes.

I highly recommend this tea to both lovers of Darjeeling and of Oolong!  You’ll really enjoy this tea!

Cinnamon Pear Flavored Black Tea from 52Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 09/21/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Zoomdweebies

Tea Description:

Sweet, juicy pear paired (pun totally intended) with some warm cinnamon and premium black teas. This is a delicious tea–hot or iced. With premium black teas, freeze-dried pear pieces, cinnamon chips and organic pear and cinnamon flavors.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

Of the teas that I received in my last shipment from 52Teas, this was the one I looked forward to most.  I absolutely love pear but pear flavored teas are not as easy to find as other fruit flavors and I suspect that this is because pear flavor is difficult to nail when it comes to flavoring teas.  I know this from first hand experience.  One of the teas that I offered as a tea blender/artist is a green pear tea and it was awesome but it took me about six months to get the flavors just right and to liking.

So when I encounter a new pear blend, I ‘m always interested in trying it to see how it turns out.  I’ve tried several different pear blends and some have been more successful than others and in my experience as a tea blogger, I have found that the key is to find the right complement to the pear to accentuate the flavor of the fruit.  Because if you think about it, the pear is a rather delicate tasting fruit.  When 52Teas announced this tea for the week of August 25th, I wondered if cinnamon would be the right complement for my beloved pear.

I brewed this in my Kati tea tumber.  Whenever I’m steeping a tea with some spice, I like to use either a small teapot or my tea tumbler because I find that the spices seem to embed themselves into my Breville tea maker when I steep a spiced tea in it and the only thing that can get those spices out of the tea maker is to run a brew cycle with just water and baking soda.  This works, but I’d rather not have to do this every time I brew a tea with spices in it.  It’s just easier to grab this tumbler or a small teapot to do the job.

I used one bamboo scoop of tea in the tumbler’s basket and poured water heated to 205°F into the cup until full (about 12 ounces, I think).  Then I steeped the tea for 3 minutes.

Hmm … well, I can taste the pear, but it isn’t as pear-like as I would like it to be.  While the tea is still fresh from the teapot hot, the pear notes are nearly indistinguishable.  After allowing the tea cool to a drinkable temperature (about 4 minutes or so), I find that the pear flavor emerges a little bit.  The more it cools, the more the pear emerges, but even as I near the end of the cup, I think that this tea is more cinnamon and black tea than it is pear anything.  The pear is quite delicate.  Even when slurped to aerate the liquid on the palate, the pear is not quite as pear-y as I want from a pear tea, and what pear I do taste is a little on the artificial side.

The black tea is a pleasant enough black tea base.  It has a brisk taste and it’s an invigorating tea.  It’s a bit on the astringent side and if you oversteep this, I suspect it can become bitter (so don’t do that!)  The cinnamon is warm and flavorful, not a candied cinnamon red-hot type flavor, but a warm cinnamon-y note like something I’d sprinkle on my toast in the morning.  Flavorful and once the tea has cooled to the point where it’s more like iced tea than hot tea, I find that the cinnamon is an enjoyable accompaniment to the pear notes.

And this does taste better iced than it does hot.  When it’s hot … what can I say?  Not my favorite pear tea.  It’s alright but not something that I’m cheering about or gushing with praise for.  But then, I did preface this review by saying that pear flavoring is difficult to nail when it comes to pear flavored teas.  The way the tea melds with the tea base and other components really becomes paramount because the tea base and/or components can alter the flavor of the pear and make it taste less like pear.

But, it does taste better as it cools, so I think I’ll be using the rest of my pouch for iced tea.  (It’s actually quite tasty iced and that fake-y taste is not there when this is chilled.)

Product Review: Tea Box Express Monthly Subscription, Part 2!

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 09/20/2014 - 16:00

Product Information:

Where to Subscribe:  Tea Box Express

About Tea Box Express:  

Tea Box Express is more than a box of tea. It’s an experience. Each month brings a new box brimming with surprises that always include quality brand-name tea and three or four fun tea-things. We are dedicated to bringing you the best teas and the niftiest tea goodies. Our mission is to bring a tea party to your door every month.

Save 20% off your first month’s subscription!  Just use the code SORORITEA20 in the coupon field at check-out to save!

Review:

So the last time that I wrote about this box, I shared with you a little bit about the experience of receiving this really awesome box but I didn’t actually review any of the products inside.  Now, with this part 2 of the Product Review, I am going to do exactly that.  I’m going to offer up my thoughts on the tea, the honey and the cookie, as well as the accessories!

So, let’s start with the tea.  The tea in Tea Box Express’s flagship box – October’s Bee Happy box – is the signature black tea from Teatulia.  I have previously reviewed this tea, but I’ve revisited teas in the past and I don’t have a problem revisiting this tea as it is one that I enjoyed before and I know I’ll enjoy it now.

It’s a pleasant, full-bodied black tea.  It’s rich with malty notes and a pleasant sweetness.  I find that this sweetness is more pronounced with the second steeping, so even if you’re one who doesn’t typically resteep black teas, this is one that is definitely worth your while to infuse again!

Which leads me to talk about one of the gadgets that was in this box:  the teabag caddy.  It’s shaped like a little teapot and it’s bright yellow.  I like the cheerful color and it fits the Bee Happy theme appropriately.  I have used teabag caddies like this one in the past but the ones that I’ve used have been metal and after a while, well, I live in the Pacific Northwest and if something is metal here, eventually it becomes rust.  And that’s what happened to the other teabag caddies that I’ve used.  I like that this is ceramic.  It holds the teabag in between infusions.  Yeah, it’s a simple job, but something has to do it, and this is cute and it’s bright, cheery yellow.  So why not this?

To steep:  I steeped one sachet in eight ounces of boiling water for 2 1/2 minutes.  For the second infusion, I used another eight ounces of boiling water, but this time, I steeped the sachet for 3 minutes.

It’s a robust black tea that would serve you well as a breakfast tea, as it takes the additions of honey and milk nicely.  And that’s just what I’m about to talk about now!  Honey!

Bee-cause in this month’s Tea Box Express, I also received a 3 ounce jar of Tea Honey from Savannah Bee Co.  Before drizzling the honey in my tea, I took a sip of the tea to see how it tastes, and it tastes quite fine without the addition, but I find that the honey does soften the astringency of the tea a little bit.

Having never used one of these fancy honey dipper/drizzler/server thingamajigs, I wasn’t quite sure how to use it so I just … rolled with my inexperience and used it the way I thought it should be used.  I dipped the swirly end of the dipper into the jar of honey and let some of the honey drip off of the dipper back into the jar, and then I was satisfied with the amount of honey that was on the dipper, I put it right into my teacup and used it to stir the honey into the tea.  Since I was the only person using the honey dipper, I felt like this was a perfectly acceptable way to use the tool.

Tea Caddy and Honey Dripper from October’s Tea Box Express.

And it is handy.  The wire spiral holds the honey and it’s not as messy a task to take honey from jar and add it to teacup using this device.  It’s not a necessary tool when it comes to tea time (especially since I rarely use honey in my tea), but it is kind of cool, even though I’m not a big tea tool kind of girl.  I am all about less is more when it comes to gadgets and tools.  Tea should be simple.  But, I have to admit that this fancy thingamajig is nifty.

I tasted a little drop of the honey before I added it to the cup, and it’s a delicate tasting honey.  It tastes sweet but it doesn’t have a strong honey-esque flavor to it.  That is to say that I’m finding that it’s adding a light sweetness to my cup of tea without it tasting overly honeyed.  And as I said before, it did help to curb the astringent bite to this tea just a little.  It’s not an overly astringent tea, but what little I detected with my pre-honey sip was diminished significantly after the honey was added.  I like that my cup is now not only less astringent and lightly sweet, but even better is that it’s not overly sweet nor does it taste too much like honey.

The cookie!  The cookie!  OK, first of all, it’s adorable.  It’s a large cookie (I’d estimate it to be something between 3 and 4 inches, which is large for a cookie).  The cookie is a blonde colored shortbread cookie.  I had mentioned earlier that it’s a sugar cookie, but the cookie part is not quite as sweet as a sugar cookie, it’s got more of a shortbread taste and texture.  And the cookie is decorated with a bright yellow icing that has been “drawn” with a bee design in black icing and white wings.  The bee has a happy face.  Bee Happy.

I like that this is more like a shortbread cookie than a sweet sugar cookie because the icing is quite sweet and if the cookie part were sweeter, this would become very cloying very fast.  They are still quite sweet.

The cookie part has a nice shortbread type texture:  it’s got that delicious buttery texture that melts in your mouth.  It’s not a crunchy cookie.  It’s dense like shortbread.  One cookie makes for a very nice tea time treat.

I’m sure I probably said this in part 1 of this review, but this box is really awesome.  It would make a great gift for the tea lover on your gift giving list.  (Oh, please put me on your gift giving list!)  I enjoyed everything in this box from the tea to the honey to the cookie … and even the neat little tools.

This is fun mail:  it’s a tea party in a box!

Earl Grey Lavender Black Tea Blend from ArtfulTea

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 09/20/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  ArtfulTea orArtfulTea on Etsy

Tea Description:

The classic cup of Earl Grey tea gets a makeover in Provence. The addition of lavender blossoms adds a soothing floral note to the traditional flavor of Earl Grey’s main ingredient – oil of bergamot. Very aromatic!  

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Yay!  It’s time for a cup of Earl Grey!

There really are very few teas that I prefer over a cup of delicious Earl Grey.  Generally, I do prefer the classic, straightforward Earl Grey:  black tea with the essence of bergamot.  But I do also appreciate some of those cool “twists” to the traditional Earl Grey, like this Earl Grey Lavender from ArtfulTea.

And this is a REALLY good Earl Grey tea with Lavender!  The black tea is a smooth, robust black tea that supports the strong bergamot flavor well.  It’s smooth from start to finish with a tangy astringency toward the tail.  The bergamot is strong without tasting perfume-ish, and that’s especially important when it comes to a blend like this because the lavender can often come off as too soapy.  It’s crucial to keep the right balance of bergamot and lavender flavors so that the tea tastes like tea and not like a cup of body bath liquid.

But this tea has been carefully blended to offer a powerful bergamot note and enough lavender for a sweet, floral presence without creating a tea that tastes like it belongs at the cosmetics counter at the department store.

This tea is sweet, tangy, floral and invigorating to sip.  It makes a nice afternoon cuppa.  This is the kind of tea that evokes thoughts of sipping tea in a garden on a breezy summer afternoon.

This cuppa represents the last of the samples I received when I ordered the ArtfulTea Sampler, I guess I’m going to have to order more from them soon because my experiences with this company have been nothing but positive!  I recommend them highly!

Infusion des Marmottes Tisane from Les 2 Marmottes

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 16:00

Tisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Tisane

Where to Buy:  Les 2 Marmottes

Tisane Description:

Created in 1976, this is the first composition of two marmots.  This herbal tea to ruby and tangy taste is the sweetest and most mysterious of all.  Seven plants were found, but the dosage is one that will remain well buried in a hidden family secret terrier gallery . . .  

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I think that this is the blend that started the company (or so I’ve been led to believe by the above description).  It is a combination of linden, verbena, peppermint, hibiscus, chamomile, rosehip and orange blossoms.

To steep this blend, I heated the kettle to 195°F and used about 6 ounces of water to 1 teabag and left it to steep for 8 minutes.  It’s a little longer than I typically steep a blend with hibiscus in it (usually I steep it for 6 minutes, tops!) but because I didn’t see a lot of ruby colored leaves through the teabag, I hoped that I wouldn’t be left with a cup of tisane where the hibiscus completely took over.

Fortunately for me, there doesn’t seem to be a heavy amount of hibiscus to this blend.  The color of the brewed liquid is lightly “rosy” but not ruby red the way that heavily hibiscus-ed blends often are.  It also doesn’t have the thick texture (or pucker-y tartness) of a heavily hibiscus-ed blend.

This is a surprisingly balanced combination of the eight ingredients.  The two ingredients that I expected to overpower the others – the aforementioned hibiscus and the peppermint – do not knock out the other components of this blend.  Peppermint can often be a rather strong presence in a blend when added with too heavy a hand.  Here, the peppermint tastes light.  It is crisp and adds a cool flavor to the cup without overwhelming the other flavors of the cup.

The linden, chamomile and orange blossom add just a whisper of floral essence to the cup while the verbena adds a hint of citrus.

The overall flavor of the cup is subtle and herbaceous.  Do I like it?  It’s alright.  Not the best tisane I’ve ever tasted but certainly not the worst either.  I think I rather prefer some of the other tisanes that I’ve tried from Les 2 Marmottes, but this isn’t terrible.  It’s a gentle cuppa, nice for later in the evening when you’re wanting to wind down and relax.  I think it’s best served with a little drizzle of honey to the cup – it makes this a very soothing and calming drink.

Friday Round Up - September 14th through September 19th

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 16:00
Just My Cup of Tea: unBEARably cute
Books and Tea had a post last week that really caught my attention. She read A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson and paired it with some adorable bear themed teacups.

How to Tea: Cold Brewing
Lu Ann from The Cup of Life tells us all about how to cold brew tea. It's one my favorite methods, mostly because it's so darned easy.

Teaspoons at the Table: Campfire Tea Ice Cream Sandwiches
+Alexis Siemons never fails to come up a recipe that makes me want to eat my computer screen. Lapsang Souchong infused butter comes together with ice cream for a smokey and sweet treat.

Tea of the Week: Sunflower's Jasmine Tea
Talk about a blast from the past! Bonnie from Thirsty for Tea recently wrote about a tea that I think has graced every tea lover's shelves. Who doesn't recognize that classic yellow tin?

Mountain Tea
My friend +Robert Godden of +The Devotea shared a funny story about the trials and tribulations of trying to get a cup of tea in Calgary.
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Tea Review 539: Tea Journeyman’s Bvumbwe Peony

Walker Tea Review - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 13:30
  Origin: Satemwa Tea Estate, Thyolo, Malawi Score: 84 Price (as of post): 1 oz = $7.75  to Walker Tea Review. Get complete access to Member Content.   Sign Up For The Newsletter. Sample provided by Tea Journeyman. Walker Tea Review- a tea blog with tea reviews and tea tastings. Want to see a tea reviewed? […]

Back Seven: the ten commandments of tea

T Ching - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 12:00

1. Thou shalt place no tea bags before me.
2. Thou shalt not mention tea and coffee in the same sentence.
3. Remember your daily tea time and keep it holy.
4. Honor the Mother and Father of tea (India and China).
5. Thou shalt use filtered or bottled water to make tea.
6. Thou shalt not sugar thy tea.
7. Thou shalt not put milk in thy tea.
8. Thou shalt not charge excessive prices for tea.
9. Thou shalt not sell fannings as whole leaf.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s teapot, teacups, or tea stash.

First published on 17 October 2007, many tea enthusiasts would agree to these today.

Loading image from T Ching archives.

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Home of the brazier

Tea Squared - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 11:30

Dig these beautiful braziers and more from this blog post (part of a series of instruction and experimental study) about learning to love the way tea was originally fired. Covet, much.


Product Review: Organic Lime Pomegranate Lightly Sweetened Iced Green Tea from steaz

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 03:59

Product Information:

It starts with certified organic and fair trade green tea sourced from around the world – we then brew our tea with the most flavorful fruits that are rich in antioxidants and finished with a hint of organic cane sugar for a healthy and delicious refreshment that will enhance your senses.  And becuase our farms are Fair Trade Certified™, we ensure equal pay, better health care and equal opportunities for our farmers – so they too can reach new heights as well.  

Learn more about this product here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve said before that I’m not the biggest fan of RTD (Ready to Drink) teas that are available in just about any convenience store or grocery store.  Most of them are crafted primarily of sugar or other sweeteners.  They tend to be so full of sweetener and flavoring that the drinker can’t even taste the tea!

Occasionally, I come across one that’s different or at least, I come across one that seems to promise to be different.  This can of Organic Lime Pomegranate iced green tea from steaz says “Lightly Sweetened” on it, and that’s what immediately caught my attention about it.  Other eye catching features:  “Organic” and “Fair Trade.”  Two other things that I appreciated.

So, I’ll give it a try.

The description above states that there is a “hint of organic cane sugar.”  However, the ingredient list tells a slightly different tale:

INGREDIENTS: Filtered water, organic evaporated cane juice, natural pomegranate & lime flavors, organic lemon juice, fair trade certified™ organic green tea.

When the ingredient is second on a list five ingredients, that suggests to me that maybe there’s a little more than just a “hint” of sugar in this.  Also, after reading the ingredient list, I’m a little disturbed by the fact that the green tea is the LAST ingredient on the list!  What?!?

And unfortunately, with this tea, you can taste the ingredients as they’re listed.  I taste more sweetener and flavoring than I do green tea.

That said, this drink does have some redeeming qualities.  It is a tasty drink.  The lime is the strongest of the flavors, but I taste a sweet-tart pomegranate note in there too.  While I do taste more sugar than I do tea, it isn’t TOO sweet or cloyingly so.  This isn’t as sweet as say … the typical soda pop would be.  My teeth don’t feel as though they’ve been coated with sugar as I drink this beverage.

It’s a tasty, refreshing beverage.  I do wish I could taste more tea than sugar or pomegranate and lime.  I feel like this has been marketed as a tea product and as an organic product for the health appeal without any real focus on the tea.  Those who are trying to make “healthier” choices while shopping would probably buy this.  This isn’t a drink for tea drinkers, it’s a drink for those who probably have never really tried green tea and think that this is what green tea is supposed to taste like.

Assam FTGFOP Black Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf here.

Tea Description:

A rich, whole leaf Assam with dark leaves and golden tips produces a bright copper, full-bodied tea. Floral and citrus hints are followed by a malty aftertaste. Lovely with milk and sugar, and a wonderful stand-alone tea.

Ingredients:  Assam Fine Tippy Golden Flower Orange Pekoe Black Tea

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Selection Club subscription program here.

Receive 25% savings on the Selection Club from Simple Loose Leaf.  Just type in SISTERSELECTION25 in the coupon field and save 25%!  This discount is applicable only to the monthly Selection Club subscription and not the retail selection of teas.

Taster’s Review:

Mmm!  That’s the first sound that came out of me as I took a sip of this tea.  There is something that is just so … delectable when it comes to a high quality Assam tea like this one from Simple Loose Leaf.  Is it the sweet caramel undertones?  The malty notes?  The hints of cacao that intermingle with the notes of fruit and flower and earth?  Or is it a combination of all these?

For me, it’s how the cup comes together.  It’s the sum of the parts.  The tea is rich and full-bodied.  It has a certain gusto to it that invigorates me, which is why I tend to reach for teas like this as my first cup of the day.

I also love the sweetness of the tea.  The creamy caramel low notes meld with the malty notes of the tea to create this decadent sweetness that compliments the cacao notes.  Then I taste the notes of flower and fruit in the distance.  It’s earthy and warm.  And as you’re starting to feel just a little cozy with the sip, those fruit notes come through to add a touch of brightness to the cup.

But how to brew it?  I have found that Assam teas tend to be rather finicky.  They don’t like to be kept in hot water too long or they’ll become quite bitter on you.  Sure, this is true of many teas, but I find it to be particularly true of Assam, and even a matter of 15 – 30 seconds too long can mean a cup that’s more bitter than you want it to be.

For Assam, I go with 205°F rather than the full-on boil, and then I steep the tea for no more than 2 1/2 minutes.  If I steep the tea in my Breville One-Touch tea maker (which is what I did today), I steep the tea for only 2 minutes.  500ml of freshly filtered water with 2 bamboo scoops of tea in the basket and I pushed the button to make my magical machine go.  Two minutes later, I was treated to a fragrant, delicious cuppa!

This is a really good Assam.  I like this tea best served hot, and it takes the additions of milk and honey well if that’s what you like in your tea.  I personally like this straight up, it’s edgy and it gives me a good shake awake.  When I want an indulgent treat, I sometimes drizzle some pure maple syrup in my cup and yum!

Another awesome tea from Simple Loose Leaf!  Have you joined the Selection Club yet?

Global Tea Hut August 2014 - Kingfisher Jade

Tea For Me Please - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 16:00
+Global Tea Hut has a major advantage when it comes to sourcing because they are based in Taiwan. That puts them right in the heart of oolong territory. There are three main varieties, called the three daughters. I've tried plenty of Jing Shuan and Si Ji Chun but I've never tried a Tsui Yu, also known as Kingfisher Jade. I find myself looking forward to these monthly shipments more and more. In part it is because it is the one tea I don't do a formal review of. In part it is because I love feeling connected to a community of tea lovers. Another part is that I really, really love seeing what the tea gift will be. I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning whenever the package arrives.

This month's surprise was a set of Chinese medicine stones. They are placed directly into the kettle so that they will soften and purify the water for tea. I've heard of bamboo charcoal being used for this purposed but these were basically volcanic rocks. I don't have the set up to do a double tasting with and without the rocks so I decided to alternate with each infusion. While it was a less than perfect method, I was definitely able to discern the difference. The taste was softer and rounder, even the color of the liquor was slightly different. For this tea, it really helped to bring out the sweet floral qualities. There were some vegetal notes but it remained very smooth, especially on the infusions when I used the stones.

I did a lot of experimenting with teas that I am familiar with in the weeks that followed. For some teas, it visibly improved the taste. For others, I felt that it dampened some of my favorite parts. I eventually took the stones out but I'll definitely be playing with them from time to time. It's a bit silly but I also found that I really enjoyed the clinking sound they made whenever the water came to a boil.

This tea was received as part of a Global Tea Hut subscription.





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Tea As Meditation

Walker Tea Review - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 14:30
Tea and meditation have associated themselves for centuries. One legend puts the birth of tea plants alongside the creation of a new form of meditation. The story goes that Bodhidharma tore off his eyelids after falling asleep seven years into a nine year wall-gazing meditation. His discarded peeper-covers fell in the dirt and became tea […]

Steepist: Think inside the box

T Ching - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:03

Four beautiful pouches of whole leaf tea, complete with load-your-own environmentally friendly tea bags, arrived on my doorstep a few weeks back, from Steepist. I was reminded that a wag once said, “Freedom is the absence of choice.”  My dilemma: which tea to try first?

My husband and I have a long-standing morning tea ritual: he gets up to greet the sun. Our rustic cottage on the east fork of the Hood River is over a hundred years old and has primarily stone or tile floors.  Seven months of the year, we build a fire in the woodstove to warm the house.  As soon as that fire is built, we share multiple pots of whole leaf tea. Most often, what is in our cups is black tea from India: Jungpana, Rohini, Doke Black Fusion, Margaret’s Hope, Hattiali, or Dooteriah.  This trial box of teas from Steepist found us clearly drinking . . . outside of the box, despite what the package says.

Our first venture was the Lapsang Souchong from Stone Leaf Teahouse.  My thoughts about this unique tea have been made plain in many a comment about campfire tea; burning tires; smoke alarms; and wildfire season.  Either you like this tea or you hate it. This particular lapsang has the Fujian pedigree, as well as organic certification.  We steeped it in water heated to 208 degrees for three minutes.  I’m delighted to admit that I actually enjoyed it.  Easily withstanding three steeps, the tea flavor emerges from the smoke on the second and third steepings.

The second tea “inside the box” was from RUNA: clean energy.  Made primarily from guayusa, an herb grown in the Amazon, this tea is consumed for its energy-giving properties.  Purported to balance caffeine with polyphenols to provide just the perfect energy boost all day, I gifted it to an 18 year old tea geek who will need – and want – the caffeine in his first year of university studies.  The Ecuador-based company works with local farmers to produce organic and environmentally sound guayusa beverages.

The next lovely little parcel was Fiji, from senendipiTEA.  A “deep, lush organic Chinese green tea flavored with juicy pineapple and a touch of papaya.”  Fussy about flavors added to my tea, I was prepared to turn my nose up at this one.  I was gratified to learn that the flavors came from chunks of fruit, not an extract sprayed on the tea.  Steeped for three minutes at 190 degrees, the tea was as promised:  green tea lovers who want a little touch of sweet will love this tea.

Finally, Lychee Oolong from Naivetea.  Before my husband joined my morning tea ritual, I spent four years in love with oolong teas.  I love the rolled oolongs and I love the long-leaf toasty twisty oolongs.  Some oolongs have a finish that reminds of salty ocean breezes, and some call up evening walks in a pear orchard. Do brew this tea according to the directions given: water at 205 degrees and steep for 30 – 50 seconds.  I brewed a bit too long, and found the taste of lychee – an acquired taste – to be far too strong.  I started over and followed directions, finding the tea to be quite pleasant.  Lychee lovers will gulp this up!

Delighted to be part of Steepist’s inaugural sampler set, I urge readers who want to try new teas, responsibly sourced, to join the Steepist movement!

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