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Banana Coconut Tisane from The Persimmon Tree

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 03:59

Tisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos & Herbal Tisane

Where To Buy:  The Persimmon Tree

Tisane Description:

Our Banana Coconut herbal tea is a smooth and scrumptious herbal blend of rooibos, chamomile and lemongrass with notes of ripe banana, sweet coconut, graham cracker and a hint of caramel. This caffeine-free tropical blend will put a smile on anyone’s face. Try it iced and lightly sweetened for an extra refreshing summer beverage.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

I don’t always say “yummy” when I’m tasting a chamomile blend.  I don’t always say “yummy” when I’m tasting a blend made with rooibos.  So to have a blend with both these herbals in front of me and to have me say “yummy” after taking a sip seems pretty remarkable to me.  But this is indeed yummy!

And that yumminess factor has less to do with the rooibos and chamomile and more to do with the other flavors going on in this cup:  banana, coconut, caramel and even a little bit of graham cracker.

This is an interesting cup because there is a lot going on but it works.  When I read the description and saw the flavors of banana, coconut, graham cracker and caramel” I thought … oh, ok, that sounds like a yummy pie.  But then you see ingredients like lemongrass and chamomile and you think … what?  Why are those ingredients in there?

But somehow, it all works together in a very flavorful way, and without any one flavor or ingredient becoming overwhelmed by any of the others.  I taste each component of the tisane and it all tastes really good together.

The chamomile offers a very light apple-y flavor.  The chamomile works harmoniously with the honey notes of the rooibos, because I taste a hint of pollen-ish flavor from the chamomile and this melds with the rooibos to bring out the nutty, honey sweet flavor of the South African herb.  And the lemongrass is subtle here, offering a smooth, buttery note with a hint of citrus-y brightness.

Each component seems to unite with other components of the cup to bring out the best in each ingredient.  And really, that’s what you want from a tea blend – that’s the thing that makes blends so appealing is the way that each ingredient adds to the combination so that the sum is greater than the individual parts.  And this blend really succeeded in that quest!

This is a naturally caffeine-free (and guilt free!) treat that makes a perfect bedtime treat for those nights when you’re craving something sweet before you tuck in to bed.  Served warm, it’s so soothing, comforting and a delightful sweet-tooth indulgence.  It’s also tasty iced!

Product Review: Tea Box Express Monthly Subscription!

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 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:

This is a review of Tea Box Express’s debut box – October 2014 – which hasn’t yet begun to ship.  The box came to me early so that I could review it and share my thoughts with you so that you can get in on the goodies right from the very beginning!

This box is near PERFECT for people like me.  As some of you may know, besides writing about teas, I’ve also written about other subscription boxes (specifically, foodie/yummy goody boxes) on my Hungry in Portland blog.  I’ve pretty much discontinued those reviews mostly because I find that my time has become limited and tea is more important to me than the goodies, so, I devote my time here.  But that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped getting in on the goodies!

What’s so great about this box is that it combines the best of both worlds!  It’s a tea of the month box and it’s a goody box, plus there are some really neat accessories to go along with it.  For the October box, I received a tube of Teatulia Black Tea, a jar of “Tea Honey” from Savannah Bee Co., an adorable bee shaped, festively frosted sugar cookie from The Decorated Cookie Co., plus a bright yellow, ceramic teapot-shaped teabag caddy and a tea honey dipper/server which allows you to drizzle honey no-mess-style into your cup of tea.  I’ll be reviewing the “tea party” including the tea later, but, for now I wanted to review the experience of receiving this box!

Let’s see what these items would have cost me if I bought them separately:

  • Teatulia Black Tea:  $8.99
  • Tea Honey:  $5.50 (although to get the 3 oz. jar, you need to buy 2 at $11.00)
  • Bee Cookie:  $5.62 (approximately)
  • Teabag Caddy:  $4.50
  • Honey Dipper:  $4.98

Total retail price would be approximately $29.59 if these items were purchased separately, although some of the items can’t really be purchased separately, and these prices do not include shipping charges.  To subscribe to this box, you can pay month-to-month $25.50 plus $5.99 for shipping, or if you pay for 3 months, the monthly cost comes out to $24.67, or for a six month subscription, the cost works out to be $23.17 per month.

So there is a savings benefit to subscribing, but to me the real benefit is the joy of receiving the box.  The fun part of these boxes is that they’re curated for you.  This month’s theme (if it’s not obvious with the Bee and the honey), is “Bee Happy”!  When you first open the box, the first thing I saw was this card (to the left) that says, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” ~Abraham Lincoln.

Inside the lid of the box is a “theme card” that offers some suggestions on how to be happy.  Nurturing our positive emotions like joy, gratitude and serenity can make us happier, and I love the suggestion on starting a happy list!

My happy list:

Tea.

Yeah, there are a few other things that I’d add to that list, but tea is right up there at the top of the list.  Tea is joy.  And this box is all about TEA.  Receiving a box like this every month would be like getting joy in the mailbox!

Organic Earl Grey Black Tea from White Lion

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  White Lion

Tea Description:

Natural Italian oil of Bergamot gives this tea its crisp citrusy bouquet. An all time classic, this tea is Sir Aubrey’s favorite.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Yay!  Earl Grey!

The dry leaf aroma is intensely bergamot with notes of bold top citrus notes and and undertone of a slightly floral note.  The aroma of an Earl Grey tea is one of the things I love most about this traditional favorite, and so I was eager to taste this new-to-me Earl Grey!

To brew this tea, I used my Breville One-Touch tea maker and poured 500ml of water into the jug.  Then I measured out two bamboo scoops of the tea into the basket and set the controls for 205°F and 2 1/2 minutes.  The brewed tea is dark in color with a considerably softer fragrance than the dry leaf, but I can still detect the bergamot very clearly.

The bergamot flavor is much more subtle than I usually desire from an Earl Grey tea, but I can still taste the distinct notes of bergamot.  Sharp, tangy notes of citrus that are much more focused if I slurp the cup to aerate the tea as it hits the palate.  The aftertaste has a clear citrus note.  This tea gets bonus points for a low astringency, as I find that many Earl Grey (or other citrus teas, for that matter) tend to have astringency.  Here, the astringency is mild.

The black tea has a pleasing robustness to it.  It’s very smooth in flavor from start to finish.  It’s a little bit earthy and a little bit malty, and the malty notes meld with the bergamot in a very favorable way.  The tea is strong and rich in flavor.  It’s a medium to full bodied tea that would make a good late morning cuppa or early afternoon cuppa.

This would be a good Earl Grey for those who are timid when it comes to their bergamot.  The bergamot is flavorful but not overdone.  It is mellow enough for those who find a strong bergamot flavor to be too overpowering for them, but there is enough bergamot here to know that you’re drinking an Earl Grey.

Personally speaking, I prefer my Earl Grey to have a stronger bergamot essence, but I am enjoying this cup.  I like that the tea is organic and it has a very satisfying flavor.  It’s a good Earl Grey and it’s of good quality.

That said … this tea is best iced!  I usually prefer my Earl Grey the same way that Captain Picard does … hot.  But, this particular Earl Grey tastes best iced.  The bergamot really pops as the tea cools!

Mountain Of Mango Tisane from Inca Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Fruit/Herbal Blend

Where to Buy:  Inca Tea

Tea Description:

Mango has always been a favorite fruit of the founder so he decided to add a little twist to the original blend. Its a refreshing blend of mango, sweet herbs, and citrus. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

As I’ve said (many times!) before, I’m not always thrilled when it comes to trying fruit and/or herbal tisanes.  But because I’ve come to realize that I need to lighten up on the caffeine intake later in the evening, I’ve begun to embrace the tisane even though I’d much rather partake of Camellia Sinensis.  So, when I opened the pouch for this Mountain of Mango tisane, I wasn’t exactly excited about it.

But … wow!  I can definitely smell the mango in the dry leaf.   No other tea/tisane immediately comes to mind where I smelled such a strong, distinct mango aroma.  All of the sudden, my dismay over trying yet another tisane disappeared and I got excited about trying this!

I steeped the silky pyramid sachet in 8 ounces of 195°F water for 6 minutes.  The brewed tisane is a light ruby color (a good sign, it doesn’t look like there’s too much hibiscus in this!) and it offers a light fruity fragrance.  The mango notes are less distinct than in the dry leaf, but they’re still there.

This is pretty good.  The mango isn’t as strong as I hoped for, but, it’s a clear and focused flavor.  It is an obvious mango flavor.  The apple offers subtle hints of sweetness but not a strong apple-y flavor.  I think it’s probably present in this cup mostly to provide some sweet, juicy flavor to the cup without it adding too much to the flavor profile, and that’s what it seems to do here.

The ingredient list does not show any citrus-y ingredients that would provide the citrus that’s suggested in the above description, but I can taste a hint of tangy citrus toward the tail and this flavor lingers into the aftertaste.  I’m not sure where this flavor is coming from unless it’s one of the “natural flavors.”

In the Peruvian Spiced Berry Tisane, I could taste the notes of purple corn, but I’m finding that flavor to be a little less distinct here.  If I slurp the cup, I can pick up on a slight corn-like taste, but it’s much softer than in the Spiced Berry blend.  I kind of liked that purple corn taste, it made that tisane significantly different from any other that I’ve tried, so I was kind of hoping for a little more purple corn flavor in this tisane as well.

That said, I really enjoyed this.  The mango flavor is delicious and authentic and strong, and the hibiscus is not strong.  Two big bonus points for these attributes.  It’s a very tasty served hot, and it’s awesome iced!

Friday Round Up - September 7th through September 12th

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 16:00
Good Mold Bad Mold
Tea Closet is a blog that is technically older than +Tea for Me Please. I've only recently discovered them but have really enjoyed their posts. This week they shared an interesting study about the molds found in puerh.

Tea Waste Bowl
Travelling Teapot posted a great explanation of what a tea waste bowl is and shows pictures of some of his collection. I know it took me a while to understand their purpose. I must confess that I own one but hardly ever use it.

Dark Roast TieGuanYin Oolong from Mountain Tea
Oolongchaser is a new blog on the scene but a very passionate dude. Cody's description definitely makes me want to give this one a try. I haven't yet tried anything from Mountain Tea but I've heard very good things.

What-Cha: Nepal Monsoon Flush 2014 Pearl Oolong Tea, A Tea Review
My Thoughts Are Like Butterflies is another one of my favorite blogs. Amanda mostly blogs about tea but I enjoy the random geek culture ramblings as well. This tea was like a tri-fecta of unusual. It's from Nepal oolong, it's monsoon flush and it's a pearl tea.

Tea of the Pacific Northwest
Everyone's favorite tea fairy, +Elyse Petersen wrote a post on T Ching about her recent tea travels in the Pacific Northwest. She visited two tea farms, twenty retailers and several festivals along the way.
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Back Seven: Are you, or aren’t you?

T Ching - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 12:04

Come out, come out, wherever you are
All you bright tea nerds who fell from a star.”

Many are the parallels between tea and wine culture, but after browsing the T Ching Tasting posts in the Archive, I am thinking that the tea nerds have it over the wine nerds.

Both are extremely knowledgeable and capable of great care in the preparation and serving of their respective beverages, but I had no idea that so much care was taken in water preparation and pot preparation when making tea. Temperature is important to both wine nerds and tea nerds, but tea nerds also are concerned with small degrees of temperature, and where the water came from, what it was exposed to before it became tea, and how long the water is heated before brewing. Like a wine-lover insisting on only drinking out of the proper Riedel glass, tea-lovers make a distinction between how the tea tastes after brewing in a silver versus a stoneware or enamelware pot. I would not be surprised to find that barometer readings were taken by some tea nerds prior to tasting. Just as wine nerds pay particular attention to the growing region a wine comes from, so do tea nerds distinguish teas from their respective regions, and so on.

Nerd culture, as we all know, involves a passionate immersion into a subject, often to the exclusion of all societal norms around it. You can’t be “in the flow” and be worried about what other people think; the two states are exclusive of each other. Nerds push the envelope of our understanding of a subject, often leading to a broader enjoyment of it—where would the internet be, for example, if not for the early tech nerds?

We need our nerds. They raise the bar, enrich our lives, and bring the wonder of their worlds to the rest of us. Somewhere inside of us all lurks a nerd. What was your nerdiest moment with tea?

This post was written by Anne Lerch and originally published on T Ching 22 October 2007, titled “Are You, or Aren’t You?”  On Fridays, T Ching is delighted to publish a post from our archives.  Watch this space each Friday for a look . . . Back Seven.

MAIN:               IMAGE 1:

The post Back Seven: Are you, or aren’t you? appeared first on T Ching.

Relativism in tea

A Tea Addict's Journal - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 06:10

A long time ago, I talked about tea blogging as a community of people who are virtually talking about drinking tea together in a never-ending session. Things have really quieted down since then. Blogs, as a form of writing, seems to be at least dying, overtaken by social media in various guises. Sometimes you still have new entrants in this field, however, and recently there were a couple posts, one by the vendor TwoDog, and the other by Cwyn, a sometime visitor of this site, about relativism in tea. The claim here is simple, if I’m allowed to reduce them a little bit. Basically, the idea is that we should approach teas with a clean slate, and that opinions shouldn’t be formed based on other people’s views of the tea. So far, so good. Then the claim, made in slightly different ways, come out of both posts – that all opinions are equally valid because there’s no real absolute in tea, and that experts, real or imagined (and there are plenty of imagined ones out there), don’t know any better. That I’m not so sure about.

This type of claim I see often, and basically boils down to the idea that opinions are all equally valid. On some level this may be true, if it’s a matter of preference. What I mean is, when given a choice of, say, a menu of food items, each person have their own matrix of preferences that will guide them to choose one out of the many things on that menu. Some will choose none at all, others may have to be limited by the size of their stomach. That choice is an opinion, and the chooser has the liberty to do whatever s/he wants. They may be picking based on taste, allergies, religion, politics, or any number of factors. It’s hard for anyone to say “you shouldn’t have picked the chicken.”

At the same time though, that doesn’t mean that one cannot make claims about absolute quality of the food on this given menu. For example, if the choices on the menu include the following items: a McDonald’s hamburger, a simple grilled flank steak, and a slow cooked beef stew from a top restaurant, I think it is pretty easy for most people to say that the slow cooked beef is the best food item among the choices, even though not everyone will choose to, or even want to, eat that. There will be outliers who prefer the hamburger, even. Others, Hindus for example, will reject the entire menu because it’s all Not Food for them. But even then, objectively, they can probably say that the slow cooked beef is the highest quality item here.

Teas are no different. There are, objectively, teas that are better and teas that are worse. The high elevation, hand crafted Darjeeling is probably a better tea than the Liptop tea bag, but there might be times when I’d rather drink the Lipton (admittedly not too many). One is a judgement of quality, the other is an expression of preference. It’s quite easy to mix the two.

More importantly, the experience of the person expressing that opinion also matters. I asked my cousin, who’s a professional sommelier, about ideas of absolute quality in wine – does it exist? Do people talk about these? It’s pretty easy to say that a First Growth Bordeaux is a better wine than the $5 a litre box wine you find at your local supermarket. At the same time, the guy who’s only drunk First Growth wines and who’s never had a bad wine, so to speak, is actually probably less able to judge a wine than someone who’s drunk the whole range, good and bad, because he lacks the reference points for making an informed judgement. What you get in the end is just first impressions, with references that may or may not be relevant, and is indeed utterly useless precisely because it’s ungrounded in experience.

Similarly, when TwoDog talks about approaching a tea as a beginner, well, a true beginner won’t know what’s what, and in my experience, most beginner to puerh all have one instant response to this stuff – it’s really bitter. That’s it. That’s the first thing that hits them, and quite a few can’t let go of that beyond the “but it’s so bitter”. Some may move beyond it and find other things about the tea, but it actually does take experience with a certain type of item in order to be able to pass a decent judgement on it. If you really approach something as a real beginner, you will end up with reviews like this four year old at the French Laundry. It’s honest, it’s unpretentious, she’s not probably all that impressed by the pomp and circumstance, but it’s also something we look at and say “well, the kid doesn’t know what she’s dealing with,” and end up with “let me eat that.” Never mind that she rejected half of the good stuff. So, my point is – there’s a good and bad, and experiences do matter. They’re certainly not foolproof, and there will be differences of opinion, but if you stick a few tea in front of a bunch of people who all live and die by drinking tea, chances are their preferences will be similar. The preferences will be more disparate when the teas sampled are more diverse, but in general there will be a consensus on which one’s better and which one’s worse.

Having dispensed with absolute relativism, I do agree with Cwyn in the uselessness of tea reviews online, but not for reasons of relative opinions. Rather, they’re useless because nobody controls for the most important input into the tea – water. Unless we all start using the same thing as our standard tasting water, what you put into the cup is going to drastically affect how it comes out. Someone who uses a reverse osmosis filtration at home is going to have a lot of tea come out absolutely horribly. In some places, whether you’re drinking water from the snow melt in the spring or the summer rains probably will also change how your teas taste. Without controlling for that, all reviews are at best suggestive. There’s a reason I pretty much stopped writing tea reviews on this blog – they’re not useful and they don’t serve any real purpose, not even really for myself anymore at this point. So, I don’t do them.

So what’s the point of me writing all this? Well, I think it does matter for us to critically reflect on what tea we’re drinking, to examine them, to analyze them, and to learn from them. Addition of experience will enhance tea drinking, because it adds one more frame of reference and will enrich all future tea drinking activity, even if it’s a bad tea. If this is a hobby (and if you’re reading this, it probably is) then you should most definitely go out and enjoy and at the same time critique what you’re drinking. There are lots of good tea out there, there are also lots of bad tea out there, but exploration is half the fun. Besides, there’s a tea for every occasion, even if that tea sometimes happens to be a Lipton teabag.

Review: Jasmine Tea Ginger Ale

The Hour For Tea - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 04:30
Bruce Cost Fresh Ginger Jasmine Tea Ginger Ale is a tasty variation on traditional ginger ale, not only because it has lots of ginger flavor – unlike more familiar ginger ales – but also because it is infused with jasmine … Continue reading →

Guava Flavored Green Tea from Tea of Life

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Learn more about Tea of Life and Amazon Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

I have tried quite a few Tea of Life teas at this point and I’ve enjoyed some better than others.  All of the teas that I’ve tried have been either bagged teas or teas in sachets, and I’ve made mention of my dislike of tea bags/tea sachets.  However, even though these teas have been bagged or in sachets, there have been several teas that have impressed me.

I don’t know if I’d call this Guava flavored Green Tea “impressive” but I like that the guava flavoring is strong and focused.  It tastes like guava:  sweet and juicy.  And I like that I can also taste the green tea in this tea.  It has a lightly grassy, slightly buttery taste that marries well with the guava notes.

The reason why I said I was unsure if I’d say that this was impressive is that I find that the guava flavoring might be a tad TOO strong.  While I can taste the green tea notes (and the green tea flavors do develop as I continue to sip), I think that the guava obscures some of the green tea flavors.  Not so much that I simply can’t taste the green tea, but I think I’d like the green tea notes to be a bit more prominent than they are.

Other than that, I find this tea to be enjoyable.  It is sweet and fruity and it makes a fantastic iced tea.

Tea Review 538: Teavivre’s Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng

Walker Tea Review - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 19:33
  Origin: Shexian County, Huang Shan, Anhui Harvest: 28 March 2014 Score: 86 Price (as of post): 5 g sample = $3.00  to Walker Tea Review. Get complete access to Member Content.   Sign Up For The Newsletter. Sample provided by Teavivre. Walker Tea Review- a tea blog with tea reviews and tea tastings. Want to […]

Organic Rose Ginger Oolong Tea from Aftelier Perfumed Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy: Aftelier Perfumed Teas

Product Description:

Organic Muzha Tieguanyin oolong tea, from Taiwan, is a rare tea that is oxidized and roasted for two days by a traditional tea master. This full-bodied oolong opens with ripe fruit notes and finishes with a smooth aftertaste, blending beautifully with the spicy rose flavor that Mandy creates with our Aftelier Chef’s Essences: Fresh Ginger and Turkish Rose. These tightly rolled leaves unfurl during the first steeping, and may be re-infused up to 4 times, retaining their fragrance.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I reviewed this tea previously – well, no, not exactly.  I reviewed a tea that is similar, but since writing that review, Mandy from Aftelier Perfumes changed her recipe for the tea blend slightly to use an organic Muzha Tieguanyin Oolong tea rather than the Tieguanyin she used for the tea that I sampled for that first review.

And I’ve come to learn (and greatly appreciate!) that organic definitely DOES make a difference.  It is especially noticeable (by taste) with tea bases (tisane bases) like rooibos, but I have also noticed differences between conventionally grown Oolong teas versus organically grown Oolong teas.  Yes, the possibility exists that the differences are only mentally imposed differences – that is to say, I think, “Oh, this is organic and therefore it is better,” but even with that mentally imposed difference, I still taste something better.

Hey, let’s face it, organic IS better.  It’s better for the earth and I believe it’s better for the tea drinker as well.

But really, I don’t need to justify revisiting this tea, because it’s a remarkable tea and I love the teas that are crafted by Aftelier.

I steeped this the way I typically steep an Oolong – in my gaiwan – performing a 15 second rinse and then I steeped the first infusion for 1 minute and added 15 seconds to each subsequent infusion.  I combine two infusions in each cup, so therefore the first cup was composed of the first two infusions and the second cup was composed of the third and fourth infusion, and so on.

I love the way the rose and ginger play together on the palate.  It is sweet, floral and just a little zesty from the peppery notes of the ginger.  The ginger does not bring a strong, heavily spiced presence to the sip, just a gentle, peppery warmth.  However, after sip is gone, the ginger lingers in the aftertaste and I can taste (and feel!) the ginger on my palate.  It’s still a fairly mild heat.  I really like it because I generally think of rose to be a summery type of tea essence, it seems to bring a sense of summer to the cup, but the ginger gives this a cozy sort of flavor that is distinctly autumnal.

As does the Tieguanyin, which has a delicate earthiness and wisps of smoke in the background.  The Tieguanyin has a light creaminess to it and a slight buttery taste that with the roasted notes offers more of a sweet, browned butter flavor rather than a fresh cream buttery type of taste.  I also like how the roasted notes seem to diminish the presence of a strong floral and vegetal tone to the Tieguanyin, because it allows the rose to really shine through without competing with other strong floral notes.  This roasting process also allows the natural fruit tones of the tea to develop and intermingle with the essences of Turkish Rose and Fresh Ginger!

The slightly smoky, roasty-toasty notes emerged a little more prominently in the second cup (infusions 3 and 4), and I was very pleased to find that the rose and ginger notes remained for these infusions.  The rose notes are softening somewhat in this cup and is more reminiscent of the taste of the air that surrounds while strolling through a garden of roses.  The smell and flavor of the rose is distinct and definitely there.  

The ginger is warming on the palate, especially in the aftertaste.  The Tieguanyin is sweet, not quite as creamy as the first cup, but still quite toasty tasting with wonderful notes of stone fruit.  Warm and sweet and beautifully fragrant, just like summer, but also cozy and comforting like autumn.  A really beautiful cup.

I was surprised to find that those wonderful rose and ginger notes were still present in the third cup (infusions 5 and 6)!  With many flavored Oolong teas, the flavoring tends to be indistinguishable by the time I’ve reached the fifth and sixth infusion.  The tea is still delicious, of course, because the Oolong is still flavorful on its own, but usually the flavors have softened to the point of barely noticeable.  That is definitely NOT the case with this tea, though.

The rose is still lovely and the ginger still warm and peppery.  Sure, these flavors are softer now than they were with the first cup, but, that’s alright, because I am getting plenty of flavor from the Tieguanyin – sweet, fruity, toasty, nutty flavors – but I can also still taste sweet floral notes from the rose and zesty notes of ginger.

This is a really lovely and unique flavored Oolong – you’re not going to find another one like this anywhere!

Tribute Tea Company Cassia Bark Oolong

Tea For Me Please - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: very dark amber

Cassisa bark oolong, also known as Rou Gui has become one of my favorite types of tea lately. Wu Yi oolongs have become more and more expensive every year so I really appreciate that +Tribute Tea Company's is priced so well. The taste of this one was smokey and earthy with a ton of natural sweetness. I was almost reminded of the delicious burnt sugar used to top crème brûlée. The spicy undertone was subtle in the flavor profile but very present in the aroma. I found myself sticking my nose into the gaiwan on more than one occasion. There was very little astringency and the mouth-feel was fairly thick. So far all of these that I've had from this company have been excellent. The founder, Brett Holmes, is truly passionate about tea. He's just getting started but I think he will do great things in the future.

Cassia Bark Oolong sample provided by Tribute Tea Company.
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American Chinese teaware

T Ching - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 12:03

The art of gong fu cha, the Chinese tea service, is generally practiced using a specialized tea set.  Collectively called cha ju (or equipage by people who insist on using French), the instruments of gong fu cha encompass a whole spectrum of diminutive, elegant, precisely-crafted little bits and bobs.  Though they may seem arcane to the uninitiated, each serves a purpose and, by virtue of their very particular dimensions and functionality, have to be produced with that purpose in mind.  For example, it is difficult to construct a gong-fu teaset using Western teapots, because Western teapots are generally much larger than a gong-fu teapot.  If you do manage to find a teapot of the appropriate size, it will probably be for a child’s play teaset and not intended for actual use.  Furthermore, it will probably resemble a  cupcake.  Teapots are even among the more familiar of the cha ju; another essential vessel, the gaiwan, is not manufactured in any size outside of China and the Chinese diaspora, and it serves no other purpose than the preparation of loose-leaf tea.

Celadon gaiwan set and satin black cha pan by Mary Cotterman

I say manufactured - not produced – because, while the majority of contemporary Chinese teaware - especially that which makes it to the West - is created in enormous factories and workshops for mass distribution; there are a small but growing number of potters in the US who are hand-crafting teaware for the purpose of using for gong fu cha.  As both an avid tea lover and a pottery enthusiast – mostly as a spectator – I have made the acquaintance, over the years, of many talented ceramicists and tea lovers who have endeavored to replicate the small, even, fine-walled vessels and tools of gong fu cha.

In general, I find that American versions of Chinese gong fu teaware often resemble the genuine article visually, but do not feel – or function – the same.  American pieces tend to be heavier, with thicker walls, and there is no end of confusion about how to make a gaiwan lid fit properly (it should fit inside, not over, the mouth of the bowl).  That’s not to say that these wares can’t be fine pieces in their own right – the great kilns of Delft, in Holland, rose to prominence by mimicking Chinese porcelain wares right down to the ersatz Chinese script.  But they don’t feel, or pour, like genuine cha ju.

Shino-glaze “storm cloud” gaiwan set by Mary Cotterman

Within the past year I have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of two Austin-based potters who have begun making beautiful, and more importantly serviceable, teaware.  Mary Cotterman, who is currently an artist-in-residence at the Bascom Center for Visual Arts in North Carolina, had been experimenting with gong fu style teapots and gaiwans when I met her in December.  One day while having tea with her, I showed her my Chinese teaware collection, and several weeks later she had produced no fewer than 4 complete teasets:  gaiwan, gong dao bei/pitcher, and matching cups.  She even produced several ceramic cha pan, or tea trays, both in the Chaozhou style (a round perforated plate over a basin), or an open one based on an original design by my friend Sylvia, a talented potter herself.  Since then, Mary has refined her designs and experimented with different glazes.

Matte Blue gaiwans by Chris Long

Chris Long’s distinctive and playful style can be found at his booth at the HOPE Farmer’s Market every Sunday.  He studied pottery in Taiwan and is no stranger to Chinese pottery.  He has so far produced two prototype gaiwans,  one large and one small, both with a beautiful matte blue glaze.

Both Mary and Chris are interested in producing more gong fu teaware, which I intend to sell – currently the only teaware I carry is cheap, functional, manufactured Chinese wares, because that’s all I can afford to bring over as inventory.  Teaware is heavy and expensive to ship, and some pieces will inevitably be broken during shipping.  It is my intention eventually to have the bulk of my teaware selection be locally produced – we may not be growing much tea in American (yet), but as the gong fu cha community here grows and more talented craftspeople are exposed to cha ju, there’s no reason our homegrown gong fu teaware can’t rival the great kilns of China and help breathe new life into Chinese tea culture.

 Images courtesy of the contributor.

The post American Chinese teaware appeared first on T Ching.

Cherry Cola Flavored Iced Black Tea from Southern Boy Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  52Teas

Learn more about Southern Boy Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

I don’t drink a lot of soda, but on the rare occasions that we go out to eat and the iced tea available at the restaurant is questionable, I usually ask for a cherry cola.

So I was excited to try this iced tea flavor from Southern Boy Teas, because it’s a flavor that I enjoy and would be able to identify and also because in the past, I’ve been impressed with the cola flavored teas that 52Teas has offered.  They really do have a bubbly, effervescent taste of soda pop, which is a little weird when I would drink the hot tea.  Weird, but in a wonderfully weird sort of way.

To brew:  The Southern Boy Teas are a “bagged” tea, sealed in a large tea pouch that makes it easy to cold-brew (put it in a pitcher with a half gallon of freshly filtered, cold water and then stash that into the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, take out the sachet – and save it to resteep later! – and enjoy) or to hot brew.

I do have another pouch of this tea and I plan to cold steep it to see how that turns out.  I’ll have to come back and comment on this review to let you know how that turns out when I do that.

I usually hot brew all these iced teas for the first tasting, because I feel like I’m getting the true, intended flavor that way and since I want to write about the experience, I think that this is the best way to do that.

To hot brew this, I start with a quart of freshly filtered water and put it in my kettle and heat it to boiling.  Then I just toss the sachet into my kettle and let the tea steep for 2 minutes, strain the tea into my favorite iced tea pitcher, and then I repeat the process, pouring another quart of water into the kettle, heating it to boiling and then resteeping the pouch, this time for 3 minutes.  I let this come to a room temperature cool before I put the hot glass pitcher into the cold refrigerator.  Then I let it chill for several hours (or overnight).

This is a tasty glass of cold refreshment.  I can taste the notes of cherry and cola.  And I can taste the black tea flavor too.  It’s a bit like someone poured some flat cherry cola into my iced tea.

Yes, I’m still getting some of that aforementioned bubbly taste from this, but, it’s not as bubbly or effervescent as you’d get if you were drinking a straight soda pop.  Nor should it be.  This is tea, not a carbonated beverage.  However, you can make it a tea soda.

I can taste that bubbly sort of flavor that I’ve experienced in the past with 52Teas soda flavors, although for some reason (I’m not sure of the reason) and this is something that I’ve noticed with the other cola flavored iced teas from SBT, the “soda” or “cola” flavor doesn’t shine through quite as copiously as it seems to when I sip on a cup of hot soda flavored tea from 52Teas.  As I said, I’m not quite sure why this is.

That said, this is still really tasty.  It quenches the thirst and it tastes great while it’s quenching the thirst, and that’s what I look for in an iced tea.

Product Review: Lime Zero Unsweetened Guayusa from Runa

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 16:00

Product Information:

Step into the limelight – experience bright and refreshing flavor with zero calories.

Learn more about this product here.

Taster’s Review:

I don’t often buy RTD teas/tisanes.  But usually when I’m in the supermarket, I do look over the varieties of teas and tisanes that are available in the ready to drink section.

My biggest issue with RTD teas/tisanes is that they’re usually so loaded with some type of sweetener and often more than one type of sweetener that I can’t taste the tea.  Then it begs the question for me – what’s the difference between this and a soda?  Nothing really, except that the soda has bubbles.  So really, the sweetener has changed the tea into a soda that is more expensive than the typical commercial soda … an expensive soda without bubbles.

So, last week when I was in Chuck’s Produce, this ready to drink Guayusa caught my attention.

The first thing that caught my attention was the price.  It was a featured item that was priced competitively ($ .99 for a bottle, not bad.)  The second thing that caught my attention was the word unsweetened on the top of the label.  This isn’t zero calories because it’s made with stevia or an artificial sweetener that will make me feel queasy.  This has zero calories because there is NO SWEETENER in it at all.

In fact, here is the ingredient list:

INGREDIENTS:

Brewed organic guayusa (purified water and organic guayusa leaves**), organic lime juice concentrate, organic lime extract, natural flavors, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid).

Now that’s my kind of ingredient list.  OK, I’d like a little more details on what the “natural flavors” are, but, I like that this is has no sugar, no cane syrup, no corn syrup, no stevia, no aspartame, no saccharine, no nothing to make this taste like some sticky, sickeningly sweet, syrupy soda without bubbles.

And what I’m tasting is lime and Guayusa.  The Guayusa has that smooth, slightly earthy and coffee-esque taste that I’ve come to recognize as Guayusa.  The lime is strong in this, but it tastes like real lime juice.  It’s bright and refreshing.  The drink is cool and energizing and it feels clean on the palate, not heavy or inundated with too much sweetener.

I’m really happy that there are some companies out there who are willing to celebrate the flavor of the leaf – even if the leaf in this instance happens to be the leaf of Guayusa and not Camellia Sinensis – my point is that this is the way RTD teas/tisanes should be.  They should be about the leaf and not the sugar!

The Tea Spot Mile High Chai

Tea For Me Please - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 16:00
Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with lots of spices
Ingredients: black tea, ginger root, cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, peppercorns, cloves, natural chai flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: dark brown

Somehow the word chai became synonymous with spiced tea here in the U.S. even though the word is actually Hindi for tea. Therefore when you are in line at Starbucks and order a chai tea, you're really asking for tea tea. The correct term would really be masala chai, which indicates the typical spices used in this type of blend. This rendition from The Tea Spot was a fairly typical, plenty of kick and a bold black tea base. This style of tea is the one case where I think CTC style leaves taste better, especially if it's an Assam. That is exactly what they used here. Ginger and cinnamon were the dominant spices but I was able to taste the other ingredients as well. I drank it straight but it would work well with milk and sugar if desired. I can't quite pin it down but there just seemed to be something missing. Perhaps it was the chai flavoring that threw me off? The full impact that I expect from this type of tea just wasn't there. This is something that really comes to down to a matter of personal preference. For some chai drinkers, this blend is exactly what they are looking for.

Mile High Chai sample provided by The Tea Spot.
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Global Tea Hut: Have tea will travel

T Ching - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 12:01

Those familiar melancholy notes which always accompany the close of a Northern Hemisphere summer are now in full symphony: shorter days, suddenly; soft, warm air with chilly, foreboding undercurrents; bright sunshine above but the first yellowing, fallen leaves below. This minor chord season is always a good time to reflect on the period which just ended. What did Summer bring us? What did we learn, how did we grow during it? Hopefully there was mega fun, direct doses of Vitamin D, skinny dips and hot kisses. And hopefully we shifted some- what in a forward motion.

The end of Summer for me has always been a bit like New Year’s Eve is supposed to be—a period of reflection, assessing lessons learned or recalling loves lived and lost. The approaching Autumn has a dreamy, otherworldly feel that allows one to wallow a tad in memories. This year I have especially much to ponder and recall. Summer offered up a blend of emotional highs and lows I had not experienced in many years (I listened too closely to the Sirens’ song and jumped overboard) along with the concomitant opportunities for inner exploration and growth. During such delectable feasts one tends to gorge—and purge.

It was a summer of digging deep, not always liking what was found or felt but ultimately feeling lighter for having several unneeded layers lifted and chiseled away. My only true and constant companion throughout was tea. And my deepest tea sessions, indeed among the most fantastic of my life, all took place outdoors.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to get it all together and enjoy preparing tea outside, other than lack of imagination and fear of grass stains, but now that I have, there’s no turning back. I want to encourage all our readers to get out there and enjoy whatever last warm days there are in the company of a faithful friend who loves unconditionally and brings a depth of comfort and clarity which few two-legged pals can muster.

Here in Estonia one is never far from a forested patch to sit down in, plant one’s muladhara squarely down onto living, pulsating earth and plunge into an experience which finds oneself in a dance among the five elements. Preparing and drinking tea in such an environment reconnects with an ancient tradition in which people – tea masters and simple folk alike—collected water, made a fire and brewed one of Nature’s gifts in the same environment in which it had grown.

Tea helped make the connection between Earth and Heaven through the physical self immediate and transcendent.

For many centuries, human interaction with the tea plant, whether in tending to its leaves or drinking its nectar, likely happened in the company of a gentle breeze, shaded from the sun by treetops, and among snapping twigs and buzzing bugs. If not forced to take shelter from inclement weather, people naturally gravitated towards drinking tea in the environment in which it had been born.

The How & Why

What do you need for a proper tea picnic? A gas burner (the butane-powered, inexpensive kind available at almost any hardware or camping shop); a kettle (glass which can handle direct flame, clay or stainless steel); a teapot; as many cups as friends with you, and into which you can fully pour out the pot’s contents; a few tea towels; tea; fresh water (ideally spring); and sharpened senses.

Almost any spot will do, even a public park, if that’s all that’s available. Better still a forest, wooded area, beachfront, cliff, bog, tundra . . .  the more Nature—the more open space – the better. When wandering around looking for an appropriate space, try to let the spot pick you; try to sense which space wishes to host your tea session. Let your inner voice guide you to a place which feels right.

Tea has a way of relaxing inner tensions such that one’s true voice speaks out in security and comfort. Most of us have experienced such beautiful unfoldings of the soul during tea sessions, where suddenly the veils of mind noise seem to part, masks fall off, the heart opens up and things are said (or comfortably left unspoken) which would otherwise not be expressed. Often, a connection between the people present becomes palpable, firm, comfortable. The most beautiful gift we can offer others is a space in which they can truly be themselves, and drinking tea is one of the most powerful ways to offer such a space.

When tea is shared outdoors, its soul-opening aspects appear to be magnified; that which tea naturally encourages in people seems to be enhanced and deep- ened just by being in natural, unthreatening surroundings. If tea generally relaxes the spirit to allow thoughts and feelings to surface, then this effect is magnified by the natural elements.

This is true even when by oneself, and especially true when sharing tea with another. Sometimes, what transpires during tea sessions is unexpected, pure magic, like gaining a privileged view into the deeper aspects of others, and certainly also of yourself. There are times when it seems as if pure emotions, kept under lock and key in remote, distant areas, suddenly come bubbling up to the surface.

Amazing too, when making tea on a forest floor, the tea and teaware seamlessly blend into their surroundings. Tea leaves placed into a bowl or pot look as if they could have been picked up from the ground: the Japanese tea scoop I used once got lost among the pieces of darkened birch bark lying near it. It’s easy to believe that you are drinking up the very surroundings.

Have Tea Will Travel was written by Steve Kokker and originally published by Global Tea Hut in September, 2012. Global Tea Hut has generously granted permission to T Ching to publish past articles from their publication each week.  These will appear on Wednesdays.

 MAIN image from T Ching archives     IMAGE 1:        IMAGE 2:        IMAGE 3:

The post Global Tea Hut: Have tea will travel appeared first on T Ching.

A Small Brass Band, Surely?

The Devotea - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 11:56
When we head off to try a new tea room in a place we are visiting, the chances are we might never visit that place again. So, I wonder, should we warn them of our impending visit? On one hand, it’s a more authentic experience if we don’t. But really, is that fair? In Thaxted, […]

Just Peachy Black Tea from Pluck Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Pluck Tea

Tea Description:

This high grown luxury loose leaf black tea is blended with dried ripe peaches and apricots grown in Niagara, Ontario.

Soft and fruity… chill for an enchanting iced tea.

Learn more about August’s Postal Teas shipment here.

Learn more about subscribing to Postal Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

My “August” box from Postal Teas arrived a few days ago, and I was eager to dive right in and try “this month’s” teas.  This service is set up to ship at the end of the month, so these teas that I received in September are actually August’s teas, so it will be a little confusing for me to be calling this August’s box when it arrived in September.  But it’s really not that important … at least the teas arrived, right?  And I’m quite happy with this month’s selection.

And I’m even happier with the note that I received in the box.  As I mentioned in my first review of the teas that I received with my first shipment, they include a handwritten note.  I dig that, it communicates to me that they took a few moments out of their day to write something to me.  While I love the convenience of shopping online and it’s how I do most of my shopping (at least for tea!), with the handling process of the many orders of so many companies out there it seems that the personal touch is lost.  That “thank you for shopping with us” and the smile from the clerk is lost (and let’s face it, it’s lost when you shop at most of the big chain stores too) and that’s something that I – as a consumer – appreciate.  So when I get a handwritten note with an order, even if it’s just something as simple as a hand-written “thank you” on the receipt, it tells me that a person was on the other side of this order.  I like that.

And what I like even more is that this note … was written with ME in mind.  They wrote this to me.  They didn’t have some formed response that they wrote on everyone’s note of every package that they sent out this month.  Let me show you what I mean.  The note says:

Anne,

We love having your feedback!

We hope these are a little more exciting for you!  

Be sure to let us know what you think!

OK.  So not only are they addressing the fact that I sit here and write tea reviews, but they’re acknowledging that they read my reviews and they’ve taken my feelings into account while writing this note because I did express some discontent with the previous box because the teas – while they were classics and quite good! – were just a little … well, it was like, OK, I signed up for this new service and they’re sending me teas from a new-to-me company but they were teas that I could pretty much find anywhere.  I could go to my local coffee shop and find those teas.  So, I was like, “Um … boring!”

Hey, what can I say.  After writing reviews for over five years, I guess you could say that I’m needy and what I need is something different.  Something that I don’t already have in my pantry.  (And my tea pantry is extensive.)  So, yeah, my apologies to Postal Teas and Tease for sounding less than excited about trying something that I’ve already tried.

BUT … I’m not here today to talk about last month’s box.  I want to talk about this month’s box!  This is the first tea that I’ve tasted from this month’s box from Postal Teas.  This month’s supplier for Postal Teas is a company called Pluck and it’s a company that I’ve not yet tried.  And THAT’S why I like to subscribe to services like this.  I like to explore teas that I’ve not tried before from companies that I’ve not yet heard of.  This month, Postal Teas delivered that right to my mailbox.

The dry leaf is deliciously fragrant!  It smells a lot like my kitchen did about a month and a half ago when I brought home a big box full of freshly picked peaches.  Yum!

I brewed this tea in my Breville One Touch.  I put two bamboo scoops of tea into the basket of the tea maker and added 500ml of freshly filtered water into the jug, and then set the controls for 212°F and 2 1/2 minutes (my go-to settings for most black teas).

The tea has a peachy aroma, and I smell more “black tea” notes now than I did with the dry leaf.  The dry leaf is all about the peach, but now that the tea is brewed, I’m experiencing a lighter peach note and a little bit of black tea in the fragrance.  It smells delightful!

Das Pfirsichglas (The Jar of Peaches) by Monet. Photo from Wikipedia, click on the pick to go there.

Nice!  The peach is a little elusive while the tea is piping hot so I would suggest letting this tea cool slightly before taking a sip.  As the tea cools, the flavors develop.  (And it’s AMAZING iced!)

The black tea is strongest flavor of this cup, and that’s the way it should be.  When I taste a flavored tea, I like it when I can taste the flavors the tea promises, but I still want to taste the tea part too.  Otherwise, I might as well just consume a glass of fruit juice.  I want tea!

But that’s not to say that I don’t taste the peach in this tea, because I do.  The peach is there, but it doesn’t overpower the tea notes.  It’s a flavor that starts out subtle and develops slowly.

And what I like best about the peach notes here is that it tastes very true to the fruit.  It doesn’t have an artificial peach taste.  It tastes like peaches that have been picked off the tree and then liquefied and added to a cup of Ceylon tea.  The aftertaste is delightfully peachy!

As I was brewing this tea, I thought about additions.  I didn’t add anything to the cup, but a little bit of sugar might encourage the peach notes to emerge a little bit more and it might temper the slight astringent bite at the tail of the sip.  But, it wasn’t too astringent and I could taste the peach notes without the sweetener so it’s not something that must be added.  I was thinking that maybe a splash of milk or cream would give this a ‘peaches and cream’ sort of flavor but now that I’m drinking it, I think that the dairy addition would overwhelm the delicate notes of peach and you don’t want that!

It’s a very enjoyable cuppa, and it captures what this time of year is about to me – the sweet harvests as the summer comes to an end and we welcome autumn.

Jasmine Green Tea from Green Terrace Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Green Terrace Teas

Tea Description:

This tea gets its sweet, jasmine aroma through a scenting process in which freshly picked jasmine blossoms are repeatedly mixed with green tea.  Known to have even greater health benefits than traditional green tea, this artisan tea is very fresh and soothing in character with a light and sweet floral aftertaste.  Due to the intense flavor of the leaves, we recommend using fewer leaves and steeping with multiple short infusions of only 30 to 40 seconds.  This tea makes an invigorating after-meal beverage.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve had quite a few Chinese jasmine teas, but I don’t recall having a Taiwanese jasmine tea until now.  I might have had one or two, but none come to mind at the moment.  And I think that if I had tried a Taiwanese Jasmine Green Tea like this one from Green Terrace Teas, I would have remembered!  This is absolutely lovely!

I brewed this the way I would normally steep a jasmine green, but also taking into consideration the recommendations in the description above.  I used a little less leaf than I normally would place in my gaiwan (normally I use a bamboo scoop, this time, I measured that out, and then I poured a little off the scoop), and I started with a rinse of 15 seconds and then started steeping for 45 seconds, and added 15 seconds onto each subsequent infusion.  I combined the first six infusions into my Yi Xing mug, and that’s what I’m sipping now.

And as I said … it’s LOVELY!  The jasmine is strong but not overpowering.  I am getting a beautiful floral note that is sweet and exotic tasting but it doesn’t taste soapy or perfume-ish.

It’s very similar to a Chinese jasmine, except that the green tea here is distinctly different.  This tastes less grassy and more sweet.  It has a slightly creamy texture to it that I don’t often experience with Jasmine green teas, and I’m enjoying how this creaminess melds with the sweet flowery notes.

This is incredibly smooth and creamy and delightful!  Another amazing tea from Green Terrace Teas!

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