Tuesday, February 24, 2015

St. Nick's Tea by Simpson & Vail

Seller Description"Add St. Nick's Tea to your holiday wish list because this blend is Nutty & Nice! Black teas are enhanced with the flavors of chocolate and roasted nuts with a hint of maple. The tea brews to an amber cup with a smooth, nutty, slightly sweet taste. It's the perfect blend to enjoy on winter nights while you're sitting by the fire. A definite crowd pleaser!"
Ingredients: Black teas, almonds, organic cacao nibs, vanilla beans, flavoring and orange blossoms.
WebsiteSt. Nick's Tea by Simpson & Vail
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 2 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

Sipping this tea, it makes me think more about young love than Santa. I remember hearing that my great grandfather used to own a pharmacy in Eastern Oregon where they sold fountain drinks and malted milk shakes.

It was at a country fair not too far from that pharmacy that my grandparents started courting... and right there on main street where grandpa, as a groom, pushed his new bride down the street in a wheelbarrow. We were recently going through some pictures for my grandfather's memorial, and I don't remember if I actually saw a picture or just remembered the story, but I can so easily connect that image of young love with the flavor of this tea... old timey and wonderful.

As it was steeping, the fragrance lured my husband from his computer room into the kitchen. He took one sip of this and a smile ignited across his face. He told me, "It makes me think of hot chocolate malt. My grandfather used to make malted chocolate milkshakes. It has this chocolately, nutty flavor that's just wonderful for a cold winter's morning." He took a few more sips, then continued, "I actually smelled it across the house. I was hoping it tasted as good as it smells, and it does!"

The flavors of this tea hit me the same way. A fantastic, old-fashioned chocolate milkshake that just makes me smile... for a couple of reasons. The first being the memories and stories it evokes, and the second being the slightly more practical (but no less celebrated) way it compares to the original in terms of calories!

Like Simpson & Vail's Victorian Earl Grey, this may have been introduced to our household as a sample, but will probably end up a cupboard regular.

Prominent Notes: Chocolate, cream, and a certain level of nuttiness
Aftertaste: A hint of the black tea base with a stronger chocolate element
Overall: A new favorite!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Winter Wonderland Rooibos by Simpson & Vail

Seller Description"A wonderful blend of green rooibos with cacao and cinnamon and flavored with Bavarian chocolate, cinnamon and hazelnuts. When we sampled this in our store we heard "Best rooibos ever!", "A new favorite", "Great everyday tea". It brews to a golden cup with the delicious aroma and taste of cinnamon baked goodies (we were reminded of apple fritters). Smooth and warming, this blend has the more pronounced taste of cinnamon and hazelnuts, while the Bavarian chocolate is an underlying taste that rounds out the other flavors. Delicious in every season!"
Ingredients: Organic green rooibos, organic cacao nibs, organic cinnamon pieces, flavoring, white and blue cornflower petals.
Website: Winter Wonderland Rooibos by Simpson & Vail
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 5 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

When I first read over the notes about this tea, I thought I was in for a completely different experience. Nothing says "Nutella" to me like chocolate and hazelnut, but while this blend does have some slight cocoa notes, it hearkens more to the sweet breads of the season.

When I taste it, I'm transported back to Grandma's kitchen, enjoying warm stollen while Mom, my aunts, and grandma bustled around preparing Christmas dinner. Every year it was the same: A sweet bread with raisins topped with white icing, candied fruits, and nuts in pretty floral designs.

I can definitely see how some reviewers liken it to apple fritters (It's the closest I've gotten since I developed my apple allergy!) but it just seems like more to me. The nuttiness of the hazelnuts and the slight fruity elements combined with the flavor of that sweet, drippy icing just shout stollen to me... and makes it that much more special.

Now please excuse me while I go pull out Grandma's recipe and make some of my own!

Prominent Notes: Buttery flour with nutty and fruity elements
Aftertaste: Sugary icing with a slightly caramel, buttery element
Overall: A wonderful cup full of memories of the season

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kenya Hand Rolled Purple Varietal Oolong Tea by What-Cha: Tea Redefined

Seller Description: "A unique oolong unlike any other we have tasted before, made from the purple varietal tea plant which gives the tea a unique plum taste and purple tint. A rare and unusual tea which is not to be missed."
WebsiteKenya Hand Rolled Purple Varietal Oolong Tea by What-Cha: Tea Redefined
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 175º F
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

This was a lovely way to start the morning. The leaves are a pretty, slightly purplish color and brew up into a gorgeous golden orange tea, like sunshine in a cup. The flavor is malty, smooth, and sweet... just what I was looking for to start the day.

I made up a cup of this lovely brew before I had a chance to sate my curiosity about the purple tea variety. I've never tried it before, and hadn't come across much information about it.

As it turns out, it's a lot more difficult to pin down than I initially thought. Websites abound about more traditional varieties, but purple? There's a distinct lack. The vendor's website only lists where it was grown (the Mount Kenya Region of Kenya) but doesn't go into how this tea was actually developed. And from what I was able to find online, developed is the right word. Articles are laced with words like "clone" and "hybrid", and it seems to have been designed to help diversify tea variety in Kenya. It also lays claim to additional hardiness and improved medicinal and practical benefits, but these claims are difficult to substantiate.

Looking at the cup now, I don't see the purplish color that the articles said may result from this variety, but it doesn't detract at all from the experience at all, nor the taste!

Prominent Notes: Malty with a slightly fruity element
Aftertaste: Maltiness
Overall: An interesting and tasty tea


Denge, Mark. "Kenya's New Purple Tea Will Be Good For You." Reuters. Reuters, 7 March 2011. Web. 15 November 2014.  <http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/07/ozabs-kenya-tea-idAFJOE72609M20110307>

"Purple Tea." Tea Research Institute. Web. 15 November 2014. <http://www.tearesearch.or.ke/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=42&Itemid=36>

Waruru, Maina. "New Purple Tea Developed in Kenya." New Agriculturist. April 2010. Web. 15 November 2014. <http://www.new-ag.info/en/news/newsitem.php?a=1567>

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mint Chocolate Chip Rooibos by The Persimmon Tree

Seller Description: "Our Mint Chocolate Chip tea is a naturally caffeine-free tea with an infusion of organic rooibos, vanilla, rich chocolate and invigorating mint. It's a refreshing beverage for any time of day, and makes a great accompaniment to (even an alternative to) dessert. Try Mint Chocolate Chip tea in a latte, or iced with a splash of cream and sugar. Simply delicious!"
Ingredients: Organic Rooibos, Mint, Vanilla, Cocoa Beans, Chocolate Pieces, Apple Pieces, Yogurt, Natural Flavors
WebsiteMint Chocolate Chip by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company
FacebookThe Persimmon Tree 
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 5 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

This evening's tea is another tasty blend from the The Persimmon Tree tea company out of California. An organic rooibos blend, this tea fits right in with their extensive catalog of organic, fair-trade, and biodynamic teas. For that extra green touch, they also feature recycled products in their packaging and shipping.

I was feeling like a dessert tea tonight, because I'm trying to be better about sticking to my diet and there are a heck of a lot less points in a lovely warm cup of sweet tea than a an equally warm and nummy cookie!

Actually, it doesn't taste nearly as much like a cookie as it does mint chocolate ice cream. The rooibos base hangs out in the background while creamy mint rules the stage and tapers off into a chocolately finish.

Now, I did run afoul of my apple allergy with this tea, which, with as much as I enjoyed this blend, was a big disappointment. I wasn't expecting to find any apple in a mint chocolate tea, so when it wasn't mentioned in the description I didn't do my usual homework. It will mean a little extra Benadryl will help me get to sleep tonight, and that should stave off the worst of it. Well, it's my loss but my husband's gain. He's looking forward to having the rest of the tin all to himself!

Prominent Notes: Cream and mint, with slight rooibos hints
Aftertaste: Chocolate and mint
Overall: A tasty - and guilt free - dessert!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Candy Cane Lane by Celestial Seasonings

Seller's Description: "This delectable holiday blend starts with naturally decaffeinated green tea and adds unmistakable seasonal flavors like cool peppermint, creamy vanilla and a dash of cinnamon."
Ingredients: Peppermint, decaffeinated green tea, orange peel, natural vanilla and mint flavors with other natural flavors, cinnamon, milk thistle, blackberry leaves, roasted carob, roasted chicory and vanilla bean.
WebsiteCandy Cane Lane by Celestial Seasonings
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 32oz porcelain teapot
Measured dry: 4 sachets
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 2 tablespoons of raw sugar

I've been playing with a lot of somewhat finicky, caffeine-laden teas lately, so this lovely cup was a wonderful change. After a long day in the classroom, I made up a full pot. It's steaming, sweet simplicity lasted me through a couple seams, some writing, and then a bit of weaving. Add some cozy clothes and a quartet of twinkling candles in recycled glass and it was just a delightfully relaxing evening.

Now even though this is a decaffeinated green tea, it tastes like a peppermint herbal. I actually can't taste the green tea at all; There aren't any vegetal notes and it leaves my mouth feeling like I've just finished an after-dinner mint. It's a creamy, minty flavor that definitely lingers.

I think I'm going to need to do this again!

Prominent Notes: Peppermint
Aftertaste: Creamy mint
Overall: A straightforward cup for a lazy evening

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Arya Ruby Darjeeling by Golden Tips Tea

Seller Description: "Our second flush Arya Ruby black tea is classic example of Darjeeling summer royalty. The well-made leaves are wiry and offer a delightful appearance with plenty of silver tips. Manufactured to perfection, the tea boasts of an immensely complex character with abundance of muscatel. The fruit-flowery notes flush your mouth with a sweetness that is pleasant and comforting. The aroma scents of rich caramel with a slightly woody character. The nose is sharp and slightly fruity which resonates muscatel richness"
Website: Arya Ruby Darjeeling by Golden Tips Tea
Sample Source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 2-1/2 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 1 tablespoon raw sugar

This is my first cup from a new company - well, new to me! According to their literature, Golden Tips Tea has been in business since 1933, and has a wide variety of organic and ethical trade teas. They sent me a whole slew of teas to sample, but I chose to start with this one for two reasons: I was feeling like a black tea and the name reminded me of a character I like to cheer for!

Now I know the classification of "black" teas has more to do with how the leaves are processed, but despite that I'm still surprised when I open a new package of tea and discover more than the shade I expected. This black tea is far from a single-note appearance. The silver-tipped dry tea is as colorful as fall leaves... and it smells considerably better! Sweetly malty with a warm woodsy element.

Next came the experimentation, dialing in the perfect cup. A three minute steep is a good starting point, but it doesn't let the tea reach its full potential. It's still a tasty cup, but faint enough that it leaves you wanting more. It turns out that increasing the ratio of dry leaves to water and hitting the four minute steeping mark is a much better balance of flavor and astringency. The hints of caramel stay in the background, and the maltiness takes center stage.

Prominent Notes: Maltiness with slight caramel and woodsy notes
Aftertaste: Maltiness
Overall: A light touch

Premium Dragon Well Green Tea (Long Jing) by Teavivre

Seller Description: "XiHu (West Lake) Dragon Well green tea, or Long Jing as it is known in China, is commonly regarded as one of China's top ten teas, and is often served to visiting head's of states.  This premium Long Jing tea is an absolutely fantastic example of this tea.  Mostly handmade it has no hint of bitterness, instead it has a delightfully subtle classic green tea taste and aromatic scent."
Website:  Premium Dragon Well Long Jing by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: Approximately 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 185º F
Steeping Time: 1-1/2 minutes
Additives: 2 teaspoons raw sugar

Who says "third times the charm"? With this tea, the second time was certainly the best!

The first time I tried to make this tea I followed the website's instructions, using 8 grams (3 tablespoons) per 17oz. I was more than a little skeptical from the start, as the recommended amount nearly overflowed from my mug's infuser basket. The poor leaves didn't have anywhere to expand, and even with a short steep the liquor was intimidatingly strong and hoppy.

I took what I learned from that steep and applied it to a new cup. Instead of three tablespoons, I scaled it back to one. That meant that the tea leaves actually had room to do their magic, and dance freely around in the infuser basket. The flavor was notably improved, and what was overwhelming is now light and delightful.

It's a wonderful complement to the beauty of the dry tea. The leaves themselves are tight and thin, but with plenty of attitude. Their scent is rich and grassy, and that plays beautifully into the steeped cup. It's sweet and light, with a smooth and sunny vegetive flavor.

Prominent Notes: Slightly floral notes with a consistent vegetal flavor
Aftertaste: Vegetal
Overall: Once you dial in the best cup, it's fabulous!