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.  <>

"Purple Tea." Tea Research Institute. Web. 15 November 2014. <>

Waruru, Maina. "New Purple Tea Developed in Kenya." New Agriculturist. April 2010. Web. 15 November 2014. <>

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!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Premium Tai Piag Hou Kui Green Tea by Teavivre

Seller Description: "Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui grows in Hou Keng on Huangshan Mountain, which is the center producing area of Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea. In China, Tai Ping Hou Kui is famed as one of the most famous ten Chinese teas. Leaves of semi-hand Tai Ping Hou Kui are even in thickness, and have brighter color than Nonpareil Tai Ping Hou Kui. First crafted in 1915, it went on to win gold medal for best tea at the 1915 Panama World Expo. TeaVivre's TaiPing HouKui is an excellent example of this fantastic tea."
Website:  Premium Tai Piag Hou Kui Green Tea by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 7g
Water Temperature: 175º F
Steeping Time: 2 minutes

Ever since I saw my first image of this tea, I wanted to try it. I love how neat and pretty the leaves are... pressed so thin that when you hold them up to the light you can see such gorgeous patterns!

This is one of the few teas on Teavivre's website that doesn't offer steeping suggestions yet, but they're so fabulously detailed about their teas I can't imagine it will go without long. In the meantime, I looked at several of their other greens and found the ratio of 8 grams per 17oz fairly standard.

Well, these leaves were so light that my entire infuser basket was full before I reached 7! I probably should have taken that as a sign, as even with a 2-minute steep it is pretty intense... and a little hoppy, actually.

Luckily, I had enough of the dry tea to make another batch... and this time I stepped it back to a 3.5g instead. It completely did the trick! I can taste some of the yeastiness of the previous batch, but it is so much more subtle and enjoyable!

Prominent Notes: Vegetive and yeasty/hoppy
Aftertaste: Hops
Overall: Based on this experience, I think Eastern steeping methods might be a better fit for this tea in the future.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea by Teavivre

Seller Description: "...Combined with the advantages of organic tea and high grade tea, this dragon well long jing tea is suitable for tea lovers of organic tea as well as dragon well green tea."
WebsiteOrganic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz tetsubin
Measured dry: 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 185º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes

Ooh... this one's tasty! It came with four other green teas for review, and as soon as I smelled it I did have to check the label. The toasty, vegetive scent reminds me a lot more of an oolong than a green.

It tastes more like it too. The instructions on the sample suggest a 1-6 minute steep, so I started at two minutes and ended up stopping at four minutes. 

The liquor is incredibly pale, but what it lacks in color it totally makes up in flavor. The earlier promise of the dry aroma directly translates into the steeped cup. There's a slight hint of nuttiness on top of the toasty vegetive notes from earlier.

It reminds me a lot of my favorite oolongs, but towards the end of each sip the nuttiness and toasted qualities back off and leave the cleaner vegetive note that's characteristically green.

Another great thing about this tea is its organic certification... all three of them! The tea's website proudly lists its USDA, EU, and JAS organic certification numbers, as well as links to the certificates themselves and even certain test results. Actually, there's more information on their website about this tea than I can remember seeing on any other tea site. It brings clarity up to a whole new level. 

Prominent Notes: Slightly toasted, nutty vegetive notes
Aftertaste: Vegetive notes
Overall: Tasty and organic... in a thoroughly documented way!

Thai Chai by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

Seller Description: "A confection of coconut silk and lemongrass, the Thai Chai blends energetic black tea with a sweet smelling aroma. Thai Chai tastes delicious, smooth, and jolting, making you feel alive and your senses feel sharpened. Make your day more vivid with the smooth black and chai tea blend."
Ingredients: Black Tea, Cinnamon Bark, Ginger Root, Dried Coconut, Lemon Grass, Cardamon Pods, Natural Coconut Flavor.
WebsiteThai Chai by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company
FacebookThe Persimmon Tree 
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 200º F
Steeping Time: 6 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

Today's tea comes our way via the The Persimmon Tree tea company out of California. They pride themselves on using recycled products in their packaging and shipping, and offer a variety of organic, fair-trade, and biodynamic teas.

I asked to review this particular tea because whenever my husband and I go out for pad Thai, we are hard-pressed not to order some of the ubiquitous - and delicious - Thai iced tea that most Thai restaurants carry. Luckily, while this tea does capture some of the beverage's flavor, it is a heck of a lot better for you than those thick, creamy concoctions!

I opened up the tin as soon as it arrived, and discovered the rich blend of different elements. The black tea base is there, but the other ingredients are no shrinking violets and most are recognizable. As for the scent, well, the dry aroma is curious, and I have a difficult time placing it. The ginger, coconut and cardamon seem to be the most prevalent, but there's something else that's escaping me at the moment.

Once steeped, the liquor is a slightly cloudy amber and, like the dry aroma, the flavor is difficult to pin down... kind of creamy with a little bit of a bite at the end. The black tea base stays in the background with the coconut, but the ginger and cardamon blend with the creamy front-runner.

In a nod to the Thai iced tea flavors this evokes, I decided to add a small splash of milk. I think I'll forego that in the future. It definitely added to the creaminess, but it pushed the other elements back noticeably. I might experiment with it more in the future, but the tea itself is so creamy that it really didn't need it.

All in all, this was a very tasty blend, and I look forward to using up the rest of the tin!

Prominent Notes: Cream, ginger, cardamon, and lemongrass
Aftertaste: Cinnamon and lemongrass.
Overall: A nicely balanced cuppa to start the morning

As a final note, The Persimmon Tree has asked me to give you their coupon code TEABLOG for 20% off at their online store: Enjoy!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bailin Gongfu Black Tea by Teavivre

Seller Description
: "Bailin Gongfu is the highest quality Fujian black tea.  This Bailin Gonfu is a premium quality tea produced at Mt. Taimu in Fujian, and is crafted from Fuding DaBai and Da Hao trees.  This delicious tea has a great refreshing sweet taste and fragrance."
WebsiteBailin Gongfu Black Tea by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 6 grams
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

This is the last of the five black tea samples that Teavivre sent my way. Most of my previous experience with black teas had to deal with various blends, and I've really enjoyed trying out these pure leaves.

Today's tea is the Bailin Gongfu Black Tea, and its dry aroma does have a lot in common with their other blacks. There is an element of maltiness, but also a strong vegetative presence that fades away with the steep.

And what a steep!

The liquor is a gorgeous, deep reddish amber. And, like the tasty microbrew it resembles, it has a malty presence with a lot of kick. There's a definite briskness to it, but this tea maintains a very smooth finish. While it's hot, I couldn't detect any astringency. It only begins to show up once the tea becomes cool.

Prominent Notes: A yeasty maltiness
Aftertaste: Slight vegetal notes, but only as it cools
Overall: A brisk, straightforward cuppa

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sugar Plum Spice by Celestial Seasonings

Seller's Description: "This celebratory blend combines juicy purple plums and aromatic spices like ginger and cardamom with tart hibiscus, floral chamomile and just a hint of sweetness. Every sip is a journey to the Land of the Sweets in Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, where the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy presides over a flavorful assortment of sensory delights."
Ingredients: Hibiscus, roasted chicory, chamomile, rosehips, roasted carob, natural plum and cinnamon flavors with other natural flavors, ginger and cardamon.
WebsiteSugar Plum Spice by Celestial Seasonings
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 8oz glass cup
Measured dry: 1 sachet
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 5 minutes
Additives: 1 teaspoon of raw sugar

Ah, Sugar Plum Spice. We meet again.

This tea's tart and spicy blend has joined us for many a holiday season, and I believe it served as my first taste of hibiscus tea. Since this is a seasonal tea, and only available for part of the year, it's been a little while since I've had this blend.

When I opened the package this evening, I was slightly surprised at the scent: cinnamon and cardamon with a hint of ginger. I was expecting something more explicitly plum, but the aroma was more spicy than fruity.

While the scent may be different than I remembered, the visual appeal was spot-on. The color is a gorgeous pomegranate, and it's still fun to watch the ropes of color that spill from the teabag. With the color comes the flavor, and the fruity notes finally make their appearance.

It's not an outright plum - the hibiscus and the rosehips are just too strong for that. It does achieve a tart berry note, though. And the spices? There's no missing them! They're nicely balanced with the more fruity elements to make a cup fit for the season.

Prominent Notes: Cinnamon, cardamon, berry, and hibiscus 
Aftertaste: Cinnamon and hibiscus
Overall: A sweet yet tart tea

Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Red Black Tea by Teavivre

Seller Description: "A cup of Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Chinese Red Black Tea will not only attract you by its taste, but also by its appearance: so dark and strong with tight and long tips. This tempting appearance is produced in Yunnan. While if you want to describe its taste, you can use the word elegant. It can serve you a cup of elegant gongfu tea or afternoon tea."
WebsiteNonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Chinese Red Black Tea by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug filled to 12oz
Measured dry: 5 grams per 8oz (7oz full sample)
Water Temperature: 200º F
Steeping Time: 2 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

My earlier tea-making attempts today were something of a comedy of errors. I decided to shift from the norm and try to do a gaiwan steeping. I usually only do that for greens and oolongs... and I think I should keep to that rule in the future!

This tea is so fabulous that it deserves much better treatment! When I was using the gaiwan I messed up the proportions enough that it came out a little like a microbrew, with an intense, toasty maltiness that was just this side of bracing.

When I returned to my comfort zone and made a fresh batch Western style, it made all the difference in the world. This tea had a lot of promise during my earlier bumbling, but this... wow.

My mother used to bake us butternut squash as an autumn treat. She would cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and fill the remaining bowl with butter and brown sugar. As it would bake, those flavors would sink into the flesh of the squash.

The toasty, slightly buttery creaminess of this tea is taking me back. It's maltiness is tempered a little by the raw sugar I added, but the more refined method certainly allowed this tea to come into its own. I'm sad that I used up the rest of the sample, but my birthday is in September and this is totally going on my wish list!

Prominent Notes: Creamy maltiness throughout
Aftertaste: Slightly toasted edge to the continued maltiness
Overall: This is totally going on my wish list!

And, for the heck of it, here is our kitty, Akasha, supervising!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Holiday Blend by Simpson & Vail

The next tea to be featured in the Pageant of Winter Teas is this festive blend from Simpson & Vail. 

Seller Description: "This blend of tea and herbs was created to capture the tastes and treats of the winter holiday season. It is a magnificent blend of black teas, rooibos and peppermint that has been delicately scented with vanilla and vanilla pieces. This Holiday Blend tea will enliven all of your holiday festivities." 
Ingredients: Black teas, rooibos, peppermint leaves, organic alfalfa leaves, flavoring, malva blossoms, erica flowers, and vanilla beans.
WebsiteHoliday Blend 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

I knew from the start that this would be a peppermint blend, but my first whiff of the dry aroma promised so much more than that. This is not a single-note tea, and the different elements give it a surprising complexity... more like a journey through a Christmas village than a single destination.

The promise of the dry aroma transitions in an interesting way into the steeped cup. It's a much lighter flavor than I had anticipated, and I think in the future I will use 1-1/2tsp instead of 1tsp per cup. It's coming across more like an herbal than a brisk black, and I'm having a difficult time picking up many of the other elements.

Teaware: 8oz Depression Glass cup with tea ball
Measured dry: 1-1/2 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 1-1/2 teaspoons

For my second cup, I went ahead and made a smaller, more concentrated batch. I do get a little more of the vanilla and floral notes here, but the black base is still proving light and elusive.

While it does still taste like an herbal, the presence of the black tea base does add a caffeine kick. This would be a nicely relaxing cup for a lazy morning.

Prominent Notes: Peppermint and vanilla
Aftertaste: Floral elements and just a hint of the black base
Overall: A black tea that keeps a low profile

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rooibos Vanilla Chai by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

Seller Description: "Our Vanilla Rooibos Chai tea features a delightful blend of masala chai spices, red rooibos and a hint of vanilla. Rooibos Vanilla Chai is naturally caffeine, making it a perfect any-time tea. Much like its caffeinated cousin Masala Chai, this tea tastes delicious with milk and sugar."
Ingredients: Organic Rooibos, Vanilla Flavoring, Ginger Pieces, Cinnamon Pieces, Cardamom, Clove, Orange Pieces
WebsiteRooibos Vanilla Chai by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company
Facebook: The Persimmon Tree 
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

The Persimmon Tree is a tea company out of California that offers a wide variety of organic, fair-trade, and biodynamic teas. They also pride themselves on using recycled products in their packaging and shipping. Now, it can be difficult to get to know an online tea company, but The Persimmon Tree makes it a lot easier by offering a variety of $5 sampler packs, which I found irresistible. The company was kind enough to provide me with a cute little 3oz tin of today's tea, but just in case you were wondering, the Rooibos Vanilla Chai is also an option in their Rooibos sampler.

But on to the tea itself! Today's blend has all the wonderful spices you'd usually associate with an eye-opening, caffeine-packed cup of black tea. By substituting a red rooibos base in lieu of the black, this becomes a caffeine-free drink that you can enjoy whenever you feel like it. As someone who tends to bounce from the walls with too much caffeine after noon, I can sincerely appreciate that!

Rooibos can often leave me with a caramel aftertaste, but this blend has managed to avoid that. The base slips into the background and lets the cardamon, clove and vanilla take center stage with the ginger and cinnamon off to the side singing the chorus. The effect is nicely balanced, with no one element standing out too strongly and causing dissonance.

As it cools, the vanilla stands out further and gives it a lovely creaminess. It becomes less and less noticeable that I used water instead of milk while preparing it. Now, "chai" itself is a bit of a misnomer, as it actually means "tea" in several languages and not the specific blend of spices that we tend to associate with it. Actually, if I'm getting into semantics, this isn't even tea, technically. There's only one actual tea plant: the camellia sinensis. How it's treated determines the kind of tea (i.e. black, green, oolong, etc.) that it will steep.

But for a not-quite-chai and a not-quite-tea, it's quite yummy!

Prominent Notes: Cardamon, clove, and vanilla
Aftertaste: Light hints of cinnamon and lighter still of ginger
Overall: A harmonious chai blend for any time of day

As a final note, The Persimmon Tree has asked me to give you their coupon code TEABLOG for 20% off at their online store: Enjoy!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Premium Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea by Teavivre

Seller Description: "Rated as the best of Chinese black teas, Keemun is an absolute delight to drink. TeaVivre's Premium Keemun represents the highest quality of this tea generally available to the public, and has a taste, aroma and appearance that completely justifies its reputation as one of the best black teas in the world. Handmade in Keemun's birthplace of Qimen, this tea is simply stunning."
WebsitePremium Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea by Teavivre
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

This tea is a departure from the last two Teavivre blacks I've tried. Unlike their colorful leaves, these are dark in appearance, chopped and with lighter tips in some cases. The dry leaves don't have much of an aroma on their own, but what scent there is comes out cleanly - a hint of dried summer grass. My husband swears he's picking up slight minty notes, but that's not coming across for me.

Because today is his birthday, I served this tea up Western-style in my glass infuser cups. It went beautifully with the pancakes I made him. It's a gorgeous copper color, and the flavor is bold, straightforward, and unapologetic.

While the caffeine may be slightly lower in this tea, the taste doesn't relay that - it grabs you and shakes the sleep from your eyes. It's strong and malty, and while I used raw sugar to sweeten it, I'm getting slight honey notes despite that. There is a mild to moderate astringency now that it's cooled, but there was little more than a hint of it when it was freshly hot.

Prominent Notes: Maltiness
Aftertaste: Hints of honey
Overall: A good choice for Jake's birthday tea, as he really enjoyed it!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Yun Nan Dian Hong Black Tea - Golden Tip by Teavivre

Seller Description"Dian Hong black tea, also known as Yunnan black tea, is one of China's most famous black teas. This is the highest grade Dian Hong generally available in China – called Golden Tip Dian Hong. It has lots of orange pekoe in the dried tea, and brews into an absolutely great tasting, golden coloured tea, with very rich taste and aroma."
WebsiteYun Nan Dian Hong Black Tea - Golden Tip by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 2 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

After my last experience with one of Teavivre's black teas, I knew to expect the unexpected.

The light, honey-butter flavor was a surprise, though. I guess after their Golden Monkey Black I was expecting something a little brisker. The aftertaste packs a little nudge of it, but for the most part this tastes like a combination of a black and a green, with slightly grassy notes.

A lot of that comes out in the dry tea's aroma, which brings to mind cool saturdays spent raking up autumn leaves.... and the joy of taking a running jump into the pile!

I'm glad that I have more of this sample left, because I can't wait to take it to school. There's something kind of wonderful about the way it both wakes you up and calms you down, and the smooth, mild flavor allows you to savor it without needing to brace yourself for an intense jolt of caffeine.

Now, sometimes I really do need that, but it's nice to switch things up now and again, and this tea is perfect for that.

Prominent Notes: Honey butter (almost a combined flavor) and fresh vegetation
Aftertaste: Mildly brisk, slightly smoky black
Overall: A smooth, wonderful way to ease yourself gently into the day

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Golden Monkey Black Tea by Teavivre

Seller Description"Coming from Fujian, the Golden Monkey is made of the fresh buds and leaves of Fuding Pekoe, by lightly sun withering, rolling, fermentation and drying. Golden Monkey has the particular aroma of black tea. You could scent the fruity flavor through every sip of the tea."
Website: Golden Monkey Black Tea by Teavivre
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

When I opened the sample, I was initially surprised at how green and yellow this black tea looked... enough so that I double-checked the label! Sure enough, both the sample and the website list this as a black, and once I steeped it there was no question at all.

Whatever the color of the actual leaves, this steeped up into a gorgeously smooth tea with that distinctive briskness you'd usually encounter in an English Breakfast or an Earl Grey.

Actually, I'm enjoying this one so much that I have to force myself to slow down and savor it! I usually gravitate more towards black blends, and it's been only recently that I've tried more of the straight black teas. This tastes like a balance in between the two.

Sipping this, I'm impressed again by how smooth this tea is. There is little to no astringency, without any jarring notes at all. I think this is one I'll want to keep around!

Prominent Notes: Brisk black tea with a mellow buttery
Aftertaste: Slightly citrusy, fruity notes
Overall: Time for a second cup!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Swiss Mountain Black Tea by Della Terra Teas

Seller Description"If you are a fan of minty chocolate, especially when combined together in a candy then this tea is for you.  With real peppermint and chocolate pieces along with mint brittle you will be left with a minty, refreshing and chocolaty treat in your cup.  A true breath, errr, drink of fresh air... I mean tea!"
Ingredients: Black tea, chocolate bits, peppermint
WebsiteSwiss Mountian Black Tea by Della Terra Teas
Sample source: Facebook Giveaway

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 3 teaspoons of raw sugar

This tea came my way via one of Della Terra's Facebook giveaways, with some of their Almond Biscotti green tea. Oddly enough, this is the second time they've sent me tea this way - I think that means more people need to "like" them so there's more of a pool!

Now when I make hot chocolate, I tend to stir up more of a thick soup than the lightly accented drink you'd get by following the directions. As such, I've never really gotten into chocolate teas because I always find myself craving more chocolate and less tea. I met with that same quandary this time as well.

It's a sweet, refreshing tea that reminds me strongly of thin mints. The slight bite of dark chocolate mixed with the soothing refreshment of the peppermint. If I make this again, I will definitely throw another teaspoon of sugar and couple extra chocolate chips in, but I know several friends who would definitely enjoy this as is!

Prominent Notes: Chocolate and peppermint
Aftertaste: Black tea
Overall: I'm going to go make some hot chocolate

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Another Traveling Tea Box?!?!?!

Since my last blog entry, another tea box has come my way! If you didn't catch my last post about the Traveling Tea Box C, this is a fun thing we do on Steepster. One person puts a bunch of tea in a box and mails it to the first person on the list. They then sample the teas they want to try, remove a couple they like, and add more tea of their own. It continues through the list like this until it comes back to the first person... who might continue it on for another round!

This particular box had a bit of a longer journey on its way to me, as you can tell from these pictures!

 A close-up of the left side, featuring a surprisingly wide variety of ESP Emporium teas, Harney & Sons, Tea District, Butiki Teas, and Verdant.
Looking at the middle in more depth, you can see the incredible variety of hand-labeled teas and even a couple tins. Let me tell you, those were fun to try to fit back into the little box that birthed all this!
But it didn't stop there! This little box was starting to remind me of Mary Poppins' carpet bag. For a while I wondered if I would ever find the bottom! It finally came clean, with a large assortment of Adagio teas. 

As you can see, it was a bit more extensive than the last one. Unfortunately, between a bout with strep throat and another cold that came in on its heels, I've been off my game lately. I only tried a small handful of teas before guilt (and a sense of obligation) had me sending it back on its way.

Here are the teas I sampled and/or removed:

Pineapple Bacon Rooibos by 52teas
Cinnamon Fig by Art of Tea
Mint Verbena by Harney & Sons
Coconut Lavender Rooibos by Tea District
Cuppa Paradise by Tea District
Earl Grey by Tea Forte
Laoshan Black by Verdant Tea

And the teas I tucked in for their new journey:

Chestnut by Adagio
Christmas by Adagio
Gingerbread by Adagio
Pumpkin Spice by Adagio
Easy as Pie by Adagio Custom (by Lariel)
Pumpkin King by Adagio Custom (by Lariel)
Earl Grey by The Tao of Tea
Pu’er Tonic by Verdant Tea (from Blends subscription)