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!