Friday, December 21, 2007

Tsar's Blend Review

Type: Black
Origin: China
Price: ½ oz. Sample - $2, ¼ lb - $8.25, ½ lb - $15.70, 1 lb - $29.80
Vendor: Dragon Water Tea Company
Brewing Method: 1 tsp of loose leaves, 8 oz. of filtered water, heated to 212°F, in "Kat" teapot, for 3 minutes
Overall Score: 4.8 out of 5

The tea has an extremely sweet, smooth taste to it. I never thought about mixing black and white tea. However, this makes sense because the white tea is not as strong as the black. Since it was steeped for only 3 minutes, this allowed the black tea to have strength but the white tea is not steeped long enough to have any bitterness to it. Thus, an overwhelming sweetness is present.

I am normally skeptical when teas are described as “sweet,” but this tea seriously tastes like there has been a teaspoon of sugar added. If some sugar were to be added, I think it would be too sweet. Could white tea be used as a natural sweetener for other teas?

There is no astringency at all. Even when I drink this hot, my mouth still feels refreshed instead of dry like other teas leave it. With that being said, I think this tea would make an excellence iced tea.

Looking at the picture, you can see that the color is a dark reddish brown. As a matter of fact, I got this sample when I ordered the green cup that the liquor is in.

Before brewing: This tea consists of black leaves in tiny bits with a few silver needles here and there. Like my smiley face? Heh heh. I counted about 10 silver needle leaves in my ½ oz. package of this blend. So, you can see that there is not that much white tea in it, but it still makes a big difference.

After brewing: Both the black and white leaves are still the same size, roughly. The black leaves have opened up a little, but the chopped up bits aren’t that attractive.
I will definitely order more of this tea. Before I drank this tea, my favorite black tea was Ceylon Sonata from Adagio. However, I think this black tea just took the number one spot on my chart.

The one thing I would like to mention is that this tea was sent to me in a closable bag/pouch. The thing is, the pouch is clear on one side so you can see the tea (or whatever the contents is) that is inside the pouch. If I remember right, isn’t light and air the two biggest enemies of tea? If that is true, why would you put tea in a clear pouch? Even though it is only clear on one side, I still think it is bad packaging.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Ancestry in a Teapot

It’s been a tradition for my brother, cousin, and I to spend the night at my grandparent’s house while my parents and my cousin’s parents go to Indianapolis for some black Friday Christmas shopping. Both of our parents make it a weekend trip, complete with booked hotel rooms, because both of their wedding anniversaries are that weekend (November 23rd and 25th). I declared that I was “too old” to stay over at my grandparent’s house. I told everyone a week before Thanksgiving that I would just pack up myself, and my Chihuahua, and head over to my boyfriend’s apartment for the weekend. However, my grandparents, try as they might, could not hold back their disappointment that I would not be joining them for the traditional three day sleepover. I, eventually, gave into their pouty faces and notified my boyfriend to not expect me over as previously planned.

The day after Thanksgiving I was rudely awaken from my slumber on my grandma’s couch by my sixteen year old brother and sixteen year old cousin playing guitar hero. I heard my grandma working away in the kitchen making breakfast so I decided to join her. Mercifully I had remembered my teapot, kettle, and tea and set up shop on the kitchen counter. The only tea that I brought was Dragon well so I proceeded in making me a warm cup. When I sat down at the kitchen table, cup in hand, my grandma mentioned that she had “never seen that color of tea before.”

After talking with her about what was in my cup I found out that my grandma used to be a huge tea drinker. This surprised me because I’ve always known her to be an avid coffee drinker. She was familiar with the terms “green” and “black” but never heard of “white” or “oolong.” She told me that her mother (my great grandmother) would have two or three cups of tea a day until the last 10-15 years of her life when she switched to coffee.

My grandma, then, left the room and returned with an orange and green teapot shaped like a pumpkin. She told me that it used to be my great grandma’s favorite teapot. She said that the teapot was left to her after my great grandma’s passing in March of 2005. “It has to be over 100 years old,” I remember my grandma saying as she explained that my great grandma was given the teapot from her mother when my great grandma got married. “You can have it. You are the only one that drinks tea like mom and I used to,” said my grandma. I was overwhelmed with the gift but the only thing I could say was, “why didn’t anyone tell me this? Why didn’t anyone tell me that you guys loved tea so much?” Here I had thought that I was the first one to get into this tea hobby while the rest of my family swore over their coffee. Then I find out that this has been a preference passed down from my great great grandmother… and who knows if it goes further back than that. I looked down at my cup of Dragon well and felt like this is not just a hobby anymore, but it felt like more of a tradition. A very tasty tradition.

Looking at the teapot, you can see that it has been used a lot! From the cracks on the side of the teapot and on the lid, it looks like it has been broken and meticulously pieced back together many times. It looks like there are burn marks on the bottom, as well. Also, there is a chunck missing out of the lid (the brown spot). There are several stress cracks that can be seen in the bottom of the teapot. There are also holes by the spout. Upon checking my new ‘modern’ teapots, they do not have those. I’m curious as to why some teapots do and some do not. There is a Japanese patent number on the bottom of the teapot. I tried to look up this number on the internet but have been unsuccessful at finding any information about it.

I am not trying to point out the flaws in this piece of pottery but saying how much it has been loved and used over and over and over again. My grandma said that she doesn’t have a clue of the last time it was used. I do know that I will never use this teapot myself, though. Especially, and this may be a little weird but, when you open the teapot it smells just like my great grandma’s house. Every time I turned the teapot to take a picture of it, the smell would hit me and I would get flooded with memories of holidays, bonfires, and other get-togethers at my great grandma’s house.

My great grandma passed away very peacefully when she was 93 years old. She loved to listen to people play music, especially guitars and pianos. She was nicknamed the “Harley Grandma.” From the age of 88 to 92 she would ride on my uncle’s Harley Davison motorcycle in the “Frozen Buns” New Years Day ride in Indiana. She loved animals, including the many cats, dogs, and birds she had throughout her life. Most importantly, she loved tea. As you can see, so do I. What I am saying is after looking at this pumpkin teapot and thinking about the amazing life that my great grandma had… I hope the love for tea is not the only thing that gets passed down.