Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rishi Tea’s Hong Yue Review

Type: Black
Origin: Taiwan
Price: Free Sample (regular price - $11.00 for 50 grams) LIMITED SUPPLY!!
Vendor: Rishi Tea
Brewing Method: Per Instructed - 1 teaspoon of leaves, 1 cup of filtered water, heated to 195°F, steeped for 3 - 4 minutes
Overall Score: 4.9 out of 5

Hong Yue, also known as Ruby Black, is a rare and unique tea from Taiwan. The fresh aroma from the bag is incredibly fragrant! It reminds me of chocolate covered raisins – sweet, slightly grape-like. There is something a bit tart about it as well; maybe dates or cranberries. The term “fresh” keeps coming to mind when smelling the leaves and I think the reason is that it lacks a smoky quality that many black teas have which makes it even more unique. The dry leaves are black, long, twisted, wiry, almost uniform pieces. The leaves are rather large for being a black tea.

The raisin aroma is brought out more while the leaves are steeping. It also has more of a fruity, candy scent. The liquor is a gorgeous copper color.

Oh my… I don’t want to write anymore. I just want to sit, sip this tea, and think of nothing else.

The taste is fantastic! I have never tasted a black tea with so many fruity notes. A raisin or grape-like flavor is prominent, followed by a currant or cranberry tartness, and then a candied sweetness. It is not spicy or smoky or bitter. It is, however, quite astringent… which I noticed by the third sip. The boldness equals that of an Assam tea but without the smokiness, of course.

As I noted next to the price, this tea is in limited supply. This is truly something not to pass on if you want a high quality tea experience.

Speaking of, have you noticed the adorable white, speckled tea pot in the picture above and in my last couple of reviews? Rishi Tea calls that a Tsuki Teapot, Tsuki meaning “moon.” I won this little beauty back in February from a contest that Rishi Tea held. I love it! It is the perfect size for one person and, because of the firing process, each teapot produces different speckles so no two are alike.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some Advice on Tea Storage

I was reading an article on tea storage advice and did a double take when I hit the section about storing tea in the refrigerator.

Do NOT do that!

There are several things wrong with storing tea, even in an air tight container, in the refrigerator. First, refrigerators house other food odors which could be absorbed by tea leaves. It is bad enough that some teas are overly flavored and scented to begin with, would you want your tea tasting like everything else in your refrigerator, as well? Second, if you place tea in an air tight container, you are also trapping room temperature air in the container. Then you place the container in the refrigerator. A couple of days later you are craving some yummy delicious tea so you grab that container from the refrigerator, open it, scoop out what you want, and close the container. What just happened is you introduced warm air into a cold container. When you put the container back into the refrigerator this is going to produce condensation and the moisture will lead to mold.

Thus, the benefits of the slightly extended shelf life versus the potential risks are just not worth it.

Basically what tea storage comes down to is protecting it from its two enemies: light and air. Store your tea in air tight containers (or at least make the container or bag as air tight as possible) and store those containers in a cool, dry, dark place. Be careful when storing tea in kitchen cabinets because the same threat of food odors in the refrigerator can come from the spices in the cabinets, as well. The ideal place in the kitchen is in the cabinet away from spices and away from the oven as smoke and fumes from cooking could absorb into the leaves.

If you have lots of tea (like the tea freak writing this article) the best practical place to store tea is in a cabinet in another room other than the kitchen... for example, the dining room or living room. This way, the tea is safe from light thanks to the opaque bags and containers plus the doors on the cabinet and the precious leaves are far away from any food odors that it could absorb. Keeping the tea at the same temperature as the rest of the house keeps moisture from forming and developing mold. It is not the perfect set up, but it works.

Ok, if you just insist on storing tea in the refrigerator for whatever reason, allow me to suggest something else. Separate the tea leaves into individual serving sizes and place each serving into a small sealable bag. Then, place the bags into the freezer. When you want to use those tea leaves, take out as many servings as you need and use all of the tea you take out. Do NOT put those tea leaves back into the freezer once you have taken them out.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mighty Leaf's Spirulina Stamina Review

Type: Herbal
Origin: United States, South America, China
Price: Free sample (regular price - $9.95 for 4oz.)
Vendor: Mighty Leaf
Brewing Method: Per Instructed - 1 teaspoon of leaves, 1 cup of filtered water, heated to 205°F, steeped for 5 - 7 minutes
Overall Score: 2.5 out of 5

Spirulina Stamina is a blend of rosehip, cinnamon, balm mint, schizandra, black currant, black berry leaves, green mate, and spirulina. The very first ingredient that I smell is cinnamon followed by the fruitiness of the black currant and black berry leaves. Both aromas together make for a sweet and spicy combination.

The aroma of the liquor reminds me of warm berry pie. I say that because it has the spicy scent of the cinnamon with the tartness and fruitiness of the berries. The color is a light orangey-yellow.

The taste is a little harsh at first. It is rather tart in the beginning and then the heat from the cinnamon settles on the back of my tongue. After I get past the cinnamon, the tea has a cool, fresh flavor to it which I believe is from the balm mint. Finally, a fruity flavor sneaks up from the background.

Would I have this tea again? Probably not. It is not that it is a bad tea, it is just not my cup of tea. I believe this would be a great blend if the cinnamon were left out. Cinnamon has been an ingredient in several teas that I have tried and I have always wished it to be left out because the spice leaves the mouth feeling hot instead of refreshed. I do not enjoy that kind of kick when drinking tea.

However, if you like the kick of cinnamon mixed with minty and berry flavors, then this tea would be worth checking into.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Dream of Tea...

... and in that dream I win the Sip of Success contest by the Tea Council of the USA.

Then, poof, back to reality.

The reality being that I need your help to win the grand prize which is an awesome tea internship! Part of the judging is the popularity of the video. I wrote the script, I shot the video, I did the (7 freaking hours worth of) editing. Now, I need you, yes you, to view the video, comment, and like it on the You Tube page. If anything, at least you get to see and hear the girl behind this blog!

Please check it out here - Sip of Success: Chess Match

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mighty Leaf's Rooibos Renewal Review

Type: Rooibos
Origin: United States
Price: Free sample (regular price - $8.95 for 4oz.)
Vendor: Mighty Leaf
Brewing Method: Per Instructed - 1 teaspoon of leaves, 1 cup of filtered water, heated to 205°F, steeped for 5 - 7 minutes
Overall Score: 3.7 out of 5

Rooibos Renewal is a green rooibos base with orange peels, rose petals, and blue mallow flowers. The aroma is citrusy and floral. The orange scent hits me first, followed closely by the flowers. The blend is colorful with the tiny green rooibos specs, the orange peels, and the purple and white flower petals. Between the look and smell of this blend, I’m sure it would easily become confused with potpourri.

The aroma as the blend is steeping is similar to the dry blend aroma, although the floral scents come out a lot more after being subjected to hot water. The color of the liquor is a yellow color that greatly resembles the color of honey.

The taste is sweet, with a lot of citrus flavor up front. Both the rooibos and the flowers provide the sweet floral after taste that lingers for a while. This particular rooibos doesn’t seem to hold the woody characteristics of what would be considered the normal rooibos base. Because of that, there is no woody or smoke flavor in the mix which means the taste is even sweeter.

The tea is not bitter or astringent; however, it does taste more acidic than I am comfortable with. It almost has the same mouth feel as drinking a glass of orange juice. I believe this would be a refreshing treat when iced with no need to add sweetener.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Matcha Source’s Organic Morning Matcha Review

Type: Green
Origin: Japan
Price: Free sample (regular price for matcha - $33.00 for 30g; regular price for kit - $69.00)
Vendor: Matcha Source
Brewing Method: Per Instructed – 1 teaspoon of sifted matcha, 1.5 oz. of filtered water heated to 180°F, whisked vigorously
Overall Score: 4.9 out of 5

I was excited when Matcha Source asked me to review their matcha as I have never formally reviewed this particular kind of tea until now. I was even more excited and very surprised to find out that they sent an entire matcha kit for the ultimate matcha experience.

The five piece kit includes a chawan (bowl), a chasen (whisk), a chashaku (bamboo teaspoon), a sifter, and matcha. All of the pieces, including instructions, come neatly and securely packed in a box.

The instructions are easy to follow. Simple drawings are provided through each step of the process. One thing I really like about these instructions is that it tells you how much matcha should be on the chashaku by describing it as “’almond’ size scoops.” I wish I had had that description when I first made matcha with a chashaku because it is possible to make that bamboo spoon hold more than necessary which meant that I had to search online for a picture of the right amount – something that the company didn’t provide. In fact, it was only because I had read tea books which disclosed the basic procedure to making matcha that I had a clue what I was doing during that first time. Thus, Matcha Source providing great step by step instructions, along with other tips and recipes, is a huge plus.

The Organic Morning Matcha has a nice, fresh, grassy scent that is detected immediately after I open the seal on the can. The matcha powder is the perfect shade of green – it is not light green, it is not dark green, it is just green… a color that I could paint an entire room with.

After about 15 seconds of vigorous whisking, the matcha creates a layer of frothy foam on top, which is good sign. The aroma, however difficult to detect, is vegetal and very similar to steamed broccoli.

The flavor corresponds with the grassy, vegetal aromas. It is slightly sweet and not bitter. The steamed vegetable flavor lasts for a while after each sip, along with hints of astringency. The texture is great for being a normal, everyday matcha. What I mean is that it is not grainy; the powder mixes well with the water to create a smooth texture. I have had some bad experiences with other matchas that were grainy or that were bland in the beginning and too bold by the time I made it to the bottom of the cup because the powder had clumped (even after sifting) and settled. It is not the case regarding this matcha. The flavors were even throughout and when I hit bottom I wanted more.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mighty Leaf's White Orchard Review

Type: White
Origin: China
Price: Free sample (regular price - $9.95 for 15 Pouches)
Vendor: Mighty Leaf
Brewing Method: Per Instructed - 1 pouch, 1 cup of filtered water, heated to 180°F, steeped for 3 - 5 minutes
Overall Score: 4.0 out of 5

White Orchard is a white tea infused with melon and peach. The dry blend is quite aromatic and fruity. I can definitely smell the peach while the melon aroma is close behind. The white tea aroma gets taken over by the double dose of fruit.

The peach aroma is brought out more while the leaves are steeping. With a nice breezing coming through the open window it fills the whole room with this scent. The melon can be detected but it likes to stay in the background. The liquor is a greenish yellow color.

The taste is light with a lot of peach flavor up front. The melon settles in the after taste. The white tea flavor is missing amongst the fruity flavors, but the astringency from it can be noted. It also has some tartness from the peach. The tea is rather sweet and not bitter at all. The astringency comes on more and more with each sip, however.

I believe this tea would be much better when iced or chilled. I think that would be more refreshing as it would hold back some of the dryness that this tea provides. I can see now why this tea is a part of Mighty Leaf’s Sangria Collection because it has several characteristics similar to a fruity wine.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tea Candy

Yet another item I picked up while on vacation in Tennessee - tea candy. Surprisingly, it actually tastes like you are drinking a glass of sweet tea. It has a nice, sweetened black tea flavor with similar characteristics of Ceylon tea.

The cashier at All Sauced Up – the place where I bought the tea candy – gave me his business card so I could check out their website, but, sadly, I can’t find this tea candy on their site. They have loads of awesome sauces and various cookware on their website, which my chef boyfriend was excited about, but none of the tea, espresso, coffee, cappuccino, and other beverage flavored candies that I saw in store. That makes me sad…

I guess I will just have to enjoy them while they last and see if I can find another supplier.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rishi Tea’s Vanilla Mint Review

Type: Pu Erh
Origin: Yunnan, China
Price: Free sample (regular price - $5.00 for 1oz.)
Vendor: Rishi Tea
Brewing Method: Per Instructed - 1 teaspoon of leaves, 1 cup of filtered water, heated to 212°F, steeped for 5 - 6 minutes
Overall Score: 4.0 out of 5

Vanilla Mint is a pu erh base blend with vanilla, peppermint, cinnamon, and licorice root – all of which are organic ingredients. My first thought when the aroma of the dry leaf hit me is that is smells like toothpaste… and I mean that in a good way. It has a fresh scent with the mix of peppermint and vanilla. I can smell a bit of the cinnamon, as well. The dry leaves are a colorful sight. The small, black pu erh leaves are twisted within the mix of green peppermint, and brown cinnamon and licorice root.

The steeped tea was fun to pour out of the teapot. When I started to pour the tea into the pitcher it was a light yellowish orange color, then all of a sudden a blood red color comes out of the spout of the teapot. This gave the tea a dark red hue. The aroma of the tea is a mix of vanilla and mint with a licorice aroma in the background.

Wow, what an interesting combination of flavors and sensations. At first I taste the sweet vanilla, and then I feel the coolness of the mint. I few seconds later I feel the heat from the cinnamon in the back of my throat.

The tea isn’t as heavy or bold as I thought it would be. Steeping pu erh for five minutes scared me because I know how bold they can be. However, this one tastes more like an herbal tea. The only thing I’m getting from the pu erh is some astringency. It isn’t bitter at all. In fact, the sweetness from the vanilla and the coolness from the mint make it rather refreshing.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rishi Tea’s Houjicha Review

Type: Green
Origin: Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan
Price: Free sample (regular price - $3.00 for 1oz.)
Vendor: Rishi Tea
Brewing Method: Per Instructed - 1 teaspoon of leaves, 1 cup of filtered water, heated to 185°F, steeped for 3 - 4 minutes
Overall Score: 4.3 out of 5

Houjicha is an organic, roasted green tea from Japan. The aroma of the dry leaves is toasty, woody, and slightly grassy. The leaves are various shades of brown and are long and flat with quite a few stems in the mix, as well.

The tea smells woody and nutty. It definitely doesn’t hold back the roasted aroma either. It reminds of oolong tea because it lacks the fresh scent that most steeped green teas have. The liquor is a yellowish orange color.

The taste is… unlike other green teas. It tastes nutty and buttery. It also has a sweet, honey-like flavor to it. There isn’t much of a grassy or vegetal taste to this green tea. The boldness of this tea matches that of oolong tea – roasted notes that linger for quite some time.

This should not be an intro tea to those trying greens for the first time as it is rather bold and astringent. The tea isn’t bitter, but the intensity of the roasted flavor can be a surprise. Although, if you want to drink green tea and you don’t particularly like the grassy taste, this would be a good one to try as it has darker qualities similar to oolong and black tea.

With that said, this is a great tea for those who are tired of the same old stuff. This Houjicha is a rather complex tea and it surprises me every time I take another sip. I have to remind myself that this is a green tea even though the taste is unlike anything else. The fact that it is organic is a major plus, too.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My New Tea Table Guests

While shopping the strip in Gatlinburg, TN, my boyfriend and I visited the China Bazaar store. It was mostly filled with martial art swords and knives, but it also had some Asian style figurines. I spotted the bright red foo dogs nestled in a corner of a shelf. I have been looking for a pair of these statues to join me at my tea table, but I couldn’t find any for the right price and of the right size… until now.

Foo dogs – also called fu dogs, fu lions, lions of Buddha, stone lions, or Chinese guardian lions - are the creatures that sit outside of Chinese palaces, temples, and even homes to act like guardians. The dogs always come in a pair; the male is holding a ball under his paw and the female has a cub on her paw.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rishi Tea’s Dragon Well Review

Type: Green
Origin: Zhejiang, China
Price: Free sample (regular price - $5.50 for 1oz.)
Vendor: Rishi Tea
Brewing Method: Per Instructed - 1 teaspoon of leaves, 1 cup of filtered water, heated to 180°F, steeped for 2 - 3 minutes
Overall Score: 4.8 out of 5

This particular Dragon Well is organic. The leaves are pressed flat so that they are long, slender pieces marbled with various shades of green. The aroma, however subtle, is toasty and grassy. The dry leaves smell buttery with a rich sweetness.

While the leaves are steeping, the tea has a fresh, sweet, buttery aroma. The liquor is a light greenish yellow color.

The taste is quite buttery and creamy at first. As I continue to sip I can taste the subtle nutty flavors mingle with the slight grassiness. No bitterness at all… in fact, I find it rather sweet. The tea also lacks any unpleasant dryness that sometimes accompanies green teas.

This particular Dragon Well seems to be creamier than others that I have had. Usually the nutty flavor is front and center which kicks the rest of the flavors to the background. But, this one holds that buttered toast flavor up front, making it a savory tea.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dawn and Dusk Cup

Dawn and Dusk. At least that is what I am calling the new cup that I bought while on vacation last week. My boyfriend and I stumbled upon the Black Bear Tea Company while browsing the Mountain Mall in Gatlinburg, TN.

Thankful for some air conditioning on a day in which I am sure hit over 100°F, we took our time looking at every piece of tea-inspired item that this little store had to offer. I took a closer look at their tea ware and their black tea as I was looking to buy one or more of those. However, I do not recommend buying any tea ware from this particular store because it is extremely over priced. They wanted $119 for what looked like a simple 150ml yixing pot. There was also a $249 price tag on two approximately 200ml yixing pots with six tiny cups. To compare, I have a 250ml yixing pot that I bought for $25. There was no way I was going to pay those prices!

On the other hand, the tea was reasonably priced. It was $9.95 for each 2oz. bag of loose leaf tea or buy six bags and get one free. I bought some Black Orange tea and some Kenilworth Ceylon to satisfy my diminishing black tea stash at home.

Ok, so I said I was going to pass on the tea ware, but yet I began this post talking about the new cup I bought. I caved, alright!

This beautiful cup and saucer caught my eye and when the store clerk saw me looking at it, he explained that it was hand made with a signature on the bottom. The price of $25 made me wince, but it is hand made, with a signature, and my interpretation of the piece is an “opposite” – one of my favorite forms of art.

Allow me to explain. I have a thing for opposites. I like yin yang symbols, black and white clothes or paintings, night and day art, etc… something about seeing the extremes of a spectrum right next to each other is simply amazing to me.

Hence why I call this cup “Dawn and Dusk” and also why I bought it. The yellows and oranges represent the dawn while the blues and blacks represent the dusk. Cool, eh?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Kalahari’s Zambezi Red Chai Review

Type: Rooibos
Origin: South Africa
Price: Sample (regular price - $3.50 for 20 Pouches)
Vendor: Kalahari
Brewing Method: 1 teabag, 1 cup of filtered water, heated to 200°F, steeped for 4 - 5 minutes
Overall Score: 3.8 out of 5

Zambezi Red Chai is a rooibos base blend with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and black pepper. The dry leaf aroma smells of chai spices with the ginger and cloves standing out more than the rest. I cannot see much of the dry leaf blend because of the opaque tea bag, but from what I can make out there lots of colorful specs of spices throughout.

The cinnamon and clove aromas are more distinguishable as the tea is steeping. The liquor before milk is added is a light copper color. The liquid is rather foggy, but I have found that to happen whenever cinnamon is an ingredient in the blend. After milk is added, the liquid becomes a light brown or tan color.

The taste is… warm. I can taste the cloves, cinnamon, and ginger which provides for the overall warm feeling. The milk helps cut some of the harshness from the spices, but I can still feel the heat in the back of my throat.

This rooibos base chai seems to be sweeter than the Assam base chai’s. There is a lack of bitterness and astringency that normally comes with the Assam base blends. It is also mellower than chai’s made with black tea… even though the cloves are always relentless no matter what else is in the blend.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kalahari’s Cherry Vanilla Review

Type: Rooibos
Origin: South Africa
Price: Free Sample (regular price - $4.99 for 16 Pouches)
Vendor: Kalahari
Brewing Method: Per Instructed - 1 teabag, 1 cup of filtered water, heated to 180°F, steeped for 3 - 5 minutes
Overall Score: 4.1 out of 5

Cherry Vanilla is a rooibos base blend of dark roasted cacao, cinnamon, licorice, chicory, cardamom, ginger, cloves, vanilla, and natural cherry flavor. As soon as I made the first rip on the foil wrapper I could smell the overwhelming sweet scent of the chocolate, cherry, and vanilla flavors. From what I can see through the tea bag, there are white specs of something among the dark rooibos.

The vanilla aroma comes out a lot more as the tea is steeping. In fact, the cherry and chocolate aromas that I could detect in the dry leaves are almost gone. The liquor is a dark copper color.

Wow, there is quite a bit of flavor from that tiny tea bag! The overall sweetness of this blend knocked me back a bit. The cherry and vanilla flavors come together to create a creamy/fruity flavor which is kind of like putting whipped cream on a cherry and eating it.

There is also a bite that builds after a few sips. I am assuming that is from the cinnamon, licorice, and chicory as it has a woody/burning after taste. I don’t look at this as a bad thing… it gives the tea a little kick at the end, basically. Although, I lost the chocolate aroma and flavor completely.

Don’t even think about adding any sweeteners. There is no bitterness or astringency to this tea. I think these ingredients provide a nice balance of sweet and savory… which is something I have never tasted in a tea.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Kalahari’s Highlands Honey Review

Type: Rooibos
Origin: South Africa
Price: Free Sample (regular price - $3.50 for 16 Pouches)
Vendor: Kalahari
Brewing Method: 1 teabag, 1 cup of filtered water, heated to 180°F, steeped for 4 - 5 minutes
Overall Score: 4.8 out of 5

Highlands Honey is a rooibos base with natural honey vanilla flavor. I can smell and identify the honey and vanilla right away – more so the vanilla. The dry ingredients give off an overall sweet aroma. I cannot say much about the appearance of the blend because it is in an opaque paper filter bag, hence the lack of the dry leaf picture that I normally take.

The aroma of the brew is of sweet vanilla with the woody rooibos in the background. The liquor is an orangish copper color.

The taste is super sweet. I cannot taste any honey notes, but I can taste the vanilla up front, then the rooibos in the after taste. The tea has a cooling effect in my mouth – similar to mint. Because of that, I can see how this would be great iced.

There is absolutely no bitterness or astringency in this cup. I will have to call you crazy if you think this needs any type of sweetener added to it.

I will admit, “red tea” (even though it isn’t really tea) or rooibos is not my favorite cuppa, however, I cannot stop drinking this. I am not sure why. It could be because the normally strong woody flavor of the rooibos is not that strong with this blend. It is more about the vanilla flavor. Although, vanilla is definitely not one of my favorite flavors either. I am still baffled, but whatever it is, it won’t let me put my cup down.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Finally A Grad


It has been a long six years, but I finally know what it feels like to NOT have to enroll in another semester of classes come August. I finally know what it feels like to have zero homework assignments due. I finally know what it feels like to have more free time than I know what to do with.

Above all, I finally know what it feels like to have two degrees in one hand and a part time job that doesn't pertain to either of them in the other. Yes, the real career search starts now. Ok, well, it actually started a couple of weeks ago, but I can already tell that landing a great job in today's market is going to require some serious effort... and I'm ready for a fight!

These past six years have definitely let me know what I want to do for a career. The first two years after High School led me to an Associates of Science degree in Electrical Engineering Technology, but I soon realized that is not the path I want to take. I am grateful for that degree because of the "college life" experience and study skills that I gained from it as well as knowing what I don't want to do for a living.

It took the next four years for me to obtain a Bachelors of Science degree in Business with a major in Marketing... but it only took one marketing class for me to fall in love with the subject.

As for a career, I hope to stay away from "push" sales and go into more of a research position. It amazes me how many businesses DO NOT ask their customers what they want and then wonder why they lack good customer service.

Of course, my dream job would be marketing for a tea company, but I am not limiting myself. I am hoping to stay in Indiana, but if I have to relocate in order to seize an opportunity, I will do so.

For now, I am enjoying the copious amounts of time I have to spend with this blog. Expect more posts as soon as my wounds completely heal from having all four wisdom teeth removed recently.

It’s good to be back… finally!