• 20Jan

    So I received a few tea-related gifties at the end of 2010. Why, it’s almost as if the people I love knew I liked the stuff! I wonder what gave them that idea?

    Of course, just in case they hadn’t gotten the message, I happily treated myself to a few shipments of tea from the various online merchants who were offering sales as well as a few shiny tins that caught my eye in the store. So, like, now I’m having to puzzle out where to put it all. Yes, the top of that large cabinet on my about page is FULL. I guess that means I’ll just have to drink the stuff. Ah well. Such is life.

    My best friend got me a gift tower:

    Tazo Tea Tower

    It almost stayed like that because whatever glue they use to hold the thing together was mocking me. NO tea for YOU. But I won! And right now there’s a cuppa brewing in one of the lovely green mugs.

    Tea tins also figured into the booty, loot, haul, stash, thoughtful gifts. From the plain and empty:

    Tea tins

    … to the decorative and collectable:

    Collectable tins

    And I’m gonna need them, because I’ve got enough Pur-eh (2.5 pounds!) here to last until the next decade. Though I must admit, I’m most intriguied about this Jade Oolong:

    Jade Oolong

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  • 02Dec

    I mention Star Trek in one of my posts and what doth the tea-drinking universe bequeath upon my little nerdy heart? A mug from Wil Wheaton with the (in)famous Captain Picard quote on it in big bold lettering: “Tea, Earl Grey. Hot.

    See? See!?

    WheatonMug

    (There’s even a Flickr Group Pool for photos of the mug in the wild.)

    Who is Wil Wheaton? Peasant! Wheaton is a writer with a talent for heartwarming stories of daily life that we can all relate to, an engaging Twtiterficiando, and an actor well known for – among other roles – his part as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation. For those not familiar with Wheaton’s current success as writer I recommend reading Just a Geek – a memoir that will illuminate his trajectory from actor to writer and child to adult – as well as Sunken Treasure, a collection of gems from his almost decade-long stint of blogging. The mug is part of Wheaton’s promotion of his newest book, Memories of the Future.

    Yes, yes, I know – I’ve said before that I prefer teacups to mugs.

    And I do, if truth be told. It’s not just that I associate mugs with coffee, it’s also that teacups do seem to have a perfect balance between the amount of tea in the cup and the amount of said tea that is exposed to the atmosphere. Whether this really makes any difference at all to the tea drinking expereince or, more importantly, to the taste, is probably a matter for scientists. Or Mythbusters. Or somebody other than me. Regardless of actual facts, I’ve always felt that tea just tastes better in a tea cup. Besides which, the volume in a mug is usually off for estimating the cuppage (snicker) from my teapots. And yes, I just made that word up.

    But never mind all that! This blog is about sexy tea things and the irrational desire to possess all things tea by a cat loving lady with too many teapots. So I eat my teacup words and declare that this mug is freakin’ hot, baby, and I must get my grubby little paws on one. Seriously! This mug looks like it could beat the pants off of Royal Albert in a cage match. (Don’t tell my mother that because I’m hoping to inherit her entire Royal Albert Old Country Roses collection someday.)

    Ooh. I can even brew a cup of Serenitea: Kaylee for the mug and be in AU teanerdvana. Or is that going too far?

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  • 16Feb

    When Adagio Teas tweeted a while ago that they had added a few new flavors to their gourmet teabag line, I decided to try one: Golden Monkey.

    goldenmonkey1

    From the Adagio Teas website:

    Black tea from the Fujian province of China. Golden Monkey tea is hand-processed each spring with a careful plucking of only one leaf and one bud. It is among the finest Chinese black teas available today. The name comes from its unique appearance: the leaves resemble monkey claws. If you enjoy full-bodied teas with an abundance of flavor, we urge you to give this tea a try. Full-leaf tea in portable, individually wrapped bags – superior taste and maximum convenience.

    The indivudal teabags are the triangular kind that allow a bit more room for the tea leaf to foat in and expand fully.

    picture-3

    I was surprised at the rather long recommended steep time – five minutes in water that was brought to a full roaring boil – but also pleasantly surprised when I tasted it. It had the usual smooth, musky and slightly woodsy taste of a china black tea but without too many tannins (though I did detect some bitterness.) It brewed up quite dark looking.

    goldenmonkey2

    I added a little milk at the end of the first cup. I’ve always thought that a black tea with milk tastes a bit like a smooth dark chocolate, and after I’d finished my first cup, I checked the teabag pouch once again:

    “[a] rare Chinese treat with auburn leaves and sumptuous taste of dark chocolate”

    Well then! I completely agree. The only slight bitterness in that first cup is nearly the same as the slight bitterness of a 75% caco dark chocolate.

    I tried a second cup with the same teabag, and same steep time. This time the bitter tannins had disappeared, but not the flavor. It still had a nice, smooth dark chocolate taste to it. Lovely!

    I’d definitely recommend this tea, and I especially recommend it to anyone who wants to try gourmet teas but it not ready to move from the teabag format to loose leaf teas.

  • 13Feb

    I’m always on the lookout for sexy tea gadgets. I found these at Bed, Bath and Beyond: a tea infuser and an in-mug infuser, both in translucent green.  Both are from the design company, Tovolo.

    red_infuser110
    I admit, I got them only because they looked so striking. Usually I pass up tea infusers like Tovolo’s lolipop design here, because they are hard to fill with enough loose leaf tea and don’t really allow enough room for the tea leaves to expand. This design is not exception, but darn it, it just looks so delicious. Yum.

    inmuginfuser225

    On the other hand, in-mug infuser work really well. This design is pretty and the strainer doesn’t stain, but I found that the sides of the strainer drip down outside of the little base to set it in. Still, I like this one and I can just set the base on a small plate. (Another trick is to set a used infuser on/in a small Asian soy sauce bowl.)

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  • 10Feb

    Not feeling terribly adventurous today, I pulled out another Darjeeling that I bought from SpecialTeas. (Yes, yes – I have a LOT of teas from this particular online store.) This time it was No. 118, aka “Tukdah FTGFOP-1 First Flush”, a nice dependable tea that I’ve tried many times before.

    tea114-1

    SpecialTeas describes it as such:

    Very tippy dry leaf with a wonderful aroma! This top grade first flush is lighter in cup color than our 105 Puttabong, but very complex with a peach blossom fragrance that carries through and lingers on the palate. Enjoy this tea when you have time to savor each and every sip.

    I used the recommended amount, putting 2 level teaspoons into my tiny teapot. I wasn’t paying attention to my electric kettle however, and let it come to a roaring boil. Not particularly picky today, I decided to just go with it rather than following the recommendation to use steaming briskly (195ºF). I  let the tea steep for two-and-a-half minutes.

    The color of the steeped tea was a lovely amber:

    tea114-2

    And as I suspected, this tea did not disappoint. It’s a light-to-medium bodied, smooth and fruity tasting tea. I’d agree with the description on this one, as it reminds me just slightly of Republic of Tea’s Ginger Peach. I’d go so far as to describe this tea as “cuddly”. It was just the thing I needed to get started on a grey morning such as this one. This is a highly recommended, dependable tea.

    Now, my umpteeth attempt at making poached eggs? *eyes resulting blob* Not so cuddly. *sigh*

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  • 30Jan

    I found myself in Austin’s North Lamar Central Market a few days ago, and as always, I had to peek at the tea aisle. This particular store has a tea bar where you can bag your own amount of some popular brands, and there were several half ounce samples of each ready to go. I noticed that, this time, at least three of them were rose-infused teas. What a perfect gift idea for Valentine’s Day for any tea lover! I grabbed a sample of all three blends and tried them the very next day.

    Since I bought samples without any suggestions as to brewing and steeping times, I chose to use 2 level teaspoons of each for my little two-cup teapot and a brew time of 2.5 minutes with fresh boiling water.

    First up was Rishi’s White Tea Rose Mélange:

    Rishi describes their tea thusly:

    A blend of jasmine and wild rose scented white teas infused with rejuvenating peppermint and calming lavender. It’s floral with a fresh minty finish. (Organic roses, Organic white tea, Organic green tea, Organic peppermint, Organic lavender and Organic jasmine flowers.)



    I should have looked this one up earlier, because they also suggest using 1 tablespoon per 8 ounces of water heated to 190°F and steeping for 4 minutes. While I didn’t follow these directions, I was still delighted with the results.

    The scent was heavenly, but not overpowering. The taste was mild an pleasant with none of the bitter or sour than can sometimes come with a less-than-perfect green tea. This medium-bodied tea brought visions of Valentines day while I was drinking it. Highly recommended.

    Next up was Serendipitea’s Really Goethe:

    The description on the Serendipitea site:

    Like a celestial wind from the blue heavens, combining the jasmine, myrtle & rose, in a base of green tea to make a sweet aromatic cup. Robust foundation ~ divine fragrance. (Rose Buds & Petals, Jasmine (Petals), Laurel, Pouchong, Chinese Green Tea, Lemon Myrtle, Gunpowder.)



    Again, the website for this tea had a recommended preparation (one level teaspoon per cup, water heated to just before boiling and a steep time of three minutes).

    I found a review of this particular blend on the The NIBBLE Gourmet Food Magazine site:

    Green tea with a gorgeous blend of jasmine petals, laurel, lemon myrtle and rose buds and petals, this tea could be mistaken for potpourri (photo at right). But we’d rather brew it for its delicately sweet flavors and floral aroma. Inspired by a poem by Johann van Goethe (pronounced ger-te), the great 18th-century German poet who made important discoveries in connection with plant life, this fragrant tea is romantic as well as beautiful and tasty.

    I have to agree that the tea leaves make a wonderful potpourri. The scent is heavenly, but not overly perfumed like some potpourris can be. But as a tea? Oy. Mine brewed up a lovely medium-dark color but with a strong rather department-store-perfume-counter scent that I found unappealing. And the taste? Well, the taste in addition to the scent made me think of furniture polish. I definitely didn’t like this one. In fact, I couldn’t even finish the cup; I poured it back into the teapot.

    Finally I tried Teance’s Rose Red Black Tea:

    Teance’s description of this tea is rather spare: “Rose Red Black Tea, Higher Caffeine, Guangdong, China, Steepings: 5. “The fragrance and sweetness of rose petals in a Chinese Red Tea base.”

    I may have been lucky to get any of this tea, as it’s out of stock on the Teance site and I was unable to find it anywhere else online (at the time I wrote this review).

    This cup on one turned out very dark, and I fully expected a rather bitter taste. I was pleasantly surprised. I couldn’t detect much in the way of perfume (but by this time Central Texas was under the assault of some serious cedar pollen and I was probably not smelling anything anymore). The taste was a typical black tea but with a floral finish and no bitter tannins. It certainly wasn’t as fabulous as the Rishi tea, but definitely drinkable. I might try this one again, but with milk.

    In the end, it was the Rishi blend that blew me away. Lovely, tasty and romantic looking to boot. I’d reccomend the Rishi’s White Tea Rose Mélange to anyone looking for a tea for Valentine’s Day.

    And if you’re looking to create your own rose-infused tea blend, you might might consider simply adding some organic rose buds to your favorite tea. The English Tea Store carries organic rosebuds, perfect for adding to your own tea.

  • 25Jan

    I recently tried another Darjeeling that I bought from SpecialTeas. This time it was No. 108, aka “Namring FTGFOP1 First Flush”, and from the amount that I have, considerably less expensive than the Puttabong I had the other day:

    SpecialTeas describes it as such:

    Slightly darker in cup color than both our No.105 Puttabong and No.114 Tukdah, this Namring first flush is deliciously complex. Primarily floral in both liquor and aroma, one can also discern a soft fruity-nutty undertone. A wonderful even plucking of bright green and dark brown leaves with some silvery tips.

    I used 2 level teaspoons for my teapot, heated the water to a roaring boil and steeped for the recommended 3 minutes. The brewed tea was indeed a slightly darker color than the Puttabong:

    The taste however, was completely different. Again, the taste was definitely a Darjeeling, and still had a medium-bodied feel. However, my first steeping was definitely a nutty, almost oaky taste, with just a touch of bitter tannins.

    The second steeping proved to be much better. In fact, it was quite lovely, and considerably more fruity.The third steeping (at almost 4 minutes) was almost still as dark and full of the flavor of the second steeping. I may try this again, but opt for a slighltly shorter steeping time at first, and gradually increasing until it loses its flavor.

    Again, very nice.

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  • 21Jan

    Allergies and a sore back conspired with some ibuprofen to give me a late start to my day. So naturally I turned to some tea to perk me up a bit and get me moving. I chose a single estate Darjeeling that I’d aquired from SpecialTeas, but hadn’t tried yet:

    Special Teas no longer lists this tea as #105. (Listing 105 as “Darjeeling Yashodhara FTGFOP1 1st Flush” instead. I’m not sure if this is from the same estate or not.) I seem to recall that this was a particularly expensive tea. (Which would explain why I only have a 1/2 oz of it.)

    I used 2 level teaspoons for my teapot, heated the water to a roaring boil and steeped for the recommended 3 minutes. The brewed tea came out a lovely golden color:

    The taste was definitely a Darjeeling, musky and floral with an incredibly smooth and medium-bodied feel. Though I brewed for a full three minutes, there was absolutely no hint of bitter tannins at all. It’s too bad this tea is no longer listed, because it was absolutely lovely and I’m going to run out of it quickly. After a quick search I found that Holy Mountain Trading Company and Dragonwater Tea Company both list this tea. I was right, it’s pretty expensive, but I think I can agree with the one site that listed this as the “champagne of teas”. I haven’t tried a second steeping yet, but given the price, I will!

    All in all, a lovely way to start the day.

    Postscript: I did try a second and a third steeping. The second was as lovely as the first. Still fairly full-bodied and smooth, and the taste still came through. The third steeping was a noticably paler color and it had lost much of its body and flavor, though there were still no bitter tannins to be had.

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