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Archive for the ‘product review’ Category

A couple months ago, I found myself drooling over a tea mug owned by a fellow tea blogger and aficionado.  Chris Giddings also known as the Tea-Guy could not stop singing the praises about his new Libre Glass. I knew then that I needed to try one!

Is it possible to steep and enjoy quality loose leaf tea while on the go?  Or should I say, is it possible to easily steep and enjoy quality loose leaf tea while on the go mess free?  The Libre Glass makes that promise.  After making numerous cups of tea using the Libre Glass, I was convinced.

Using the Libre Glass is simple.  The first option is to place loose leaf tea leaves in the body of the glass, add water, twist on the double lids and steep.  The first inner lid contains a removable stainless steel filter, the second outer lid is beautifully adorned and holds in steam during the steeping process.  When the tea is ready to sip, simply remove the second lid and drink directly from the Libre Glass or pour its contents into your tea-cup or mug of choice.  Either way, the stainless steel filter does a great job containing the tea leaves within the mug. If using the second option, pour water into the body of the glass and twist on the inner lid.  Place loose leaf tea leaves in the stainless steel filter, twist on the second outer lid and invert to begin the steeping process.  When the tea is ready to sip simply turn the Libre Glass right-side-up, remove the double lids and enjoy either directly from the Glass or pour the liquor into your tea-cup or mug of choice.

So what do I like about this product? First the Libre Glass is produced in two versions – glass’n glass or glass’n poly.  I own the glass’n poly version which has a durable polycarbonate exterior and glass interior.  No matter how hot the water, the exterior of the glass remains comfortable to the touch. The glass’n poly model is 7.5 inches in height and 2.5 inches in diameter and holds approximately 9oz. or 260 mL. The size is perfect for transporting tea wherever I go and is easily placed in my purse, computer bag or gym bag. What do I love the most? The ability to easily steep my loose leaf tea no matter where I go without the hassle of carrying around tea, a mug, and separate infuser.  Of all the things I love about the Libre Glass, there is one problem.  My preferred steeping method is the inversion process, however, I found that the lid has a slow leak.  Even though I twist the lid on tightly, it is difficult to ascertain if the lid is on tight enough.  I get it right about 50% of the time.

Overall, the Libre Glass is a great product for the price. For $24 I have a tea mug and infuser all in one – considering I have paid $15 for an infuser alone. I love the portability of the product and the ease of use.  When at home, I use the inversion process, but when out, I place the tea leaves directly in the body of the glass – I’d rather not take a chance with the lid possibly leaking.

If you own a Libre Glass, please stop by and share your experience.  Until then… Happy tea drinking!

Libre Glass Demonstration (compliments of Libre):

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Blueberry Tea Shortbread CookiesMy girlfriend Chara, owner and founder of WanderingLotus – a mobile yoga studio, came over in preparation for our upcoming yoga and tea event. As always, we began our meeting with the usual ritual… I put on a pot of tea and Chara procures a yummy sweet treat. I am a complete sucker for sweets – not candy – but cake, pie, cobbler, ice cream, pastries, decadent cookies you name it, I love it!

This time, Chara brought a box of BISCOTTEA, gluten-free, blueberry, tea, shortbread cookies.  We were a little nervous, because of the gluten-free tag, but thought we would try them out anyway. Initially we were a little surprised, because the cookies in the box looked distinctly different from the picture on the package.  We sort of looked at each other as if to say, “Are these the right cookies?”.  Then we conducted the smell test… blueberry tea shortbread cookies smell delightful – just like blueberries. Not surprising, but definitely a plus considering the visual inspection.

The tentative first bite proved to be tasty.  Traditionally, I do not eat gluten-free products so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  Blueberry tea shortbread cookies were not as dense as some shortbread cookies I have enjoyed in the past.  This is not a bad thing, just different.  The cookies were crumbly and slightly dry, similar to the crisper portion of a scone.  The taste of tea was definitely evident as was a mild blueberry flavor.  The cookies were not overly sweet and paired well with our tea – sweetened Moroccan Mint and later with an unsweetened oolong.  The only drawback – the cookies left a slighty gritty feel in the mouth – which really isn’t that big of a deal.

BISCOTTEA, blueberry tea shortbread cookies are manufactured in Issaquah, WA.  With a desire to make cookies that taste homemade, founder Laurance Milner uses the following ingredients: gluten-free all-purpose flour, sorghum flour, butter, sugar, cornstarch, xanthan gum, organic white tea from China’s Fujian Province, organic natural blueberry flavor, baking soda, and salt.  Additionally, according to the website, BISCOTTEA™ is more than just a cute play on words; it’s the result of a four-year search that started in 2003 when Laurance Milner, a Specialty Food entrepreneur and tea drinker, determined to create BISCOTTEA to pair perfectly with tea. You can now purchase BISCOTTEA,™ in four additional tea flavors:

  • African Honeybush: Made with sweet herbal tea leaves grown on the same unique South African mountains as the Rooibos (Red Tea) plant.
  • Mint: A mixture of organic peppermint and spearmint leaves farmed in Oregon.
  • Chai: A blend of organic chai spices, including cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, and pepper.
  • Earl Grey: A combination of organic Darjeeling tea, estate-grown in India, with natural Bergamot Citrus flavor.

To purchase BISCOTTEA, visit their website www.biscottea.net to locate a retailer near you.  Or you can make a stop at your local TJ Maxx, where Chara purchased our box of BISCOTTEA.  Until then… Happy tea drinking!

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While not a stranger to the concept of tea cozies, I never actually owned one.  That is until recently when I became the proud owner of two HOBs from  Thistledown.  Of course, I understood the concept of the tea cozy coined the HOB by Thistledown, but must admit I was curious about whether they actually worked. So when, my brother-in-law and his girlfriend Dee came over for dinner I was excited to try them out for the first time.  Armed with two steaming pots of tea – lavender oolong and strawberry oolong, I prepared to settle the debate once and for all.

After pouring cups of tea, I dressed the strawberry oolong with the smaller of the two Thistledown HOBs. The lavender oolong went naked or commando as others would say while Dee and I sipped and talked.  Sated and ready for a second cup, it was time to test my theory…

The actual pot of strawberry oolong felt distinctly warmer than the lavender oolong.  When poured into a teacup, the strawberry oolong liquor had remained warm and ready to drink while the lavender oolong required microwave subjection to reheat.  It was official, my Thistledown Tea Cozy definitely kept the pot of tea warm for a longer period of time. The test duration was 15 minutes, but the HOB is capable of keeping a pot of tea warm much longer.  (Check out the Heat Retention Experiment found on the Thistledown website.) I was pleasantly surprised! Now convinced of the HOBs utility, I’m compelled to share a bit more about this great product.

The HOB is the latest in Thistledown’s line of tea warmers and is available in two sizes 20 ounce and 40 ounce. As described by Thistledown, the HOB is constructed with two layers of high-tech mylar batting.  This batting insulates with both a layer of mylar reflecting heat back into the teapot and layers of polyester preventing heat conduction away from the teapot.  Perhaps you are familiar with mylar batting, but I however, am not.  So I took a trip to Fabric.com for help.

According to Fabric.com, mylar batting is the material that makes pot holders, oven mitts, and casserole covers safe. The material is breathable and won’t break down with washing. It contains hollow fibers that resist conduction while the reflective mylar resists radiant energy. The energy, hot or cold, is reflected back to its source. This is key to how the HOB is able to keep your pot of tea warm for an extended period of time.

Now you know the “why” and “how” the HOB works, let’s talk about its construction. The bottom of the HOB  also has two layers of mylar batting, acting like a built-in trivet.  As you can see from the picture, the HOB completely encases the body of your teapot. It is extremely easy to use: simply sit the teapot between the two “clam shells”, flip over the top and clip together with the buckle. Yes, there is a buckle – simple yet practical construction. But the greatest thing of all… the fabric is washable.

For years I have always called products like the HOB a tea cozy.  Thistledown has chosen to call this new product a HOB for two key reasons – 1) “tea cozy” was too feminine and 2) HOB defined means a shelf in the back of a fireplace used to keep things hot.  The name HOB is a perfect fit!

My HOB is pictured in the beginning of this review, while my other is two-tone red and brown.  Be sure to keep your eyes open for many new colors and patterns available from Thistledown this spring.  The photo on the right depicts a few.

To purchase the HOB visit Thistledown’s website where they retail for $35 for the 20 ounce and $40 for the 40 ounce.  If you have used this product, please share your experience.  Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

**The HOB was provided by Thistledown as a sample.

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Last year, while attending the 2009 World Tea Expo, I had the pleasure of meeting Sondra Wells, Owner and Founder of Botanical Bakery.  It was great to put a face with the name – several months earlier I sampled and reviewed several Botanical Bakery products.  See Tea Escapade Blog Post: Botanical Bakery – Tea Cookies.  At that time, there were only four varieties of their yummy tea cookies available.

Imagine, my surprise, when I opened my mail today, to find a Christmas gift from Ms. Wells, as a token of appreciation.  I am sure you guessed with accuracy the contents of the gift – a package of Peppermint Cacao Nibs – the latest tea cookies created by Botanical Bakery. Every now and then, we receive little surprises that simply add more sunshine to our day. I couldn’t wait to rip open the package.

The ingredients are simple: organic unbleached flour, organic sweet cream butter, organic pure cane sugar, organic peppermint, organic cacao nibs, and vitamin E. However the taste is far from simple. I’m sure, Botanical Bakery will be quite surprised to see another product review. But the reality is, I have to give credit where credit is due.

Peppermint Cacao Nibs have the buttery quality characteristic of Botanical Bakery products. Combined with unique all organic ingredients like – cacao nibs and peppermint – these cookies by Botanical Bakery are distinctly different from other butter cookies.  Crisp, dense, and buttery Peppermint Cacao Nibs are delish!  The cacao nibs not only provide a sweet yet mild chocolaty flavor that is released while chewing, but add a crunchy texture.  To explain further, cacao nibs are cleaned, roasted, winnowed and lightly crushed cacao beans.  And just when you think you have tasted all the flavors, the taste buds are greeted by the pleasantly cool taste of peppermint. I almost finished the entire package in one sitting, because the more I ate, the chocolate and mint became more profound.

To learn more about Sondra Wells and Botanical Bakery or to place an order, visit their website at http://botanicalbakery.com. Be sure to try the Peppermint Cacao Nibs. When you do, please stop by and share your experience.

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51121.a.detailIt is always exciting to find a new tea related product. Especially one that adds convenience to tea drinking.

Recently, I received a Mighty Leaf Tea – Tea Top Brew Mug. The travel mug is stainless steel which is great for keeping beverages hot or cold. The body is shaped perfectly for holding the mug while walking, driving, or curled up with a book in Barnes and Noble. My only complaint – the steel on the top portion of the mug can become pretty warm and uncomfortable to hold when full of hot tea.  However, the remainder of the mug remains cool and easy to handle. Additionally, I was specifically enamored with the extra-large spout. As the proud owner of several stainless steel mugs, it is quite irritating when air bubbles form under the lid, pop and hot tea shoots through burning my lips.  Not a problem with the Tea Top Brew Mug.

51121.b.zoom

But the greatest thing about the Tea Top Brew Mug, is on the opposite side of the lid – there is a slit made especially for tea bags. A bit picky about the quality of my tea, I was excited to test the Tea Top lid with one of my loose-leaf tea sachets.  It was simple – after sliding the tea sachet/bag tag through the slit the bag itself dangled into the Tea Top Brew Mug while steeping. Once complete, the slit is made wide enough for the sachet to be pulled partially through while sipping tea (see picture to the right). The bottom half of the tea bag fits neatly into the special molding of the lid.  I must report, it worked like a charm… no mess… no fuss…  What an awesome travel mug!

Purchase your own Tea Top Brew Mug

Retailer: Mighty Leaf Tea

Price: $12.95

Size: 12 ounce

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englishteastore_2067_30685031Tea pairs well with everything. Just ask the group of amazing women I shared my Saturday afternoon with. About a month ago, my best friend became a Silpada Sales Rep and subsequently asked that I host a Silpada Party. Of course I agreed and in a flash, we planned my “Tea and Bling” party. Translation… a combination jewelry and tea party.

My dining room table held a beautiful display of jewelry, while my kitchen table held an awesome display of tea cups, tea foods and tea treats. A perfect setting for afternoon tea. In preparation for the party and to ensure I was able to keep the tea flowing, I purchased two fun little teapots fromenglishteastore_2067_58149977 The English Tea Store – the Amsterdam 2 Cup Infuser Teapot in Burgundy and Sahara. The Sahara pot is pictured on the left and the Burgundy pot is on the right.

Upon receipt, I immediately fell in love with my Amsterdam Teapots. I found them to be not only adorable, but suitable for everyday household use.  As anticipated, both teapots had matching infuser inserts perfect for brewing loose leaf tea.  Thus, my guests enjoyed fruit oolong, silver needle, a blooming jasmine green, and masala chai. Don’t worry tea aficionados, I used a different teapot for each tea served.  I forgot to pre-heat the Teapots before serving tea, however, the Amsterdam teapot was easily microwavable to restore the tea’s warmth.

englishteastore_2069_26224245In addition to the teapots, I purchased the matching Amsterdam Teacups and Saucers in Sahara and Burgundy.  The Amsterdam Teapots hold approximately 23 ounces of tea which equaled about 3 cups of tea in the matching teacups. By the end of the party, we were not only stuffed with chicken salad and croissants, scones and clotted cream, tea and tea cookies, fruit and more… we had an awesome time chatting and buying jewelry. (All sweets were purchased from my favorite French bakery – The BonBoneri.) Even better, clean up was easy – I was able to toss my new teapots, cups and saucers into the dishwasher and worry no more!

Here are the pros and cons of my purchase:

  • My order was placed with The English Tea Store on Tuesday of last week. I paid extra for shipping and received my order in record time – the next day to be exact.
  • The cost of the Amsterdam Teapots and Teacups were quite reasonable – $11.99 and $3.50 respectively (the teacups were eligible for a bulk discount).
  • The infuser for the burgundy Amsterdam Teapot arrived broken. While I wasn’t able to obtain a replacement in time for my party, The English Tea Store was easy to worth with when facilitating a replacement.
  • The color on two of the burgundy teacups appeared to be worn.
  • The spout of my Amsterdam Teapot in Sahara dribbled a little when pouring.

Overall, I was happy with my purchase and received many compliments on the spread. I look forward to purchasing more tea accessories from The English Tea store. If you have had an opportunity to purchase any of their tea accessories, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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Teashop CoverHow often do you get the chance to read a delightful story about friendship, tea, and family all rolled into one? That is exactly what you get when you read “The Teashop Girls” by Laura Schaefer.

The author does a fantastic job developing the characters into real people. The story is told from the perspective of Annie, a happy-go-lucky teenage girl who is attempting to navigate her way through junior high, puberty and the rocky road of teenage friendships. Classified as teenage fiction, “The Teashop Girls”, takes the reader on an adventurous yet somewhat predictable journey, that young readers will enjoy reading over and over again. Annie’s world is turned upside down when she discovers her grandmother’s teashop (the Steeping Leaf) is in jeopardy of going out of business. The Steeping Leaf has not only been a pillar in the lives of Annie, her family and the community, it is ingrained in the fabric of the many life lessons learned and traditions created with her two best friends – Genna and Zoe.

In a lighthearted yet very poignant way, Annie and her friends experience a taste of the challenges of adulthood. Annie must balance a budding crush on a cute “older” boy and the renewal of friendships with the Steeping Leaf’s mounting unpaid bills and eviction from the only location it has called home. All the while intermingled with tea facts, tea history, and tea recipes. So how does it all end? You will simply have to purchase your own copy of The Teashop Girls to find out. 

Purchase The Teashop Girls

Title: The Teashop Girls

Author: Laura Schaefer

Illustrator:  Sujean Rim

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Price:  $15.99

Ages: 8-14

Official Website: http://teashopgirls.webnode.com/

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