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There is nothing better than enjoying a cup of hot tea on a cold winter day. Okay… so there is nothing better than enjoying a hot cup of tea on any day, especially when it is cold. Tea is even better when you get a chance to share it with someone.  Today, that someone was Ann Weimer Baumgardner, author of Pretend You’re Normal (but only when absolutely necessary).

Ann and I drank a pot of Huang Jin Bolero (the subject of this tea review), while munching on a plate of tasty Lemon Straws. Between drinking, eating, and laughing Ann shared many insights with meabout her life and début novel.  Pretend You’re Normal was one of seven Finalists in the humor category of the 2007 National Indie Excellence Book Awards.  You can purchase a copy at  Amazon.com or Barnes and Nobel.

Now onto the tea review…

Composition: Oolong tea from Anxi, China. Anxi is a county in the municipal region of Quanzhou, Fujian Province. It lies adjacent to and directly north of Xiamen.  Huang Jin Gui means “Golden Flower.”.

Dry Visual: Rich light and dark green loosely rolled or “balled” leaves. Reddish brown stems present.

Dry Aroma: Sweet, nutty and fresh like spring rain.

Flavor: Huang Jin Bolero has a variety of flavors.  A greener oolong, this tea begins with a roasted nutty flavor and finishes  with a slight honey taste.  A lover of oolongs, Huang Jin Bolero was milder than expected, but enjoyable nonetheless.  After three cups, the flavor was consistent from one cup to the next.  There is a subtle vegetal aftertaste, sometimes characteristic with greener oolongs.  Additionally, I found the brew leaves a dry feel in the mouth.  However, Huang Ji Bolero requires no sweetener, nor would I recommend it.

Liquor: A rich yellow hue. The cup is clear.

Brewing Time: According to the directions, the recommended steeping time is 5 minutes in 212 degree water. I steeped 5 minutes for the first infusion and 6 minutes for the second infusion.

Manufacturer: Adagio Teas

Caffeine: Yes.

If you have had the opportunity to enjoy a cup of Huang Jin Bolero, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

**Tea was provided by Adagio as a sample.

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Organic Yellow FlowerDrinking tea is more than just an opportunity to rehydrate the body.  It is also an opportunity to relax the mind,  nourish the body,  and challenge one’s intellect.  The tea experience can be enjoyed alone or shared with friends.  Tea crosses cultural and geographical boundaries. Tea is enigmatic in its universality. I invite you to share my experience when drinking Organic Yellow Flower.

Composition: Organic green tea grown in China’s Anhui province

Dry Visual: Rich dark green leaves  resembling thick pine needles with some yellow leaves interspersed throughout.  Additionally a buds are present.  In comparison to other teas, Organic Yellow Flower reminds me somewhat of Anji Bai Cha.

Dry Aroma: Sweet almost sappy aroma. Yet fresh and clean smelling.

Flavor:  Organic Yellow Flower is quite delightful.  Almost delicate, this mild green tea reminds me of  several white teas I have had the pleasure of drinking. While mild, Organic Yellow Flower is surprisingly  fullbodied and consistently floral and clean tasting from start to finish.  Missing is the vegetal quality found in many green teas – I’m not complaining. The aroma is somewhat deceiving in that it is quite aromatic in contrast to the mildness of the liquor.

I found the brew to have little astringency (no bitterness, but a subtle dry feel in the mouth).  Nevertheless, no sweetener was needed nor would I recommend it. Altering the flavor profile would be a concern to me considering the mild nature of the tea.

Liquor: A pale yellow hue.

Brewing Time: According to the directions, the recommended steeping time is 2 minutes in water that ranges from 170 to 180 degrees F.

Manufacturer: Mighty Leaf Tea

Caffeine: Yes.

If you have had the opportunity to enjoy a cup of Organic Yellow Flower, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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PuerhTypically, Saturday’s were designated as tea day. I spent a great deal of time, tweeting, blogging, and drinking tea in the midst of homework and other life obligations. Sadly, over the last few months, I have fallen out of sync with my normal routine. I haven’t even pulled out my Yixing Teapots lately. So , this afternoon, in my quest to both start and finish this week’s homework assignments, I thought… today I shall resume my personal tea traditions! That resolved, Puerh Tuo Cha became my tea of choice. With utter excitement, I pulled out the Yixing Teapot specifically seasoned for puerh’s and prepared to steep and enjoy.

Composition: Puerh from Yunnan, China.

Dry Visual: Resembles a tiny bird’s nest or bowl. Dark brown, almost black, red and gold compressed tea leaves.  The name Tuo Cha or Tuocha is believed t have originated from the round, top-like shape of the pressed tea or from the old tea shipping and trading route of the Tuojiang River. The picture reflects the bottom where the top has a convex opening causing the bowl-like resemblance. Thanks TeaSource for the picture.

Dry Aroma: Earthy with a mild marine quality.

Flavor:  This is my second Tuo Cha – the first was from a different retailer. I was quite surprised by the flavor of Puerh Tuo Cha by TeaSource. In my first sip, my tongue encountered an unexpected sweetness. Subsequent tastes brought the earthy flavor, puerh’s are known for, whether in a cake or loose leaf, followed by a mild smokey flavor (some would call “peatiness”) mingled with floral qualities. Yet again, the aftertaste was sweet. Overall, the tea was flavorful, albeit somewhat mild in comparison to other puerhs I’ve enjoyed. 

Puerh Tuo Cha was not astringent, thus no sweetener was required. Puerh’s have such a unique flavor profile that would be altered by the addition of a sweetener. While not astringent, my tongue and mouth was left with that heavy almost numbing effect characteristic of puerh’s. 

Wet Visual: Typically, I do not discuss the wet visual, but thought it would be appropriate as the actual leaf shape is not visible until after steeping and speaks to the quality of the tea. The leaves were broken and of various sizes, with some stems present.

Liquor: An extremely dark rich red hue that almost appeared black.

Brewing Time: According to the directions, the recommended steeping time is 7 – 10 minutes in boiling water. I was surprised as this seemed like quite a long time to me for a Puerh. Nevertheless, I steeped for 7 minutes for the first infusion and 10 minutes for the second.

Manufacturer: TeaSource

Caffeine: Yes.

If you have had the opportunity to enjoy a cup of Puerh Tuo Cha, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

What is Peatiness?

Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter. Peat forms in wetlands or peatlands, variously called bogsmoorsmuskegspocosinsmires, and peat swamp forests. Peat fires are used to dry malted barley for use in Scotch whisky distillation. This gives Scotch whisky its distinctive smoky flavour, often called “peatiness”.

References:

1. Peat. (2009, August 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:40, August 15, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Peat&oldid=308113996

2. Pu-erh tea. (2009, August 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:09, August 21, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pu-erh_tea&oldid=309212385

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Medium LiSan OolongClasses have resumed and as usual, I am exhausted. Too much homework, too many late nights, and too much procrastination. Even now, I wish I were in bed sound asleep, yet I could not completely pass out without first posting my latest tea drinking experience. Having enjoyed Lishan Oolong several months ago from Jing Tea , I eagerly anticipated my first sip of Medium LiSan Oolong and I must say, I was not disappointed.

Composition: Light roasted oolong tea from Taiwan. (Country of origin corrected 7/23/09) 

Dry Visual: Light and dark green balled leaves with hints of brown and yellow. Stems are present.

Dry Aroma: Medium LiSan Oolong presents a complexity of aromas: sweet, mildly vegetal, nutty and wet like spring rain.

Flavor:  Flavorful, yet light, I found Medium LiSan Oolong to be delicious. This tea could be described by four key adjectives… refreshing, clean, floral, and mildly “sappy” from start to finish. Even after three infusions, this oolong remained full of flavor. As the brew began to cool, Medium LiSan Oolong presented a buttery quality adding additional complexity. As an aside, I did not find Medium LiSan Oolong to be vegetal, despite the dry aroma. 

I was not surprised by Medium LiSan Oolong’s lack of astringency. Sweetener is not required and non was added for fear of negatively altering the flavor profile.

Liquor: A rich yellow hue.

Brewing Time: The recommended steeping time for Medium LiSan Oolong Tea is 3 – 4 minutes in pre-boiling water. If you make the mistake of boiling your water allow it to cool a couple of minutes prior to steeping tea. I steeped the first infusion for 2 minutes, the second infusion for 4 minutes and the third infusion for 6 minutes.

Manufacturer: Fang Gourmet Tea (Special note, Medium LiSan Oolong is currently not listed on Fang Gourmet Tea’s website, but can be ordered.) 

Caffeine: Yes.

If you have had the pleasure of enjoying a cup of Medium LiSan Oolong Tea, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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sowmee white teaAs the seasons change we often alter many of life’s habits. Many hibernate during the cold winter months while others venture out into the frigid temperatures and brisk winds. Others vie for the glow of the sun, basking in its warmth. While others seek the solace of Spring rains with its temperamental nature. The one thing that doesn’t change is the ability to steep and enjoy a cup of tea. Year-round, I drink hot tea rarely venturing into the world of iced teas. Even in 95 degree weather, I can be found with a cuppa tea in hand, enjoying the flavor, smelling the leaves and attempting to discern the nuances that make a oolong different from a white tea. Today’s choice for examination… Sowmee White Tea.

Composition: Chinese white tea leaves plucked during late April, May and June.

Dry Visual: A beautiful display of light and dark green leaves as well as red, brown and yellow. I am reminded of a pile of freshly raked leaves in the Fall – some broken and some whole, flat and not curled or twisted.  Stems and some tips are present. Thanks Tropical Tea Company for the picture.

Dry Aroma: Surprisingly fruity.

Flavor:  I found Sowmee White Tea to be delightful. Very flavorful from start to finish, which is typically uncharacteristic for white teas,  as they tend to be delicate and mild.  Sowmee is considered a lower grade white tea, however, the flavor does not suffer from this fact.  For lack of a more descriptive term, I found Sowmee to be slightly nutty, naturally sweet, and definitely fruity.

Sowmee White tea has little to no astringency, therefore, sweetener is not required. While flavorful I would not recommend adding a sweetener as it may alter the flavor profile in a not so pleasant way.

Liquor: A golden yellow hue.

Brewing Time: The recommended steeping time for Sowmee White Tea is 2 – 3 minutes in 190 degree water.  I steeped for 3 minutes as recommended.

Manufacturer: Tropical Tea Company

Caffeine: Yes.

 I have to thank my June Co-Op Tea Swap partner for sharing this treasure with me.  If you have had the pleasure of enjoying a cup of Sowmee White Tea, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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22806If you don’t know, you do now… I love tea. I know, no surprises there. For those like me who share my love of tea, there are so many options to choose from. Black, green, oolong, pue-rh, white and a myriad of flavored teas. There are no shortages of selections for avid tea drinkers.  For true lovers of tea, there is more than simply the drink, the flavors, and the blends.  Tea encompasses a culture – there are the growers; the history; the way of life.

This morning, I read an article that embraces the other side of tea – the culture. Time for Tea in the Mountains, written by Yvonne Bohwongprasert for the Bangkok Post discusses the family owned business, Oolong 101.  According to the article, Oolong 101 is one of the first family-run tea plantations on scenic Doi Mae Salong – a 40-kilometre drive from Mae Chan district in the northern province of Chiang Rai. The tea plantation is managed by Mai-chi Lu, 56 – a Chinese-Thai whose father was a soldier in the nationalist Kuomintang army. (Mai-chi Lu is pictured on the left.)

The author via the article discusses not only the challenges of starting a tea plantation, but the joys derived from tea. Mai-chi Lu describes briefly life on the plantation as well as Doi Mae Salong the town where the tea plantation is located. In addition, the article elaborates in more detail about oolong tea, which is grown on the plantation – hence the name and the health benefits of oolong tea. Finally,  highlighted briefly, you can read about how Oolong 101 promotes tourism within Doi Mae Salong through the “homestay programme” that provides visitors an opportunity to closely observe the traditions and culture of its indigenous mountain people. Visit the link and read the rest of the article to learn more about Oolong 101 and Mai-chi Lu.

Read More…

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t8081

Just a couple of hours before the dawn of a new day. Yet, I am thankful for these last few hours to enjoy Easter Sunday. Today, I was blessed with the opportunity to remember the death, burial, and Resurrection of Christ. While simultaneously spending time with family – eating, laughing, and immensely enjoying the company of one another. It is now 10:46 p.m. and I am winding down with a wonderful cup of Organic Bohea Lapsang Supreme.

Composition: Whole leaf black tea from Southeast China. Organic Bohea Lapsang Supreme one of many teas, originating in the Wuyi Mountains. The Wuyi Mountain range is located between Wuyishan City, at Nanping prefecture of Fujian province and Wuyishan Town, at Shangrao city of Jiangxi province.

Dry Visual: Dark brown, almost black, twisted leaves. No broken bits. Thanks Jing Tea for the photo.

Dry Aroma: A wonderful smoky aroma.

Flavor:  Organic Bohea Lapsang Supreme also known as Wuyi Ji Ping Bohea hong Cha is delicious. A lover of lapsang souchong, I eagerly anticipated my first cup. To my surprise, I found Organic Bohea Lapsang Supreme to be full-bodied, yet extraordinarily smooth. Typical of other lapsang souchong’s, Organic Bohea Lapsang Supreme is characteristically smokey, but not overpowering. I was extremely pleased by the complexity of this tea. While Organic Bohea Lapsang Supreme may have started off smokey, its middle is spicy, yet the finish is incredibly sweet.

The use of a sweetener is an absolute no-no. Not only did I not use sweetener, it was never an option. I believe the very nature of Organic Bohea Lapsang Supreme’s flavor profile would be unnaturally altered. 300px-wuyishan_fujian_china

Liquor: The color of bourbon – a rich golden brown with hints of red.

Brewing Time: The recommended steeping time is 1 to 2 tsp for 4 – 5 minutes in boiling water.  I steeped for 4 minutes as recommended.

Manufacturer: Jing Tea

Caffeine: Yes.

If you have had an opportunity to try Organic Bohea Lapsang Supreme, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

 

References:

Wuyi Mountains. (2009, March 27). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:46, April 13, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wuyi_Mountains&oldid=280083300

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t8101You know things have gone awry when four days have gone by without drinking tea. One should never be too busy to enjoy tea, but sadly, I must admit that warm soothing taste of tea has not touched my eager lips since last Thursday. I really don’t know how this came to be, other than I have not taken even a moment to sit down and breathe. To remedy this sad state of affairs, I sat down to a cup of Pre-Rain Organic Anji bai Cha Tea.

Composition: Whole leaf green tea from the Anji Bai tree picked in late March and early April – hence the name Pre-Rain. Pre-Rain Organic Anji Bai Cha is harvested in the Zhejiang Province of China, specifically from the Anji and Jiande pre-fectures. (See map of Zhejiang Province.)275px-china_zhejiangsvg

Dry Visual: Kelly green whole leaves that resemble pine needles. Thanks to Jing Tea for the picture.

Dry Aroma: Mildly grassy – permeated by a syrupy sweet aroma.

Flavor:  Pre Rain Organic Anji Bai Cha also known as Anji White Tea is a delicious green tea. I usually do not drink a great deal of green tea, however, I would certainly make an exception for this green tea. Why? When enjoyed warm, Pre-Rain Organic Anji Bai Cha does not contain a hint of the vegetal quality normally found in green tea. Additionally, there is no hint of bitterness or dryness. To the contrary, I found Pre-Rain Organic Anji Bai Cha to be quite sweet and full-bodied with floral notes.

During the first infusion, I allowed my tea to cool after half a cup. When cool, there was a hint of vegetal flavor. When enjoying a second infusion, I enjoyed the entire cup while hot Pre-Rain Organic Anji Bai Cha was consistently sweet from start to finish. Additionally, I found there was no need for a sweetener as this tea is quite mild.

Liquor: A very clear pale greenish-yellow hue.

Brewing Time: The recommended steeping time is 1 tbsp for 3 minutes in 60 degree Celsius water.  I steeped for 3 minutes as recommended for the first infusion and 5 minutes for the second infusion.

Manufacturer: Jing Tea

Caffeine: Yes.

If you have had an opportunity to try Pre Rain Organic Anji Bai Cha, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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jun_shan_silver_needle_yellow_teaIf at first you don’t succeed, try… try again. I cannot remember who penned this quote, however, I believe it to be quite true. Especially when steeping a cup of tea. Several days ago, I made a cup of Pre Rain Jun Shan (Imperial Mountain) Silver Needle Yellow Tea. In a rush to make a cup of tea, I added too many leaves, not enough water, and steeped for entirely too long. The end result… a rancid cup of tea. Immediately my instincts told me to disregard this experience and start all over again. Tonight I did just that!

Composition: First crop silver needle yellow tea from China picked in late March.

Dry Visual: Very green whole leaf tea buds with silver tips mixed throughout. Thanks to Jing Tea for the picture.

Dry Aroma: Mildly grassy – permeated by a sweet almost honey aroma.

Flavor:  Pre Rain Jun Shan (Imperial Mountain) Silver Needle Yellow Tea – what a mouthful – tastes delightful.  The first sip, while hot, was quite sweet with a floral finish. Sip after sip, Imperial Mountain did not disappoint, maintaining a consistent flavor profile from the first sip to the last. However, midway through, the floral quality began to fade while the taste of honey began to present itself. Surprisingly, as my cup began to cool, the taste of honey became more dominant.

Naturally sweet, there was no need for a sweetener of any kind. I fear sweetener would alter the flavor, especially since Imperial Mountain is a very mild tea.

Liquor: A very clear yellow tea.

Brewing Time: The recommended steeping time is 1-2 tsp for 3 minutes – water temperature at pre-boil.  I steeped for 3 minutes.

Manufacturer: Jing Tea

Caffeine: Yes.

If you have had an opportunity to try Pre Rain Jun Shan (Imperial Mountain) Silver Needle Yellow Tea, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

What’s In A Name?

275px-china_hunansvgPre Rain Jun (Imperial Mountain) Silver Needle Yellow Tea has a lot of meaning within it’s name. Pre Rain, speaks to the time of year (March) when the leaves are picked. Jun Shan speaks to the location where the tea plant grows.

Jun Shan is located in Yueyang, one of the fourteen prefecture-level divisions within Hunan, China. (A prefecture is an administrative or political division.)  Whereas, Hunan is located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting (hence the name Hunan, meaning “south of the lake”). Hunan is sometimes called  Xiāng for short, after the Xiang River which runs through the province.

Silver Needle describes the portion of the tea plant from where the leaves are derived. Finally Yellow Tea describes the color of the liquor.

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During the holiday season, many people go to the mall in search of the perfect gift for their friends and loved ones. This year, I was pleasantly surprised when I received a Vivabox. I’m sure you are wondering, “what is a Vivabox?” The creators of Vivabox would say, “A vivabox is an exciting new product that combines the freedom of choice with the personal touch of a real gift.  This two layered gift can be the answer to all of your gift giving dilemmas.  The first layer is a gift inside the box that is intended to familiarize the recipient with the product.  The second layer is the gift card that can be redeemed for their gift selection from a menu of choices. ” You can check out their website for more details… I did.

So, translated into a real life experience, I received “The Gift of a Tea Experience” when I opened my “tea time” Vivabox. Contained within my Vivabox were seven different types of Numi Teas.  Numi is the vendor of a variety of  certified organic, Fair Trade, Kosher teas located in Oakland, California. There were five tea bags (two of each) – Aged Earl Grey,

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Italian Bergamot Black Tea; Temple of Heaven, Gunpowder Green Tea; Velvet Garden, White Rose – which I must say is a lovely cuppa tea. Very mild as is characteristic of white tea with an unexpectedly robust floral quality.; Ruby Chai, Spiced Rooibos; and Monkey King, Jasmine Green Tea.  Additionally, I was excited to see the inclusion of two blooming teas also known as art teas.

While I prefer loose teas there is something fun about receiving a box full of various flavors of tea. Like a kid in a candy store, I read each type of tea and immediately found myself looking up the websites for both Numi and Vivabox. As with Russian Nesting Dolls, where the opening of one contains yet another beautiful doll, I was excited to realize that the fun wasn’t over after opening the Vivabox. Found within the box was a plastic card, resembling a credit card with 16 digits printed on the front and further instructions on the back detailing how to redeem yet another gift.

After reviewing my gift options… isn’t that exciting?… I selected the Single Origins Tea Set.  Succinctly described as a beautiful tea gift that offers four Organic loose teas (my absolute favorite) from

img_10431India, Japan, China, and South Africa – Darjeeling, Genmaicha, White Rose, and Rooibis respectively. Eagerly, I anticipate my first cup of tea as I feel that each one was hand-picked especially for me.

Included in the set is a black ceramic teapot with matching cups all adorned with a floral design. A metal infuser (not shown in the picture) fits perfectly in the mouth of the pot for perfect straining every time.  It is simply not enough to describe this adorable set - the pictures speak for themselves. 

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Simply stated this was one of the best tea gifts I’ve ever received. A mixture of tea bags, blooming teas, loose teas, and teaware – a tea lover’s dream.

So, in nutshell, how does Vivabox work?

1.  You Pick The Theme. Do you have an idea as to what type of gift someone would like?  Select the Vivabox theme  you think they would enjoy the most.  

2.  Upon Receipt, The Recipient Will Try The Samples. They open the box and enjoy the gift inside.  The gift relates to the theme of the box.  

3.  The Recipient Chooses The Gift.  After enjoying the first gift, the recipient visits the Vivabox website to enter their card number found in the initial gift.    

Result:  You have given the perfect gift!  Ensuring that you have given the recipient exactly what he or she will most enjoy. 

My Vivabox provided me with a wonderfully unique tea experience. Other Vivabox gift experiences include: The Gift of Indulgence – gourmet to your door (the choice of a three-course gourmet meal for two… delivered directly to your door); The Gift of Massage – spa (enjoy a full body massage or facial); The Gift of Beauty – spa (enjoy a manicure and pedicure). Check out the Vivabox website to see all of their products.

Vivabox has taken the gift of tea to another level. If you haven’t experienced Vivabox for yourself now’s your opportunity. Then return to tell me about it. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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