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Cherry VanillaIt’s Saturday, early evening, and of course I should be studying, but I decided to take a much needed tea break. Although who needs a break after an hour or two of studying – I’m just not focused. Evidenced by the fact that since I started studying, I made a light dinner and commenced to eat, cleaned the kitchen, talked on the telephone and took a peak at all my status updates on Facebook and LinkedIn. Pathetic! If it were my kids, I’d be fussing at them for not being focused! Oh yeah, amazingly, I found the time to write a tea review… ChocoLatte Red Tea – Cherry Vanilla.

Composition: Dark roasted cacao, Organic rooibos, Cinnamon, Licorice, Chicory, Cardamom, Ginger, Cloves, Vanilla and Natural cherry flavor.

Dry Visual: Because the tea came prepackaged in a tea bag, I was unable to get a clear view of tea.  Nevertheless, what I could see were flecks of red and brown.

Dry Aroma: Cherry Vanilla has a very pungent aroma. There is the spicy smell of cinnamon and cardamom. The sweet smell of cacao. However the entire batch was overpowered by the smell of chicory and licorice.

Flavor:  The flavor of ChocoLatte Red Tea – Cherry Vanilla is quite distinct.  There was a significant difference in the flavor profile based upon infusion time. When steeped at the lower end of the spectrum (3 mins) the flavors blended well – not one stood out more than the other and the presence of rooibos was evident. Although the brew was somewhat weak. When steeped on the higher end of the spectrum (5 mins) the licorice and chicory became bold. The flavor absolutely mimicked the dry aroma with the chicory and licorice (black licorice) dominating the brew from start to finish. The cherry and chocolate flavors made a subtle presentation while cinnamon sweetened the cup. I was only able to detect the vanilla as an aftertaste.

Not an ounce of astringency was detected. However, I chose to add Sugar-In- The Raw to my cup when steeped for 5 minutes. I was surprised and amazed by how well the sweetener abated the licorice and chicory. I found the cocoa to stand up and present itself quite nicely.

Liquor: A rich, dark, reddish brown.

Brewing Time: According to the directions, the recommended steeping time is 3 – 5 minutes. I used both.

Manufacturer: Kalahari Red Tea

Caffeine: No.

If you have had the pleasure of enjoying a cup of ChocoLatte Red Tea – Cherry Vanilla, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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Safari LullabyI am always excited to crack open a new box, tin, or foil package of tea.  For a moment I simply sit with my eyes closed and inhale the dry aroma. There is nothing else I can draw on from the recesses of my memory that smells quite as soothing as tea leaves. Whether the tea is flavored, unflavored or blended is irrelevant.  Others may disagree, and perhaps I have a bit of free association going on, but I’m okay with that. While I have never visited a tea plantation, when enjoying dry tea’s perfume, I sometimes find myself imagining the plantation from whence the tea originated. Even now, I am reminiscing about the smell of Safari Lullaby, the subject of today’s tea review.

Composition: Rooibos, Chamomile, Spearmint, Lemon Grass, Valerian, natural flavors.

Dry Visual: Because the tea came prepackaged in a tea bag, I was unable to get a clear view of tea. Interesting fact from the retailer – the tea bags are made of unbleached Manila hemp and unbleached wood pulp – very eco-friendly. Nevertheless, what I could see were flecks of yellow, green, and red – a representation of the the ingredients.

Dry Aroma: Safari Lullaby has a sweet, somewhat citrus, mildly minty aroma.  There was a hint of its floral nature.

Flavor:  The flavor of Safari Lullaby and the dry aroma almost mimic one another with one exception – I was unable to detect the lemony taste of lemongrass.  However, the sweet nutty flavor of rooibos and the floral quality of chamomile were easily discernible. This tea has a mild soothing taste. No one flavor overpowers the other, but blend wonderfully to form this brew. A personal lover of mint, it would have been nice if the mint presented itself a bit more robustly, but then again, its spearmint not peppermint.

Not an ounce of astringency was detected thus Safari Lullaby could be enjoyed without sweetener. However, next cup I may be adventurous and add either Sugar in The Raw or Adagio Sugar Crystals to test the impact on the flavor profile.

Liquor: A burnt orange/rusty hue.

Brewing Time: As I was unable to locate the recommended steeping time for Safari Lullaby, I relied upon my past experience with rooibos which typically requires a 5 – 7 minute steep time. After 5 minutes, I tasted and decided to steep for 7 minutes.

Manufacturer: Kalahari Red Tea

Caffeine: No.

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

 

180px-Valeriana_officinalisWhat is Valerian?

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae) is a hardy perennial flowering plant, with heads of sweetly scented pink or white flowers. The flowers are in bloom in the northern hemisphere from June to September. Valerian was used as a perfume in the sixteenth century.  Native to Europe and parts of Asia, Valerian has been introduced into North America. Valerian is used for certain effects including sedation.

References:  Valerian (herb). (2009, July 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:39, July 21, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Valerian_(herb)&oldid=303383954

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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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Picture 3Although not the subject of today’s review, I’ve been drinking Hojicha, a deliciously roasted bancha.  In actuality, I’ve been drinking a lot of tea, just not writing about it. Sometimes, it is wonderful to sip a cup of tea simply for pleasure. To allow the warmth of the cup to warm my hands. The steam of the brew to tickle my nose. The smoothness of the liquor to soothe my throat, while being stimulated by the amazing flavor.

Nevertheless, today’s review will focus on Euphoric… 

Composition: 2nd Flush, single-estate black tea from Darjeeling, India.

Dry Visual: Dark brown almost black broken tea leaves with bits of red and green leaves. Stems and some tips are present.  Thanks Earthbound Tea for the picture.

Dry Aroma: An earthy, somewhat woodsy aroma.

Flavor:  I found Euphoric to be a very flavorful tea from beginning to end.  The flavor profile combined a maltiness in the middle with a fruity finish.  The first thing that came to mind was berries – blueberries, blackberries, etc.

Initially, I began my tasting of Euphoric pure – with no sweetener added. As typical of Darjeeling teas, I found Euphoric to be astringent. During a later tasting,  I added just a little sweetener to round the flavor, however one could easily add milk as well. Euphoric is robust enough to stand up to milk.  Finally, I drank Euphoric again cold and decided, I would love it as an iced tea.

Liquor: A dark amber hue.

Brewing Time: The recommended steeping time for Euphoric is 3 – 4 minutes in 212 degree water.  I steeped for 4 minutes as recommended.

Manufacturer: Earthbound Tea

Caffeine: Yes.

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

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moon crestOfficially, I’m on vacation – well at least from school for the week (not work).  The fourth of July is hastily approaching,  of course, the holiday does not occur without a family cookout with all the fixin’s.  Traditionally, on every holiday, my mother plans a big dinner during the Fall and Winter months and a cookout during the Spring and Summer. This year is no exception. Lately, I have added tea to the menu. While not everyone enjoys a cup, my family acknowledges my passion and is starting to expect me to bring a variety of teas for them to sample. Most have never heard of oolong or white tea or what they perceive as exotic blends like chai. It has been such a treat sharing what little I know about tea with my family.

Since all of our dinners and cookouts include potluck, this year, I think I’m going to make a variety of iced teas to share.  That, in conjunction with the store bought Amish Potato Saled my mother loves. Until then… I’m drinking Moon Crest a.k.a. Feng Huang Dan Cong.

Composition: Oolong tea leaves handpicked from bushes that grow on the Wudong peak of Phoenix Mountain in the Guangdong Province in China.

Dry Visual: Dark brown and dark green with a spattering of  light green curled tea leaves. Some stems are present.  Thanks Earthbound Tea for the picture.

Dry Aroma: Distinctly oolong – the leaves smell fresh. A slight vegetal aroma.

Flavor:  A very clean and light tasting oolong, the flavor is consistent from start to finish. Moon Crest has a slightly vegetal quality,  characteristic of some “green oolongs”, but not enough that the flavor could be compared to a green tea. Definitely refreshing and flavorful, I found Moon Crest to be a palate cleanser. The finish contains fruity notes.

As I often prefer, I enjoyed this cuppa tea with no sweetener.  Naturally sweet, there is almost no astringency (just a hint) thus no sweetener is needed. With such a mild tea, I fear the flavor profile would be compromised.

Liquor: A rich golden hue.

Brewing Time: The recommended steeping time for Moon Crest is 3 minutes in 180 degree water.  I steeped for 3 minutes as recommended.

Manufacturer: Earthbound Tea

Caffeine: Yes.

Moon Crest Tea a.k.a Feng Huang Dan Cong is processed via a technique called “rattling”. As I am not familiar with this technique, it will be the subject of another post. If you have had the pleasure of enjoying a cup of Moon Crest, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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mango green deI absolutely adore the summer! It is hot all the time and the sun magically bathes you in its glow. There is no better time, in my opinion, to go on vacation than in the summer. That is of course, followed by going on vacation in the winter to a warm, tropical, destination. My family and I just returned from vacation in Miami. It was wonderful to go to the beach – lay in the hot sand, listen to the sometimes crashing waves, and live day-to-day without obligations. During those few precious days, we laughed, we played, and I personally was refreshed. Thus, I sit today completely relaxed with a renewed sense of purpose. It is amazing how a peaceful state of mind can do that for you. My only complaint? I forgot to pack tea and was relegated to grocery store tea. Thus it is with great excitement that I steeped a cup of Mango Green Decaf today.

Composition: Decaffeinated green tea from the Korakundah Estate in Nilgiri, India, mango pieces, calendula, and natural mango.

Dry Visual: Predominantly light and dark green tea leaves – broken and curled with some stems present.  Additionally, there are the bright golden yellow calendula leaves and brownish orangy bits of dried mango.  Thanks Mighty Leaf Tea for the picture.

Dry Aroma: Delicious!  Both fruity and floral with the citrus smell of mango dominating.

Flavor:  A tisane, I found Mango Green Decaf to be a wonderful flavored tea. A mild green tea flavor with an amazing fruity presence, as the dry aroma suggests, from start to finish. However, I would add that the finish is complex as it also contains a floral quality – which I am sure is attributable to the calendula. The fruity/floral combination of flavors are complimentary as one does not dominate the other.

One could easily drink Mango Green Decaf  without sweetener (which I did) as there is only a mild, almost non-existent astringency. In my initial taste I was surprised that the green tea held no vegetal qualities either.  I think with the addition of a sweetener, Mango Green Decaf would make a fantastic iced tea as well.

Liquor: A rich amber hue.

Brewing Time: The recommended steeping time for Mango Green Decaf is 2 to 3  minutes in 170 – 180 degree water.  I steeped for 3 minutes as recommended.

Manufacturer: Mighty Leaf Tea

Caffeine: The name suggests No – the Mighty Leaf Website says No – but the packaging says light caffeine.

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

180px-Calendula_January_2008-1_filteredWhat is Calendula?

Calendula pot marigold, is a genus of about 12-20 species of annual or perennial herbaceous plants in the daisy family Asteraceae, native to the area from Macaronesia east through the Mediterranean region to Iran. Calendula should not be confused with other plants that are also known as marigolds, such as plants of the genus Tagetes, corn marigolds or marsh marigolds.

Marigold petals are considered edible. They are often used to add color to salads, and marigold extract is commonly added to chicken feed to produce darker egg yolks. Their aroma, however, is not sweet, and resembles the smell of hops in beer. The oil from its seed contains calendic acid.

References:  Calendula. (2009, May 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:09, May 9, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Calendula&oldid=288782133

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