Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ceylon Star by DAVIDsTEA

I got this tea as a sample in my latest DAVIDsTEA order.  Last night I felt adventurous and decided to give it a try.

When I opened the package the tea smelled like... dream.  Yes, that's the first thing that popped into my head.  I even wrote it down in my little tea journal.  And yes, I do have a tea journal.  I jot notes down whenever I drink new tea because my head usually goes 100 miles per second and things get forgotten easily.

Back to the tea... What does a dream smell like exactly?  Well, it it is a good dream then it smells like vanilla, chocolate and the yummiest dessert you can think of.  That's what I smelled when I opened the package.  Things were looking up and I was very happy.  The aroma went hand in hand with the looks of the tea itself. Nice big black leaves with chunks of white chocolate and a big piece of star anise.  Gorgeous!

I steeped the tea in boiling water for 5 minutes.  The aroma of the steeping tea continued to lure me; sweet and delicious with slight hint of cinnamon even though there was no cinnamon listed in the ingredients.  At one point I would swear I got a whiff of vanilla pudding.  Yummy!

The steeped tea was dark orange in color and was smooth, mild tasting with no astringency.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Gone was the cinnamon and vanilla pudding and now the front seat belonged to cocoa and anise.

Overall it was a very pleasing tea.  For me it was a shame that it came with artificial flavoring because I tend to steer away from all things artificial when consumption is concerned.  Nevertheless, for someone that doesn't mind that, it's a delicious tea to try out.

Ingredients: Ceylon black tea, star anise, cocoa, white chocolate, natural and artificial flavoring. Contains coconut, dairy and soy.

Steeping temperature: Boiling
Steeping time: 5 minutes
Steeped in: porcelain teapot


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines Day!!!

I hope everyone has enjoyed their day.  Some people love this day, some people hate it.  I think that no matter whether you're single, married or in relationship of sorts, there is a little love for everyone on Valentines Day.  I for one, found love in the most unusual of places this morning.  I walked into my local thrift shop and there on the shelf sat this adorable and the most original of teapots I had a chance to get my hands on.  It was a love at first sight, I grabbed it and there was no letting go.

Now is evening and I'm sitting here, sipping on my Darjeeling with lavender and a splash of milk.  My lovely teapot is sitting over a candle warmer.  I've had my share of food and chocolate for today and now this tea is all I really need and want.  It's really that simple...

Love and blessings to all!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Of Personal Notes and 2004 Willow Grove Shu

Today I received a much anticipated delivery from Verdant Tea.  About two weeks ago I've ordered my very first pu'erh tea.  Never had it before, never tasted it, I couldn't wait to try it out.  I've read so many different reviews of various pu'erhs, the good and the bad and the more I read the more I wanted to get in the club.  You know, the club of people who know what pu'erh is all about.

For those of you who don't know what pu'erh tea is, there is an awesome Wikipedia article on pu'erh tea with all the details one can handle.

Verdant Tea's selection was not the largest at the moment. I don't know all the ins and outs of the pu'erh tea but apparently they are waiting for the new stock to come in.  Never the less, I've ordered Tea Trail 2004: Willow Grove Shu 50g, and a sample of Mt. Banzgang Farmer's Cooperative '03 Sheng.  I also received a complimentary sample of Flowering Green Jasmine tea.  I have never brewed flowers before and I just can't wait to do it.  Thank you Verdant Team!

The box was neatly packaged and included a personal note from the staff.  I thought that was such a nice touch! :)

I waited until after dinner to open the shu and steep a pot of it.  I didn't want to be rushed.  I wanted to savor and enjoy the moment.

The aroma of the tea was very delicate, mild, a bit musky and sweet.  The leaves were clumped in chunks and very dark in appearance.  Definitely did not look like any other tea that I've seen.

I wanted to make sure I steep this one correctly so I followed the Western brewing instructions from Verdant Tea website.  I rinsed the leaves first at 208F and then steeped the tea at 205F for 3 minutes.  I steeped in the glass teapot because I don't have a dedicated yixing teapot yet.

While brewing, this pu'erh was almost trying to tell a story.

The aroma of the steeped tea was very woody.  Actually, the moment I smelled this pu'erh and took a sip, I was thrown back in memory lane to the mushroom picking trips I used to take with my grandpa when I was little.  Every time I took a sip I had this flashback.  All of a sudden I was seeing myself in the deep forest, picking mushrooms and being surrounded by pine trees.  That was quite a time travel! :D

Back to the tea.  The liquid color was gorgeous deep reddish brown and it was crystal clear.  The taste was full bodied, mild, delicate and pleasant.  I could smell and taste the woods and the pine and there was this ever slight astringency that started developing towards the end of every sip but which disappeared before the sip was over.  I can say with confidence that I very much enjoyed this delicious and special tea.

You might think, this is it but this shu wasn't done with me yet.  As I was sitting and sipping my tea, all of a sudden I was hit by a head rush.  I heard about this before but totally forgot and it took me by a surprise.  It was not bothersome but I definitely felt different.  This is some tea!

I gave the tea two steeps, second time I brewed it for 3 minutes as well.  To my surprise, after the second steep, the tea was darker and stronger.  Still very earthy, woody and full body.  I have never seen a tea getting stronger with subsequent steeps, this was the first.  Unfortunately, it was getting late in the evening and I couldn't continue with steeps.  Next time I will steep it earlier in the day and continue steeping until the flavor is gone.  This is definitely a lot of tea... It packs a punch.

Steeping temperature: 205F

Steeping time: 3 min

Steeped in: glass teapot


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Creme Brule by DAVIDsTEA

For the past two days I've been kept busy by the biggest winter storm to hit southeastern Ontario in the last three years.  I've spent lots of time outside with my daughter, playing in the snow, hiking and taking photos.  Let me tell you... There is nothing better than coming back from the cold and having a great cup of tea.  For me at least. :)

I was happy to receive my latest DAVIDsTEA delivery one day early, the day before the big storm.  I felt prepared.  Bring it on Mother Nature!  Nothing can stop me now!

My delivery included Chinese Dragonwell, Japanese Sencha and Creme Brulee.   I ordered Creme Brulee tea because creme brulee is one of my favorite desserts and I just had to try it out.  Sooner or later it had to happen and so I figured now was the time.

After dinner I don't delay... It's rooibos time!

I rip the package open and inhale the intoxicating aroma.  I just love that first whiff...   Mmmm ... This is really creme brulee!!!  I wish it was in my oven!

The tea smells delicious and just like creme brulee should.  The sweet aroma of caramel with notes of rum cake awakens my senses and warms my soul.  It looks beautiful too.  I see the yellow flowers of calendula and red safflowers.  I think this is going to be good.

I steep the tea in boiling water for seven minutes in accordance with instructions.  The sweet aroma spreads throughout the kitchen and invites my husband who wants to know what I'm making.  "A tea", I say and he looks somewhat disappointed.  He doesn't drink tea.

The steeped tea is beautiful shade of orange color, mild and very pleasant on the tongue.  I'm having it with home made raisin scones and the combination couldn't be better. These two simply love each other.  It's great with milk or without.  Sometimes with blends like this I like to add a little milk for the creamy effect. It's very comforting.

All in all this is a very nice tea, I'm glad to say it didn't disappoint.  In addition, I just love the fact that Creme Brulee is made with all natural ingredients.  To me that's important component of quality and that is very important.

Ingredients (Organic): Green and Red Rooibos, safflowers, calendula marigold, natural flavoring

Steeping Temperature: 98C

Steeping Time: 7 minutes

Steeped in: Porcelain Teapot


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Of Big Packages and Pretty Tea

Ohhhhh yes!! Another week and another order arrived on my doorstep today.  This package was bigger than usual as I ordered three varieties of tea and a silver tin.

I stuck a flower in the picture to show my love :)

The package included my beloved Dragonwell, Japanese Sencha and Creme Brule.  I just can't wait to try Creme Brule.  It's a mix of red and green rooibos with added safflowers, calendula and natural flavoring.  The label claims it to be organic... Hopefully. :)

I didn't know what calendula was so I googled it.  It is a variety of marigold in the daisy family Asteraceae, native to area from Macaronesia east through the Mediterranean to Iran.  It is said to be anti-inflammatory and anti-viral.  The petals are edible and can be used in salads, to color cheese or as a replacement for saffron.  Apparently, they can also be used in my tea. :)

Orange Calendula

I couldn't resist and opened the package of Creme Brule to sneak a peak... Beautiful aroma and very pretty looking tea.  Look at all the colorful flowers in there!  If I'm not mistaken, the yellow ones are from calendula  (which can also be yellow) and the red ones are safflowers.

My package as usual, besides the ordered tea, included three complimentary samples... the mystery tea...the present within a present. Today I got:

  1. Orange Pekoe (Fine black tea from Sri Lanka and Assam, India)
  2. The Skinny (Oolong tea, pu'erh tea, ginger, ginseng, orange peel and natural flavoring)
  3. Coco Chai Rooibos: (Rooibos, coconut, cinnamon, ginger root, cardamom, red pepper, cloves, pink peppercorns, artificial and natural flavoring)

All of the above I already got before which is a bummer because I love trying new teas, but if I remember correctly The Skinny was pretty good and it's all natural.  Coco Chai was delish as well but I'm not crazy about the artificial flavoring.

There is another order on the way, somewhere between Minnesota and here.  It's pu'erh from Verdant Tea and I can't wait to get my hands on it.  Straight pu'erh tea is such a mystery to me, everything I heard about it makes me want to try it even more.  Hopefully it arrives soon.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

High Mountain Oolong by DAVIDsTEA

Just few months ago I didn't know what oolong was.  I knew about green tea, white tea, black tea and herbals.  Oolong was not in my vocabulary.

Ever since I switched over to loose tea I started paying closer attention to different kinds of teas and learning as much as I could.  The word oolong was being thrown around quite a bit and I began noticing oolong tea bags at the local health food store. I often wondered about this mysterious tea with a fancy name.  What exactly did it taste like?

About two weeks ago I decided to find out and ordered High Mountain Oolong from DAVIDsTEA after reading some great reviews on Steepster.  At $10 per 25g this tea is in the premium price range and as a result, my expectations were high.

Opening the package revealed beautifully curled green tea leaves with mild, unassuming aroma.  The smell was reminiscent of green tea only a lot more subtle.

I began the brewing process by first steeping the tea for 30 seconds to rinse and open up the leaves a bit.  I followed that with a 5 minute steep.  The water for both steeps was at near boiling at around 94C.  The leaves unfurled taking up a lot of space and looked gorgeous.

The steeped tea smelled delicious, a little sweet with a hint of wet wood aroma.  By taking a sip I was thrown into an array of flavors very foreign to me.  Oolong tea production lies somewhere in the middle between gentle handling and non-oxidation of green tea and complete oxidation of black tea.  What I was tasting here was definitely complex and very different from both green and black teas that I know.  There was something to this tea I couldn't put my finger on.  A very pleasant aroma that hit me every time I put my nose to the teacup and a delicious flavor that lingered with every sip.  It tasted buttery and a bit vegetal but not the same vegetal taste you would get from green tea.  I also detected a mild and very pleasant astringency at the back of my tongue.

By now I should be done with the tasting but no... something was luring me back.  That taste and aroma that returned every time I took a sip, that made this tea distinct from all the other teas I tried.  It intrigued me and made me sip over and over to try and figure it out.  It was sweet and a bit floral and when I closed my eyes I  imagined wild flowers in the woods after a pouring rain.

Overall this was a delicious tea, the kind that I wouldn't mind having every day.  In this price range though, it will have to remain a treat but a treat I'll be delighted to have.

Steeping temperature: 94C

Steeping time: 5 minutes

Steeped in: glass teapot


Sunday, February 3, 2013

The History of Tea: The Invention

The history of tea is long and complex, spreading across multiple cultures over the span of thousands of years.  Although tales exist in regards to the beginnings of tea being used as a beverage, no one is sure of its exact physical and cultural origins. - Wikipedia

All different types of tea except for rooibos, come from the same plant Camellia Sinensis which is said to have originated in Southeast Asia and more specifically somewhere near northeast India, north Burma, southwest China and Tibet.  From there the plant was introduced to more than 52 countries.

Few people know that tea is a second most popular beverage on earth, surpassed only by water. It is a very important part of the culture in many countries.

In China for example, according to Chinese saying, tea is one of seven basic daily necessities which are: firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar and tea.  There are also tea houses in most Chinese neighbourhoods and business districts offering many varieties of hot and cold tea beverages and tea friendly snacks.

In Japan there is a cultural activity called Japanese Tea Ceremony or The Way of Tea that involves ceremonial preparation and presentation of Matcha, the Japanese green powdered tea.

In Great Britain and Ireland, tea is not only a name for the beverage but also a name for the meal.

As we can see, tea has swept the world but the question is: where did it come from, when was it discovered and how?

Shen Nong - Unidentified artist, 1800s, Japan
The legend has it that the tea was discovered by accident by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong in 2737 B.C.

Shen Nong was a scientist and inventor of Chinese medicine as well as agriculture.  He was of firm belief that  water should be boiled before drinking.  One day the Emperor and his servants were travelling when they decided to take a rest.  As servants began boiling water for their ruler, some dried leaves of nearby Camellia Sinensis bush fell into the boiling water changing the color and the taste slightly.  The Emperor took a sip and was pleasantly surprised by the aroma and taste of the resulting concoction.  He also noticed that he felt somewhat refreshed and reinvigorated.  He then proclaimed that this drink is good for health and hence the tea was invented, although at first it was considered a medicinal beverage.  It wasn't until around 3rd century A.D. that tea became an everyday drink in China.

And as to the rest of the world?

Around 12th century Japanese Buddhist monk brought the tea to Japan where the tea ceremony emerged years later.  The tea was introduced to Europe at the start of 17th century and it was around 1650 when the tea was brought by the merchants to New York from where it spread through the rest of the nation.