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My Favourite Teas Ever

Teavivre is one of my favourite tea companies, and when they have a sale, I always try to take advantage of it. They’re having a sale right now to celebrate their 6th anniversary, and it’s wrapping up tomorrow. So, while there’s still time, let me tell you about my favourite teas ever, the ones I always want to keep in my cupboard, whether they’re from Teavivre or other tea companies.

Peach Jasmine Dragon Pearls from Teavivre

Jasmine pearls are a tea staple, but I love the twist that Teavivre provides by flavouring them with peach. The peach is subtle, but it’s there, and the first steep or two always has a slight fruit hint to it. Subsequent steeps are just jasmine-flavoured, but hey, that’s still a win.

This is one the teas I keep with me at work since it’s so dependable. I just bought a whopping 300 grams of it! Part of that will be given as gifts to others, but I’ll be keeping at least half for myself. I bet I could make 150 grams last all year at work, especially since I can steep a single serving for at least two days in a row.

Superfine Tan Yang Gong Fu Black Tea from Teavivre

Yes, the name is a mouthful, but the tea itself is an even better one. It’s more expensive than some of Teavivre’s other offerings, but it’s so good. Quite possibly my favourite tea EVER. When you brew it up just right, it smells like dark chocolate, and it tolerates rough treatment well. Steep it too long? Add too much leaf? Use boiling water? No problem, it’s flexible. The only thing that doesn’t work is using water that’s too cool. Then it just tastes like muck.

Laoshan Black Tea from Yunnan Sourcing

Yunnan Sourcing refreshes their tea every season, so the batches may undergo some changes, and the URLs aren’t static. But, that aside, you can always just search for “laoshan black” on their site and see what comes up.

The Laoshan black tea that I have from them tastes chocolaty, but there’s also an alkalinity to it that reminds me of bread and biscuits. So, chocolate biscuits. And, like the Superfine Tan Yang Gong Fu above, it’s pretty forgiving of brewing mistakes.

Le Digestif from David’s Tea

David’s Tea is ubiquitous in Canada, and now that Teavana is closing, it looks like its place at the top of the heap is secure. Thus, it’s easy to assume that as Canada’s “gateway” purveyor of tea, its stuff is meant only for noobs.

Which is sad, because there are some genuine gems that are part of David’s Tea’s permanent collection, and Le Digestif is one of them.

I mean, if they ever decide to discontinue this tea, I will WEEP. I have a lot of digestive problems, and Le Digestif, with its mix of mint, fennel, ginger and mango, is one of the only teas out there that regularly makes my stomach feel better. It may be an acquired taste, especially if you hate fennel, but it WORKS.

Forever Nuts from David’s Tea

You need to add some agave syrup to this to really get it going, but when you do, Forever Nuts tastes like coziness personified. The apple, the cinnamon, the almond, the pastry flavouring! It’s hard to go wrong here.

Cranberry Orange Cider Rooibos from 52Teas

Dear Anne, I beg you, please make this cider part of your permanent collection at 52Teas. I went gaga over it when I reviewed it in 2015. I have restocked this at least twice, and I’m holding on to my last 30 grams like Scrooge because I don’t know what I’ll do when I finally finish what’s left in my tin.

Yuzu Green Tea from Lupicia

An intro to yuzu green tea and to Lupicia

Lupicia has a special reputation among my tea friends. Their blends are considered extremely well-balanced, which shouldn’t be surprising since this company is from Japan, where you’d expect they’d know a thing or two about making good tea. What makes Lupicia really notable, though, is how hard it is to get in Canada. Rather than paying directly for shipping once you reach the checkout, you have to wait for them to contact you with a special shipping quote after you finish your order.

Imagine my pleasure, then, when a representative of Lupicia contacted me to ask if I could review a few samples. How could I say no?

A metal tin of yuzu green tea from Lupicia

Aside from the occasional piece of hard candy, I’ve never actually tried anything with yuzu in it. A type of citrus, yuzu is widely cultivated in Japan and Korea, and this yuzu green tea blend from Lupicia contains sencha tea mixed with pieces of dried peel and other flavourings.

The dry leaf is a deep green colour with flecks of dried yellow-brown peel dotted throughout. Not surprisingly, the base tea is sencha, and the leaf is roughly the colour and shape of finely-textured grass clippings.

The scent was less predictable. The base tea had a slight umami, marine aroma to it. However, the scent of the yuzu caught me off-guard. It was definitely citric, but instead of the rich, candied juiciness of lemon that I expected, it was sharper and a bit thinner. It reminded me, somehow, of cold wind sweeping over a meadow — the thin, bracing keenness of it. I also detected a hint of something sharp like mint.

A white ceramic plate showing a small pile of dry yuzu green tea leaf.

Aside from the scent of the yuzu, what surprised me when I opened the tin were the steeping instructions included on a little sheet inside. The instructions said to steep 2-2.5 grams of dry leaf in 5 oz of BOILING water for 1.5-2 minutes.

That seemed like an awful lot of leaf for a small amount of water. This is typical for brewing Japanese varieties of green tea, especially gyokuro, but I don’t normally brew Japanese teas according to an “authentic” method.

Second of all, boiling water? Whoa. I usually brew green teas around 80°C so they don’t get all astringent, so the idea of using straight-up 100°C water for brewing this variety really threw me for a loop.

I decided to split the difference by steeping the yuzu green tea with the recommended amount of leaf at the recommended temperature for the recommended length of time and using 8 oz of water per cup rather than 5 oz.

And truth be told, it turned out pretty well!

A hot, freshly brewed mug of yuzu green tea.

The resulting brew was a sunny yellow-green, reminding me of tender shoots of grass or the heart of green wood inside a tree branch. I was expecting it to taste harsh because of the brewing temperature of the water and the sharp scent of yuzu peel — but I was pleasantly surprised.

The depth of the sencha leaves blended perfectly with the citrus, resulting in a tea that was well-balanced and smooth on my tongue. The yuzu flavour showed up mostly in my soft palate and sinuses, while the base tea flavour was strongest on the front and sides of my tongue. Most importantly, the mouthfeel was clean and clear, with no astringency. I consider this yuzu green tea from Lupicia a success!

Bonus: get a freebie from Lupicia

In addition to samples, Lupicia has also generously provided something extra: a bonus offer for you readers!

All readers who order from Lupicia USA and enter the code “Books” in the comments section on the checkout page will get a free surprise with their order. So take a look!

30 Days of Reviews: Pokhara Green Tea from Nepali Tea Traders

Today’s tea is Pokhara Green Tea from Nepali Tea Traders, a company that by now is becoming a pretty familiar presence here on Books & Tea.

pokhara_green_tea_package

This tea is already familiar to me because it’s the base for Jestha Jasmine Green Tea, which I reviewed in May. However, unlike that blend, which I purchased, this sample was given to me for free to review.

The dry leaf is a rich green, bordering between olive, forest and sage. The leaves are long, whole, curled, and somewhat gnarly. Dry, it smells slightly smoky and vegetal, with a green freshness underneath like tree sap.

pokhara_green_tea_leaf

Since the leaves were large, fluffy, and hard to measure, I steeped 2 teaspoons a big 12-ounce mug for 3 minutes. The resulting brew was a deep greenish yellow, and the leaves turned from olive-sage to bright emerald. Look!

pokhara_green_tea_brew

It tasted mild and vegetal, with a slight bitterness at the back of my tongue that reminded me of cooked spinach. However, it’s not astringent. I remember that the Jestha Jasmine tea tasted sweet and powdery, and I wondered how much of that was due to using Pokhara Green Tea as a base. It turns out that the base tea, while gentle and smooth, is not similarly sweet. So I guess the sweetness from the Jestha Jasmine came either from the jasmine buds or from the ginger.

Overall, this is a very smooth, easy tea for sipping.

You can buy Pokhara Green Tea from Nepali Tea Traders here.

PS: Happy Thanksgiving, American readers! I’m in Canada, which means we had our celebration about 6 weeks ago. I hope you’re having a restful, food-filled day. If you want to see what I’m thankful for, I usually talk about positivity and gratitude every night on Twitter, so feel free to follow me.

End-of-Summer Iced Tea Extravaganza (Birthday Edition!)

Now that September is nearing its end, there’s an occasional chill in the air. Fall is coming, which means that there will soon be mugs of cider and chai to consider, as well as pumpkin-spice-flavoured-everything.

But! It’s my birthday today! And technically it’s still summer for a few more days! And I still have a lot of blends that are perfect for making iced tea in my cupboard. Besides, with climate change, the summer heat is just going to last longer as the years pass! So I might as well try and wring one tiny positive upside from near-certain long-term catastrophic changes in weather patterns by brewing as much iced tea as possible.

(Aren’t I a fountain of optimism?)

So, here are a bunch of teas I brewed over the summer and my thoughts on each.

Wild Woman – Tay Tea

I’m not familiar with Tay Tea; instead, I bought this packet through Amoda Tea’s Black Friday sale last year. It’s been sitting in my cupboard for a while, so honestly I just wanted to say that I used this tea up. This blend contains Ceylon black tea, blueberries, blackcurrants, blue cornflower petals, hibiscus and elderberries.

tay_tea_wild_woman_label

 

Looking at the dry leaf, it’s easy to see the blue flecks of cornflowers among the small, gnarly black leaves, as well as the occasional dried berry. I also saw small bits of red that could have been hibiscus. The smell is overwhelmingly of blueberries, to the point of it being kind of artificial – I like my blueberries on the tart side, while the smell here was reminiscent of pancakes and jam.

I took the entire sample of tea (about 10 grams) and cold-steeped it in about 5-6 cups of cold water overnight. I just eyeballed the amounts here, instead of doing something a bit more measured and scientific. I also added some sweetener to the pitcher to counteract the potential tartness of the hibiscus.

However, I have to admit that taste-wise, this didn’t really work for me. The blueberry/blackcurrant flavour was too strong, bordering on medicinal. I just chugged it in order to get the pitcher overwith.

Blueberry Mojito Green Tea – 52Teas

This was part of the same order that the Sparkle Pony Oolong came in last month, and this combination of flavours – blueberries, lime, mint, and rum – promised to make an excellent iced tea.

The strongest smell I noticed upon opening the package was mint. Which is obvious, but this was a baseball bat of mint to the nose, with a soft hint of lime playing underneath. Alongside the mint and lime was a candied sort of sweetness that reminded me of marshmallow, making the overall aroma similar to that of Graveyard Mist, another 52Teas blend.

The dried leaf was a varied mix of green bits of all shapes and sizes. Along with the small flakes of mint were different varieties of green tea – some leaves looked short and stubby, while others looked long and flat. The mix was studded with small, puckered blueberries, as well as the occasional wedge of dried lime.

52teas_blueberry_mojito_leaf

I took the entire half-ounce package and brewed it with 1 L of 80C water for 3-4 minutes. Before I poured the water in I made sure to add a splort of agave nectar to the pitcher to sweeten things up. After that, I took out the leaves and topped the extra-strong brew with cold water, then let it cool down in the fridge overnight. The resulting brew was somewhat cloudy and had an amber-green-orange colour to it that reminded me of Hoegaarden or other types of witbier.

52teas_blueberry_mojito_brew

Like the aroma, the strongest taste is of mint, with a hint of lime at the back of the mouth. However, that sweet, marshmallow-like note morphs into something a bit deeper and more distinctive. I had a  hard time putting my finger on it, but then I figured it out: it reminded me of sarsaparilla, one of the key flavours in root beer.

I wonder if it was added to give the brew the depth of rum. Whatever it is, it certainly adds an interesting flavour. However, I didn’t get a whole lot of blueberry here.

Blackcurrant White Peony – 52Teas

This one, unfortunately, was a bust for me. I guess I just don’t like blackcurrant teas – the smell of blackcurrant just reminds me too much of cough syrup and lozenges for me to enjoy it on its own merits. I took the entire half-ounce package, brewed it with hot water, diluted the brew with cold water…. and then just couldn’t drink it. I let it sit in my fridge for too long that it eventually went bad, so I just poured the remainder down the drain. Sorry, 52Teas!

52Teas_black_currant_white_peony_leaf

Strawberries and Cream – Zen Tea

As with the Tay Tea blend above, I decided to cold-brew this rather than brew it hot and strong then dilute it down. The short, black, gnarly leaves here are interspersed with the occasional bit of green (strawberry leaves) and red (dried strawberry pieces). The dry leaf smelled of strawberries, chocolate and vanilla – in fact, it reminded me an awful lot of chocolate-covered strawberries!

zentea_strawberry_cream_leaf

I ended up with a nice, almost peach-coloured brew after everything was said and done.
zentea_strawberry_cream_brew

The iced tea tasted exactly like it smelled – like chocolate-covered strawberries. It wasn’t bad, but I honestly think this was a waste served cold. I bet this tea would be much better hot, where the contents would probably taste like an amazing strawberry-laced hot chocolate.

Fruity Iced Teas With Zen Tea

With all of the recent humidity in Toronto, my iced tea pitcher has been getting a real workout! Plus, as someone who probably buys too much tea for my own good, iced tea is great because making it cold uses up more leaf than making it hot.

Of course, that would help if I didn’t keep buying new tea to brew iced. It’s pretty much a no-win situation. I have way too much tea, but it’s too tasty to stop.

Anyways, as part of my little shopping spree from Zen Tea a few months ago, I bought a few blends that seemed like they would be perfect for iced tea. Here’s a quick look.

Cranberry Mango

I bought a 10-gram sample of this tea back in February, which is the perfect size to cold-brew a litre of tea — so that’s what I did.

Pouring out the dry leaf, I was greeted by an intensely rich, juicy, fruity smell. If I hadn’t known the mix was supposed to be cranberry-mango flavoured, I would have had a hard time guessing. In fact, the whole thing smelled like gummy bears! The aroma was sweet, tart, juicy, and very vibrant.

I mean, are you surprised when you look at leaves like these? Dark green needles of broken up leaf interspersed with chunks of dried cranberry and mango. This is pretty sweet!

zentea_cranberry_mango_leaf

I took this loveliness, filled my pitcher halfway up with cold water and let it steep in the fridge for about 12 hours. The resulting brew was a golden yellow-green colour with an aroma that matched that of the dry leaf.

The taste was pretty good to match! Juicy, fruity, sweet, with a hint of the earthiness and vegetal flavour of the green tea underneath. The interplay between the base and the flavouring was really solidly balanced. The green tea flavour was kind of sharp, but not so sharp that it became bitter or seaweedy — it was fresh-tasting and green in a way that complemented the fruit well. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the final brewed product because for some reason, WordPress hates me.

You can buy Cranberry Mango green tea from Zen Tea here.

Sweet Tropical Fruits

This was another 10-gram sample that I bought a few months back. And, like the Cranberry Mango tea, I decided to steep this one directly in cold water rather than hot.

The dry leaf here was gorgeous. Strands of black tea leaves were mixed in with dried chunks of papaya, pineapple, orange peel and orange blossoms, resulting in a blend that looked delicious and festive.

The leaf smelled sweet and fruity. I wasn’t able to pick out notes of individual fruits, but the overall aroma was sweet and somewhat musty, with a strong overtone of vanilla and cream

zentea_sweet_tropical_fruits_leaf

I took the entire packet and steeped it with cold water in the fridge for about 12 hours, and added some agave nectar to heighten the sweetness.

However, the resulting tea was bitter, and the sharpness of the tea leaf base overwhelmed the fruit flavours. I got an overall soft, sweet flavour from the fruit, but it was rather generic and bland, with a strong candied note on top of the fruit notes. It was more vanilla than fruit to me. This was pretty surprising considering just how many chunks of dried fruit were visible in the dry leaf — I wasn’t expecting them to taste so weak.

Diluting the tea with some water and adding some more agave nectar helped to cut down the bitterness, but it failed to make the fruit flavours pop in a way that I was hoping for. However, the brew was a lovely peach colour — sort of a blushy pink — and that helped mitigate my disappointment with the result. I probably would have been better off filling the pitcher all the way to the top with cold water rather than halfway.

zentea_sweet_tropical_fruits_brew

You can buy Sweet Tropical Fruits black tea from Zen Tea here.

Sweet Coconut Island

I bought this tea after a fellow Steepster user recommended it. They were gaga over it, saying it was one of their favourite fruit blends, so how could I ignore such an endorsement?

Because this was an herbal tea that contained only chunks of fruit, I decided to get 50 grams instead of only 10 — 10 grams of such a dense, heavy tea would have been too little to experiment with.

Opening up the package, I was greeted with a colourful mix of dried chunks of carrot, pineapple, coconut, apple, and pumpkin. If you look closely at the picture, you can pick out the carrot and pumpkin pieces in particular, which are a sort of muted orange here amid the white flakes of coconut and the glassy chunks of candied pineapple.

zentea_sweet_coconut_island_leaf

As expected, the smell was amazing — a rich, sweet, juicy smell of pina colada from the pineapple and coconut. Tropical! I was pleasantly surprised by how much the pineapple and coconut dominated the scent considering they weren’t as prominent in the dried leaf compared to the other ingredients.

Because the tea leaf was made of such thick chunks, I decided to brew this one with boiling water rather than cold water to give the pieces a chance to reconstitute properly. So I took half the package (about 27 grams), poured about 6 cups of cold water in the pitcher, let the pitcher sit on the counter for about half an hour, then put the whole thing in the fridge to cool for the rest of the day.

The resulting tea was a pale amber with a touch of cloudiness. Maybe it was the coconut that made it cloudy, or that there was so much dried fruit in general? It looked very promising.

However, the promise didn’t hold up to the taste. While I certainly did taste pineapple and coconut, to me the carrot and pumpkin flavours won out. They made the whole thing taste starchy and pale, rather than juicy and vibrant like I was expecting. I still have half the packet left, so I’ll need to see how it tastes when brewed with less water. Right now, though, this tea was a bit of a letdown.

zentea_sweet_coconut_island_brew

You can buy Sweet Coconut Island fruit tea from Zen Tea here.

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