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Tag: iced tea

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.

Tea Reviews: Lemon Verbena, Lemon Meringue, and Pink Dragonfruit from Tealish

About Tealish

tealish_teas_groupTealish is an independent tea blender and retailer in Toronto. Their store is close to Trinity Bellwoods Park — waaay far west of where I live — so when I was nearby a few weeks ago for an event, it was the perfect opportunity to stop by their shop in person.

I ended up purchasing three teas of theirs to try, all of which were caffeine-free. Tealish doesn’t offer sample sizes, unfortunately — their minimum for purchases is 50 grams. But honestly, considering how pretty their store is and how I also snagged a free gourmet popsicle when I was there because their freezer was temporarily busted, I’m not too put out.

You can order all of Tealish’s teas online at www.tealish.com (but remember that they don’t do samples).

Lemon Verbena

For many years we’ve been in love with the intoxicating fresh lemon scent and flavor of lemon verbena. The aroma is entirely unique and is best described as a clean, bright, and zesty lemon. One whiff and we were hooked! Lemon Verbena is also commonly known as Vervain in Europe where the herbal tea (tisane) is very popular.

Lemon verbena is one of those herbal teas that I’ve really been curious about, so I leapt on the opportunity to try some. However, look and smell of the leaves was very different from what I expected. I was anticipating something soft and lemony, similar to lemongrass or lemon myrtle, but the leaves look and smell like regular cooking herbs.

Tealish_lemon_verbena

Tealish’s lemon verbena leaves remind me of thyme and sage in particular — they’re small, broken-up, and a soft forest green colour. There is a slight hint of lemon at the back of my nose when I sniff the dry leaf, but it’s very faint.

I brewed 2 tsp of dry leaf in a giant 2-cup mug using 95°C water for 5-10 minutes. The resulting brew was a deep greenish orange yellow that reminded me of many other herbal teas. The brewed tea smelled somewhat sweet; almost like tulsi (holy basil) but not quite. The taste was similarly herbal and mild with overtones of thyme and sage.

I’m surprised by how soothing this tea is — it’s a great caffeine-free option for the evenings, and I bet it would be perfect for when you’ve got a cold. Considering the cooking-herb flavour of this lemon verbena, I’m also curious to see what it would be like added to a marinade or to a roast.

Lemon Meringue Rooibos

A colourful blend of green and red rooibos with a smooth lemon taste reminiscent of freshly baked lemon meringue pie. With a delicious zesty lemon flavour and a perfect creamy finish, this red tea infusion is a sweet and healthy treat!

This tea is a bit of a cheat for me since I’ve had it before; I received it in one of my very first Steepster swaps. However, that was nearly a year and a half ago, and the tea I got was old and starting to lose its lustre.

The new tea that I got from Tealish? Wow. It pops. The smell when I open the bag of lemon meringue rooibos has the sort of lemony zing I was expecting the lemon verbena to have. Underneath the blast of lemon is a sweet, creamy note that I’m pretty sure is the meringue flavouring.

Tealish_lemon_meringue

I brewed a teapot of this to share with my mom — an achievement in and of itself, since when she wants tea, she normally asks for just plain old “orange pokey”. I poured out a big mug for me and a medium mug for her. Looking at the wet leaves, I see bits of citrus peel and what looks like calendula petals mixed in with the rooibos.

The taste of the tea is muted compared to the smell of the dry leaf. It’s lemony and kind of sharp, but it’s not overpowering. I think the creaminess of the meringue/vanilla flavour is in there, but that flavour is shy, flitting in and out of the curtains, so to speak. I particularly like that the base is green rooibos, since red rooibos can taste too much of wood if you’re not careful.

Pink Dragonfruit

Pink is the universal colour of love, and it’s true, we are totally in love with this combination of exotic dragonfruit, goji berries, chokeberries, elderberries, cranberries and papaya. It’s full of sweet berry goodness and delicious hot or iced! Add some fresh berries to your infusion for an extra pink pop!

The dry leaf for this tea is very chunky — you can see dried bits of dragonfruit, berries and papaya. Although I smell elderberry most strongly, I also smell the dragonfruit (mainly at the back of my nose and the roof of my mouth) and also hints of citrus. Very nice!

I’m going to admit that I made this tea twice for this review. I used half of the 50g packet to make a pitcher using 4 cups of hot water topped up with 4 cups of cold water, added some agave nectar, and left it to sit in the fridge overnight. However, this pitcher was too weak and watery in flavour.

I then brewed the remaining stuff left in the packet with 3 cups of hot water and added 3 cups of cold —  but the resulting iced tea was still too weak and watery. It was a bit sweeter, but not by much.

Tealish_pink_dragonfruit_iced

Despite the weak flavour, I still do taste and smell fruit but it’s fairly indistinct. The tea is a pale peachy-pink, but ultimately, the nice colour wasn’t enough to wow me. You’re better off just dumping all 50g into a single pitcher and letting things work from there.

Verdict

The Pink Dragonfruit tea was a disappointment, but the other two were better. The lemon meringue tea, in particular, is one that I’ll be very happy to keep in my cupboard. The lemon verbena is a soothing one that I can see being good as a sleep aid in the evenings.

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