Thursday, December 28, 2017

Tea tasting: Tea Forte's Raspberry Ganache

I got a package of Tea Forte single steep packets for Christmas from +Joseph O'Malley and +Michelle O'Malley .  Today being horridly cold and awful, I decided to crack them open and try the Raspberry Ganache.

It's billed as raspberry and chocolate and it combines both flavors quite nicely.  It's neither overly fruity nor overly sweet.  The chocolate notes are dark chocolate, which blends wonderfully with the dark flavors of the tea.  All in all, it manages to taste like a good chocolate raspberry liqueur  (and not like those awful chocolate cherry cordials that find their way into holiday chocolate boxes) was added to a rich, black tea.   I highly approve.   It would be the perfect after dinner/dessert tea if not for the fact that it contains caffeine.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tea Tasting: Celestial Seasonings' Sangria Zinger

I am always a little leery of Celestial Seasonings' "Zinger" teas.  The "Zing" in the "Zinger" is hibiscus, which needs to be wielded very carefully lest it overwhelm all of the other flavors.  I picked up the Sangria Zinger because it was on sale and because, with two of the three of us in the house having colds, we're going through tea like, well, water.  :-)

Imagine my surprise when this tisane brewed up as some of the best decaf iced tea I've had recently.  I used 8 tea bags to 2 quarts of water and steeped for about a half hour.  The resulting brew is fresh, fruity and yes, zingy.  In addition to hibiscus, the tisane contains blood orange, pineapple and other citrus flavors.  The blood orange is strongest without wiping out the other tones.  It doesn't quite have the depth of a red sangria, but it's very close. 

I can't imagine putting sugar or other sweetener into this iced tea.  The flavors are bold and zesty enough without any bitterness.   Enjoy it for the brew itself.

Friday, December 8, 2017

O Christmas Tea, O Christmas Tea

Every year the big tea companies put out holiday-themed teas and every year I buy them and drink them, with varying results.  Here's a round-up of this year's blends so far.

(1)  Twinings' Holiday Berry:  You'd think a venerable tea company like Twinings could get a holiday tea right.  And you'd be wrong.   It's not that this is a bad tea.  It's just utterly mediocre.  There's nothing particularly holiday about it, either.   It's an adequate berry tea with very little sweetness.  It needs to be brewed very strong (I recommend 2 tea bags per large cup) to get what I consider a proper flavor.  On the other hand, when brewed strong for icing, it makes a very nice iced tea.

(2)  Republic of Tea Sip and Be Merry:  I got a free sample of this tea in my Republic of Tea catalog (so check your catalogs!!).  For some reason the Republic of Tea website is telling me this tea won't be available again until Sept. 2018, but it's definitely available on Amazon.  It's black tea with vanilla, caramel and cardamom.  The vanilla and caramel are the up front flavors, with the cardamom coming out in the aftertaste.   It doesn't really work for me, but I think it would be splendid with milk (if you like that sort of thing -- I don't).  There's a weird creamy backtaste that doesn't sit right with me.  I'd rather the tang of the black tea as a finish.

(3)  Harney & Sons' Holiday Tea:  The winner and still champion of holiday teas for me.  It combines black tea, cloves, orange, vanilla, almond and three types of cinnamon.  The aroma is everything Christmas.  It's a deep, satisfying drink, wonderfully warm.  I can't imagine icing this tea.  Honey adds an extra layer to the orange and vanilla tones.  Dipping gingerbread cookies into this tea is sheer perfection.

(4)  Celestial Seasonings' Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland:  This tea works miracles because it makes rooibos palatable to me.  More than palatable, actually.  I find myself really really liking this tea.  The cranberry is full-bodied and fruity, with an overlay of vanilla to take out the worst of the tartness.  Admittedly, I really like cranberry juice (it was one of the few things that still had flavor while I was undergoing chemo).   It's a nice decaf that isn't too sweet while having a lot of flavor.  Supposedly there is cinnamon in it, but I don't quite taste it as a discrete element.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Bottled Iced Tea: Two new flavors from Teavana

Teavana has two new bottled black iced teas out.  One is a hit and one is a miss.

The hit is their Mango Black Tea, currently available through Starbucks.  It is only slightly sweet, with a hint of lime in addition to the mango flavoring.  It is sweetened with fruit and real sugar, not HCF or something artificial, which means that the sweetness is actually palatable.  Sweetening bottled tea is a difficult balance -- this one manages to strike it nicely.  It's not too sweet; in fact it is less sweet than most commercial brands.  Yet, at the same time, it manages to be sweet enough to evoke both mango and lime flavors without tasting artificial or chemical.  In short, "wow, this is pretty good."

The miss (for me) is the unsweetened Black Tea with Meyer Lemon and Lemongrass. It's not bad as such.  It's just . . . off.  There are a lot of flavors here fighting for dominance and the clash does not produce anything good.  There's a fruity quality but also an almost sour note.  I'd send this one back for flavor re-balancing.  If the tea flavor were more clearly dominant, I think the other flavors would fall in line more cleanly.  More than most of my reviews, this one is very much based on my own idiosyncratic tastes.  I'd like someone who really likes the flavor of lemongrass to try it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Alys's Tea Party Blend: Rhymes with Orange

Rhymes with Orange is one of my specialty Adagio blends.  I set out to make a fruity but not too sweet decaf tea for icing in the summer.  I didn't quite get around to tasting it in the summer, but such is life.

I accomplished what I was looking for -- it's fruity and flavorable, and can be brewed strong enough to ice without becoming bitter.  It's not an overly sweet orange.  But it is also not a tepid limp orange (Lipton "Gentle Orange" I'm looking at you) and it avoids being too tart or sharp.  It reminds me a lot of the orange/tangerine sauces I get with Chinese food.  It seems to be a fairly popular blend, so I guess other people like fruit that is not overly sweet or tart. 

This tea is also a wonderful base for experimentation.  I think this would blend nicely with some alcohols, and also with non-alcoholic ciders.  I may experiment with adding mulling spices.  I'm defintely going to try blending this tea with one of my chocolate teas and see if it produces a good result.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tea Tasting: Twinings' Buttermint

Twinings has a new herbal tea out called Buttermint.  It's a combination of vanilla and peppermint (no butter).

The aroma is great, minty and smooth like buttermint candies, with a slight hint of sweetness.  The brew itself is not sweet.  It's predominantly peppermint with the vanilla flavor creeping up in the aftertaste.  It's a wonderful comfort brew (I've got a cold coming on, and it's perfect!).   I'm going to try it with honey and maybe some lavender sugar later tonight.

The natural comparison is to my own specialty tea, Marion's Vanilla Mint.  The minty quality in Marion's Vanilla Mint is richer and more complex than in Buttermint, because I used both peppermint and spearmint in the blend.  However, Twinings does a better job integrating the vanilla.

Now that I've got both a box of Buttermint and a half a bag of Marion's Vanilla Mint in the house, I really need to buy some vanilla honey.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Alys's Tea Party Blend: Marion's Vanilla Mint

I finally got around to opening my package of Marion's Vanilla Mint Blend now that the weather has retreated to less oppressive temperatures.  Although the blend didn't come out precisely as I intended, it's very good even so.

The aroma and the taste are both intensely minty.  The combination of peppermint and spearmint creates a rich, full-bodied taste.  Unfortunately, that taste completely overwhelms the vanilla elements.  At most, the vanilla serves as a mellowing element in the aftertaste.

However, I have some lovely vanilla sugar, which brought the vanilla elements to the fore when added.  I expect that a vanilla honey would be equally nice in a hot version of this tea.

This blend ices up spectacularly well.