Teaview: Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong (not quite #PSL)

Tea aficionados like to turn their noses up at tea from Teavana. And, understandably so. Teavana is notorious for masking otherwise decent tea with sweeteners and artificial flavors and other fruity/nutty/chocolaty additives. I am not a tea aficionado however, and I’ll admit, I’m distracted by flashy packaging, tempting names, and did somebody say chocolate?! But, even my experience with tea from Teavana is hit and miss. If you recall from my last weekend review, I splurged and purchased some Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong tea, and since today was a chilly 48 degrees when I woke up, I decided today would be a perfect day to try out this Autumn-inspired tea.

Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong Tea

Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong Tea

Teavana’s Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong tea has cinnamon, white chocolate pieces, dried pumpkin chunks, chocolate flakes, carob pieces, oolong tea, artificial flavoring, ginger, chicory root, pumpkin seeds, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and coconut blossom sugar. All of this sounds divine, but I was disappointed that oolong tea was number six on the list; it’s not really a priority. I blame myself for not reading the ingredients when I so hungrily added this tea to my cart.

Purple Angle Infuser Mug

Purple Angle Infuser Mug

I’m pretty awful at making tea according to directions, which I know is really, really important. I’m unsure of the temperature of water, but I did only steep for about three minutes. In my handy infuser mug! I like this mug because I can rest the infuser right along the edge of the mug, and the lid, which traps in steam and heat, also doubles as a small plate to rest the infuser on after steeping. Because, I will admit I am definitely a lazy sod, and I do not like walking to the sink after steeping. I’m not a fan of the size though. Bigger isn’t always better. It holds about 12 oz., but I usually only brew between 6-8oz.

The scent of the tea is inviting and cozy– cinnamon and chocolate seem the most predominant. But that’s all the positive things I can say about this tea. I did not care for the Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong tea. It’s sad because I did not taste the oolong tea at all. This isn’t one of those instances where all the additives mask the flavor of the tea, the tea just wasn’t there. I struggled to find the tea leaves amongst all the pumpkin pieces and chocolate chunks.

Teavana did succeed in making this tea taste like pumpkin, though sadly not like a comforting slice of pumpkin pie. You know how pumpkins smell when you are carving them into jack-o-lanterns? That’s the kind of aroma or flavor this tea had. It was…vegetal(?) and sour. I also wasn’t a fan of the sweetness of the Pumpkin Spice Brulee. I rarely add sugar or honey to my tea, so the sweetness of the coconut blossom sugar was really overpowering to me.

Overall, I wasn’t impressed, and at $13 for 2 oz. of “tea”, I won’t be buying any more. I’m not sure it’s entirely Teavana’s fault though. I’ve tried pumpkin spice teas in the past, and I wasn’t impressed then either. To get my fix of Autumn, I guess I’ll be sticking to pumpkin spice lattes.

If you’ve tried Teavana’s Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong tea, what did you think of it? Or, do you have a favorite Autumn-inspired drink?

Teaview: I’m not nuts about Almond Tea

Almond Tea by Adagio

Almond Tea by Adagio

On occasion, I get a hankering for the flavor of amaretto or raw almonds. I blame it on my sister-in-law, who fixed me my first amaretto sour, when I went to visit she and my brother in the very flat lands of North Dakota (to this day, one of my favorite vacations…EVER). I’ve been obsessed with the flavor ever since; gobbling down raw almonds is a luxury I rarely afford myself, but I do appreciate adding amaretto-flavored creamer to my weekend coffee. Naturally my interest was piqued when I discovered Adagio sold an Almond Black Tea. Finally! An opportunity to marry two of my foodie obsessions.

But, this is where the excitement ends with Adagio’s Almond Tea.

My experience with Adagio teas that have artificial flavoring has been positive. I could practically bury my face in a pouch of Adagio’s Chestnut tea, remember? The same could not be said for the Almond Black tea. First sniff was alright, and I definitely smelled the sweet, raw almond scent I hoped for. But, with each intake of breath after, it got worse. After a while, the Almond Tea started to have the bitter or sour scent of chemicals, which was obviously unpleasant. It was so off-putting that I almost ditched the bag because I was certain this would affect the taste.

Flavor-wise, the Almond Tea wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. When sipped at a temperature slightly less than piping hot, all I picked up was the flavor of the black tea. Not until the tea cooled down did the almond flavor seem to stand out. Then, instead of tasting the sweet, cherry-like flavor of raw almonds, I tasted the nutty flavor of roasted almonds– a flavor I can tolerate, but ultimately don’t enjoy.

Bottom Line, I’m a big fan of Adagio tea (and their prices), but I did not enjoy their Almond tea. Honestly, the tea did not taste bad; if you’re a fan of roasted almonds, then you may enjoy this tea. However, I don’t like that flavor and don’t really want to sip on a tea with a flavor I consider merely “tolerable”. I’ll probably put off drinking the rest of the Almond Tea until I’m desperate for a caffeine fix. Luckily, I only purchased their sample (makes ten cups) for a whopping $2.

Tardis Tea Pot de Creme without Fish Fingers

Earl Grey Pot de Creme

Earl Grey (Tardis Tea) Pot de Creme with a Honey Lace Cookie

I do not do a lot of cooking. My foray into savory dishes involves boiled pasta, canned sauces, and a side of microwavable vegetables. I don’t even bother with meat because it ends up either dry and crumbly or oddly, still raw. But as it turns out, I’m not too shabby at baking. But, even my baking skills stop at cookies. Albiet very, very delicious cookies. This Thanksgiving, I was a little daring in the kitchen, which is how I concocted the Earl Grey Pot de Creme with a Honey Lace Cookie pictured above. Doesn’t it look fancy?

I can’t take the credit for this one because I am not a foodie and I am not a cook. I followed this Martha Stewart recipe. I did make one alteration to the recipe, which is the choice of tea.

Tardis Tea by  Aun-Juli Riddle and Adagio Teas

Tardis Tea by Aun-Juli Riddle and Adagio Teas

Tardis Tea, which you can purchase at Adagio Teas, lends itself to a wonderful and unique cup of Earl Grey tea. The caramel and vanilla creme (not mentioned in the picture) balances out the boldness of the black tea and extra kick of bergamot oil. One word of advice, only brew this one for three or four minutes max; anything longer and you run the risk of sipping on a bitter cup of tea.

But, back to the pot de creme because I still can’t stop thinking about it.

I was nervous about making it because 1. it was my Thanksgiving dessert and 2. I’ve never baked anything like it. However, the recipe was simple and surprisingly easy to execute. The outcome was divine.

I’ve never had “pot de creme”, so I’m not sure if my dessert turned out correctly. I was expecting a custard, something with the consistency of creme brule. That’s not was turned out, and I’m not complaining. The texture was a hybrid– rich and jiggly, like custard but also fluffy and airy, like mousse. The recipe mentions this dessert is “subtly infused”, which may have been the case if I just used straight, Earl Grey tea. Tardis Tea is a very flavorful tea however. The tea flavor would have been very prominent if it weren’t for the caramel and vanilla undertones. The steeping method may have also played a part; instead of steeping in water (which would be absurd), the leaves steeped in a bath of whole milk and heavy cream. The end result was unmistakably tea, but the creaminess mellowed the flavor. (WordPress is telling me I spelled “creaminess” incorrectly and is suggesting the word “dreaminess” instead, which is kind of the same thing in this case).

The honey lace cookie was an afterthought. I wasn’t going to make them until I realized the recipe called for 4 ingredients and took less than 10 minutes to make, baking included. The honey lace cookie makes me think of the burnt sugar atop of creme brule, with a hint of honey. They were delicious, their crunch added a bit of excitement to the dessert, and they look fancy.

Baking a custard sounds challenging, but I assure you this recipe is simple. It’s also inexpensive to make since people will have most, if not all, of the ingredients in their cupboards and fridge. And the outcome is absolutely rewarding. Trust me when I say, this dessert needs to be in your life.

Threeview Teaview

Year of Stash Tea SamplerI like to pride myself on being a savvy shopper. So when I received a $10 birthday coupon from Stash Tea in my inbox back in December, I couldn’t resist purchasing myself some tea. Ignoring the fact that I have a July birthday, I ended up snagging four different samplers (60 tea bags) for $11.40. That price includes shipping and handling, too. If you break it down to price per cup it’s a whopping .19 cents!

I didn’t actually purchase the sampler in the picture to the left. Even though 520 tea bags was tempting, I couldn’t justify spending close to $70 on myself a week before Christmas. I did however purchase the Decaf Sampler (10 bags), the Black Tea Sampler (30 bags), the Green Tea Sampler (10 bags), and the Herbal Tea Sampler (10 bags). Naturally, I’ve already done significant damage to the Black Tea Sampler on account of I’m a caffeine fiend; I’ve already drank half of my Earl Grey and half of my Irish Breakfast tea. They’re decent, but my quest for the best Earl Grey continues. I’ve been a little more patient and selective with the other samplers though. I usually have to do a grueling “Eenie Meenie Miney Moe” process before I can decide on a flavor to try. So far, I’ve only tried three, which I’ve reviewed below:

Cinnimon Apple Chamomile by Stash Tea

Stash Tea’s Cinnamon Apple Chamomile herbal tea was the first tea I tried from my stash (har har, see what I did there?). When I first started brewing this tea, it filled up the room with the most delicious apple cinnamon aroma. It reminded of the apple cinnamon oatmeal I used to eat in the mornings before going to school, so it was particularly comforting. The ingredients include: cinnamon, hibiscus, chamomile, and natural apple flavor, which all seem pretty tempting, but I thought the tea was pretty bland. I didn’t pick up the apple flavor, and I missed the spice of the cinnamon. I’ve never tried chamomile tea, so I can’t honestly say whether or not that flavor came through or not.  (Random fact: I feel like a fraud and unworthy of being called a tea drinker because I’ve NEVER had chamomile tea before).

Stash Tea Pumpkin Spice

I regret to say that I have similar things to say about Stash Tea’s Pumpkin Spice decaf tea as well. The aroma of this one was a little weird; half the time it smelled like Autumn in a cup, and half the time it had this strange old, alcohol scent that reminded me vaguely of my college days… Regardless, I’m glad I didn’t sip this during Autumn when I craved all things pumpkin flavored; it may have turned me off to pumpkin spiced tea forever. The ingredients include: naturally decaffeinated black tea, cinnamon, ginger root, clove, natural pumpkin flavor, natural nutmeg flavors. Even though black tea is the first ingredient, I didn’t catch the black tea flavor at all. Pumpkin Spice wasn’t completely bland though. It did live up to the second half of its name– Spice. This was a spicy, something-flavored beverage that left the most peculiar sensation on my tongue. I have no words for it (the sensation), really.

Stash Tea Goji Berry Green TeaI’m trying to implement a new morning routine– one that has me enjoying a nice caffeinated cup of tea in mornings before work so I’m not a complete zombie when I walk through the front doors. And when I say “new”, I mean I just decided to incorporate this into my routine this morning. Goji Berry Green Tea was the winner this morning. I started brewing before I bothered reading the ingredients because…well, do you really expect me to be coherent at 6:45? Next thing I know, I’m staring at a mug filled with fuchsia colored liquid, and I’m kind of panicking because I know I don’t want anything fuchsia colored before Noon. Then I read the ingredients: green tea, hibiscus, organic rooibos, rosehips, goji flavor, raspberry leaf, strawberry flavor, matcha, licorice powder, citric acid, and I was prepared to hate it. Color me surprised though, Stash Tea’s Goji Berry Green Tea was actually pretty great. For me, the predominant flavor was strawberry…well, “strawberry”. It tasted similar to strawberry hard candy. There was also a nice sweet aftertaste. I caught it right on the back of the tongue, so it wasn’t overpowering. I wonder if it had anything to do with the licorice powder…

Bottom line, I was disappointed by the Cinnamon Apple Chamomile tea and the Pumpkin Spice tea, but the interesting flavor combination of the Goji Berry Green Tea had me craving more. Lots more. Seriously, I can’t stop thinking about it. Goji Berry Green Tea, you vile temptress.

You probably won’t find these teas in Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop

I discovered Adagio Tea allows you to create your own signature blend of tea. You can select one of their popular formulas as a template and edit the types of tea, or you can create your own special formula from scratch. You can further personalize the tea by naming it and adding your own original artwork to the packaging. You also have the option of keeping your specialty blend to yourself, or you can share it with the rest of the Adagio community. It’s not badly priced– about $10 for a 3 oz. bag of loose leaf tea.

There are a lot of really creative ideas like Sci-Fi Chai, an entire collection dedicated to the Zodiac, and a handful of teas based on popular books and teevee shows. Now if you’re familiar with Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop, then you probably already know where I’m going with this.

There is an entire collection of teas based off of the Harry Potter books! *squeals in delight*

 


Harry Potter Tea was created by Cara McGee and is a blend of Masala Chai, pumpkin spice, and caramel. Cara described this blend:

Treacle tarts, Pumpkin Juice and deep, warming spice. Boyish, yet brave, resourceful, and powerful.

 

The Luna Lovegood may not include dirigible plums (thank goodness), but it is a unique blend of Earl Grey Lavender, Rooibos Jasmine, and guanabana. Cara describes it:

The sweetest, softest, warmest tea imaginable, with a wild, surprising finish.

 

Neville Longbottom’s blend includes Irish Breakfast tea, Rooibos Vanilla Chai, and peach. This is surely a blend that characterizes Neville to a T(ea). Cara describes it:

Sweet, a bit befuddled, but all together warm and reassuring. A tea stronger than you’d expect, and endlessly comforting.

There are also blends for Remus Lupin, Hermione Granger, Severus Snape, Sirius Black, James Potter, Ron Weasley, Draco Malfoy, Cedric Diggory, and Peter Pettigrew.

Teaview: It’s Not Easy Being Green

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, and I would appreciate it if you didn’t judge me so harshly… Okay, here it goes.

I don’t really like green tea.

Wait! Wait! Maybe I should clarify this. When I say “I don’t like green tea”, I don’t mean “I think green tea tastes gross”. Because it doesn’t. It’s refreshing and…grassy. And it makes me think of Spring time. What I really mean is, I have a hard time appreciating green tea. I have a hard time telling one green tea from the next because all green tea tastes the same to me. It’s like I’m incapable of picking up on all of the delicate aromas present in the different varieties of green tea. Maybe my taste buds are dull. Maybe it’s the hard water I have the misfortune of using. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the tea tasting experience. Whatever the reason, while I may enjoy a cup of green tea here and there, I rarely write about the green tea drinking experience here at Books & Tea. But, I’m going to make an exception for this post. I’m actually going to write about two green teas I had the pleasure to try recently. BEHOLD!

Organic Gen Mai Cha Green Tea from Two Leaves and a Bud

Ingredients: Green tea and roasted rice

This tea surprised me. Mostly because I’d never heard of Gen Mai Cha, so I was blown away when I found little, roasted rice nestled amongst green tea leaves. I had to do a little research on Gen Mai Cha because I couldn’t figure out why someone would want to brew roasted rice. According to good ol’ Wikipedia, Gen Mai Cha was drunk by poor Japanese people back in the day. The roasted rice was a filler to cut down on the cost of the tea.

I was skeptical of the tea because the scent reminded me of Honey Smack cereal (minus most of the sweetness), and I was never too fond of Honey Smacks. This tea grew on me as is cooled down. When the tea was still hot, all I tasted was the puffed rice, and I couldn’t help but feel like I was drinking watery porridge. This isn’t necessarily bad because I like porridge, but I would have been disappointed if that’s all it was. When the tea cooled down to a luke-warm temperature, the aroma of the green tea finally surfaced, and the flavors seemed to marry. The aroma of the roasted rice mellowed and became nice and nutty, which tasted good with the fresh and light sweetness from the green tea.

I drank this tea at work, which ended up being a great idea. I quit my job at Sears, and now I work as a receptionist at a bank. It’s a high call environment, so the phones seem to never stop ringing. Considering I’m not a phone person to begin with, I tend to get really irritable by the end of the day. Two Leaves and a Bud’s Organic Gen Mai Cha calmed my nerves. I found it to be a very comforting tea largely because of the nutty, porridge-like roasted rice. Maybe it’s a little strange, but I kept thinking about the breakfasts I used to eat before school when I was a young lass.

Bottom Line, Two Leaves and Bud’s Organic Gen Mai Cha is a win. Even though I’m still trying to wrap my head around puffed rice in tea, the flavors in this tea just worked, and they only got better with each sip I took.

 

Tropical Goji Green Tea from Two Leaves and a Bud

Ingredients: Green tea (Sencha), natural flavoring (whatever that means!), and some other stuff

First, I have to say that I didn’t list all the ingredients, and I apologize for that. There were more ingredients in Two Leaves and a Bud’s Tropical Goji Green Tea, but they’re not all listed on the Two Leaves and a Bud site. I don’t really know why. If I recall correctly, there was dried mango bits too.

Anyway, the scent of this tea was so scrummy. It was sweet and fruity, and I was excited to get brewing right away. And let me tell you, the taste of Tropical Goji Green was just as delicious as its smell. “Flavoring” can be a little tricky because it can overpower the tea, but in this tea it was a nice balance. The flavoring was fruity and slightly tangy, and this paired nicely with the fresh, grassy, and light sweetness of the green tea. I decided to go back for seconds and steeped the bag for a second time. The aromas mellowed a bit, but it was still good the second time around.

Bottom line, this tea was pretty darn tasty. I need more of this stuff because I’m thinking it would make a delicious iced tea. Think of how great it would be to enjoy this outside on a warm day while reading a good book. Fruity and refreshing, I’m sure!

 

Teaview: A fiasco well worth it

First, a huge thank you to Sara @ Tea Happiness for hosting the Two Leaves and a Bud giveaway! I ended up winning the 18 sachet sampler. So you, B&T readers, can expect a handful of teaviews coming your way. Second, this post is actually less about the tea review and more about my experience with this tea.

I discovered my love for peppermint tea during my last semester at college. Every time I drank it, I felt calm and collected and suddenly inspired to write stories. Each time I brewed myself a cup of peppermint tea, I plopped down in front of my typewriter in front of my bedroom window and click-clacked away. But once I finished up my box of peppermint tea, I failed to buy myself more. Since then, I’ve moved on to a point in my life where caffeine content is the highest priority when it comes to purchasing beverages. As you may imagine, I was excited when I found a satchel of peppermint tea in my Two Leaves and Bud sampler.

The peppermint tea was the second tea I tried (the first being Earl Grey, which I ended up accidentally over-steeping that morning before work, so I won’t even go there). My attempts to prepare my peppermint tea ended up being a huge fiasco.

The Two Leaves and a Bud tea bags are really thin and delicate. For the most part, that’s good. The tea bags are environmentally friendly, and you don’t have to worry about the tea bags altering the flavor of your tea like you do with the paper tea bags. But, that’s also a bad thing for a klutz like me, because I ended up ripping the tea bag. I didn’t even notice until I had spilled half the bag’s contents on the counter and floor.

That’s fine, I thought. I can improvise! So, I snagged my mesh tea strainer (that I yoinked from my teapot), and I dumped the tea into that. Unfortunately, my mug was too big for the tea strainer, so I had to hold on to it while I poured in hot water and while the tea brewed. Can you see where this is going? I burned myself on almost boiling water, and I ended up dropping my strainer into my mug sending the loose tea leaves afloat in my beverage. Bah humbug!

I foolishly fished out the tea strainer with my fingers, and then I attempted to meticulously spoon out the loose leaves. I got most of the leaves out before giving up. I decided to drink the tea– leaves and all.

Now, here is where the story takes a turn for the better. My first few sips of Two Leaves and a Bud peppermint tea reminded me how much I love peppermint tea. The frustration as a result of my failed attempts at brewing bagged tea (bagged tea, folks!) just…melted away. Gone. Out the screened, back door. And then, I sat down and wrote for two hours. It felt so good to take pen to paper again.

The ingredients of Two Leaves and a Bud Peppermint tea: organic peppermint, of course!

Now, the actual review for this tea will be kind of really brief because what can I really say about peppermint tea? It tastes like peppermint! But, in all honesty, it was a really nice mug of peppermint. The mint wasn’t overwhelming. It was crisp. clean. cool.

Bottom Line, a nice cup of tea to help clear the mind! And, this was a good tea to infuse multiple times.

Any fellow fans of peppermint tea out there? Do you have a preferred brand? Tell me in the comments!