Teaview: What do you mean you’re not black tea?

Every so often I’ll dive into a cuppa tea without reading into what I’m drinking, and I’ll make some pretty rash assumptions. This happened recently when I was brewing myself a cup of Adagio’s Ooooh Darjeeling. (Did I type all the “O”s?) During my first few brews of Ooooh Darjeeling, I thought to myself “Wow, this is a really nice black tea”. It wasn’t until I read the back of the bag that I realized it was actually oolong tea and not black tea.

A foolish mistake, and yet an easy one to make since Darjeeling tea is usually sold/marketed as black tea. Sometimes I’m such a noob when it comes to tea.

The ingredients? Well…Oolong tea, of course.

The scent of the leaves is delicate to me– slightly sweet and earthy, but I didn’t really taste either of these once brewed. Ooooh Darjeeling is unlike any oolong tea I’ve had. It doesn’t have that earthy aroma like most oolong teas I have tried. Instead, it tasted more like a black tea but not as strong and without much of the astringency (hence why I jumped to the conclusion that this was a black tea). Ooooh Darjeeling had a subtle floral aroma that I found to be delightful. I think there was supposed to be some fruity aromas as well, but I did not pick up on those.

This tea tastes great both unsweetened and sweet. While I haven’t tried it, I think Ooooh Darjeeling would make a nice iced tea if rock sugar were added (or whatever your sweetener of choice is).

Bottom Line, I really enjoyed this tea! It’s not a breakfast brew for me since I prefer bolder tastes in the morning. But, it’s the perfect cup to enjoy while reading books on a sunny afternoon.

On a side note, Adagio notes that this tea is from China; however “Darjeeling” denotes a type of tea from the Darjeeling region in India. Quit playing mind games with me, Adagio!

Teaview: This Tea Actually Made Me Wish for Snow

I received a bunch of different types of tea for Christmas, yet the lonely, sample tea bag of Adagio’s Chestnut Tea was the one that piqued my interest the most. I should preface this by saying I’ve never had a chestnut, so I can’t say “OMG, this totally tastes like chestnuts” or “Wow, Adagio. This tastes nothing like chestnuts”. I also have to say that I was hesitant to try this simply because it said “chestnut” on the front. I typically don’t enjoy nuts (unless it’s a pistachio). And, chestnuts especially seemed to be about as appealing as a store-bought fruitcake at Christmas. But, I was pleasantly surprised by this tea.

The ingredients are simple: black tea, sunflower petals, and chestnut flavor.

One of my favorite things to do before trying out new tea is to breath in the aroma of the tea. It kind of gives me an idea of what I’m getting in to. When I opened the package, I didn’t even have to bring the leaves to my nose to get a good whiff. The aroma was strong, but not in an unappealing way. It was like walking into a kitchen when someone is baking cookies.

I was surprised how little of the black tea I could smell though. All I could notice was the “chestnut” flavoring. This tea had the most buttery and sugary and nutty aroma. These were the things that popped into my head: burnt sugar. Creme Brule. Multi-grain pancakes from Anna’s, a local restaurant. Smothered in butter and warm syrup of course. Notice how none of those say “chestnut”?

Only after I brewed the tea did I really notice the black tea. It was full-bodied, but it wasn’t overpowering. The buttery and nuttiness only showed up as a delightful aftertaste. I drank my tea without sugar or milk. It really doesn’t need it. But, I bet a dash of milk and sugar would turn Adagio’s Chestnut Tea into a nice dessert tea.

Bottom Line, I really enjoyed this tea. It left me feeling cozy and wishing for a snowy afternoon. There was one downfall though. I only received a sample of this type of tea, and I can’t stop thinking of it!

Teaview: It’s like a tropical island in a mug

Upon first sniff, I’m not fond of Teavana’s Frutto Bianco Pearls White Tea.  It smells too similar to Hawaiian Punch– sickly sweet and kind of stinky like over-ripe fruit.  I dislike Hawaiian Punch.  I disliked it as a kid, and I dislike it even more as an adult.  But, if you can get over the smell (or for some reason you actually like Hawaiian Punch) I think you’ll like this tea.  It’s like a tropical island in a mug!

The candied papaya and pineapple are the two flavors that stick out to me, but this blend also includes: creamy coconut chips, kiwi, lemongrass, lemon peels, and hand-rolled white tea pearls (“from paradise” Teavana’s website notes!)

I’ve gone back and forth about trying this with sugar, but ultimately decided it tasted just fine unsweetened.  I love the fruity aftertaste it creates in my mouth.  Sometimes the aftertaste seems sweet, although that could just be my imagination.  Also, I’ve never had this tea in summer when tropical flavors are appropriate.  I’ve only had it in the winter.  It reminds me this world isn’t grey, snowy, and cold all the time– just most of the time (here in Michigan, I mean).

Bottom Line, Frutto Bianco Pearls is like Hawaiian Punch for adults.  And no, I don’t mean spiked with booze.  It’s a pleasant beverage, hot or cold, when I’m not fiending for caffeine.

Teaview: Earl Grey part II

I’m going to admit something that will make me seem uncultured (like that time I admitted to wondering why Thanksgiving was never celebrated in Harry Potter).  I thought Earl Grey tea was named after a man named Earl– Earl Grey.  It’s not!  “Earl” was actually a title used to show ranks of nobility in the United Kingdom.  The Earl Grey blend was named after the 2nd Earl Grey whose first name is actually Charles.  He served as British Prime minister in the 1830s.  Supposedly, the black tea and bergamot oil were blended specifically for him.  That’s the end of my history lesson.  On to more pressing matters– like a review of Teavana’s Earl Grey tea.

I had high hopes for Teavana’s Earl Grey tea.  When the sales lady fanned the delightful scent of black tea and citrus in my direction, I practically began to salivate.  I thought, “This could be it!  This could be the Earl Grey I have been waiting for.”  However, after I returned home and brewed a cuppa, I discovered Teavana’s Earl Grey tea did not live up to my expectations.  That’s not to say the brew was bad.  It’s just the fragrant, citrus scent that wafted in front of my nose was indecipherable in taste.

The one upside to this tea is the price– it’s inexpensive.  I think I spent about six dollars on enough tea to make nearly 60 cups.  When I first began drinking Teavana’s Earl Grey, I thought I’d eventually return to the store to buy more.  If anything, it’s a cheap way to get a caffeine fix.  But, overtime I decided I’d rather continue on my journey to find that Earl Grey that is just right even if it is just a bit pricier.

Bottom Line, would I turn away a cuppa if someone offered it to me?  No.  But, I would rather spend my money on another brand’s blend of Earl Grey.

If you are fond of Earl Grey, is there a brand you prefer?  So far, I’ve only really enjoyed the blend created by Twinnings!

I Know This Site isn’t Called Books & Coffee, but…

First, let me say something about my “hometown” of Jackson, Michigan.  It’s missing somethings, like a job market.  Decent malls too, but mostly a job market.  The industrial part of town is filled with old, dilapidated factories, but if you can look past that, Jackson does have a great community, mom and pop diners that make you wonder why you even bother to cook anymore, beautiful landscape filled with lakes, rivers, countryside, and weeping willows, and Jackson Coffee Company.  

Despite being strapped for cash, people in Jackson love their coffee.  Yea, we know passing up a morning cappuccino at a local coffee shop would be easier on out wallets.  But, what is a life worth when it is filled with only mass-produced, pre-ground, Columbian coffee from the grocery store?  We have a Starbucks, a Bigby’s, three Tim Hortons, a Dunkin Donuts, Bearclaw Coffee, and five other independent coffee shops that I’ve never even heard of, but in this town, Jackson Coffee Company reigns supreme over all.  Seriously!  They’ve won the town’s Best Coffee Shop award every year since 2006, when they first opened their doors to their customers.

Jackson Coffee Company does coffee right.  Fair Trade.  Organic.  LOCALLY ROASTED coffee beans!  I mean, their bean roaster is right by the front door for heaven’s sake.  If you buy their beans online, they ship your beans within 24 hours of roasting.  If you buy in store, you never buy anything that is more than a few days old.  That’s because coffee beans start going stale hours after they’ve been roasted, and in two weeks, your specialty coffee starts tasting like the generic coffee you could have bought at the grocery store.  And who wants that?  Blech!  None of their coffee sits around pre-grounded either.  Usually, I snag a bag, and ground coffee up as I go at home.  But, if you don’t have a coffee grinder, they will grind it up for you at the shop.

I know this site isn’t called Books & Coffee, but I’ve gotta showcase one of Jackson’s many gems.  And I know I just wrote a piece about a tea that would convert coffee addicts into tea drinkers.  But, well, I just discovered a coffee that would convert ex-coffee drinkers back into coffee addicts!

Normally, I buy dark roasted coffee with bold flavors– Columbian, French Roast, Sumatran.  In fact, I’d just finished up my bag of Sumatra beans– great cuppa joe, terrible espresso.  With dark roasted coffees, it’s the flavor that wakes me up before the caffeine has had time to take effect.  But, during my most recent trip to Jackson Coffee Company, I decided to go a different route.  I went with a medium roasted, Organic Mexican bean.

The flavor did not overwhelm my taste buds like the dark roasts usually do, and the body of the coffee is relatively light (a light body can be compared to the feeling of skim milk, and a full body can be compared to the feeling of whole milk).  This makes the Organic Mexican coffee a perfect cup of coffee to accompany a light breakfast or a mid-morning snack.  Or lunch.  Or dinner.  This blend is also versatile; it makes a perfect cuppa joe as well as a perfect spot of espresso!

Bottom Line: Honestly, I could drink this stuff all day and not get sick of it.  I bought the coffee on Friday.  As I type of this post, it’s a Tuesday.  We only have enough coffee beans for one more pot of coffee, and I’m about use them up.  It’s that good.

And now, I leave you with some wise words from the incredibly awesome Twin Peaks tv show (ever watched it?):

Do you have a favorite coffee shop in your town? Do you have a default roast that you always turn to? Tell me about it =]

Teaview: The Best Part of Waking Up is Maté in My Cup

 Let me tell you about Teavana’s My Morning Maté.  It’s no coincidence that it sounds similar to another morning favorite–the latté!  Well, actually, it is probably a coincidence.  And, I think the accent over the “E” is an American thing so we don’t confuse it with the word “mate”.  I think “maté” in Spanish has something to do with killing, but I digress.

My Morning Maté is the perfect cuppa’ tea to help coffee drinkers curb their addiction.  It has three different xanthine alkaloids– that’s the family caffeine belongs to, so it has the power to wake someone up.  However, unlike coffee, this tea affects muscle tissue as opposed to the central nervous system.  That means, I can drink three cups of Maté and not start shaking as though I’d just consumed only two cups of Coffee Americano brewed in Spain…(true story, that stuff is strong).

My Morning Maté tastes less like the traditional cup of tea and more like…well, coffee, without the bitterness!  The blend contains Mate tea, Rooibos tea, black tea, cocoa kernels, carob bits, chocolate chips, orange peels, almonds, cactus blossoms, coriander, pistachio nuts, cracknel bits, red pepper, cornflowers, safflowers, and sunflower petals.  Are you drooling yet?

It has a nutty flavor, and initially this made me nervous.  I don’t actually like nuts, but they weren’t overwhelming in this cuppa.  I’d say they were actually pleasant.  And the addition of chocolate is not lost on my taste buds.  I’d like to play around with this tea, which is not something I often do.  When it comes to both tea and coffee, I refuse to add milk or sugar.  But, I think a dribble of honey or some rock sugar would make this tea even better.

Bottom Line:  Gimmie!  Gimmie!  Gimmie!  This stuff is great.  I could easily see coffee drinkers dropping one addiction and replacing it with another.  My next favorite thing to do with this tea besides drinking it is letting my nose hover above the mug so I can better appreciate the delicious aroma.

Teaview: I Love Oolong Time.

I would like to take this time to apologize to Oolong tea.  I’m sorry I said you tasted like a mix of grass, moss, wet tree bark, and mud.  I was wrong.  Really wrong.  But, can you really blame me when the only Oolong tea I had the misfortune to taste was from a tea bag?  But you, Six Summits Oolong from Teavana, have opened my eyes.

If any of you, dear readers, have ever felt the same about Oolong tea– that it tasted like a mouth full of wet earth, then I suggest to you, try Teavana’s Six Summits Oolong tea.  It will change your mind about Oolong.  Six Summits Oolong is a combination of Oolong tea and dried raspberries (why are there strawberries in this picture?).

The scent of the dried tea is pleasant.  Actually, the way I’m about to describe it is kind of odd.  But, believe me, pleasant none-the-less.  It smells like a combination of dried catnip and red fruit roll-ups, folks.  It’s earthy, but the raspberries lend a certain sweetness to the scent.

The Oolong flavor was good.  I think my taste buds appreciated the quality of this Oolong tea more than the bagged tea that I had tried a few years prior.  Initially, I couldn’t taste the raspberries, they did create a pleasant aftertaste though–sweet and slightly tart, just like a raspberry should taste!

Bottom Line:  I received this as a Christmas present from my father.  Of all the teas he gave to me, this was the one I was most hesitant to try, so naturally I tried it first.  I’m glad I did!  Would I purchase this tea in the future?  Yea, probably.  But, more importantly, it opened my eyes that Oolong could actually taste good.  Better than good!  I’m more inclined to try out other Oolong teas in the future.

Another thing I feel is noteworthy is Teavana certainly does not cheat you out of red raspberries.  They were plentiful!  And I’m not talking raspberry crumbles either.  I’m talking whole. big. red raspberries.  And, I may or may not have popped one or two into my mouth before steeping…

Image from Teavana