Formosa Fancy Bai Hao from Masters Teas

Origin: Wen Shan, Taiwan
Elevation: 650m
Harvest: May 2018
Purchase from Masters Teas

It feels that lately I have been drinking a bunch of mediocre tea. The kind of mediocrity (mediocriTEA?) that has me continually reaching for the same bag of tea in hopes of either having an “A-Ha! Moment” with it or just getting it out of my collection faster so I can move on to better teas. Better teas like Formosa Fancy Bai Hao from Masters Teas.

Formosa Fancy Bai Hao Tea from Masters TeasThe Formosa Fancy Bai Hao from Masters Teas is an oolong tea from Taiwan. The leaves are thinly rolled and the colors remind me of the forest floor. I see dark green leaves, brown leaves, leaves tinged with silver or burnt orange. And the aroma is sweet and fruity, but there is also a light malty aroma that reminds me of black tea.

In lieu of a gaiwan, which I imagine is this teas preferred brewing vessel, I used my tea tasting set from Adagio Teas. I steeped 1.5 teaspoons of tea in about 3 oz. of 212 degree water. (Typically oolongs are steeped in cooler water, but the Masters Teas website suggested 212 degree water). My first steep was 30 seconds, and I added 20 seconds to the following two steeps. Each time yielded a honey yellow liquor.

The first infusion was the best. Upon first sip, I was greeted with aromas of juicy, summertime peaches. But, it was the finishing notes of sweet, clover honey that made this cup simply un-put-downable. The following infusions tasted of peach with a clean finish; the delectable honey notes were no longer present.

 

Overall, Formosa Fancy Bai Hao is one of those teas where a little tasting experience goes a long way. I cannot wait to drink this tea again, but I also can’t help wanting to hoard it because it was such a satisfying sip.

What is a tea you sipped recently that left you feeling impressed?

If you liked Formosa Fancy Bai Hao from Masters Teas, try these tasTEA recommendations:

 

Family Fun: Slate Run Living Historical Farm

I used to live in Ohio (the Columbus metropolitan area), but that was twenty years ago, and it was much quieter back then. Now, the population seems to have exploded, and driving down to visit family usually means I’m white-knuckling it through congested traffic once I hit Delaware. But, not everything is so urban there. Columbus has a great metro park system, and one of the coolest metro parks is the Slate Run Living Historical Farm (1375 OH-674, Canal Winchester, OH 43110).

At the Slate Run Living Historical Farm, visitors are invited to step back in time and experience 1880s Ohio farm life. Farm staff and volunteers wear authentic costumes and perform daily farm chores just as they would nearly 140 years ago (ie. without electricity and vehicles!) The farm even goes as far as to find names for the farm animals from 1880s livestock annals.

Most weekends, the farm hosts exhibits where visitors can learn how to make sorghum molasses, how to dry and can food, how to prepare the farm for the changing seasons, or how to care for farm animals. The activities are seasonal, but the program guide on the park website can help you plan your visit.

Best of all? The Slate Run Historical Living Farm is free!

The day we went was particularly quiet because the farm was preparing for the big apple cider and apple butter demonstration that was to take place the following day. So, while it was a bummer that we didn’t get to observe or take part in any farm life demonstrations, we had the luxury of being able to roam the farmstead without fighting any crowds.

Highlights of our trip included petting Mayflower, the four-month-old calf, pumping well water to feed horses, grinding cornmeal, playing games from the 1880s, and of course taking in the amazing farmstead scenery.

If you’re ever near Columbus, Ohio, and you’re looking for an inexpensive way to spend the afternoon with family, make sure you check out Slate Run Living Historical Farm!

Have you ever been to a living historical museum or farm? Tell me about it in the comments!

S’mores Chai from DAVIDsTEA

Origin: Not Listed
Elevation: Not Listed
Harvest: Not Listed
Purchase from DAVIDsTEA

I admit, I’ve never gone camping. I’m afraid of the dark. Of being gobbled up by hungry bears. And most of all…the bathroom situation or lack thereof. So, the opportunity to indulge in this ooey-gooey, chocolate treat has been rare and reserved for the odd occasion that I’m socializing with someone with a fire pit in the back yard. Thankfully, there is no shortage of treats inspired by this campfire dessert though. Usually, I consume them in the form of granola bars, but I recently tried it in the form of tea, too!

S’Mores Chai from DAVIDsTEA is a blend of Pu’erh tea, hazlelnut brittle pieces, cinnamon, sugar, marshmallow, chocolate chips, natural and artificial chocolate, hazelnut, toasted marshmallow flavoring.

Truthfully though, I’ve gone back and forth with my feelings about DAVIDsTEA’s S’mores Chai. Sometimes I think DAVIDsTEA is really on to something, and sometimes I think there is something that just tastes off about the blend, but I can’t quite figure out what it is. When I check out the reviews on the DAVIDsTEA website, I feel like I’m the odd one out, too. This blend really does seem like a fan favorite!

DAVIDsTEA succeeded in blending a tea that tasted like toasted, sweet and creamy marshmallows smooshed between cinnamon graham crackers, but the chocolate flavor seems non-existent to me. There is also a strange, earthy bitterness to this tea which, if I had to guess, is coming from the pu’erh? Although, really that’s all it is– a guess– because I’ve never had a straight pu’erh before. And, unfortunately, it’s this earthy bitter flavor that often turns me off to this tea.

I’ve experimented with brewing this tea, and so far my favorite method is to steep the blend directly in hot milk. It makes finished product more creamy, and it seems to tame the bitterness as well. If you’ve tried S’Mores Chai before, what did you think of it?

What are some of your favorite S’mores inspired treats?

If you liked S’mores Chai, try these other tasTEA recommendations:

Video Diary: An October Park Day

Autumn has slinked in. My season is finally here. I have already dragged out the oversize sweaters, the fuzzy socks, and the snuggly throw blankets. I have been burning spiced pumpkin and sugar cookie candles non-stop. And of course, my tea consumption has drastically increased as the temperatures have dropped. Jon, Oliver, and I are also trying to soak in as much of the outdoors as possible before freezing winter weather inevitably turns us into hermits. We plan to take in an apple orchard and a cider mill in the coming weekends, but one of our most favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors is to walk over to the park that is right next to our house and take strolls in the warm, Autumn sunshine.

Our most recent park day included leaf peeping, watching hawks float about in the sky, observing wooly worms inch along the sidewalk, and listening to wind rustle through dried cornstalks.

What are you looking forward to this Autumn?

Books & Tea: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Years ago, I read Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, and what I remember most about it is how mediocre I thought the story was, and after reading through summaries of her other novels, largely formulaic:

  • Girl experiences some kind of hardship and withdraws from the world
  • Girl falls in with a new crowd
  • Girl meets handsome teenage boy and starts to feel human again
  • Girl and boy have a misunderstanding and experience a falling out
  • Girl and boy make up at the end and live happily ever after

So, considering my previous experience with this author, it’s strange that by the end of my first library visit in months, one of the books I borrowed was The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. And even more surprising? I devoured the book in just a few sittings.


The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen book coverThe Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Contemporary YA
374 Pages
Published May 11, 2004
Penguin Group, Inc.
Add to Goodreads
★★★☆☆

A long, hot summer…

That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.

But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to question her sheltered life.

Is it really always better to be safe than sorry?


My Thoughts

I appreciated reading about Macy’s journey. She is grieving the loss of her father and with the help of her boyfriend, Jason, she has established a very strict routine. One that includes working at the library information desk, studying for the SAT, and ironing and starching her clothes to perfection. It helps keep her mind from dwelling on her father’s death, and it shows people that she’s carrying on with life and everything is fine, just fine. But, her routine is threatened when her boyfriend goes away to Brain Camp. And worse, wants to take a break so he can focus on his future.

Then comes along a new job opportunity and a group of new and ragtag co-workers, who turn her life even more topsy-turvy. They draw her out of her shell, they introduce her to the chaos and imperfections of catering and of high school parties, and most importantly, they allow her the opportunity to be vulnerable without judgement— a stark contrast to her boyfriend.

But, while enjoyable, The Truth About Forever doesn’t deviate far from the plot structure outlined above. The Truth About Forever doesn’t introduce anything new to Contemporary YA. It doesn’t even attempt to put a clever twist on any of the genre tropes. But, I don’t think that’s why people reach for novels by Sarah Dessen. Dessen has been around for a while. A long while. Like, she was writing YA back when I was… YA. She’s a constant in this genre, so many people reach for her novels for the comfort of likable characters, the familiar summertime settings in North Carolina, specifically the fictional town of Colby, and a plot that is…well, predictable— one where despite all the hardships, all the characters end up okay at the end. At least, that’s why I reached for The Truth About Forever; and that’s why I’m inclined to continue picking up other books by Dessen in the future.

The Tea

The Truth About Forever takes place during the summertime in the south, and only one thing comes to mind— sweet, iced tea! Stereotypically Lipton, sweet iced tea, but I’m choosing Ceylon Sonata Cold Brew from Adagio Teas instead. Adagio’s Ceylon Sonata is a black tea that comes from the Kenilworth Estate in Sri Lanka. It is a medium bodied, black tea with bright citrus notes. 

It’s balanced and refreshing, and it’s one of those teas that makes me break my no-caffeine-after-3PM bans because it’s so, so good. This is exactly the kind of iced tea I think the characters in Dessen’s fictional town of Colby, North Carolina would sip on during summer vacations.

What is your favorite Sarah Dessen book? Do you have a favorite Contemporary YA author you reach for when you’re looking for comfort?

Moscow Mule from DavidsTea

 

 

Last summer I was pregnant. Like, super pregnant. Which meant I didn’t get to kick my feet up on the back porch while reading and sipping a beer— a most enjoyable and relaxing summer pastime. Nor did I get to indulge in a cold and refreshing Moscow Mule, my favorite cocktail by far. I did get DavidsTeas’s Ultimate Cocktail Kit though. It was a collection of teas inspired by cocktails, and it came with Sparkling Sangria, Peach Mai Tai, Spicy Piña Margarita, Apéro Spritz, and Lemon Smash (note: it appears the kit doesn’t include Spicy Piña Margarita anymore). I still haven’t sipped my way through the collection, but what I’ve tasted so far left me unimpressed. Peach Mai Tai was good, but it didn’t taste any different than the other peach teas I’ve had. Lemon Smash was unpalatable to me, so I tossed it. And, okay I admit, I’m really afraid to try Spicy Piña Margarita, but the blend contains tomato, jalapeño, and cilantro, so can you really blame me?

Despite my previous experience with cocktail inspired teas though, when I saw DavidsTea added Moscow Mule to their collection this year, I knew I had to try it. Moscow Mule tea from DavidsTea is a blend of Ginger, Candied ginger, Apple, Sweet blackberry leaves, Lemon balm, Lemon peel, Peppermint, Cucumber, and Natural flavouring.

The dominant scent of the blend is ginger and lemon peel, and the peppermint adds a menthol affect that leaves your nose feeling cool after you inhale. The flavor of this blend is quite similar to the scent too. The first flavor that hits you is the spicy, aromatic ginger. This is followed up with lemon that leans toward bitter, then refreshing cucumber. I think the peppermint is supposed to be a refreshing minty aftertaste, but it’s kind of muddled against the ginger and lemon and takes on what I can only describe is the taste of alcohol. Oddly, it works for me.

As for whether this stays true to the cocktail or not, that’s another story. Every Moscow Mule I’ve had is a mix of ginger beer, vodka, and lime juice, so I’m unsure where the lemon, peppermint, and cucumber comes from. I still think fans of the Moscow Mule can appreciate this one.

I recommend drinking this tea iced or cold brewed, and it doesn’t need any sugar because it’s already plenty sweet. I might even suggest topping it off with some ginger beer for extra fizzy fun.

Have you ever had cocktail inspired teas before?

Already enjoyed Moscow Mule tea? Check out these tasTEA recommendations:

Earl Grey Supreme from Harney & Sons

I associate Earl Grey tea with the Autumn and Winter months. With mornings when I wake up before the sun, where there is a cold nip in the air, and the clouds hang heavy in the sky. We have had plenty of Earl Grey mornings lately even though it’s only the beginning of September and still technically summer. Is it just me, or does it seem like Autumn is rolling in early this year? You won’t find any complaints about that here; I live for Autumn! Plus, it just means I get to break out my Earl Grey a little earlier. The first Earl Grey of the season was Earl Grey Supreme from Harney & Sons.

 

Earl Grey Supreme from Harney & Sons is a classed up version of your usual cuppa. It’s a blend of black tea, silver needle white tea, and bergamot oil (not flavoring!). When I open the bag of tea, I am greeted with the familiar scent of malty black tea and zesty, powdery lemon.

My steeping notes are a little hazy since I couldn’t find my measuring spoon. (How does a tea drinker lose that?!) But it was just under two teaspoons per 12 oz. of boiling water for five minutes. The tea yielded a cup of dark caramel brown liquor.

Harney & Sons Earl Grey Supreme is more delicate than your average mug of Earl Grey. It’s a light-bodied tea, and the maltiness of the black tea was subdued and almost sweet with the addition of the white tea. The Harney & Sons website mentions they blend this tea with a higher amount of bergamot than usual, but I found the bergamot flavor to be light and well balanced against the tea.

But, for as lovely as this cup of tea was, it’s not what I want to reach for first thing in the morning. I’m a former coffee-drinker, so my first cup of tea has to have more…chutzpah! It would be perfect for Second Breakfast though ;).

Do you have a favorite kind of Earl Grey, and what is it? Or if you don’t like Earl Grey, what is your favorite breakfast tea?

Looking for other tasTEA recommendations? Try these:

Back to Hogwarts with THE BOY WHO…tea from Adagio Teas

It’s September 1st, which means the Hogwarts Express departed without fail from Platform Nine and Three Quarters today. I can’t help but reflect on how this magical story has been in my life for TWENTY years, now. I never could have suspected the impact this series would have on me the day I pulled this book* randomly from one of the shelves at Walden Books. I held it in my hands, staring at the artwork almost debating whether to spend my allowance money on it or not. A mother passed by me, and seeing the book in my hands, told me the book I held was an incredible story. That was enough to convince me to bring it home with me, so thank you random mother who convinced me to buy Harry Potter some day back in 1999.

*This book actually being Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. My experience with book series back then was the Boxcar Children, Fear Street novels, and the Time Warp Trio. I had no idea there were series that were meant to be read in order!

Today couldn’t be a more perfect Back-to-Hogwarts day here in Michigan either; 67 degrees, overcast, and occasionally drizzly. The perfect day to cozy up and enjoy the Harry Potter marathon on television, while sipping THE BOY WHO…tea from Adagio Teas. THE BOY WHO… tea is one of the fandom teas blended by Cara McGee. It is a blend of Black Tea, Ginger, Cloves, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Natural Pumpkin Spice Flavor, Natural Caramel Flavor, Marigold Flowers & Natural Cinnamon Flavor.

I can easily see see black tea leaves, Ginger pieces, cinnamon pieces, and cloves. I don’t see cardamom like I expected despite it being high on the ingredient list. The dry tea smells warm and inviting and most prominently of clove and cardamom.

I brewed this tea a little differently this time. Typically, I would steep the tea leaves in hot water and then add milk and sugar, but this time I steeped the tea leaves directly in milk. I put two teaspoons of tea into one cup of milk in a sauce pan, brought it to a boil, and then steeped for about 3-4 minutes. I added sugar to taste.

I find that this tea isn’t as spicy as one would expect considering the ingredient list, and I’ve steeped it both in water and in milk. That being said, I still find this blend enjoyable and appropriate for Autumn. The black tea and the pumpkin flavor were the most prominent flavors, followed by cardamom and ginger. I much prefer steeping this tea in milk (as opposed to steeping in water and then adding milk). It adds a creaminess and mouthfeel that cannot be achieved if this tea were to be steeped in water. It actually has me reconsidering how I steep any of my spiced chais.

Already tried THE BOY WHO…tea? Check out these other tasTEA recommendations:

If you love Harry Potter, what is your favorite book from the series? For me, it’s hard to choose. It’s a toss-up between book 1, 3, and 5! It’s possible I love those three equally, albeit for different reasons.

Dragon Fruit Dream from Adagio Teas [Cold Brew]

I said I wanted to sip more iced tea this summer, but it’s mid-August, summer is on its way out, and I haven’t sipped any more iced tea than usual. That’s why I’ve dubbed August as my unofficial iced tea month! I’m trying to indulge in all of the iced teas I meant to sip on all summer long, like Piña Colada from Adagio Teas and Moscow Mule from DavidsTea (the fact that those are both inspired by boozy cocktails is just coincidence). The first tea I wanted to share with you though is Dragon Fruit Dream from Adagio Teas. It’s everything I wanted in an iced tea this summer!

Dragon Fruit Dream is a blend of apple pieces, rose hips, hibiscus, lemon verbena, orange, dragon fruit flavor, dragon fruit, pineapple pieces, strawberries, marigold flowers, and rose petals.

I cold steeped my Dragon Fruit Dream– 5 tsp. to about 12-16 oz of water for about 4 hours. It could certainly steep longer though; I left a second batch steeping for about three days, but I didn’t notice a major difference in flavor. I mentioned in my video that it steeps up to the color of a white wine, but I would like to amend that statement since I don’t think I had much hibiscus present in my scoops of tea. My second batch yielded a liquor that was more blush-like.

I don’t actually know what dragon fruit tastes like. I have tried it before, but it may not have been ripe. I’ve read it’s supposed to be a mild kiwi flavor, but mine was tasteless. That being said, Dragon Fruit Dream from Adagio Teas was bursting with flavor! The predominate flavor was sweet candied pineapple, and it’s tartness was enhanced by the addition of the hibiscus and orange. In many of the iced teas I’ve tried this summer, the hibiscus overpowered all the ingredients, but it was actually nicely balanced in this tea. Finally, there were some light floral finishing notes. I should also add, this tea doesn’t need additional sugar; it’s already (perfectly) sweet because of the fruit pieces.

Dragon Fruit Dream is the iced tea I wish I would have tasted at the beginning of summer. It’s tropical-fruity, sweet, and oh-so-refreshing. It’s a perfect drink to share with friends at a Barbecue or pool party.

If you like Dragon Fruit Dream, check out these tasTEA recommendations:

Jasmine Pearls from Adagio Teas

I have searched for a tea tasting journal for the past few years, but I never found exactly what I was looking for; so, I have been writing in whatever journal I had sitting around. Notes are scattered throughout four different journals, which are now tucked under odd places, like the couch, in Oliver’s toy basket, under the bed– anywhere Oliver manages to fling them, really. Finally, I decided on a new home–a trusty, 98 cent Composition notebook, that I now keep well out of Oliver’s reach!

Now, I have a permanent home for notes like this:

Last weekend, I sipped Jasmine Pearls from Adagio Teas. I don’t know what made me grab for this particular tea. It’s not one I typically drink, and it was only in my collection because it came in my Christmas advent calendar. I have avoided it because Oliver’s pediatrician mentioned jasmine teas (and mint teas) could have negative impacts on a nursing mother’s milk supply, but now that Oliver is eating solids foods as well now, I have become less restrictive.

Aside from that, jasmine just isn’t a flavor I appreciate. I like some floral flavors, like rose, but I think jasmine can make tea taste like perfume or quite bitter. Still, I sipped on.

The tea was dark green leaves, scented with jasmine, and they were wound tightly into little balls reminiscent of a pearl. They came in a tea bag, though the Jasmine Phoenix Dragon Pearls seem comparable if you want a loose leaf variety. I decided to cut open the tea bag, so I could brew the pearls loose, and what a smart decision that was because these pearls unfurled into full, big tea leaves that could be steeped multiple times.

The initial steep had the most prominent jasmine flavor followed by a slight sweetness from the green tea. The following steeps lost the sweetness from green tea, but the jasmine seemed to mellow. Overall, I thought this tea had a nice, balanced flavor– never perfume-like and never bitter. I steeped this three times, but I think I could have steeped this a fourth and possibly even a fifth, which surprised me considering this started in a teabag!

Where do you record your tea tasting notes? Do you keep a pen and paper journal, or do you record everything digitally?

Looking for teas with floral notes? Check out these tasTEA recommendations: