Caramel Tea is a Sweet Treat

Via the Books & Tea Instagram

Via the Books & Tea Instagram

If there is anything good about my work office running out of coffee for two weeks, it’s this:

I’m rekindling my relationship with tea because I have to wake up earlier to get my caffeine fix at home.

Actually, the tea thing was happenstance. I normally have a stash of coffee beans in the freezer for weekend mornings, but I had run out this particular week, so I brewed myself two mugs of Irish Breakfast and read through a couple of blogs instead. Then I ran out of Irish Breakfast, so I’ve been working my way through my shoe boxes full of tea. Aside from rekindling my relationship with tea, I’ve also discovered two things: first, I should buy tea tins, because who stores their bags of tea in shoe boxes, and second, Adagio’s Caramel Tea is really, really good.

It’s a little strange that I ended up with Caramel Tea since I don’t go out of my way to buy caramel anything. However, when you are checking out online at Adagio, you have the option to “share” your purchase with your followers on social media, and in return Adagio lets you choose a free sample from a long list of teas. I’m pretty sure I thought to myself, “What would I never want to spend my money on?” as my attention settled on Caramel Tea.

The joke is on me though, because this is me after drinking Adagio’s Caramel Tea:

shut-up-and-take-my-money

The ingredients are just black tea and caramel flavoring, and just like Adagio’s Chestnut tea, how much I enjoyed the Caramel Tea took me by surprise.

The Caramel Tea was a fairly mellow cup of tea considering it was a black tea with “natural” flavoring. The black tea seemed a little thin, and it wasn’t astringent, which allowed for the aroma of the Caramel to take center stage. And, unlike some of the flavored black teas I’ve reviewed in the past, the flavoring didn’t assault the taste buds at all. I took my Caramel Tea with sugar, which is rare, but it transformed the mug in to dessert; it tastes like the burnt sugar topping of creme brule, which is only one of my favorite desserts ever.

I’m used to drinking black coffee in the mornings, so I need something unsweetened and bold, but Adagio’s Caramel Tea is a great after-lunch pick-me-up. And, I feel less guilty about drinking that than consuming Meijer brand pound cake, which I’ve been over-indulging on during the weekends.

Do you have a favorite dessert tea?

Sunday Afternoon Pick-Me-Up

CasablancaTwist

Tomorrow is the first of June, but today feels like a brisk October day; it’s overcast and drizzly, windy, and brisk. I’m not quite sure how to feel about that. On one hand, I adore Autumn. On the other hand, I’ve actually been looking forward to sunshine and warm weather since this winter was so brutally cold. Still, I managed to get so wrapped up in the nostalgia of Autumn that I went to the store to buy a Spiced Apple Cider scented candle that takes me back to an afternoon at the Cider Mill or to Pig-a-Palooza.

While an inner peace settles over my soul in this kind of weather, it also makes me feel a little drowsy, so I needed a little pick-me-up– especially since I have a house-warming shindig to attend later in the afternoon. I’ve settled on Adagio’s Casablanca Twist, which has been my favorite tea lately. I was disappointed when I tipped the last remaining tea leaves in to my mug, only to feel relief moments later when I discovered I accidentally bought another sample pack. This tea is a play on Moroccan Mint tea; instead of Peppermint and Gunpoweder Green tea, Casablanca Twist is a blend of Peppermint  and Darjeeling Sungma Summer tea, a black tea with a subtly sweet and floral aroma. In other words, I’ve got a dose of eye-opening caffeine and invigorating mint to keep me going. Truly the best of both worlds, it leaves me feeling refreshed.

Sample of Casablanca Twist provided by Adagio Teas in exchange for an honest review.

Pass Me the Cup, Darjeeling

Giddapahar Muscatel from Golden Tips TeaWhen I drink black tea, I often compare it to drinking coffee or red wine or even beer. It’s bold and usually full-bodied. It’s rich and astringent and malty. It’s the kind of tea I drink on cold, overcast days because it warms me up and keeps me extra alert. But then, Giddapahar Muscatel from Golden Tips Tea takes everything I knew about black tea and flips it on its head.

The scent of dried tea leaves is sweet– the kind of sweetness you might find in a (semi-dry) white wine, although I didn’t think this sweetness carried over in the flavor. It had a brightness and fruity (read: grape-like) aroma to match, and sometimes, I thought the aftertaste was a little tart.  The aroma of this tea lingered too, just the way I like it– unlike some of the other teas I’ve tried from Golden Tips Tea (Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea). I did find this tea to be pretty astringent though, but it wasn’t offensive to my taste buds.

Of the teas I’ve sampled from Golden Tips Tea, Giddapahar Muscatel is my favorite so far. The aroma and flavor are powerful and interesting, and the tea stands up to multiple steeps (although, I’m not sure I could get a third cup out of the leaves). I only wish I had some rock sugar to sweeten my experience.

Sample of Giddapahar Muscatel provided by Golden Tips Tea in exchange for an honest review.

Tealated for Green Tea

Green Delight TeaI don’t remember from where I discovered Tealated tea— I was reading a review on a blog, and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t bookmark the website because I owe them a hundred “thank you”s. I signed up for the Tealated newsletter, and I had the opportunity to try two free samples of tea. I chose Green Delight tea and Moroccan Mint. The samples of tea arrived quickly and with a package of tea bags for loose leaf tea, a coupon offering 10% off my first purchase, and a handwritten thank you note from the owner of Tealated. I hadn’t even tried the tea, and I was already impressed by the personal touch from this family owned tea company. Did I mention that a percentage of all sales is donated to water.org?

As much as I love mint tea, I decided to taste the Green Delight tea first. Green Delight tea is a green tea with dried raspberries and pomegranate flavoring. I think there may also be some dried strawberries. The scent of the tea was sumptuous. It smelled AND tasted fresh and fruity and juicy, and there was a perfect balance between the fruity aromas and the green tea. I daydreamed about how this tea would be a perfect ice-cold and slightly sweetened refreshment for summertime afternoons spent reading on my balcony.

The Green Delight tea is Tealated’s best seller, and I understand why. I don’t often crave green tea, but I cannot get Green Delight tea out of my mind.  I think this I will definitely be stocking my cupboard with this tea.

Of Insecurities and the Jewel of the Arya Estate

Arya Ruby Darjeeling Golden Tips Tea

Spring officially begins in a few days, but today it seems more like Autumn; its brisk and windy and overcast. I started getting drowsy in the afternoon, so I brewed myself a mug of Arya Ruby Darjeeling tea from Golden Tips Tea for a mid-day pick-me-up. Lately, I’ve managed to sip on teas that seemed to pair perfectly with the weather, and today is no different. Honestly, it’s just dumb luck though. I actually picked up the package of Arya Ruby Darjeeling because according to the Golden Tips Tea website, it’s supposed to have the aroma and flavor of a “bouquet of flowers & an orchard of fruits”. Upon opening the packet, I am greeted with a sweet and fruity scent– luscious is a word that comes to mind. Alas, that all changed once I steeped the tea leaves, because to me Arya Ruby Darjeeling tea tastes like a crackling fire in a fireplace, perhaps the first in Autumn when the temperatures begin to drop. At first, it’s smoky and woody, and after those aromas have mellowed, a sensation of sweetness dances all around my mouth.

Kind of like this:

reading by the fire

I debated writing about this tea on my blog. Not because the tea was bad and not because I struggled to conjure up the words to describe my experience, but because of insecurity. Sometimes I feel really insecure about reviewing new teas because my experience seems so different compared to other people’s experiences. How can I perceive woody and smoky aromas from a tea that is supposed to have fruity and floral aromas? Is my sniffer busted? Are my taste buds faulty? Am I just inexperienced, and I cannot taste subtle differences in a tea’s flavor? Perhaps it seems silly, but I’m afraid that a more savvy tea-drinker will stumble upon Books & Tea and tell me that my review for a tea is…wrong. Is that possible– for a review to be wrong?

For any blogger that posts reviews, be it books or tea or whatever, are you ever reluctant to share your thoughts about an experience because you’re afraid someone will tell you you’re wrong or you don’t truly understand it?

The Iron Goddess

Iron Goddess Oolong TeaIt’s that time of year when Michiganders are blessed with a week of unseasonably warm weather that fills us with false hope that springtime is right around the corner. Sure, it will be 52 degrees on Wednesday, but realistically we still have about two months of cold temperatures and snow left. But, that doesn’t deter us from enjoying this weather while we can, no matter how briefly it sticks around. February’s brutal winter weather has done weird things to us northerners. After nearly a full month of single digit temperatures and wind chills in the negatives, temperatures in the teens and twenties are embraced. Today, it’s sunny and 36 degrees…and we have the back door propped open to enjoy fresh air, chirping birds, and a nice breeze.

Jon and I should probably be out and about, exploring our new hometown, but instead we loafed around, binge-watching Portlandia on Netflix. It’s been a low-energy sort of day, and I felt myself growing drowsy for a nap around noon-time. But, I have so many blogs to catch up on and books to read that a nap was out of the question. I was about to reach for some English Breakfast Tea for a quick kick of caffeine…but that I remembered I had still had some samples of Oolong tea provided to me by Teavivre. I decided to try that even though Oolong tea has low caffeine.

Much like the Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea that I wrote about last month, the Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess” Oolong Tea from Teavivre makes me feel nostalgic for springtime. Upon opening the packet containing tightly rolled Oolong tea leaves, I am greeted with the scent of Michigan’s springtime. It smells like fields of wet grass and wild flowers, and it makes my heart ache for blue skies, warm sunshine, cool breezes, and fields of green, green, green. I could not have picked a more perfect tea for a quiet, almost-springtime afternoon.

Iron Goddess Oolong is forgiving for a distracted steeper like myself. The package suggests brewing between 3-10 minutes, and it supports multiple steeps as well. The first cup I made, I steeped for about 4-5 minutes. The second cup I made, I steeped for about 8-9 minutes. The tea leaves also unfold into full, dark green leaves. When I poured my sample into my tea strainer, it just covered the bottom. After four minutes, the tea had bloomed and expanded and completely filled my tea strainer.

Tea REview Iron GOddess 2 The color of the liquid is light yellow, and it smells vegetal. The flavor is more complex though. The first flavor that comes through is a crisp, grassy flavor, something that I associate with green teas. Then there is a sweet floral taste followed by a tart aftertaste that for some reason I associate with pineapple. These flavors are more pronounced during the first steep, and they become more mellow with each preceding steep. This is unlike any other Oolong tea I’ve tried, which have had more earthy aromas.

The Iron Goddess Oolong tea (named as such because the tightly rolled leaves supposedly make the pinging sound of small, iron pellets when you pour the leaves into your cup) is a tea that I would absolutely encourage you to try. Not only does it challenge ones perceptions of Oolong tea (sort of like Adagio’s Oooooh Darjeeling), it is also just a beautiful tea. I will drink it in winter while yearning for springtime, and I will drink it in springtime as a compliment to sunny, Sunday afternoons.

Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea

Avaata Supreme Nilgiri

Perhaps it was kismet that I made a last-minute decision to take the day off– otherwise, I would have missed signing for this charming package from Golden Tips Tea! It’s not every day that you receive a package in the mail from India. Especially one wrapped in cloth and sealed with wax.

golden tips packageThe selection of samples I received from Golden Tips Tea are mostly black teas, which I expected because India is known for its black teas, especially from the Darjeeling and Assam regions. So, perhaps it’s a bit odd that the first tea I’m writing about is a green tea– Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea— from the Avaata estate in the Nilgiri region in southern India.

Upon opening the golden package of Avaata Supreme Nilgiri green tea, I am greeted with a vegetal scent– slightly grassy and a bit like hay, which makes me feel nostalgic for springtime weather and drives in Michigan’s countryside. The tea leaves were big and full and a beautiful spring green color with the occasional silver bud, and the liquid was a very pale yellow-green color similar to white grape juice. The taste was very light, but it seemed to stand out a little more once the tea had the opportunity to cool down. This is a stark contrast to the black teas and the flavored teas I’ve been drinking lately, so I welcomed the experience. Like the scent of the leaves, the taste of the tea was lightly grassy and minerally. But while other reviews described a floral aftertaste, the flavor seemed to end abruptly to me, nothing seemed to linger, and I did not pick up on any afternotes. Clean is the only way for me to convey this particular tea tasting experience.

Overall, I’m please and perplexed that a tea could be so light. Black coffee. Breakfast Tea. Earl Grey. Those are the bold flavors that fill my mugs each morning, yet I find myself returning to Golden Tips Tea’s Avaata Supreme Nilgiri time and time again.

Won’t You Be My Valentine Tea?

Valentines TeaSome say Valentine’s Day is just a Hallmark holiday– a consumerist holiday to lure starry-eyed suckers into buying over-priced chocolates to prove their love. And to them I say, “if you’re not going to eat those, may I have them?” I shant complain about February 14, and if my boyfriend chooses to love me one extra ounce today, I shall relish in it. Especially since Adagio Tea’s Valentine Tea broke my heart.

Adagio’s Valentine Tea is a blend of black tea, rose petals, natural chocolate flavor, and natural strawberry flavor

I think my tea is an older blend, because the Adagio website says there is also cocoa nibs, dark chocolate chips, and strawberries in this tea, and I have none of that. Woe!

Anyway, Adagio’s Valentine Tea sounds romantic, right? It’s the sort of thing a lover would sprinkle on the floor from the doorway to the couch…for a Harry Potter marathon. Except, any tea lover would get distracted and scoop of the tea leaves and rose petals to brew a mug of hot tea. Most regrettably, Valentine’s Tea would ruin the mood. It smells weird– like a bag of chocolate hard candies. Fake chocolate hard candies. Do you know what is worse than fake chocolate? War, famine, petulance, and generally the end of the world, but not much else! Despite the scent, I still went into this feeling optimistic. I was crossing my fingers that Valentine’s Tea would taste like a chocolate-covered Turkish Delight because I can pound chocolate-covered Turkish Delights (Jon, make note!)

After steeping the tea, I noticed how dark the liquid was. It was as dark as a cup of black coffee, so I became a little nervous. I suspected the flavor would pack a punch, but really it was just a slap of disappointment in the face. It tasted nothing like a chocolate-covered Turkish Delight. Adagio has some great teas, like their Oooh, Darjeeling, but I am not having luck with their flavored teas– Chestnut Tea being the wonderful exception. Most of their flavored teas that I’ve tried recently flood my mouth with overwhelming chemical flavors. The aftertaste is alright though…if you’re not offended by fake chocolate hard candies. As for the rose, I was hoping for some light floral notes, but if they are there, they are muddled by “artificial flavors”. I even tried to sweeten the deal by adding sugar and milk. I thought that would cut some of the bitterness or mask some of the artificial flavor, but that just made it worse.

Even though I do not love Adagio’s Valentine’s Tea, a lot of people do. It’s earned a score of 93/100 on Adagio’s website and a 70/100 on Steepster. Proceed with caution with Valentine’s Tea.

Teaview: This is What Christmas Tastes Like?

Christmas Tea from AdagioI’m feeling fairly removed from the holidays this season. I haven’t done much shopping, I haven’t listened to Christmas tunes, I haven’t watched any of my Christmas-time faves, and to top it off, it seems like we’re going to have more of a muddy Christmas than a white Christmas this year. So, in an effort to get myself in to the Christmas spirit, I decided to try Adagio’s Christmas Tea. Unfortunately it left me saying, “Bah, Humbug!” instead of a jolly “Ho! Ho! Ho!” This is not to say the tea is awful, but it certainly isn’t my cup of tea.

Adagio’s Christmas Tea is a blend of black tea, cinnamon bark, orange peels, natural spice flavor, cardamom, cloves, ginger root, natural ginger flavor, and natural cinnamon flavor.

In theory, this should be good, but when I open the bag of tea, I am greeted with that weird, stale cinnamon potpourri scent that wafts through the aisles of craft stores. Luckily, the flavor (read: aroma) is not that bad. I find it to be reminiscent or perhaps inspired by mulled wine, which I find is a taste I have not acquired; I’ve never met a red wine that I like. Black tea is significantly more palatable though, so really it’s the blend of citrus and spice that I do not care for in this tea. Perhaps if you’re a fan of mulled wine, your opinion may differ.

I’ve also struggled to find a good balance of flavor with this tea, so every cup I’ve made is either strong and spicy or weak and watery– nothing that a spot of sugar or can’t mend though. I will probably work my way through the rest of the bag, but I don’t see myself buying more of this tea in the future.

What beverage do you like to sip on to get you in the holiday spirits? Hot cocoa? Warm cider? Mulled wine, perhaps?

Teaview: Cranberry Tea– a new Thanksgiving staple?

Cranberry TeaWhy is the cranberry a staple of Thanksgiving dinners? It’s so tart, and how can it even compare to the rest of the savory dishes that fill the table? It is a traditional side dish though, and when it comes to Thanksgiving, I cannot forego tradition. Sometimes it just requires a creative twist. Like this year, I drank Cranberry Ginger Ale  during dinner! And this morning, I woke up to Cranberry Tea from Adagio.

The ingredients in this tea are black tea, raspberry leaves, “natural” cranberry flavor, and cranberries (though, I’ve not seen the bog berry in my canister of tea).

I’m not the biggest fan of Adagio’s Cranberry tea, yet I keep defaulting to it. One reason is because it’s the only tea sitting on my counter, so it’s easily accessible. The other reason is because I’m trying to acquire a taste for it…perhaps because it’s the only tea canister within reach. This tea is dry and tart like a cranberry, and it actually leaves me feeling thirsty, which I find unpleasant. As for flavor, I taste more artificial raspberry than cranberry. Much like the lone cranberry though, Adagio’s Cranberry tea is definitely more palatable when I add sugar; however, the “fruit” flavor seems to disappear, which is alright in my opinion because I don’t much care for cranberries.

Overall, I don’t like drinking this tea unsweetened, but I can certainly guzzle this tea with sugar added. If I can’t taste the fruity flavor though, why not just drink a plain black tea instead?  Sorry Cranberry Tea– you won’t be a Thanksgiving staple in my house.