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:

 

Muzha Tie Guan Yin from Masters Teas

If you have been a fan of Adagio Teas for any length of time, surely you have heard about their Masters Teas. It’s been a relatively small collection of hand-processed, premium teas, and to be honest, even though I knew they existed (and even purchased some Formosa Ali Shan Oolong), it’s a section of their site that has a tendency to fly under my radar. I find myself more easily distracted by their more robust collection of colorful blended teas. But now, Adagio Teas has launched a sister site to give their premium teas the attention they deserve.

Introducing… MastersTeas.com

Masters Teas offers direct-from-the-farm teas, and to ensure freshness, tea is processed in small batches and only becomes available on the website upon harvest. This means, you might see “coming soon” on product pages from time to time. Masters Teas also embodies the Roots Campaign, which encourages tea drinkers to “Know Your Farmers”. Each tea page provides information about the tea’s geographical origin as well as the tea farmer; Masters Teas strives to put a name and a face with the tea.

I had the wonderful opportunity to try some tea samples (for free in exchange for reviews), and I’m eager to share my experience with you. I debated recording a video for today’s post but decided to take it slow instead. I decided to go back to my roots and just write. It’s a process that makes me feel nostalgic. It reminds me of slow, Saturday mornings back when Jon and I first moved in with each other. Back before crazy, stressful jobs. Back before a mortgage and trying to decide if we should replace the roof. Back before we had two cats that wake me up in the middle of the night. Back before baby. Mornings were just quieter back then. As were afternoons, evenings, 1 AM, and 3 AM.

Back then, Jon worked Saturdays, so I would start my day with a cup of coffee while soaking in the brisk Autumn air out on the balcony. (For some reason, it’s always Autumn when I reminisce about the apartment.) Then, I would go to the library and spend an hour trekking through stacks, searching for books to read. Then, I would come home, put the kettle on, photograph the books I would never actually finish reading, and then I would write about tea. I’d write out my tasting notes, sure, but more importantly, I would reflect on how I would experience the tea, how it would make me feel, and definitely the weather. (I can’t tell if the weather was used to create atmosphere, or if I’m just so guarded that even in my writing, I couldn’t move past small talk). Still, some of my favorite pieces of writing came from those slow Saturday mornings, sipping tea.

I shuffled through a selection of eight teas before settling on a familiar, yet wholly different Muzha Tie Guan Yin. This kind of oolong is no strangers here on my blog, though the ones I’ve tried in the past were from the Anxi region in China and were only lightly roasted. The Muzha Tie Guan Yin from Masters Teas comes from Wen Shen, Taiwan, and compared to its Anxi cousin, it’s highly roasted, which impacts both the physical appearance and the tasting experience.

The dried tea leaves are a dark, muddy brown color. The leaves are tightly rolled, but unfurl to full leaves after steeping. The smell is of minerals and wet grass clippings that are slightly composted, and makes me think of rainy, late-springtime afternoons. After steeping, the wet leaves smell charred, vegetal, and like dark salad greens.

I steeped this tea three times, as recommended by the Masters Teas website, at 212 degrees starting at three minutes and increasing the steep time one minute with each subsequent steep.

Steep One:

The color of the liquor is the color of golden syrup, and it has buttery and spiced aromas with sweet blossom undertones. The tea has a medium-to-full bodied mouthfeel, and it is not nearly as astringent as I anticipated. The predominant taste is of buttered rice with mineral undertones. The butter rice flavor stays with you long after you sip, too.

Steep Two:

The liquor is still golden syrup-colored, but it smells smokey instead of buttery. The mouthfeel is still medium bodied, but again it lacks the butteriness that was present in the first steep. It also is slightly more astringent than the first steep. The flavors do become more complex during the second steep though. I tasted dry grass clippings. I tasted a spiced flavor that came through after the tea sat on my tongue for a while– earthy cinnamon. I tasted light, powdery blossoms as the tea began to cool.

Steep Three:

The final steep had a medium-to-light body, and a flavor that reminded me of dried clover and hay from late summertime. (Maybe something akin to the Chunmee Green tea I tried recently).

Overall, the Muzha Tie Guan Yin was a beautiful tea with complex flavors that peaked during the second steeping and one that I I can’t wait to experience again. If you are interested in premium, direct-from-farm teas, make sure you check out Mastersteas.com. Also, stay tuned because I have several more teas from Masters Teas to try out. I’m especially looking forward to the Formosa Ruby 18 Black tea, the Sincha Genmai Cha, and the Yu Qian Anji Bai Cha.

2018 Tea Advent Calendar from Adagio Teas

Tis the season! Well, almost. And Adagio Teas has something to make your holiday season more jolly– their 2018 tea advent calendar.

Their advent calendar has 24 doors hiding individually wrapped, loose leaf quality tea bags. Some of the teas are Adagio’s most popular blends, and some are their cozy, holiday favorites. All are 100% delicious, and I can hardly keep myself from poking through all of the doors in one sitting. I’ll give you a sneak peek behind door #1, at least.

Gingerbread tea

Adagio’s Gingerbread tea is a blend of black tea, natural gingerbread flavor, cinnamon bark, orange peels, and ginger root. When served with sugar, this tea is as delicious as a Christmastime dessert, but it doesn’t taste as spicy and gingery as the tea’s namesake suggests. The blend of spices seems muted, so the flavor doesn’t overpower the tongue, but it’s still perfect for a morning baking cookies or decorating the tree.  The addition of the sugar draws out an unexpected warmth and creaminess that transforms this cup of tea into a truly cozy experience. This holiday tea can’t be missed.

If you’re looking for a fun and cozy advent calendar for this Christmas, be sure to head over to Adagio Teas to snag one!

This advent calendar was received for free in exchange for a review.

I’m Nervous About Starting This Book

A dense fog has sunk into mid-Michigan this week. It’s made my new, 30-mile commute dreadful and the woods across the street from my house particularly spooky. Perhaps the ominous atmosphere is what drove me to pluck Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris from the library shelf on Saturday. Or, perhaps it was the glitter on the book cover. Regardless the reason, now that I’ve sat down to read the novel, I find myself nervous to open the book. This is what I know about the Sookie Stackhouse series:

  1. It’s wildly popular. They even turned it into a TV show.
  2. It’s a pretty steamy series.
  3. There is a vampire in it (multiple vampires?), which immediately increases the probability that I will loathe the book.

So, here I am procrastinating by blogging and drinking tea that tastes more like the sweet clovers I tasted in late Springtime in Ohio when I was a child than something that should accompany a novel about vampires. Even if said novel has glitter on the front cover.

doomni-summer-oolongToday I drink Doomni Summer Oolong from Teabox Tea, which is from the Assam region, an area known for its malty, black tea rather than its Oolong. The dry leaves are a beautiful blend of dark green, rusty-brown, and taupe, and they smell creamy, sweet, and soft. The flavor of the tea is reminiscent of the red clover flowers that I used to taste growing up in Ohio– slightly vegetal and slightly honeyed sweet. I also pick up a very subtle floral flavor– jasmine, maybe? The package mentions there should also be some minty notes, but I do not taste it. Basically, Doomni Summer Oolong tastes like Springtime, and it seems to cut through the fog wrapped around soggy tree trunks. This tea is best sipped hot, but if you’re going to nurse it, you can add some honey to cut the bitterness that surfaces as it cools.

Have you ever been so nervous to start a new book that you found yourself procrastinating?

The Best of 2016

Yet another year passes, and I didn’t reach my goal of reading 52 books. How can I call myself a book blogger if I cannot even achieve such a minuscule goal? Surely there is a quota that must be met for this sort of thing. Still, I read some pretty incredible books this year. These books take the cake!

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson — I knew this hilarious travel narrative by one of my favorite writers would top the list before I even started reading.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord — This novel started out as a two-star read but shifted into a four-star read that changed my perspective on YA Contemporary novels.

The Sisters of Versailles and The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie — If you would have told me I was going to read and love this steamy romp through the palace of Versailles, I wouldn’t have believed you, but Sally Christie’s wit and storytelling abilities are irresistible. The final novel in this series, The Enemies of Versailles, is being released this year, and I cannot wait to read it!

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson — I still can’t find the words to accurately praise this novel. It is my absolute favorite read of 2016 though.

The Art of Holding on and Letting Go by Kristin Bartley Lenz — This was a beautifully written novel about coping with grief and the healing powers of nature and rock climbing, and Lenz captured the essence of Michigan so perfectly (perhaps because she is a Michigander!).

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern — Halpern captures the voice of a fifteen year old girl so vividly in this hilarious contemporary novel about family, friendship, and Dungeons & Dragons.

Pique Tea Crystals — It’s a toss-up between their Earl Grey and their Mint Sencha, but Pique Tea Crystals is perfect for brewing a cup of iced tea on the go.

Lemon Soleil Tea from Adagio Teas — The bright and lemony black tea was, without a doubt, my absolute favorite tea to sip on in 2016!

Reading Nook Blend by Plume Deluxe — Just as the name of the tea suggests, this floral scented tea is perfect for keeping cozy while reading.

Charcoal-baked Anxi Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea from Tea Vivre — This is another dreamy, floral-flavored tea that makes me wish Springtime were right around the corner.

Thai Chai Tea from Adagio Teas — this spicy and creamy blend of black tea, cinnamon bark, ginger root, dried coconut, cardamom, and lemon grass kept me warm this Autumn.

What were some of your favorite Books & Tea in 2016?

An Oolong that Embodies Springtime | Charcoal-baked Anxi Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea

It’s hard to miss Springtime in Michigan. Part of me starts to rejoice because the temperatures are so sublime, and there is a brief period when windows and sliding glass doors can be drawn wide open. Part of me wishes for another blanket of snow because I realize just how many people litter in my hometown. The snow plows spend an entire season pushing trash-packed snow into gutters and tree lines, and it’s finally revealed in April. There is also, of course, all of the blossoming trees, but…I almost missed that this year.

It is also the beginning of construction season, which is why I ended up taking a new route home on a sunny and particularly windy work day. I’d like to say it was something romantic that caught my attention and forced me to look up– like the sweet scent of clover wafting through my car windows or the gentle fluttering of white petals on the wind– but it wasn’t. A gust of wind caught the lid of a garbage can, whipping it open and almost tossing the can and its entire contents into the middle of the road and in front of my tiny Ford Fiesta. The garbage can also happened to be sitting right beside a tree with the sweetest, white blossoms. My eyes traveled down the length of the road, which I discovered was completely lined with trees with pink and white blossoms and shrubs with purple and yellow blossoms. My skin prickled as panic pulsed through me; this was partly a delayed reaction from the garbage can threatening to crash my car, but I also kept repeating out loud about the blossoms,

When did this happen?

When did this happen?

When did this happen?

This is what I thought of when I tucked into a mug of hot Charcoal-baked Anxi Tie Guan Yin Oolong tea from Tea Vivre. I thought about how I almost missed Springtime’s blossoms this year.

The dried tea leaves are a dark, forest green color, and they are tightly rolled. They smell vegetal and slightly sweet; it almost reminds me of the seagrass that would grow and float in the Weeki Wachee River in Florida. They are quite unassuming tea leaves too because when I dumped them out on a plate to get a better glimpse of the leaves, they hardly filled up the plate (similar to Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess” Oolong Tea, which I tasted last spring.). They hardly filled up my tea strainer as well. But, after steeping for several minutes, they creep up the strainer and unfurl into full leaves.

The liquor color, which is never demonstrated well in my photographs, reminded me of amber, and the flavor, which I didn’t expect based on the aroma of the dried leaves, was flowery. Perfumy even, though perhaps this is how my palate perceives the charcoal-baked aroma since I’ve never experienced it before. Regardless, it caught me off guard, like the sight of the street lined with blossoming trees.

As usual, this Oolong Tea from Tea Vivre lends itself to multiple infusions. Based on reading about other peoples’ experiences, you can steep this four or five times to draw out more of the sweet floral flavor, though I only steeped it twice (the second infusion seemed more perfumy than the first, interestingly).

Overall, Charcoal-baked Anxi Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea is another exceptional tea from Tea Vivre, and if you’re looking for a tea that embodies spring time, I would not hesitate to recommend this. If you’re interested in other spring teas, check out Tea Vivre’s 2016 Spring Tea Collection.

Sample received for free from Tea Vivre in exchange for an honest review.

The Iron Goddess

It’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.

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.

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.

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: 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: I Love Oolong Time.

via Teavana

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.

Continue reading Teaview: I Love Oolong Time.