Review: Adagio’s IngenuiTEA

Adagio, Tea Gadgets, Tea Infusers No Comments »
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Smartly designed, this single-serving brewer will convert even the laziest teabag lover to loose tea."
Stephen’s Teaview: 8/10
Other Teaviews: Patty gave it 9.5/10, Dan gave it 9.0/10
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ingenuitea_teapot.jpgYes, yes, I know – any tea afficionado worth his salt (or crystalized ginger) will tell you that loose teas provide the richest flavor… that teabags generally contain the lowest grade tea leaves; basically the “leavings” that remain when all the “good tea” is taken by the high grade buyers. Yes, in many cases this is true, but you know what… tea-bags are damned convenient, and brewing a cuppa loose tea is just a royal pain in the ass sometimes. Especially when you drink 5-6 cups a day (ahem) and you only have a few moments to brew a new bit of sunshine in between conference calls.

So yes, I’ll admit it – my old standby is Twining’s Earl Grey, in (gasp) bagged form.
I’ve tried infuser after infuser over the years, but the aggravation just wasn’t worth it. Either the infuser’s hole were too big, allowing tiny bits of leaves and detritus into the brew, or they were too small and poorly-designed, which would either (a) result in an underbrewed tea, regardless of how long you steeped or (b) create an enormous mess, making it nigh-on-impossible to properly clean the infuser of caked in tea leavings once you were done with it. (Yes, I’ve tried the Bodum Tea Press – two different kinds, in fact – and couldn’t stand either).

Anyway, all that is in the past, for I have found perfection… or near enough for my tastes, at least… in Adagio’s IngenuiTEA. This $19 wonder has turned me from a teabag nag into a loose-tea devotee overnight. You fill it with water, dump a spoonful of leaves on top, close the lid and chuck it into the microwave for 3 minutes. Let it steep the desired amount and then just hold it over your favorite mug – perfectly brewed tea falls through the bottom, leaving the gunky mess of leaves up top. Then you dump about 90% of them into the trash with a healthy shake or two, and the remaining 10% are dispatched with a slosh or two of tap water. No muss, no fuss. Just a great design and a fantastic product.

If I had one bone of contention – and let’s face it, I usually have several – its that the whole of it should have been made of glass instead of high-grade plastic. Yes it costs a bit more and yes, it’ll break eventually, but the constant brewing (several times a day in my case) leaves a residue on the plastic which doesn’t really come out, no matter how much you scrub. So after the first dozen or so uses, your IngenuiTEA probably won’t look as hot as it did out of the box… but hey, it still brews a damned fine cuppa tea and that’s all that really matters in the end.

Five stars for Adagio… I’m not completely bowled over by their teas (with a few notable exceptions), but hey, a fine product is a fine product, and this one takes the cake.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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Review: Adagio Earl Grey

Adagio, Black Tea, Earl Grey Tea 2 Comments »
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Not Great"The bergamot in this blend is far too strong, resulting in a bitter, overpowering brew."
Stephen’s Teaview: 3/10
Your Reviews: 6/10
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adagio-earl-grey.jpgIn a previous post I talked a little about how Earl Greys tend to have an aroma that’s quite different from their taste. In my experience, most Earls have that same, delightful bergamot smell to them, while the taste can range from bitter to sour and, probably most often, to smoky. This to be is the ultimate let-down, because the smell of bergamot is perhaps one of my all-time favorite things in the world… and once its wafted into my nostrils, I just can’t accept a smoky, bitter tea on my palate.

Adagio however goes to the exact opposite extreme. Their Earl Grey (they call it Earl Grey Bravo) smells incredible – hands down, its one of the finest nasal experiences I’ve ever had with a tea. Its heavily, and I mean heavily, scented with fruity bergamot. There’s even sizeable chunks of citron peel floating about in the mix. I remember first opening the bag and literally drooling at the prospect of drinking this tea.

Biggest…. letdown…. ever.

Whereas most Earl Greys smell of bergmot and taste smoky, Earl Grey Bravo smells and tastes like bergamot. Wayyyyyy too much bergamot. Go back to your toddler days. I’m sure we’ve all done this. You smelled mommy’s perfume and thought, “Gee, that smells great – I bet it tastes FANTASTIC!”. You sprayed a bit on your tongue and then spent the rest of the day screaming in agony trying to get that bitter, acidic taste out of your mouth. That, alas, is the one experience I can compare with drinking a cup of Earl Grey Bravo.

Granted, I probably over-steeped my first cup – but even on my second and third tries (eventually I got it down to about 45 seconds of steeping) it was still just overpowering. Even at its weakest, it was like drinking water with a thimbleful of Obsession mixed in. The aftertaste was absolutely nauseating… excessively flowery, like you’d just eaten three dozen roses.

Now, I’m sure there are a few folks who enjoy this sort of tea, but I can’t believe that there’s actually something of a cult following for this blend. I can only think that people are so enamoured with the aroma of the leaves – and again, its a semi-orgasmic experience just sniffing the stuff – but tea is meant to be tasted, and on these grounds this blend fails and fails miserably.

Initially I regretted the fact that I’d actually purchased a full pound of the stuff. But I soon realized that just letting it sit in my tea cabinet made that whole section of the kitchen smell like a citron grove, so I kept it in there.

Most expensive air-freshener I ever bought.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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Review: Twinings Earl Grey

Black Tea, Earl Grey Tea, Twinings 1 Comment »
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"A consistently well-blended and affordable Earl Grey... there's always a few tins of this in my cupboard."
Stephen’s Teaview: 8/10
Other Teaviews: James gave it 7/10
Your Reviews: 8/10
1 reader review | Add your review »

twining.jpgAh, my tea of choice… Twinings Earl Grey. It seems that no matter what new-fangled tea I try, or whatever brief infatuations I may have with one or another flavors, I always come back to this most trustworthy of teas. There’s something about the aroma of bergamot oil that gets my juices flowing. (I’ve actually long-harbored a secret desire to wear bergamot-scented cologne… if anyone happens to know a brand, hook me up!)

I’ve tried many, many Earl Grey teas – generic, famous, cheap and expensive alike – but to date I’ve yet to find one that’s as nicely blended as Twinings. Working with bergamot is apparently more difficult than it seems.

Most Earl Greys smell roughly the same, heavily scented with that flowery, fruity aroma we all know and love. (There truly are few joys in this world that can compare to stuffing one’s nose into a freshly-opened tin of Earl Grey and inhaling deeply for fifteen seconds). But Earl Grey is one of those complex teas that smells entirely different from how it tastes. You rarely taste bergamot – instead I’ve found many Earl Greys have a decidedly smoky, robust flavor which is completely at odds with the lighty and fruity taste promised by its odor. This has always perplexed me. I don’t particularly mind smoky teas, but in an Earl Grey its completely wrong… its like inhaling tobacco smoke in the middle of the Nordstrom’s perfume department.

That wonderful aroma of bergamot promises something much more, and once I’ve got it in my nostrils I want to taste something that compliments the experience. This Twinings does very well. You can taste just the slightest hint of that fruity flavor, really just a tiny, tiny amount, but its there all the same and enough to satisfy. The tea goes down smooth, with little or no aftertaste or bitterness. Not smoky, not overly robust, just a light tea with the perfect little dab of bergamot.

Of course, there is such a thing as too much bergamot. Adagio’s Earl Grey immediately springs to mind. Drinking that stuff is akin to downing a cup of heavily-scented liquid soap.

The only problem I’ve ever had with Twinings is consistency. Every now and again I get a box or a tin which lacks that special something… usually its a bit smokier and less flavorful. Ever since Twinings started individually sealing its teabags that’s happened a lot less, though interestingly enough (especially for those “only-loose-tea-for-me” snobs) I’ve found the Twinings loose-leaf tins to be quite less thrilling than the bagged variety.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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China Mist Iced Tea

China Mist, Iced Tea 1 Comment »

fiestafria.jpgI’ve been jonesing – seriously, jonesing – for a decent drink lately. Its nearly summer now, and my daily five cup habit of steaming hot Twinings Earl Grey has been leaving something to be desired. The mercury’s rising, the sun is shining, and I’m realizing its time to enjoy a tall, frosty iced tea.

The problem: I’ve never, never, NEVER made iced tea at home that was half as delicious as some of the teas I’ve had at restaurants and cafes. I’m talking fresh brewed, sugar free, with a hint of mango or passion fruit… not overpowering, but just enough to give it that light, crisp tingle of flavor. The Californians do it best, really. I’ve never had iced tea so delicious as the stuff they serve in San Francisco and the Napa Valley. Its like every restaurant in the region read the same memo – “Serve Brand XXX iced tea, and all will be well with the world.”

Of course, I’ve yet to find out what this brand of tea is exactly. From time to time I’d pick up a new brand and give it the old college try at home. A few of them were passable. Most were simply horrible.

Well, I did some Googling and it seems there’s a brand I’ve yet to try that has quite a few rabid followers – China Mist. So I browsed through their site and placed a heft order for just about every flavor of iced tea they’ve got: Traditional, Prickly Pear, Mango, Passion Fruit, Black Currant and something called “Fiesta Fria”. Each box has four large sachets, each of which will brew 2 quarts of tea. (I also splurged on their teabag “Sampler”, which is two teabags each of about ten or so of their most popular flavors of hot tea).

We’ll see when they arrive if China Mist lives up to the hype….

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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My Obsession with Tea

Tea Musings No Comments »

tea_with_mint1.jpgFor as long as I can remember, I’ve been a tea fanatic.

My earliest tea memories go back to early childhood. My mother first introduced me to it, I’m sure, because I don’t remember my father ever being much of a tea-drinker. Of course, Mom had her own way of making tea. She’d brew a plain tea bag (Lipton, or, being of the thrifty sort, probably generic-brands) in a single cup and then she’d pour about a half-inch of so of orange juice into it. No milk, no sugar – just orange juice. This never ceased to boggle my father, but she loved it, and growing up, I came to love it too. Some of my earliest memories involve those cups of tea; deliciously tangy, and with little squiggles of orange pulp swimming lazily around the bottom.

My other fond childhood tea-memory involved my grandmother, who would come to stay with us for a few months out of every year while I was growing up. She’d carefully rinse out plastic gallon milk bottles and fill them to the brim with her homemade iced tea. Being a Southerner, it was generally more sugar than liquid, but I was still a kid then and it suited my sweet tooth just fine. On hot school days, without fail, she’d have a fresh gallon of ice-cold tea ready for me when I got home. Sometimes I’d take the entire gallon with me into the living room, drinking straight from the jug, and we’d watch tv together until my parents got back from work.

As I got older I never really made the switch to coffee, as most of my friends had done. My teen years in the early and mid-90s coincided with the sheer explosion of coffee houses (i.e. Starbucks), and ordering cappucinos and venti lattes made most teenagers feel adult and somehow important. I didn’t mind coffee; in fact, I very much like coffee, though generally only when paired with a sweet (preferably chocolate) desert. But it never provided me with the refreshment or the nostalgia or even just the warm, comforting feeling that I’d come to associate with a hot cuppa tea.

Now, in my late twenties, I regularly drink between five and seven cups of tea a day. Its the first thing I drink in the morning, and the last thing I drink before I go to bed – without fail. My favorite blend has long been Earl Grey, but I count English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Ceylon and Oolong as close seconds. I’ve recently started delving into green teas, with limited success, and occasionally I’ll dabble with Chai or herbal blends. Flavor-wise, anything citrus-flavored tends to agree with me, and there are times when I would kill for a perfectly-blended mint tea.

I no longer mix orange juice with my tea – in fact, I almost never put anything in it. Never milk, and never sugar (I think my grandmother’s iced tea gave me all the sugar I need for one lifetime). On rare occasions I’ll mix some honey in, but I suppose I’m a purist. I drink my tea straight up, water only.

There are very few teas which I absolutely can’t stand – in fact the only one that immediately springs to mind is Yerba Mate, if only because that’s a tea that absolutely must be drunk with loads of sugar, and I just don’t swing that way. I’m not a huge fan of most “traditional” Asian teas which on the whole taste like tea bark, though when paired with sushi or certain other dishes I’ll make an exception.

For me, it is simply the perfect drink. It quenches my thirst, it warms me up, it cools me off, it wakes me up, it calms me down. More than any other single food or beverage, tea is quite literally the fuel I run on.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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