Review: Teavana Silver Yin Zhen Pearls

Bai Hao Tea, Teavana, White Tea No Comments »
Raven’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Both floral and viny notes appear in the brewed tea as well, reminding me more of perfume in its green floral nuances. "
Raven’s Teaview: 7.4/10
Other Teaviews: Scott gave it 7.5/10, Vanessa gave it 7.5/10, Katie gave it 6.8/10
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teavanasilveryenI always find whenever I’m out shopping for a present for someone else, all of the things I’ve always wanted seem to magically appear. But the sad rule is, I can’t possibly buy for myself before I find the gift I was meant to buy. After a seemingly endless afternoon of ogling baubles and trinkets in hopes of finding the perfect necklace for a friend, I was left longing for some treasure of my own. Alas, I could string up my own set of silver pearls to more than ease such longing with a cup of Teavana’s Silver Yin Zhen Pearls. Yet these silver pearls could not come from any oyster but rather hail from Fujian province, although their tight spheres rival the oyster’s artistry. They are not quite the perfect spheres of cultured pearls, nor the free forms of freshwater pearls with only a few loosely rolled pearls evident. As unique as pearls are to the gem world, the aroma of the leaves themselves was entirely different from any teas I have tried before. They were strongly but sweetly aromatic that reminded me of the lush smell of the forest floor when it starts to rain. The top note sings with light nectar scents based on a predominately viny aroma, ending with a slight touch of warm over ripe honeydew and nutmeg.
I enjoy loose leaf tea of any sort but there is a delightful whimsy selecting pearls one by one to plink into the pot as if to truly string my necklace of a brew. Better still, I suspect these silver pearls may not tarnish so quickly as the water coaxes them to unfurl with each steeping. And what a fascinating display it was to watch the soft ballet of the pearls unfurling in the cup after steeping at 175 °C as Teavana recommends.
In a surprising homage to the jeweler’s pearls, there is almost a luster to the colour of the brewed tea though not so brilliant. Layers of pale yellow blues appear in the depth of the cup which is tinged almost pink at its edges. Both floral and viny notes appear in the brewed tea as well, reminding me more of perfume in its green floral nuances that are most similar to orange blossom water with hints of lily of the valley and jasmine. As the tea rests on my palate and as it cools, the viny flavor is the most prevalent seeming similar to cantalope rind commingling with field cucumber and lily stems.
Teavana recommends a 4-5 minute steeping. After trying both a four and a half and five minute steepings, I preferred the 4 and a half minute brew. Although, I appreciated the fuller flavour of the five minute steeping, I found the floral notes became cloying. The four and a half minute steeping produced a medium body without a hint of astringency whereas the tea was a bit more supple or fuller at five minutes, where a touch of dryness goaded another sip. While the viny flavours may delight some people, I found the lingering taste a bit reminiscent of when you bite into the seeds of a grape amidst the lily notes.
There is still much life to the leaves after a single steeping where the leaves are unrolled but not completely extended. After 3 four to five minute steepings, the brew becomes paler in colour and body and the floral notes diminish but the tea still has sufficient flavor to be enjoyable. I don’t think the flavours hold for a fourth brewing. In my opinion, this set of pearls, perhaps much like a pearl necklace, would not be appropriate every day as to do so would diminish the elegance of the pearls and for me would tire the flavours of the tea to a point of unpleasantness. But it could surely be the delight of special occasions.

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Teaviews Member: Raven Raven
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Review: American Tea Room Puttabong SFTGFOP1Q

American Tea Room, Black Tea, Darjeeling Tea 1 Comment »
Dan’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"This is a winning tea that far exceeds that of the first flush crop from earlier this year. It's sophisticated and delicate, while remaining bold in flavor. And most importantly: it's delicious."
Dan’s Teaview: 8.7/10
Other Teaviews: Steven gave it 8/10, Shaiha gave it 8.6/10, Laura gave it 8.25/10, Troy gave it 9/10, Brad gave it 7/10, Sophie gave it 8.9/10, Raven gave it 7.7/10, Geoff gave it 8.2/10, Lynn gave it 9.5/10
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americanputtabongEarlier this summer – just as the second flush Darjeeling teas were being harvested, in fact – I had reviewed the first flush crop from the Puttabong Tea Estate (also known as Tukvar Tea Estate), which was on offer from Thunderbolt Tea. It was a pretty good tea, but the crop did suffer from a severe drought early on, and that may have had an effect on its flavor and overall presence. Now, American Tea Room has the second flush available from this same famed garden. Harvested in June 2009, this tea is definitely superior to its older first flush sister.

The Puttabong Estate is rich in history. It was reportedly the first Darjeeling Estate established, and it also holds the distinction of being the first estate to hold the world record for the highest-cost tea purchased at auction (although that’s hard to imagine, as the conversion at today’s rates equates to only about $11 per ounce. Today this seems laughable, but I guess a scant 17 years ago, tea was not valued very highly at all. This has obviously been eclipsed many times over in today’s market of tea connoisseurs. Also amusing to note that this tea that I’m reviewing costs about the same as that world record price – and that’s not even very expensive nowadays). The estate is very famous, acts as a tourist destination in its own right, and is essentially it’s own town, with Wikipedia reporting a population of 1,633 in 2001.

The aroma of the dried leaf is something marvelous to encounter. An overwhelming dry/woody aroma is prominent, with equally potent spicy notes. The leaves present a variety of color shades, from deep mahogany, to lighter milk chocolate brown to flecks of white. Shapes/sizes are equally varied – some claw-curl pieces, some straight and tightly rolled, most small and broken, but a few longer leaves in the mix as well.

Once brewed, the leaves take on a slight green hue to them, while remaining uniformly muted-brown. A 3 minute infusion with 190-200 degree water presents a reddish-amber cup. The flavor is immediately pleasant and remains so throughout the cup as it cools. The flavor is very clean, and a delicious black tea / Darjeeling taste. It is semi-sweet (especially in the finish) and feels especially nice when rolled along the sides of the palette on its trip to the back of the mouth. The flavor and texture evokes sophistication and delicacy, while still remaining a boldly-flavored tea. There is no bitterness (when brewed appropriately, natch), and a slight astringency leaves a pleasant feeling in the mouth throughout the drinking session. A second infusion at the same time/temp parameters is equally lovely – just as bold, delicious, and sophisticated as the first.

This is a winning tea that far exceeds that of the first flush crop from earlier this year. I’m looking forward to the autumn flush, as well as subsequent years’ crops of the second flush.

Special Offer! Free shipping on all purchases over $50 from AmericanTeaRoom.com.

Teaviews Member: Dan Dan
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Review: California Tea House White Monkey Paw

California Tea House, Green Tea No Comments »
Lynn’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"The word that came to mind with the first sip was 'impact.'"
Lynn’s Teaview: 8.5/10
Other Teaviews: Shaiha gave it 7/10, Troy gave it 7/10, Laura gave it 7.6/10, Steven gave it 7.5/10
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californiawhitemonkeyHaving reviewed California Tea House’s Golden Monkey Paw black tea, I was very curious to try this version. Despite the name, this is a green tea, rather than a white. The long, gently twisted dark green leaves are accented here and there with downy white fuzz similar to what you see on a Silver Needle white; hence the name. This tea, grown in the Wuyi Mountains in China’s Fujian Province, is made up of very young leaves and buds picked in the early morning, then steamed and dried.

The dry tea had a sweet, toasty, kelpy aroma. I infused two tablespoons in one cup of 208F water for the recommended just under two minutes. The leaves opened quickly, a light olive green, an inch or so long, and mostly whole. The resulting liquor was a fairly light greenish gold, with a rich, sweetly vegetal aroma. The word that came to mind with the first sip was ‘impact.’ The texture was thick and mouth filling, the taste strongly vegetal and toasty. There was also an edge to the flavor along the sides of my tongue that stopped just short of bitter and gave it its, well—impact. The sweet, toasty finish had just a hint of floral fragrance. It’s a bold green, with a definite presence equal to a black tea, one which I found entirely pleasant and satisfying. This would be a great first cup of the day.

Returning to the pot, I sniffed the leaves and found the aroma a bit sour, like cider vinegar. Odd, I thought, since there as no hint of that in the flavor.

The second infusion of two minutes yielded a cup of the same color as the first. The aroma was considerably lessened, but the flavor had nearly the same punch as the first cup, though not quite as complex; there was less sweetness, less toast, but still that edge that was strong but not bitter. Not bad, but not quite as exciting as the first infusion.

I infused it one last time for three minutes. Again the color held well, the fragrance was all but gone, but the flavor was still there. This time it was much smoother, and perhaps benefited from the longer steep. It was still less complex that the last, however; flavorful, but simple.

Overall this is a very nice tea, though it falls down a bit on multiple steeps. But the first unusual cup is certainly worth the price. Recommended.

— To purchase California Tea House White Monkey Paw, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

Teaviews Member: Lynn Lynn
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Review: R. J. Reed’s Old Style Southern Sweet Tea Flavored Vodka

Alcoholic Tea 5 Comments »
Troy’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"A wonderful alcoholic play on Southern Sweet Tea for the discerning Alcoholic in your life. "
Troy’s Teaview: 9/10
Your Reviews: 10/10
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Alcohol, is just wonderful, its 70% of everything its cracked up to be. I know we’re all supposed to disclaim, and qualify our statements when referring to alcohol, but the truth is its a significant part of human history and culture, it’s legal, and there is nothing wrong with it provided you don’t intend to operate heavy machinery, or a phone (We’ve all made THAT call). Drat, that last bit sounds like a disclaimer. How deeply ingrained is our after school special prohibitionist training that we can’t mention alcohol without a plea that people act like decent human beings?

Well, enough social Commentary. While wandering the Isles of my local Albertsons grocery store I stumbled on a wonderful new product in the Vodka section. R. J. Reed’s Old Style Southern Sweet Tea, a Sweet Tea Flavored vodka. Now due to a lack of ingredients list I’m not sure if the flavorings contain any actual tea, or if an artificial simulation of that rich (dare I say beautiful) sweet tea flavor was constructed by their union flavor elves, but either way I’m sure it fits this venue.

We’ve all seen Green Tea flavored Vodkas and spirits, as well as Chai and tea based Liqueurs, but this is the first Sweet Tea based product I’ve seen. After a quick Google, the best verb in the history of verbs, I found that the idea of a sweet tea flavored Vodka is not even remotely new, and can also be found in a product by Firefly. Something about a simple syrup laden sweet tea seems very at home with vodka, like a mixed cocktail in a bottle.

I tried this sweet elixir strait up and unchilled, and I recommend to you completely, utterly, and whole heartedly not to do that. As I’ve found in the directions of other Sweet Tea Vodkas online you should split this intoxicant about two parts Sweet Tea Vodka to one part water, or simply let your ice melt a bit, oh you’ll need ice. Like true sweet tea this demands ice. Its sweet and syrupy with a rich smooth black tea flavor that just begs to be drunk, so much so that you should pretty much assume your drunk when you’ve finished as you, no doubt, have had far far more than you planned to.

One downside, a few quick searches have not produced any information about this product. I can find quite a bit about Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, Hound Dog Sweet Tea Vodka, and Jeremiah Weed Tea Vodka, but nothing about this one. Not sure why that is, maybe its a very new product, maybe its manufacturer R. J. Reed LTD is a sub of a sub that doesn’t have any significant web presence, either way it may be found at your local grocery store. If I find an on-line source I’ll keep you all very much posted.

Teaviews Member: Troy Troy
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Review: Culinary Teas Assam Tarajulie

Assam Tea, Black Tea, Culinary Teas No Comments »
Vanessa’s Teaview Snapshot
Not Great"On its own, this tea lacked smoothness, in the form of malty flavor, to balance out the heavy-bodied and astringent characteristics. "
Vanessa’s Teaview: 3/10
Other Teaviews: Lynn gave it 6.5/10
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culinaryassamtarajulieAlthough Assam tea does not hold the title of my favorite black tea (currently occupied by Yunnan), I do appreciate the full-bodied maltiness of a good Assam. The Culinary Teas Website boasts that this tea “is full bodied with a round smoothness” and comes from “ one of the best Assam orthodox tea gardens”. The leaves of this tea are fairly small and I noticed a sizeable accumulation of tea dust at the bottom of my sample. The dry blend was fairly aromatic, although the aroma was fresher (think Darjeeling) and not as malty as I expected. Based on the small size of the broken leaves, I infused this tea for less than two minutes, as experience has shown me that broken-leaf teas tend to go bitter when infused for too long. I first sampled the tea “straight up” and I have to admit that on its own, I really didn’t like this tea. The tea was heavy-bodied, for sure, but lacked the maltiness that is a hallmark of a good Assam. Instead, I noted an awful bitterness that made me shudder. The heaviness of this tea lingered in my mouth for entirely too long, and the strong flavor gave me the tea drinker’s analog to coffee breath. I had used a fairly short infusion time, so I can’t even imagine how this tea would have tasted if I used a longer steep time (the Culinary Teas website recommends 3 to 7 minutes!) On its own, this tea lacked smoothness, in the form of malty flavor, to balance out the heavy-bodied and astringent characteristics. I then attempted this tea with a spoonful of sugar, and that did make a world of difference, as the tea was now palatable. However, I think this is only because the sweetness of the sugar camouflaged the bitterness of the tea. Sweeteners should complement a tea’s natural flavor, not mask it so as to make an otherwise harsh tea tolerable. My mouth was still left wanting a rounded malty flavor. If you are a coffee drinker or like really strong (borderline harsh) teas, this might be of interest to you. Otherwise, I would not recommend this tea.

— To purchase Culinary Teas Assam Tarajulie, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

Teaviews Member: Vanessa Vanessa
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Review: Drink the Leaf White Peony

Bai Mu Dan Tea, Drink the Leaf, White Tea No Comments »
Raven’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"Mildly, the flavour of bamboo, characteristic of Bai Mu Dan, lingered without much further character."
Raven’s Teaview: 6.2/10
Other Teaviews: Katie gave it 7.4/10, Jamie gave it 7/10, CJ gave it 6/10
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drinkleafwhitepeonyThere’s no better time to enjoy a blissful cup of tea than when you can hear the blustering cold rumbling at the windows, as if daring to steal some of your warmth. So I thought it appropriate to celebrate the season in my tea selections with the hope of finding the brighter side of the icy onslaught. One of the most beautiful things amidst the winter landscape is catching a snowflake, glistening in the sun so you can see each nuance of its ornate design. To match this vision, I can think of nothing better than white peony, Bai Mu Dan, to bring a snowflake to my cup. The Fujian white peony from Drink the leaf seemed oddly appropriate by its description at their website to bring a ‘clear and bright cup’. Although the description compares their white peony to a spring day, the promise of warm buttery flavours seemed ever more fitting.
None of this warmth is evident from looking at the leaves. It is a motley of greens, dark light, matte and almost shiny leaves, interspersed with silvery buds and quite a few noticeable dark stems that it seems remarkable they are all from one type of tea. I would guess from the assortment and broken leaves, it was lightly heated to stop oxidation rather than simple air or sun drying. The light scent of the leaves sings of clover blossoms and milkpods with a trace of fresh mushroom.
I couldn’t help think of snow shoveling, measuring out the recommended 1.5 tablespoons needed per cup although it would likely only weigh a gram. Upon brewing the tea for 2 minutes at 175 °C as Drink the Leaf suggests, the radiance from my vision of glistening snowflakes appeared in the rich yellow gold colour of the brew, tinged peach at its edges. A sweet light marigold scent intermingled with hay emanated from the cup as the tea brewed leaving the aroma of the finished cup softly humming of a mixture of saltine crackers and ferns with a hint of mushroom remaining.
The palate was equally warm if not perplexing. Nicely structured, the medium body spoke of the light sweetness in the cup that was very smooth. However, the actual flavour was as delicate as the snowflake without the same intricacy. Mildly, the flavour of bamboo, characteristic of Bai Mu Dan, lingered without much further character. There was no bitterness but each sip seemed to coat my mouth and teeth with an uncomfortable dryness.
A second infusion produced a more substantial cup with a rounder, a bit more satisfying bamboo flavour with touches of butter and honey that was less drying although I felt a hint of oiliness. The colour and body of the tea were less decadent than the first steeping but still enjoyable. In the spirit of snowflakes, trying the tea cold brought out some different elements traced by faint cucumber, melon and avocado notes yet the oily or waxy character became more apparent. The neutral flavours didn’t really hold to relish in a third steeping of the leaves, as perhaps, may be expected for similar to the glistening snowflake, the delicate wonder is fleeting. Likewise, I think the light flavours of this tea would be better appreciated in the day amidst the sunshine for those looking for a soft sip.

— To purchase Drink the Leaf White Peony, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

Teaviews Member: Raven Raven
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