Review: Culinary Teas Rose Congou Emperor

Black Tea, Culinary Teas, Orange Pekoe Tea, Rose Tea No Comments »
Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"This had just the right balance of rose and black for a middle-class mouth shower."
Geoff’s Teaview: 7.6/10
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culinaryrosecongouWhen first viewing the title of this blend, my mind immediately turned to Africa. As a matter of fact, I thought it was an African-grown batch given the “Congou” name. I assumed that sometimes “Congo” was given a “u” by more highbrow types. I’m glad I did some research prior and paid attention to the Culinary Teas website. My guess was way off.

This blend actually hails from China. “Congou” refers to tea leaves that are left unbroken. Black tea cultivated in this manner would be similar in grade to an “FOP” or Flowery Orange Pekoe, as opposed to a BOP or Broken Orange Pekoe. The Culinary Teas site lists this as a FOP-grade black tea hailing from Fujian Province. The Rose Congou blend dates back nearly two thousand years. Rose petals are sprinkled in – not whole, mind you – to give it an aromatic and floral scent/taste.

Floral, it is indeed. The first whiff was like stepping out into a freshly cut garden. However, unlike with other rose/tea blends I’ve tried, this wasn’t overpoweringly botanical. The secret being that instead of whole rose buds – pink or red – the petals were pulverized. They had a pink, flaky consistency that matched the dark, twiny appearance of the tea leaves; not too bold.

Brewing instructions per the website were surprisingly liberal; the recommendation being boiling water poured it 1 tsp of tea leaf per cup. By “cup”, I assumed they meant 8 ounces. One can never be too sure about that. I shrugged and went with my usual; 2 tsp steeping in 16oz of hot water for the recommended time of five minutes. Culinary Teas gave a rough estimate of three-to-seven minutes for steeping, depending on user’s preference for strength.

The infusion brewed to a deep copper. Scent and taste were about on par with each other; a pungently rose-lined, slightly astringent black tea. Not an unpleasant combination, just a little dry on the palate. Aside from that initial lurch of “whoah”, it settled on the tongue nicely and went down smoothly. The aftertaste was quite balanced as well. Rose flavoring, scenting or petals are difficult to balance, same with a lot of floral blends. Too much and it’s imperial bathwater, too little and it’s peasant soup. This had just the right balance of rose and black for a middle-class mouth shower. The gold crown, however, still goes to white tea/rose petal blends, but this is a close silver. If only for the “wake-up” factor.

I will confess that the second steep was lighter, but it was also crisper. While the rose petal flavor was more understated, you got more of a presence from the orange pekoe side. In all, I found it preferable to the deeper first infusion. This probably means that if I were to attempt this again, it would be at a three or four-minute steep the first time ’round. All in all, a favorable tea to wake up to if you want to be “chill” like royalty.

In rush hour traffic to work.

— To purchase Culinary Teas Rose Congou Emperor, 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: Geoff Geoff
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Review: Tea Needs GABA Tea

Oolong Tea, Tea Needs No Comments »
Laura’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"Yes, there is something about the flavor of this that also reminds of cooked carrots---maybe even cooked carrots caramelized with something sweet like brown sugar and/or cinnamon. It is a little floral and a little green, but also a bit thin and watery and that is it's greatest downfall in my opinion."
Laura’s Teaview: 5.8/10
Other Teaviews: Lynn gave it 4/10
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teaneedsgabaorganicoolong“Organic GABA Oolong Tea, grows in the folds of famed Mount Ali and, hence, is known as an Ali-Shan oolong. It produces a caramel-colored, fragrant brew. GABA Tea is a high-elevation tea (1200m). Tea plants at such heights are known to produce very high-quality leaves which are highly sought after. About two weeks prior to plucking, GABA leaves are partially shaded, which causes increased production of glutamic acid. During the oxidation-phase of GABA production, all oxygen is replaced with nitrogen gas, whose presence causes the glutamic acid to be converted to Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid. To meet the finest standards and be labeled GABA Tea, the finished product must contain at least 150mg of GABA per 100g dry weight.” —Tea Needs website.

Oolong is one of those teas that I crave and I have been craving some all day. Since I have been a bit of a tea reviewing slacker lately (I vow to change that), I decided to check my tea stash for oolong options. This GABA tea, which appears is a type of Alishan with a slightly unique oxidation process, came too me contained in a vacuum sealed package. I cut open the package and headed out to the Tea Needs website to see what I was in store for while the water was heating up. Wow! Tea Needs gives more health claims to this particular oolong than I think I have ever seen tied to one particular tea offering including the famous Wuyi oolong. They claim that GABA can aid in weight loss, lower blood pressure, helps with PMS, prevents hangovers, promotes restful sleep, and those are just to name a few!! Really the health claims of this stuff is incredible. I don’t totally buy into all of these health claims, but I do believe that drinking tea is a healthy habit in general. Of course, they recommend having 3-5 cups of it daily.

When I began to examine the leaves, I found this one to be a bit unusual looking. It is a green oolong and smells fairly floral, but the appearance of the little oolong fists is not uniform in that some of the fists are quite green while others are almost full on brown in color. To be sure that most of the other oolongs that I have in my possession are fairly uniform, I opened several of my tins and pulled a few of my samples to examine them. Yep, they all look fairly uniform in color with just minor variances in color. I am not sure if part of the GABA process makes it this way or if this is an indication of quality. Since Tea Needs does not include brewing parameters on their website or the sample package, I went with my standard oolong preparation, which includes water with bubbles on the bottom of the pot and beginning to rise to the top and a 3 min infusion. I did a quick rinse of the leaves to wake them up first though. The aroma coming from my prepared cup reminded me of something and, after contemplating what that was a few min, I pinpointed the fragrance as that of cooked carrots! Intrigued, I began sipping. Yes, there is something about the flavor of this that also reminds of cooked carrots—maybe even cooked carrots caramelized with something sweet like brown sugar and/or cinnamon. It is a little floral and a little green, but also a bit thin and watery and that is it’s greatest downfall in my opinion . I found that to be unusual because I prepared this using a healthy amount of leaf. While all of that might sound delicious, it somehow didn’t translate in my mouth that way. I prepared the second infusion with a similar water temperature, but allowed the leaves to infuse for a full 4 min due to the thin, watery nature of the first cup. I would say that the primary difference between the first and second infusion is that the later infusion is even a bit sweeter and a cinnamon note is more detectable. I did still find this infusion to be a bit thin and watery despite the increased infusion time. The leaves really had a chance to stretch out during this infusion and they are in good condition and not all broken or full of holes.

Ultimately, this oolong is very unusual and, before you take my criticism of it to heart, I wish to remind everyone (including myself) that one of things that is so endearing about oolong is the complexity and wide range of tastes that they offer. I am sure there are plenty of folks that would love this one because of it’s uniqueness alone. While I did enjoy the cinnamon notes to some extent, I probably wouldn’t purchase this for myself. It didn’t really taste like ‘oolong’ to me. Maybe folks who don’t typically like oolong would like this one? It is reasonably priced at $8.75 for 1.76 oz.

— To purchase Tea Needs GABA Tea, 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: Laura Laura
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Review: KTeas South Indian Chai

Chai Tea, KTeas No Comments »
Lynn’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"I then added about two teaspoons of rock sugar and a splash of half and half. The result was a sweet, mellow drink with mild spiciness that was well blended enough that I couldn't really distinguish one spice from another, except that there was still no peppery taste or sensation, and no real flavor of the tea. The flavors were well balanced otherwise, however. It was tasty and pleasant, but I can't say I was really wowed. "
Lynn’s Teaview: 7/10
Other Teaviews: Laura gave it 5/10, Erika gave it 6/10
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kteaslogoKTeas’ describes this tea as “An authentic, South Indian delight.” The ingredients include black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and pepper. I liked the sound of that.

The black tea is broken into very small pieces, as are the spices, unlike their Autumn Morning, which has very large, identifiable spice pieces, including whole cardamom pods. The largest pieces in the South Indian Chai appear to be fragments of cinnamon bark.

My sample had a very sweet fragrance, with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves the dominant notes. I infused a heaping teaspoon of dry tea in 8 oz. of 208F water for the recommended five minutes. This yielded a dark copper cup that smelled predominantly of cinnamon and ginger. I took a sample sip before adding the recommended milk and sugar. It tasted of the spices, again mostly cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. The tea was a no-show and the pepper just hadn’t shown up, either, much to my disappointment, nor the cardamom.

I then added about two teaspoons of rock sugar and a splash of half and half. The result was a sweet, mellow drink with mild spiciness that was well blended enough that I couldn’t really distinguish one spice from another, except that there was still no peppery taste or sensation, and no real flavor of the tea. The flavors were well balanced otherwise, however. It was tasty and pleasant, but I can’t say I was really wowed.

I tried a second steep of six minutes, which gave me a cup much lighter in color, which smelled and tasted quite distinctly of cloves. I added cream and sugar again and was surprised that it was as good as the first cup, if a little different in the balance of flavors. If anything, it seemed a little sweeter.

As chais go, this is not the most flavorful I’ve had, but it’s still pretty good, especially if you like a milder flavor. At $6.50 for 100g, it’s well priced for daily sipping.

— To purchase KTeas South Indian Chai, 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: Rishi Tea Vanilla Mint Organic Pu-erh

Cinnamon Tea, Licorice Root Tea, Peppermint tea, Pu'er Tea, Rishi Tea, Vanilla Tea No Comments »
Erika’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"I was amazed how fresh the ingredients tasted and my tongue actually tingled after each mouthful. "
Erika’s Teaview: 9/10
Other Teaviews: Laura gave it 9.50/10, Jamie gave it 7/10, Raven gave it 9.2/10, Katie gave it 7.4/10, Nicole gave it 10/10, Geoff gave it 9.2/10, Dan gave it 9.6/10, Shaiha gave it 6.8/10, Lea gave it 9/10, Chelsy gave it 8.7/10
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rishivanillamintpuerhRishi Tea is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and their products are available through their online store and also at many retail locations.  Rishi’s website offers a wide selection of tea and teaware and plenty of valuable tea-related information.  It’s clear this group knows tea, and last year they took home 11 first place awards from the 2009 World Tea Championship.

This tea really intrigued me.  Ingredients include pu-erh, vanilla, peppermint, cinnamon, and licorice root.  All ingredients are organic and the pu-erh is also fair trade certified.  A look over the dry ingredients revealed beautiful bright green pieces of peppermint leaves mixed with the tea, and reddish pieces of cinnamon.  The scent of the tea was absolutely amazing; heavy with mint and followed by earthy undertones.  To prepare my cup I followed Rishi’s recommendations, using one tablespoon with boiling water and a five-minute steep.  This produced a deep brown liquor, reminiscent of coffee.

After my first sip, my taste buds were met with a strong peppermint flavor, warming cinnamon, and earthy pu-erh.  I was amazed how fresh the ingredients tasted and my tongue actually tingled after each mouthful.  I reached back for the sample packet to check it out one more time.  “Flavoring” was not listed as an ingredient.  This was good news to me, but also a bit of a shock, considering the strong flavors produced in the cup.  This blend of ingredients created a clean, bright flavor.

My only negative comment about this tea is that the vanilla flavor is very light, and to me almost unnoticeable.  Also, those looking for a strong and well-defined pu-erh flavor may be slightly disappointed as mint is clearly the star of the show.  That being said, for me, this tea is amazing just the way it is.  It manages to be both a wonderful pick-me-up and a relaxing blend all at the same time.  This tea would definitely satisfy fans of mint, and for those interested in trying a pu-erh this might be a good first step.  This is an excellent tea and I highly recommend it.

— To purchase Rishi Tea Vanilla Mint Organic Pu-erh, 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: Erika Erika
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Review: KTeas Blood Orange Black Tea

Black Tea, Blood Orange Tea, KTeas No Comments »
Lynn’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"My sample was composed of smallish, somewhat broken black tea leaves generously leavened with the flower petals and bits of dried orange peel. It had a heady orange fragrance with subtle nutmeg undertones."
Lynn’s Teaview: 7.5/10
Other Teaviews: Brad gave it 6.5/10, Dan gave it 5.3/10, Vanessa gave it 7/10
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kteaslogoKTeas lists its Blood Orange Black’s ingredients as: Black tea from Ceylon and China, orange peel, safflower blossoms, and natural orange oil and states that they use less acidic Blood Oranges from the northern Mediterranean. This last was of particular interest to me, since some of the Blood Orange teas I have tried have been on the harsh side.

My sample was composed of smallish, somewhat broken black tea leaves generously leavened with the flower petals and bits of dried orange peel. It had a heady orange fragrance with subtle nutmeg undertones.

I steeped a generous teaspoon of the dry leaves in 8 oz of 208F water for four minutes, which produced a dark coppery cup that smelled of freshly cut oranges with some sweet notes of the tea itself, although the orange notes were by far the strongest. Flavor-wise, however, it was somewhat more balanced. The orange flavor was smooth and well-rounded and definitely the strongest, but didn’t completely drown out the teas, which were also smooth. The finish was the same flavor blend, astringent and very drying without being bitter. As the cup cooled the orange flavor became more pronounced and the tea receded.

A second four minute steep produced another coppery fragrant cup, but the flavor was mostly of orange oil, and rather faded, though certainly drinkable.

All in all, while I’d like the black teas to have made a slightly better showing, this is a very nice smooth, citrusy tea and, as promised, is not harshly acidic at all.

— To purchase KTeas Blood Orange Black Tea, 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: Suffuse Teas Rooibos Sutherlandia Frutescens

Herbal Tea, Rooibos Tea, Suffuse Tea No Comments »
Jamie’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"I've chosen to rate this tea on how I think someone specifically looking for a medicinal style tea or beverage would respond to the tastes as I tried them. The rooibos is sturdy and a pleasant background for the herb/plant, though the flavors of the Sutherlandia are not masked by the rooibos."
Jamie’s Teaview: 6.5/10
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SUFFUSELOGOI’ll admit straight away that I did not sample this tea with any intentions of discerning or benefiting from it in any medicinal format, and that in fact makes review a little difficult. Because this is a brew containing an herbal extract/plant infusion with a long history of use for various medical purposes in southern Africa, I don’t really expect it’s one that someone who just enjoys rooibos blends will be reaching for. In fact, it wouldn’t be enjoyed for those reasons, I can almost guarantee. The addition of the herb/plant extract to this rooibos based blend makes for a distinctly medicinal brew, with bitter undertones that initially reminded me of the way coffee grounds at the bottom of a cup can taste…later these aftertastes were bitter in a resinous, almost piney fashion. So if you are just looking for a good tasting rooibos blend, look elsewhere. Suffuse Teas offers several interesting rooibos blends, some medicinal and some with flavors such as orange, cinnamon (this one is delicious!), peppermint, and others.

So let me try to review the taste of the tea from the perspective that I would think most people looking for a review of something like this would be looking for. I can’t speak to the efficacy of the blend as far as the touted benefits go. Suffuse teas writes that Sutherlandia Frutescens is “known to boost immunity and resistance to disease…elevates mood and energy levels.” According to Suffuse and much lore in Africa, the plant offers a wide variety of benefits and may be something like white willow, valerian, or other herbs more familiar to North Americans, which provide a variety of specific benefits (and in many cases have been standardized or made into synthetics that are commonly known to most of us, such as aspirin and valium). There is some interesting reading to be found at Wikipedia.com regarding the plant. It is a plant with a long history that will be of much interest to those interested in plants, herbs, epidemiology, folk lore, etc. The article isn’t long and was of interest to me and perhaps will be to you as well. You can look at it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutherlandia_frutescens.

To prepare, I steeped the blend in just off the boil water for 5 minutes. The brew came to an attractive orange red coloring. I mentioned before that the first taste of the brew was surprising to me in that it had a curiously coffee grounds like flavor. There was a strong rooibos flavor as well, which offset this taste somewhat, but you can definitely tell that rooibos isn’t the only thing in the blend. Eventually, the tastes settled to more of an equal footing. The rooibos was there but sort of trying to hold its own with a strongly medicinal, herby sort of taste that reminded me a bit of tinctured herbs after you swallow them, and also a bit of a resinous, coniferous sort of taste.

I eventually sweetened the remainder of the mug of tea. I used stevia and I found this to be an unhelpful addition. It seemed to accentuate the more medicinal flavors, which to start weren’t repulsive or even deeply repellent. Once I added the stevia, they became more pronounced and I wouldn’t recommmend that route. For someone seeking out an herbal tea with medicinal qualities, I think the rooibos makes a nice addition to the brew. It balances the flavor and gives you something to sip slowly without feeling overpowered by strong and resinous tastes. For someone seeking another way to imbibe medicinals, or someone wanting to have access to them while on the road or wherever else it might be difficult to brew cut root, leaf, etc. this seems a very good vehicle for the Sutherlandia. Drinking this, though I didn’t enjoy it in the fashion I typically enjoy teas or herbals, it came to mind that there is a reason that people often add their tinctures to tea. The rooibos is a nice backdrop.

I did find this a difficult tea to rate on taste alone. I’ve chosen to rate this tea on how I think someone specifically looking for a medicinal style tea or beverage would respond to the tastes as I tried them. The rooibos is sturdy and a pleasant background for the herb/plant, though the flavors of the Sutherlandia are not masked by the rooibos.The Sutherlandia makes its presence known especially in a lingering aftertaste, but seems to be an efficacious and pleasant enough way to use the herb in your daily diet, for whatever purpose you might choose to do so for.

— To purchase Suffuse Teas Rooibos Sutherlandia Frutescens, 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: Jamie Jamie
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