Friday, January 1, 2016

Spring Clean herbal

Herbal blend
Amoda Tea and BlendBee

All organic ingredients: Rose hips, licorice root, ginger, dandelion leaf, nettle, strawberry leaf, chamomile.

It's New Years Day and I'm opening my slim tea sampler again. There is frost on the little blades of wild brush outside, and a thin coat of ice on the pond. Luckily, that should be about the level of winter I'll have to see in my new place.

I'll start 2016 by trying a new tea for fresh starts: Spring Clean herbal from Amoda Tea and BlendBee. Spring Clean will be a true test, since I rarely drink these herbal heavy hitters usually: licorice and chamomile. I'm interested to see how the dandelion leaf weaves its flavor. I know dandelion is edible, but I've never taken that natural plunge. And I can't say I've tasted nettle before either. I'm hoping that the rose hips and strawberry leaf bring some sweet flavor to the earthy ingredients. Come to think of it, I have some untended rose bushes out my window. Maybe I should make a rose hip tea?

To the nose, the dry tea is ginger-forward. Chamomile and nettle follow.

Directions call for freshly boiled water at 5-10 minutes and 1 teaspoon/8 ounces. I'll go for 10 minutes and 2 teaspoons, since I participate in extreme tea drinking.

The pour is a thick lemon-like yellow. Licorice leads the taste, with a finish that is very warming with the swallow. Excuse me while I creep up on the couch with this and open my Kindle.

Since I doubled the portion, I'm going to add hot water to it now, to see if it cuts the licorice and allows the other flavors to show. Sure enough, I now taste the chamomile better. This is not a thin tisane, so a little bit will go a long way. I would now classify it as a chamomile-forward tea, with the other ingredients as supporting notes to separate it from other blends.

Spring Clean is a bright and calming tea. Hopefully I will get better sleep tonight without fireworks!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Oolong Gone

Oolong and herbal blend
Amoda Tea

All organic ingredients: Oolong, hibiscus, lemon peel, ashwagandha root, strawberry leaf, rose buds, licorice root, sweet orange extract.

Oolong Gone serves as my second review of Amoda Tea's November monthly tasting box.

The colors in Oolong Gone are so rich, I could simply put it on display. It looks like a wedding tea. The oolong leaves are a beautiful burgundy. Again, I'm impressed with Amoda Tea's (combined with choice of ingredients.

Specifically, the hibiscus. Hibiscus is tart and has a lot of personality, so I'm curious to see if it dwarfs or enhances the oolong, which is usually delicate in flavor. There's also the ashwagandha root, which looks like ginger. Ashwagandha will be a first for me. I notice citrus and hibiscus in a first smell of the tea, so I'm expecting that to lead the flavor.

I would normally never make an herbal tea in my gaiwan, but I'll make an exception for the oolong base. It calls for 4-8 minutes, which seems like a wide range to me, so I'll pick 8 minutes for the full effect. I expect a longer steep to enhance the hibiscus, though.

I'm surprised! I smell the oolong first, in a dusty sweet tone. That sweetness could be enhanced by the rose buds, but it's definitely still oolong. It's a ruby-red color that hints at pink.

The taste is strong with the red hibiscus, but it's much more sweet than tart. The directions suggest a cold brew, and I agree that would be the best way to serve this tea. It's not the straightforward oolong flavor you would expect from your gaiwan, but a fun treat I'd love to have at a garden party.

This tea was provided by Amoda Tea.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Sugar and Spice Black and Rooibos tea

Black and rooibos blend
Amoda Tea

All organic ingredients: Ceylon, rooibos, orange peel, cardamom, cinnamon, all-spice, elderberries, peppercorn, ginger, licorice root, vanilla, brown sugar extract, orange extract.

I stumbled across Amoda Tea on Twitter when they were working on a monthly subscription package. Now, I've gotten a preview with their all-organic November Tasting Box!

It's a slim little box, nicely packaged with four tea blends of different caffeine levels, biodegradable tea filters, and tasting notes.

Included are Amoda Tea's new blends: Sugar & Spice, Oolong Gone, Lime Green with Envy, and a Spring Clean herbal.

Since it's the Christmas season, I had to start with the spiced tea. I've never tried a black/rooibos blend before. We have an air stagnation warning and burn ban here south of Seattle, and the dense, low fog is making me crave warmth.

The dry tea smell just leaps from the bag. It takes a couple sniffs to identify orange peel and vanilla as that extra punch to the brown cinnamon. It's deliciously sweet but with cardamom and elderberries to keep it rooted. The ginger and licorice, which is often too strong in blends, are supporting undertones and not overpowering.

I'm brewing the Sugar & Spice in my small Brown Betty. The steeping directions call for freshly boiled water at 4-5 minutes, so I'll go with 5 min. I've pre-warmed my teapot to appease the Welsh tea gods, and my iPhone timer is at the ready. I like my tea strong, so I'm using 2 Tbsp and about 10 oz of water.

Toasted aspects come out in the liquor smell, like cardamom and peppercorn, with cinnamon following. There's a licorice root influence when the tea cools down. It's deep red like rust.

The first taste reminds me that this has rooibos. I had expected a bolder black tea flavor. Orange wafts from the cup. The wet leaves have some visible squares of unfurled black tea, plus the expanded spices and orange bits. It's sweeter tea than I normally drink, so I'd reserve this for after a holiday dinner.

The November Tasting Box is a lot of fun. I'd use it to try new flavors just for fun, or then commit to larger volumes of tea with the free shipping currently offered to subscribers.

This tea was provided by Amoda Tea.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Seattle Chai

Flavored black tea
Perennial Tea Room

Story: "Developed by former Seattle tea blender Frank Miller based on his tea experiences in India as a Peace Corps Volunteer. This blend of tea and spices warms the room with its aroma and flavor."

Tucked into Post Alley in Seattle is the cozy Perennial Tea Room. Teas named "Seattle" got first try since I'm new to the area and loving it.

Two days after Halloween, I'm accepting the Christmas decorations that manifested inside Target. So, this tea came to me at the right time. The dry tea smell leads with ginger and sweet clove. Translation: smells like Christmas.

I dropped 2 tsp into my single-cup Brown Betty teapot. The liquor mouthfeel is less weighty and looks redder/orange-r than I thought it would. It tastes like a light mulled cider. A bit of milk smooths out the spices.

Seattle tea, Seattle plaid and fleece. Yes.

It's a thinner-tasting tea, not black-tea-heavy, and nice if you want something light in the afternoon. I'll add another teaspoon next time to experiment. I'm going to think of this as my Seattle Christmas chai.

If anyone knows of a "Seattle" tea I need to try, let me know here or on Twitter (@TeaNoCrumpets). Seattle: I freaking love it here.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Seattle Breakfast black tea

Black tea blend
Perennial Tea Room

Ingredients: Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian black teas in Perennial Tea's trademarked blend.

Not far from the oldest Starbucks location in Seattle is dear little Perennial Tea Room in Post Alley, hidden behind a wooden bench and hanging flower pots. The man welcoming customers and calmly explaining tea origins is an absolute gentleman and an incredible knowledge resource. I could have stayed all day, and maybe they would have let me, since there are two cozy tables with chairs and four tea brews going for customers to try.

Being new to the Pacific Northwest and Pike Place Market, and dangerously close to running out of breakfast tea at home, of course I bought his Seattle Breakfast tea.

The blend has grayish leaves with some honey-colored buds. It smells a bit earthy like Indian teas, maybe both Assam and Darjeeling? I don't know, because I think the blend is a secret. Maybe I will ask my gentleman friend very politely next time.

At the tea room, each tea is on display and available to smell. Teas are packaged in pre-labeled bags with specialized instructions.

Pre-heating my single-cup-sized $2 Goodwill find Brown Betty teapot and Pottery Barn wedding gift mug.

These mug tea strainers complete the experience. I love seeing them in period piece films. Perennial Tea was selling a similar one with longer, more intricate sides and a round metal strainer rest to go with it.

And now, for the taste! It's a smooth, dusty flavor to match the earthy smell of the dry leaves. Expertly blended for flavor that's rich but mellow. Liquor is dark with deep red hue.

It's nearly a shame to put milk in it, but after drinking half a cup I do, and it's the milky light brown color I love to see, with a touch of gray. I enjoyed the tea so much, I decided to cook a full breakfast and brew a second cup. It goes well with a hearty meal, too.

Some color variation in the wet leaves.

I'm at the end of a box of PG tips at home, and while I respect that tea to the ends of the earth, it's been getting a bit malty for me with what I believe is the Ceylon. I was pleased to find this Seattle Breakfast with a more mellow profile than its other breakfast counterparts.

Seattle Breakfast blend is perfect for misty mornings like this.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Why tea people love the Pacific Northwest

Sorry for the silence. I've moved! I'm in the Pacific Northwest. I hope my tea friends are having fun at the Northwest Tea Festival today. Crimson Lotus Tea, I need to meet you! Soon!

There's a moving pod full of necessary (not necessary) belongings to unload today, so I've stayed home this weekend in my new little Craftsman house.

Pittsburgh, you've been great. But now I'm ready to drink all the tea in Seattle.

Yes, Seattle is all about coffee. So why am I convinced that the Pacific Northwest is for tea drinkers?

Reason #1: Evergreens.

Feeling deep? Feeling moody? Of course you are. There are evergreens everywhere, your new dramatic sentinels. Tea people love green that stays green. These evergreens aren't tea plants, but I intend to stare them down every day. Over the rim of my tea cup.

Kitchens with farmhouse sinks are great, too. 

Reason #2: Shit grows here.

It was a sad day in Pittsburgh when I finally gave up on the iris bulbs I had planted in the cruel clay soil. Other lucky people managed to grow food in Pennsylvania, but after three years of waiting for those irises to bloom, I swore off gardening forever. Sadness no more! It rains here. Shit grows. I can pluck vegetables without paying tax on them (perhaps only paying tax on the seeds?).

Zucchini adventures.

What is this, chard or something?

Beer. People make beer here. This house's previous owners, did. What to do with these hops? Figure out how to make beer, that's what.

The Pacific Northwest has a strong kombucha following, too. Metronome Coffee serves kombucha on tap!

Woodinville, the "Napa of the Northwest," produces wines such as Chateau Ste. Michelle and beer from Redhook Brewery. Don't forget the amazing Elysian Brewing in Seattle. Costco was selling cases of Night Owl Pumpkin Ale in the $26.99 range up here! That price is unheard of in Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh, when a beer you like is available for sale, you RUN and get it, and then you hoard it. Pennsylvania state controls the sale of alcohol and that makes things very tricky for drink lovers.

Reason #3: All the coffee/tea shops!

Don't panic: chances are, you are only one mile or one block away from the closest Starbucks. In Honesdale, Pennsylvania, I was an hour away from Starbucks. But now, the height of culture is mine.


Self-explanatory Starbucks visit.


Cardamom Apple Rum Latte from Metronome Coffee

Victrola Coffee Roasters on Pike Street is sold at Metronome Coffee, so that's what I'm making in my French press these days. Because yes! In the misty mornings here, coffee just makes sense. I hadn't bought coffee for the house in half a year, then suddenly I need it. I can't explain it. It's just this place.

World Spice Merchants in Seattle is like a tea shop, but for spices. Each spice has 1 oz displayed in a glass jar for you to smell and get a sense of volume. Carry a pad and pencil with you and write down your order for the clerk to measure out. They sell tea, too.

Tea Ave, specializing in Taiwanese oolong, is north in Vancouver.

Crimson Lotus Tea in Seattle specializes in puerh. Which means I have a lot to learn from them. Which means I'm taking a drive north, soon.

Pacific Northwest, I love you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cucumber Cantaloupe Oolong

Oolong blend

Ingredients: Organic oolong tea, freeze-dried cucumber pieces, all-natural organic flavors.

Cucumber-cantaloupe dominates the scent of the dry tea. It has beautiful, long pieces of tea. In the vibrant yellow-green liquor, an attractive earthy oolong scent emerges alongside the melon.

The oolong and melon together taste like something I could eat! The liquor is barely astringent and very fresh, similar in experience to an oolong with natural floral notes, but with cantaloupe instead of flowers. It recommends a 3-4 minute steep time, but I prefer it for longer than 4 minutes for more depth from the oolong .

Does it steep twice? I wasn't sure if the natural flavors would come out in a second infusion, but I gave it a try and ended up with an oolong cup with a bare hint of melon. It worked!