Friday 16 October 2015

Tea 101: Water Temperature

Now my partner loves a good cup of tea, but if you ever asked him to make one he'd probably just stare at you and render his face in an adorable version of “I don't know.” He's a great resource to me in his current state of new-to-tea. It means I get to ask him “what do you wanna learn about tea?” His response this week was “What's up with temperature?”

He's referring to the fact that teas need to be steeped at different temperatures based on the type of tea you're making. This isn't a fact that a lot of people know, and it's surprising how easily it's missed.

So, for those of you who aren't aware, here's the 101!

The general rule of thumb is the darker a tea is, the hotter the water should be. Therefore a black tea uses hotter water than white tea. The reason for this is that the hotter the water, the more astringency the tea will release. Lighter/less processed teas are more “raw,” and therefore have more astringency to release than teas that are darker/more processed.

It's pretty easy to google an infographic for this, but I'll summarize the different types of tea below:

White: 70ºc/170ºf
Yellow 70ºc/170ºf
Green 79ºc/175ºf
Oolong 90ºc/195ºf
Black 90-96ºc/195-205ºf
Pu erh 96ºc/205ºf
Herbal Infusions 98ºc/208ºf

That being said, I have found there is a lot of flexibility. If you don't have a thermometer or a variable temperature kettle, my advice is to boil your water, and leave it for 2-5 minutes. This usually brings it down to 85ºC/176ºF. I steep all of my teas at this temperature with absolutely no problems at all.

Saturday 10 October 2015

Review: Mulled Pomegranate Cider and Poached Pear Cider

Here's a special update just in time for Thanksgiving. Well, for us Canadians anyway. This time of year is the time when the temperature drops, the skies turn grey, and my curly hair becomes a bird's nest. This year autumn came a bit early, to my great pleasure, which means I can enjoy my hot teas without dying of heat stroke.

I recently went to Teavana and picked up their newest launches. So in honour of the holiday weekend, I'm reviewing them BOTH! 

Now Teavana's herbal infusions are pretty good, but I have a hard time with herbals in general for the simple fact that you see the same flavours over and over. Raspberry, chamomile, lemon ginger, peach and mint are some of the main guys, but when I see "pomegranate" or "pear," I gotta take a closer look.

Herbal infusions are so pretty (Pomegranate on the left, Pear on the right)

Mulled Pomegranate Cider
Type: Herbal Infusion
Ingredients: Pomegranate, cinnamon, hibiscus, carob, ginger, apple, raspberries
Brewing Time: 5 minutes
Brewing Method:  Tea-for-one
Smell: Bursting with fruit and a soft hint of the spice. Reminds me of a good potpourri.
Flavour: Unsweetened, it has a sour but spicy-sweet flavour. Sour obviously comes from the hibiscus, but the spices really balance it out. Sweetened with honey, the sour notes chill out, but conversely the spicy notes also mellow out. More of the fruity flavours come out when sweetened, which is good if you want a fruity infusion, but not if you want that spice which becomes an aftertaste rather than part of the flavour.

Mmmm, pomegranate-y...

Poached Pear Cider
Type: Herbal Infusion
Ingredients: Cinnamon, apple, cardamom, ginger, lemongrass, pear, ginger
Brewing Time: 5 minutes
Brewing Method: Tea-for-one
Smell: Light-bodied, mildly fruity, but nothing more than that.
Flavour: Very light bodied, very light in any flavour really. It's almost as if you have hot water after eating a pear. You can taste some floral notes, probably the white hibiscus. This would be a refreshing tea to have with something rich like dark chocolate. This is also a good option if you need something with ginger in it but don't like spicy teas. With honey, more sweetness comes out and less of the floral.

It's the pear-fect blend!

Overall rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Both blends are beautiful in their own way. In fact, I believe they would make a great addition to a Thanksgiving meal, or any time when you want something that's just a bit different. Herbal infusions are plentiful, and many bear many similarities to each other. These two are spicy and sweet, fruity and floral, full-bodied but refreshing. The first would be a great accompaniment with your turkey dinner, the second a great pear-ing (pun always intended) for the decadent desserts that come after the meal. Both will help enhance the flavours of the holiday and season, and both will help with that stomachache that comes from eating too much.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Shaktea review

Vancouver has its fair share of tea houses, and my goal is to visit them all. Granted, this will take such a long time, but a girl can dream right? Introducing my first tea place to review (more to come!): Shaktea!
My partner and I have been pretty obsessed with high tea places recently, so this

Now this place is a bit different than most tea places. It had a very hipster-hole-in-the-wall feel that made it cozy. Unfortunately, there was only one staff person on that day which made service a bit slow, but other than that, the experience was a joy. We walked in without a reservation as well, and many places in Vancouver require a reservation, so really, what's there to complain about?

Okay, so, price per high tea was $17, which included a pot of tea and a refill. A pretty reasonable price for such a lovely tea service. Crumpets, macarons, and freshly baked scones, oh yes, reasonable is at its best here. I tried their “Sun and Fruit” honeybush tea and it was so good, so so soooooo good, I'll have to go back and grab some. Lightly fruity, didn't need any sweetener, oh Lordy, you can buy it on their website (see below), and I recommend you do so.

You can also purchase any of their loose teas to make at home. Unfortunately I could not take any home on this occasion, but I did grab a teapot warmer for a wonderful price! You can also purchase the teapots they use there in so many different colours! I wanted to buy them all but my cabinet is already choked full.

Image taken from Shaktea's Facebook Page
If you're around the area, definitely check it out. It's also a place I would recommend going if you need the necessities to brew loose-leaf at home. My partner and I have decided that we will revisit Shaktea every time he sees his doctor.
Image taken from Shaktea's Facebook page

Please visit Shaktea`s facebook page here.
Please visit Shaktea's website page here.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Review: Napoleon tea

This is a tea that's been in my pantry fro quite a while, actually, and not yet have I tried it. I keep meaning to, but it just hasn't happened yet. LUCKILY I just received an early birthday present, my beautiful Tea-for-One from David's Tea which makes a smaller amount of tea. It's perfect for trying little bits of tea at a time :D

Now the tea was a recommendation made to me by a lovely Tea sales girl at the Urban Tea Merchant in Vancouver. I had the s'mores tea, or some chocolately delightfulness in my hand when she brought this down. "This one's so much better though," she said, quiet but confident. 

Steep faster, darn you!
Not sure what the bits are, but assuming they`re yummy.

Type: Black Tea
Ingredients: Vanilla and spice
Brewing Time: 3 minutes
Brewing Method: Tea for One (Brand new!!! :D)
Smell: Floral, full-bodied
Flavour: Sweet, floral yet spicey, vanilla, smooth but dry.


Overall rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Now I am not usually a fan of vanilla in tea. A personal preference, a stupid one I know. However, in this infusion the vanilla gives a creamy flavour and is not overpowering. Like a lot of black teas, it leaves the mouth very dry. The only way to describe this guy is like drinking a spiced vanilla flower. Delicate and not overly sweet, just perfect.

This tea is available here: Urban Tea Merchant: Napoleon

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Review: Chamomile Blooms

I drink a lot of chamomile tea. I add pure chamomile to other herbal teas that don't have it in the mix, or I just add more chamomile to blends that do. It's not that I like it especially, I just find it very helpful for my anxiety and I find that a lot of blended herbals that have chamomile in the mix don't have enough. Enter: Chamomile Blooms via Teavana, as launched just a few weeks ago. If you haven't tried it yet, fret not, for I have tried it for you. :)

Type: Herbal Tea
Ingredients: Chamomile, hibiscus, blackberry leaves, lemongrass, lavender.
Brewing Time: 5+ minutes
Brewing Method: Tea Sachet - in the photo below, it's in the box. I used this because chamomile has a nasty habit of leaving crud and floaties in the cup that I don't care for.
Smell: Lemony and floral. Kinda like a field of flowers that's been rained on in lemon juice.
Flavour: LOTS of lemongrass flavour, can't really taste any of the chamomile, the lemongrass definitely is centre-stage of this party. It's pretty light in flavour, I needed to add a bit of honey otherwise it's a bit bitter for my preference. 

(Brewing methods)

(Pure chamomile)

Overall rating: 1 2 3 4 5

This is definitely a blend that has enough chamomile to knock me out or calm me down, however, it struck me as suspiciously similar to Tazo's "Calm." I suspect Blooms was brought in to replace it. I think this move was because Teavana already had a blend called "Tranquil Dream" (Which I will be reviewing later.) that is similar enough. Regardless, I like this blend a lot and will keep it in my tea cabinet for a long time to come. 

P.S. This post is SO overdue, my apologies. I've had lots on my plate since December, including Christmas and health issues. I've shot some content and I have enough for the next while, so I hope everyone will come back and visit soon. :) Thanks!

Monday 22 December 2014

Review: Oolong Supreme

So a few weeks back I purchased Modern Tea from Chapters, written by Lisa Boalt Richardson. I have been reading it through section by section and while I already had a pretty good knowledge about tea production, I learned quite a few new things from Richardson. For example, I learned more about oolong tea and that there is so many different ways to process it. In fact, it's the type of tea that has the most variation in its process which yields that widest range of flavours.

With this in mind, I purchased Oolong Supreme from David's Tea. My last David's review wasn't so positive, and in general I'm biased against their flavoured teas. Their straight teas, however, I'm very eager to try and on this trip, I made the girl pull down all four of their oolongs. While they were all very tempting, I of course had to take home the most expensive of the bunch.

Type: Oolong
Ingredients: Dang Cong Oolong
Brewing Time: 2 minutes for the first steep and 3 minutes for the second steep
Brewing Method: Cast iron
Smell: Complex, rich
Flavour: Complex and beautiful, the first steep is so light and ever so slightly astringent. The best way I can describe it is a roasted-floral tone.

(My brand new bun mug! Thanks Teavana)

Overall rating: 1 2 3 4 5

My first sip was just such a wonderful experience. I think I'm going to try all my first sips from glass to allow for a pure flavour because doing so this time around did the tea such justice. It was amazingly refreshing, gorgeous, and so damn good. When I finished its first steep, I noticed the leaves had more to give, so I resteeped them a second time, adding another minute. I'm so glad I did, it yielded another beautiful pot of tea which I enjoyed for the rest of the night. The other thing I loved about this tea is, while it is $19.50 per 50g, it's so fluffy so 50 grams of this tea looks like 100 grams of most other teas. The person helping me actually grabbed the next bag size up to get the tea to fit. The volume of the tea, its quality, and its ability for resteeps make this tea such a winner value-wise. So far, this is my favourite oolong, and I can't wait to try their others!

Saturday 29 November 2014

Review: Apple Custard

David's Tea, for me, is a bit hit and miss. The straight teas they carry are pretty spot-on, but a lot of their flavoured teas come up short. That said, I'm not planning on writing them off completely, and I'm always willing to try a new tea. So today when I was stocking-stuffer-shopping, I decided to pick up their Apple Custard for myself as it had caught my eye before.

Type: Herbal Tea
Ingredients: apples, golden raisins, coriander, chamomile, natural and artificial vanilla flavouring
Brewing Time: 5 minutes
Brewing Method: I used David's handled tea ball. Big mistake, I had to run it through a teamaker from Teavana to get all the debris out of the tea... 
Smell: When brewed, it has a very strong vanilla scent.
Flavour: Fruity top-notes, vanilla body, light-bodied. Not as vanilla-y as I had anticipated, but I would have liked it to be a bit more apple-y as the apple flavour gets a bit lost. Very smooth.

(In my onesie, excuse the cracked post-Black Friday polish)

Overall rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Pretty nice, I think it's a nice calming concoction. Glad to have it on hand, but it'll probably take me a while to get through the miniscule amount I have as there are plenty of teas I'd rather have.