Seven teas in seven days: Day 7, Decaf Strawberry

For this final tea, I am cheating a bit in that I am actually testing this tea on the afternoon of Day 6 and scheduling the post for the morning after.  This is the sixth and final tea out of my tasting kit, Decaf Strawberry.

Decaf Strawberry Black Tea
Decaf Strawberry Black Tea

This black tea has been decaffeinated, which means that there may still be small amounts of caffeine remaining, but it’s probably not going to keep you up all night.  It’s better to go with a purely herbal tisane if you have to avoid caffeine entirely.

In addition to the decaffeinated black tea, this Sri Lankan tea from Great Big Teas has added pieces of strawberry and papaya, in addition to natural flavors.  The recommended brew time is 4-7 minutes with boiling (212 F) water.  I think I was somewhere in the 5 minute range and still didn’t get a strong bitter signal from the tannins.

Surprisingly, the strawberry in this tea comes out mostly in the aroma.  The fruit flavor is relatively mild, especially in comparison with Day 1’s Blueberry Infusion.  Part of me wishes I had the time to go back through and test each of these again iced- I think both the fruit and rose flavors of this series would stand up well to the cold and be quite refreshing on these hot August days.

Brewed Strawberry
Brewed Strawberry

As suggested, this tea would pair well with a strong dessert, such as strawberry shortcake.  With the fruit mostly in the aroma, I would guess the flavors to be complimentary.  For those who prefer sweetened tea, this would be a good candidate for a “neutral” sweetener such as clover honey.

The pairing of honeys with teas is still a new area for me, and my main eating (versus mead-making) honey is a local honey which has quite a strong flavor, so it’s really not the best for taste testing these different teas.  Eating local honey is thought to have many health benefits, including improving seasonal allergies and anti-inflammatory effects.  I’m not sure I’ve seen an improvement in mine, but it tastes delicious and helps my local economy.  If you’re looking for a supplier, I recommend checking your local farmer’s market since many of the honeys you find in the grocery don’t always contain pollen and are imported from farther away.  The Bee Folks are one of our regional favorites as well, with lots of different options.

This wraps up my week long series previewing the teas I received in my tea tasting kit from Great Big Teas.  I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring these teas with me.  I’ve already got my eye on at least 15 other teas I’m keen to try for the coming fall and winter season, but I’m going to switch gears and try out some recipes and work on some crochet projects in the mean time.  Hope you enjoyed!

Seven teas in seven days: Day 6, MoTEAto

Today’s tea is actually the “bonus” tea of the set, my own personal purchase outside of the six tea tasting set.  As I’ve mentioned before, green tea and mint mixes are my favorite types of tea, and MoTEAto is no exception.

MoTEAto green tea
MoTEAto green tea

As you can probably guess from the name, this green tea is a play on mojito, a Cuban cocktail containing rum, sugar, mint, lime juice, and sparkling water.  The tea picks up on the lime and mint, adding a few other ingredients to round out the flavor.

The recommended brew time is 2-3 minutes at 175 F, but I used the lower “green” setting on my kettle, at 165 F.  Accordingly, I increased the brew time by a couple of minutes, still avoiding the bitterness of tannins from over steeping.  The flexibility of brew times has been a good discovery for me this week, especially since I’m prone to wandering off while my tea is seeping.

Brewed MoTEAto
Brewed MoTEAto

The tea color is very typical of a green tea, and the mint comes forward both in scent and taste.  Today’s breakfast included sausage and a coconut-banana-pineapple smoothie, so the lime was less noticeable than it would be otherwise.  When I first tasted it on a very hot summer evening, the lime flavor gave it a surprising twist that was very refreshing.

Having had a long day of exploring Wilmington yesterday, I’m regretting not having a pot here to make a larger amount of this tea- I think it’s an excellent candidate for a “whole pot” day or a pitcher of iced tea.  I’ll just have to keep enjoying it one cup at a time until I get back home.

Seven teas in seven days: Day 5, Blue Spring Oolong

Last night, we had a crazy thunderstorm and a house down the street actually got struck by lightning!  It looked like it had a lightning rod take off a chunk of the roof when it got struck.  The more immediate effect of this was that our internet was down for a bit this morning, hence the delayed post.

Blue Spring Oolong
Blue Spring Oolong

For day 5’s tea, I decided to go with Great Big Tea’s Blue Spring Oolong.  I knew I’d need a bit of caffeine to get me going with the day we had planned and I remembered this tea from the tea tasting I had attended.  Oolong is the tea many people associate with Chinese restaurants, and the puffed rice flavor of this tea is no exception.

The recommended brew time for this tea is 195 F for 3 minutes and I finally used a proper timer to ensure the right seep time for this tea.  Consisting of rare Ti Kuan Yin Oolong and mallow petals, this tea unfurls beautifully as it seeps.  Since my husband is a big oolong fan, I also made him a cup with the second seeping of the leaves, with no loss of flavor.

Brewed Oolong
Brewed Oolong

This tea has a lovely golden color, and the puffed rice flavor had no bitter tannin taste.  It was fun to have it first thing in the morning, reminiscent of but a great improvement over eating puffed rice cereal for breakfast.  This is definitely a drinkable tea and a good candidate for one of those “full pot” kind of days.

Seven teas in seven days: Day 4, Sonoma Cabernet

Sonoma Cabernet White Tea
Sonoma Cabernet White Tea

I decided to go a bit mellower this morning, in keeping with the grey skies and looming thunderstorms off the coast today.  This is the third rose tea in this set, and the last.

Great Big Tea’s Sonoma Cabernet is a white tea, the least processed type of tea, made from the youngest leaves.  It is recommended to seep at 190 F for 3-5 minutes, but I used the white tea setting on my electric kettle, which is 180.  To make up for the slightly lower seep temperature, I brewed for the full 5 minutes.

Brewed Sonoma Cabernet
Brewed Sonoma Cabernet

White tea seeps much lighter in color, and this one is quite floral, due to the inclusion of jasmine flowers and rose petals.  Like the rose black tea I tried yesterday, this tea can be seeped twice.

With the low caffeine content, this white tea would be ideal for a lunch or evening tea.  With the mild flavor, it should be paired with more delicate flavors that won’t overpower the tea.  The floral components of this tea make that slightly less likely, but just like wine, it’s best to use a stronger tea with more hearty foods.

Seven teas in seven days: Day 3, Rose Black

While I usually avoid black tea due to the higher caffeine content (and my Crohn’s), I decided to jump in and try the Rose tea this morning.  Great Big Tea’s version contains rose petals and rose hips along with blackberry leaves.

Rose Black Tea
Rose Black Tea

As a black tea, it is recommended to brew with boiling water (212 F) for about 3 minutes.  This particular tea can be seeped twice for a second cup of tea, if so desired.  Longer brew times would both increase the caffeine as well as the bitterness from tannins, but less so on a second seeping.

As to be expected, the tea has a pleasant rose aroma.  The flavors carry over into the brewed the tea, and I had the first half of my cup without any sweetener. Out of curiosity, I added some of our local honey to the second half of the cup.  While the honey has quite a strong flavor on its own, the flavors of the rose and the black tea stand their own, retaining the flavor.

Brewed Rose
Brewed Rose

Rose is a personal taste, like many types of tea.  For me, it reminds me of rose pastilles, a French candy that a friend of mine introduced to us in middle school, years ago.  I think it’s always worth trying new types of teas (baring any allergies), particularly as our tastes continually change.

Seven teas in seven days: Day 2, Kyoto Cherry Rose

This afternoon, I needed a small shot of caffeine.  As a predominantly green tea drinker, I didn’t want to jump right into a black tea after lunch.  With my husband requesting that I wait to try the Oolong, green tea was the best choice.  And so, today’s tea is the Kyoto Cherry Rose.

Kyoto Rose Green Tea
Kyoto Cherry Rose Green Tea

While I certainly have been known to pour boiled water into my ceramic to-go mug with a bag of Tazo Zen, letting it seep until I drink below the level of the bag, I wanted to be sure to get the optimal taste while trying this tea.  My variable kettle has both a “green” and “delicate” setting which it recommends for certain types of green teas.

Both harvest time and quality of tea determine the best brewing temperature for green teas, ranging from 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit.  Generally, mixed green teas and those with a bit darker leaves can be brewed warmer.  I went with the 165 setting (check out this article for getting the right temperature without a specialized kettle).

Brew time should be around 1-3 minutes, and I estimate that I ended up brewing somewhere around 3 minutes today.

Brewed Kyoto Rose
Brewed Kyoto Cherry Rose

I’m having trouble coming up with an adjective to describe this tea besides “yummy.”  With green tea and rose petals plus a natural cherry flavor, I’m not getting any bitter tannins and it turned out to be a perfect fit for the afternoon.  It’s very drinkable and doesn’t require any sweetening.  I must admit to being skeptical initially since my sizable tea collection tends to center around mixtures of mint and green tea.

This tea turned out to be a very nice follow up to the double scoop of ice cream that I polished off after lunch.  And while a nap wouldn’t be terribly inconvenient on a Sunday afternoon, I think I’m awake enough now to enjoy reading a book on the porch instead.  Happy brewing!

Seven teas in seven days: Day 1, Blueberry Infusion

Over the next week, I’m going to be trying out the six teas I have in my current tea tasting kit, along with one tea I ordered at the tasting party that led to me join Great Big Teas.  I’m on vacation with family for the week, which makes this the perfect opportunity to focus on taste testing, by brewing a cup of each tea every day at the right temperature for the right amount of time.

Tonight, I’m starting with a tisane, Blueberry Infusion.  With no caffeine, it makes a good choice for something to take the chill off from air conditioners and ceiling fans in the evening.  It’s recommended to brew with boiling water for 5 minutes, you can brew this one longer with no worry of bitter tannins.

Blueberry Infusion
Blueberry Infusion
Brewed Blueberry
Brewed Blueberry

The “tea” itself is very colorful and brews to a deep ruby color.  With dried blueberries along with other fruits and petals, it’s sweet but not cloying.  The inclusion of hibiscus gives this infusion a nice balance.  I think Blueberry Infusion would also be a great candidate to have iced on a hot afternoon.

I haven’t yet decided which tea to try tomorrow, but I’ve got a bag full of yarn and unfinished projects calling my name.  Happy brewing!

Tisanes and infusions

With the end of Pennsic War and a continual flood of photos on my facebook feed from the immersive annual event, I can’t help but think of what I would eat or drink in keeping with the medieval “period.”  With no grains for me these days, I could still look forward to wines, meads, and ciders.

True tea, brewed from the Asian plant  Camellia sinensiswas introduced to Portugal in the 16th century, but didn’t become widely popular in Europe until the Brits made it fashionable in the 17th century.  Before then, herbal infusions were consumed, most often as medicinals.   Rooibos and chamomile are two “teas” now widely available that are really herbal infusions, also known as tisanes.

The origin of “tisane” refers to a barley water, but all sorts of fruits and herbals can be made into infusions or decoctions, the latter requiring boiling in water.  Technically, tea and coffee are both forms of these.

Using honey as a sweetener, any number of things could be made into tisanes or other period drinks, including rose petals and lavender.  A favorite of mine from Montana consists of chamomile, rosehips, various berry leaves, mints, clover, even wild cherry bark.  Many of the soothing properties of these ingredients have been long known.  Dried ingredients could be easily stored, and preparation with boiled water would have made most water safe to drink (by killing those “animalcules” that van Leeuwenhoek would describe in the late 17th century).

So, if you’re wanting to soothe indigestion or simply have a taste for something without alcohol, these non-caffeinated infusions would be very much “in period” whether you’re fighting at Pennsic or curled up in a chair with a good book.

No stranger to politics

The history of tea has had many political episodes, but the late 18th century saw a boycott of sugar in British tea, as a protest against slavery.  Poet Percy Shelley and his wife Mary (of Frankenstein fame) opted for unsweetened green tea.

Read more about how offering afternoon tea without sugar was a political act in Nina Martyris’ full article on NPR.

A love of tea

I have some exciting news!  In the coming months, I’m going to be changing around the focus of my website a bit.  I just joined a local company that sells teas and accessories.  I will be hosting tea tastings locally and have a web site available for ordering from Great Big Teas.

What that means for the blog:  I am going to be writing about some non-grain recipes for my favorite tea foods.  With my Crohn’s disease, I have been trying different diets this year and have settled on one being developed by some researchers at U Mass which includes no grains.  I love scones and cucumber sandwiches with tea, so I’m going on the hunt to try some new recipes.

What that means for the etsy shop:  Don’t worry, the octopuses will remain!  I will also be adding a few new offerings such as cup cozies that I’ve had ready for months and just haven’t been able to get listed in the shop.  I also have a few other projects up my sleeve that I’ll reveal when they are ready- we’re currently putting the house on the market so my schedule has gotten pushed back a bit this summer.  But soon it will be listed and creative endeavours will win the day once again!

You’ll see a new look in the coming days, and I hope you’ll be as excited as I am about this new chapter.