Summer Mornings with Pique Tea

This morning was a get-up-and-go kind of morning. A who-has-time-to-let-the-coffee-brew kind of morning. A it’s-too-hot-for-coffee-anyway kind of morning. So I grabbed my Harry Potter travel mug, brewed myself some iced English Breakfast tea from Pique Tea (in a matter of seconds, mind you), selected a summertime read, and set out to find the perfect reading spot.

One of the best things about living next to a school (aside from getting to hear the marching band practice when Autumn falls upon us, which makes my heart swell with nostalgia) is the abundance of perfect summertime reading spots. Especially the school I live next to since it’s a cluster of schools– an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school– with a sprawling campus with walking paths, athletic fields, and benches galore.

Also, it has swing sets, which admittedly was my first stop.

After meandering past locked-up baseball diamonds, the running track with early morning ramblers, and the tennis courts with old men hollering after renegade, fluorescent yellow tennis balls, I finally found my perfect summer reading spot– a yellow bench near a mostly abandoned soccer field, save for a few fat, bumbling bees in a sea of sweet, red clovers.

I unfortunately grossly underestimated the intensity of the 8:00 morning sun though. I knew today was going to be a scorcher by Michigan standards (90 degrees with just a few cotton ball clouds in the sky), but I didn’t expect a blazing sun so early. Needless to say, my tea didn’t even last until the end of the first short story in Summer Days and Summer Nights. Next time I’ll be more prepared; I’ll bring along an extra bottle of water and extra sachets of Pique Tea crystals (and then, with a few shakes of my travel mug, I can pretty much brew myself refreshing tea anywhere).

Cozying up with Books & Thai Chai Tea

I think I write about the weather on Books & Tea quite often. It seems strange to me that this frequent topic of awkward small talk earns so much press on my blog, but I cannot help it that weather fills me with both inspiration and nostalgia. I sense that it settles in most often during the changing of the seasons, which is perhaps why I’ve been on a posting frenzy lately. And while I am grateful that Michigan is in the full bloom of Springtime, what I appreciate most are the occasional days we’re experiencing right now that are reminiscent of our Autumn– days that are cool and overcast and even a little rainy. Wintertime is taxing, but I still wish Autumn were right around the corner (hot tea! cozy blankets! apple cider! Oreo cookies with orange filling! soup for dinner every night! colorful crunchy leaves!).

Last weekend was one of those weekends that was chilly and rainy, and sadly I sensed it would be one of the last ones until October finally rolls around (although, when I first moved to Michigan back in 2005, I was greeted by frost on the grass and rooftop…on the 4th of July). Of course I took advantage of the weather by curling up in a chair with a blanket, a new book, and the most cozy blend of tea I could find in my cupboards– Thai Chai by Adagio Tea.

Continue reading Cozying up with Books & Thai Chai Tea

Hot and Cold for Coconut Tea

Actually, my feelings about Coconut Tea from Adagio Teas are lukewarm, which coincidentally is the temperature that I preferred this tea. It took experimenting with my entire 8 oz. sample bag of Coconut Tea in one day to figure that out though. It’s not that I dislike the tea, I just felt that Adagio has better flavored teas than this. Or, in other words, on a scale of Valentine’s Day Tea (which I didn’t like) and Lemon Soleil Tea or Caramel Tea (which I’m over the moon about), it falls somewhere in the middle.

Continue reading Hot and Cold for Coconut Tea

Lemon Soleil Tea in One Word: Happiness

Lemon Soleil Tea in a Bunch of Words:

Last weekend it was near 40 degrees (Fahrenheit), which is generally considered “balmy” this time of year for most northerners. Except it was a soggy and sleety 40 degrees, which somehow changes entirely how 40 degrees actually feels. It tends to seep in through sweaters and jackets and make your body feel heavy and your bones hurt even though it’s not really that cold. Then your body starts to tell you that you need to crawl back in to bed and cozy up next your significant other’s warm, napping body and doze off. Except, I hate sleeping. Truthfully I do because it’s so time consuming. (Does this make me weird?) So, I did the next best thing, which was root around in the box of Adagio Tea that had just been delivered to my apartment for something that would fill me with warmth.

Continue reading Lemon Soleil Tea in One Word: Happiness

Some Thoughts on Tea and the Changing of the Seasons

There are two things I have realized after brewing myself a cup of Teavivre’s Lu Shan Yun Wu Green Tea. First, all tea from Teavivre require a certain kind of care when brewing– the temperature of the water and the length of time you allow the leaves to steep are important, unlike the Twinnings tea bags I so recklessly over-steep. Second, I’m nearly incapable of giving my tea leaves the amount of attention they so very much deserve. So, after steeping my Lu Shan Yun Wu into oblivion and bitterness, I had to promptly pour it out and try something else. The second time around, I tried Xin Yang Mao Jian Green Tea, and the results were much better.

I am fascinated by the Xin Yang Mao Jian tea leaves. They are dark green, straight tipped, and ever-so delightfully fuzzy– a sign that the leaves were picked in early spring. The dried leaves smelled vegetal and even a bit like nori, the dried seaweed you might find wrapped around maki sushi. I thought the flavor of the tea itself would be overwhelmingly savory, but I was surprised when floral, smoky, sweet notes were more prominent to me. This tea is most refreshing and perfect for a late spring or early summer day when the skies are blue and delicate blossoms from tree branches flutter about in breezes and the sun is just starting to warm up the wintertime air.

And as much as I enjoyed Xin Yang Mao Jian, I felt disconnected from it because I can feel Autumn right around the corner. Even though it is still August, the mornings this week can best be described as “brisk” and the days for the most part are gloomy and overcast; somehow the melancholy of this season invigorates me. Then, Friday evening I stood out on my balcony to enjoy the cheers of the high school students and their families as the drumline’s cadence sauntered down the road, and for a little while, I felt nostalgic for my marching band days. I cannot wait for Autumn to truly settle in.

What is Autumn like where you live? Are you excited that the season is right around the corner?

Samples provided by Teavivre in exchange for an honest review.

Caramel Tea is a Sweet Treat

If there is anything good about my work office running out of coffee for two weeks, it’s this:

I’m rekindling my relationship with tea because I have to wake up earlier to get my caffeine fix at home.

Actually, the tea thing was happenstance. I normally have a stash of coffee beans in the freezer for weekend mornings, but I had run out this particular week, so I brewed myself two mugs of Irish Breakfast and read through a couple of blogs instead. Then I ran out of Irish Breakfast, so I’ve been working my way through my shoe boxes full of tea. Aside from rekindling my relationship with tea, I’ve also discovered two things: first, I should buy tea tins, because who stores their bags of tea in shoe boxes, and second, Adagio’s Caramel Tea is really, really good.

It’s a little strange that I ended up with Caramel Tea since I don’t go out of my way to buy caramel anything. However, when you are checking out online at Adagio, you have the option to “share” your purchase with your followers on social media, and in return Adagio lets you choose a free sample from a long list of teas. I’m pretty sure I thought to myself, “What would I never want to spend my money on?” as my attention settled on Caramel Tea.

The joke is on me though, because this is me after drinking Adagio’s Caramel Tea:

shut-up-and-take-my-money

The ingredients are just black tea and caramel flavoring, and just like Adagio’s Chestnut tea, how much I enjoyed the Caramel Tea took me by surprise.

The Caramel Tea was a fairly mellow cup of tea considering it was a black tea with natural caramel flavoring. The black tea seemed a little thin, and it wasn’t astringent, which allowed for the aroma of the Caramel to take center stage. And, unlike some of the flavored black teas I’ve reviewed in the past, the flavoring didn’t assault the taste buds at all. I took my Caramel Tea with sugar, which is rare, but it transformed the mug in to dessert; it tastes like the burnt sugar topping of creme brule, which is only one of my favorite desserts ever.

I’m used to drinking black coffee in the mornings, so I need something unsweetened and bold, but Adagio’s Caramel Tea is a great after-lunch pick-me-up. And, I feel less guilty about drinking that than consuming Meijer brand pound cake, which I’ve been over-indulging on during the weekends.

Do you have a favorite dessert tea?

Sunday Afternoon Pick-Me-Up

 

Tomorrow is the first of June, but today feels like a brisk October day; it’s overcast and drizzly, windy, and brisk. I’m not quite sure how to feel about that. On one hand, I adore Autumn. On the other hand, I’ve actually been looking forward to sunshine and warm weather since this winter was so brutally cold. Still, I managed to get so wrapped up in the nostalgia of Autumn that I went to the store to buy a Spiced Apple Cider scented candle that takes me back to an afternoon at the Cider Mill or to Pig-a-Palooza.

While an inner peace settles over my soul in this kind of weather, it also makes me feel a little drowsy, so I needed a little pick-me-up– especially since I have a house-warming shindig to attend later in the afternoon. I’ve settled on Adagio’s Casablanca Twist, which has been my favorite tea lately. I was disappointed when I tipped the last remaining tea leaves in to my mug, only to feel relief moments later when I discovered I accidentally bought another sample pack. This tea is a play on Moroccan Mint tea; instead of Peppermint and Gunpoweder Green tea, Casablanca Twist is a blend of Peppermint  and Darjeeling Sungma Summer tea, a black tea with a subtly sweet and floral aroma. In other words, I’ve got a dose of eye-opening caffeine and invigorating mint to keep me going. Truly the best of both worlds, it leaves me feeling refreshed.

Sample of Casablanca Twist provided by Adagio Teas in exchange for an honest review.

Pass Me the Cup, Darjeeling

When I drink black tea, I often compare it to drinking coffee or red wine or even beer. It’s bold and usually full-bodied. It’s rich and astringent and malty. It’s the kind of tea I drink on cold, overcast days because it warms me up and keeps me extra alert. But then, Giddapahar Muscatel from Golden Tips Tea takes everything I knew about black tea and flips it on its head.

The scent of dried tea leaves is sweet– the kind of sweetness you might find in a (semi-dry) white wine, although I didn’t think this sweetness carried over in the flavor. It had a brightness and fruity (read: grape-like) aroma to match, and sometimes, I thought the aftertaste was a little tart.  The aroma of this tea lingered too, just the way I like it– unlike some of the other teas I’ve tried from Golden Tips Tea (Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea). I did find this tea to be pretty astringent though, but it wasn’t offensive to my taste buds.

Of the teas I’ve sampled from Golden Tips Tea, Giddapahar Muscatel is my favorite so far. The aroma and flavor are powerful and interesting, and the tea stands up to multiple steeps (although, I’m not sure I could get a third cup out of the leaves). I only wish I had some rock sugar to sweeten my experience.

Sample of Giddapahar Muscatel provided by Golden Tips Tea in exchange for an honest review.

Of Insecurities and the Jewel of the Arya Estate

Spring officially begins in a few days, but today it seems more like Autumn; its brisk and windy and overcast. I started getting drowsy in the afternoon, so I brewed myself a mug of Arya Ruby Darjeeling tea from Golden Tips Tea for a mid-day pick-me-up. Lately, I’ve managed to sip on teas that seemed to pair perfectly with the weather, and today is no different. Honestly, it’s just dumb luck though. I actually picked up the package of Arya Ruby Darjeeling because according to the Golden Tips Tea website, it’s supposed to have the aroma and flavor of a “bouquet of flowers & an orchard of fruits”. Upon opening the packet, I am greeted with a sweet and fruity scent– luscious is a word that comes to mind. Alas, that all changed once I steeped the tea leaves, because to me Arya Ruby Darjeeling tea tastes like a crackling fire in a fireplace, perhaps the first in Autumn when the temperatures begin to drop. At first, it’s smoky and woody, and after those aromas have mellowed, a sensation of sweetness dances all around my mouth.

Kind of like this:

reading by the fire

I debated writing about this tea on my blog. Not because the tea was bad and not because I struggled to conjure up the words to describe my experience, but because of insecurity. Sometimes I feel really insecure about reviewing new teas because my experience seems so different compared to other people’s experiences. How can I perceive woody and smoky aromas from a tea that is supposed to have fruity and floral aromas? Is my sniffer busted? Are my taste buds faulty? Am I just inexperienced, and I cannot taste subtle differences in a tea’s flavor? Perhaps it seems silly, but I’m afraid that a more savvy tea-drinker will stumble upon Books & Tea and tell me that my review for a tea is…wrong. Is that possible– for a review to be wrong?

For any blogger that posts reviews, be it books or tea or whatever, are you ever reluctant to share your thoughts about an experience because you’re afraid someone will tell you you’re wrong or you don’t truly understand it?

The Iron Goddess

It’s that time of year when Michiganders are blessed with a week of unseasonably warm weather that fills us with false hope that springtime is right around the corner. Sure, it will be 52 degrees on Wednesday, but realistically we still have about two months of cold temperatures and snow left. But, that doesn’t deter us from enjoying this weather while we can, no matter how briefly it sticks around. February’s brutal winter weather has done weird things to us northerners. After nearly a full month of single digit temperatures and wind chills in the negatives, temperatures in the teens and twenties are embraced. Today, it’s sunny and 36 degrees…and we have the back door propped open to enjoy fresh air, chirping birds, and a nice breeze.

Jon and I should probably be out and about, exploring our new hometown, but instead we loafed around, binge-watching Portlandia on Netflix. It’s been a low-energy sort of day, and I felt myself growing drowsy for a nap around noon-time. But, I have so many blogs to catch up on and books to read that a nap was out of the question. I was about to reach for some English Breakfast Tea for a quick kick of caffeine…but that I remembered I had still had some samples of Oolong tea provided to me by Teavivre. I decided to try that even though Oolong tea has low caffeine.

Much like the Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea that I wrote about last month, the Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess” Oolong Tea from Teavivre makes me feel nostalgic for springtime. Upon opening the packet containing tightly rolled Oolong tea leaves, I am greeted with the scent of Michigan’s springtime. It smells like fields of wet grass and wild flowers, and it makes my heart ache for blue skies, warm sunshine, cool breezes, and fields of green, green, green. I could not have picked a more perfect tea for a quiet, almost-springtime afternoon.

Iron Goddess Oolong is forgiving for a distracted steeper like myself. The package suggests brewing between 3-10 minutes, and it supports multiple steeps as well. The first cup I made, I steeped for about 4-5 minutes. The second cup I made, I steeped for about 8-9 minutes. The tea leaves also unfold into full, dark green leaves. When I poured my sample into my tea strainer, it just covered the bottom. After four minutes, the tea had bloomed and expanded and completely filled my tea strainer.

The color of the liquid is light yellow, and it smells vegetal. The flavor is more complex though. The first flavor that comes through is a crisp, grassy flavor, something that I associate with green teas. Then there is a sweet floral taste followed by a tart aftertaste that for some reason I associate with pineapple. These flavors are more pronounced during the first steep, and they become more mellow with each preceding steep. This is unlike any other Oolong tea I’ve tried, which have had more earthy aromas.

The Iron Goddess Oolong tea (named as such because the tightly rolled leaves supposedly make the pinging sound of small, iron pellets when you pour the leaves into your cup) is a tea that I would absolutely encourage you to try. Not only does it challenge ones perceptions of Oolong tea (sort of like Adagio’s Oooooh Darjeeling), it is also just a beautiful tea. I will drink it in winter while yearning for springtime, and I will drink it in springtime as a compliment to sunny, Sunday afternoons.