Five November Favorites

Did November actually happen? I’m not entirely convinced it did. But, that sort of happens at the end of the year, doesn’t it? February drags on for 100 weeks, but October, November, and December slip by as we scramble to welcome the holidays. I actually struggled to come up with this month’s list of five favorites. That’s not to say November was a crummy month; I just can’t seem to recall much happening! After digging around in my memories, I came up with these Five November Favorites.

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Jasmine Pearls from Adagio Teas

I have searched for a tea tasting journal for the past few years, but I never found exactly what I was looking for; so, I have been writing in whatever journal I had sitting around. Notes are scattered throughout four different journals, which are now tucked under odd places, like the couch, in Oliver’s toy basket, under the bed– anywhere Oliver manages to fling them, really. Finally, I decided on a new home–a trusty, 98 cent Composition notebook, that I now keep well out of Oliver’s reach!

Now, I have a permanent home for notes like this:

Last weekend, I sipped Jasmine Pearls from Adagio Teas. I don’t know what made me grab for this particular tea. It’s not one I typically drink, and it was only in my collection because it came in my Christmas advent calendar. I have avoided it because Oliver’s pediatrician mentioned jasmine teas (and mint teas) could have negative impacts on a nursing mother’s milk supply, but now that Oliver is eating solids foods as well now, I have become less restrictive.

Aside from that, jasmine just isn’t a flavor I appreciate. I like some floral flavors, like rose, but I think jasmine can make tea taste like perfume or quite bitter. Still, I sipped on.

The tea was dark green leaves, scented with jasmine, and they were wound tightly into little balls reminiscent of a pearl. They came in a tea bag, though the Jasmine Phoenix Dragon Pearls seem comparable if you want a loose leaf variety. I decided to cut open the tea bag, so I could brew the pearls loose, and what a smart decision that was because these pearls unfurled into full, big tea leaves that could be steeped multiple times.

The initial steep had the most prominent jasmine flavor followed by a slight sweetness from the green tea. The following steeps lost the sweetness from green tea, but the jasmine seemed to mellow. Overall, I thought this tea had a nice, balanced flavor– never perfume-like and never bitter. I steeped this three times, but I think I could have steeped this a fourth and possibly even a fifth, which surprised me considering this started in a teabag!

Where do you record your tea tasting notes? Do you keep a pen and paper journal, or do you record everything digitally?

Looking for teas with floral notes? Check out these tasTEA recommendations:

Gardens & Green Tea

There is something overwhelming about Springtime. I’m sure I bring it on myself after six months of hibernation, but the rate at which tasks are added to my To Do List makes me withdraw from the world. Thankfully, family came for a visit, and I was wrenched from my comfort zone (lately known as “the couch”) and thrown into the yard. Up until this, our house had been an embarrassment with overgrown bushes and trees and weeds in the flower bed that reached my knees (okay, really it was mid-thigh). Yesterday we spent 12 hours pulling weeds, mulching the flower bed, potting herbs (for tea! such as spearmint, lemon balm, and bee balm) and tomatoes and planting hastas, cutting back bushes and trees, mowing the lawn, whipping the weeds, and cleaning and replacing gutters. Today, my muscles are sore and my skin is sunburned, and I feel proud of what was accomplished yesterday.

Today I’m taking things much more slowly. I read out on the deck to catch some morning sun; although apparently 67 degrees is “scorching hot” to me, so I only lasted about an hour. Now I’m appreciating the view of my front window– of mammoth trees, petunias, and a snoozing kitty, while sipping green tea and waiting for the afternoon’s impending thunderstorms. (Yes, I know my curtains are ugly. They came with the house, and I haven’t replaced them yet).

Today’s tea comes from Japanese Green Tea IN, a tea seller specializing in green tea from Japan’s Shizuoka prefecture (which I understand has an incredible view of Mount Fuji!). I tried their Fukamushi Sencha, first crop, which is unlike any tea I’ve ever experienced before. The appearance of the tea leaves was the first surprise. The forest green leaves varied in size including long thin leaves, small fragments, and even powder. The fragments and the powder first led me to believe that this was a reflection of the quality of the tea– that it was no different from a bag of Lipton tea dust, but I was mistaken. This appearance is a result of how the tea is processed– the tea is deep steamed, and while the leaves become more delicate (hence the breakage), the astringency is reduced and the flavor becomes more rich.

The next surprising characteristic about this tea was the color. Most of the green teas I’ve steeped produce a pale yellow liquid, but the Fukamushi Sencha produced a cloudy, Chartreuse green color. I was intimidated at first, thinking I over-steeped my tea, but again, I learned this is just another characteristic of this kind of tea. It’s also common to have tea sediment collect at the bottom of the mug– go ahead and drink that up though because they are nutrient-rich!

As for the flavor of the tea, I was under the impression it was supposed to be naturally sweet, but it tasted more savory to me. The first steep was vegetal and lightly astringent, and the finishing notes were buttery and slightly like blanched or grilled asparagus. Because it’s a savory tea, and also because it is lightly caffeinated, I think it makes for a perfect early afternoon treat. The tea also begs for multiple infusions. So far, I’ve brewed four cups of tea with the same batch of tea leaves, and the flavor (although lacking the buttery finishing note) was just as rich and flavorful as the first cup, and I’m confident I can steep at least one or two more cups.

The final notable characteristic of this tea is how it is farmed. Japanese Green Tea IN sells tea that is cultivated using the Chagusaba Method. The tea farmers in the Shizuoka prefecture put sustainability first, and as a result, the region has been named 1 of the 26 sites in all of Asia and the Pacific Islands as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Chagusaba Method uses deliberately grown, surrounding grasslands to mulch fields of tea shrubs. The grass mulch prevents weeds, keeps the tea fertilized, prevents run-off into surrounding ecosystems, and maintains biodiversity. The Chagusaba Method is a labor-intensive process, which means it is a dying art in a business world that is becoming increasingly mechanized to remain competitive in a global market.

Japanese Green Tea IN’s Fukamushi Sencha is probably one of the more expensive teas I’ve featured on Books & Tea; it’s a little bit of a splurge at $45 for 3.5oz (that’s about 30-40 cups). That breaks down to about $1.12 per cup (compared to Adagio’s 78 cents/cup and Twinings 20 cents/cup). But the quality of this tea though… the flavor, the multiple infusions, the sustainability… is a worthwhile luxury for novice to seasoned tea drinkers alike.

A sample of this tea was provided for free in exchange for an honest review.


Lemon Meringue Green Tea is the Cat’s Meow

You probably won’t believe me when I say I’m not that keen on lemon-flavored anything. Not after I baked that delicious Lemon Loaf Cake inspired by the Memory of Lemon by Judith Fertig. And definitely not after I raved about Lemon Soleil Tea from Adagio Tea. I’m not even sure I believe it myself, especially not after sipping Adagio Tea’s Lemon Meringue Green Tea. In fact, I can say with a certain degree of confidence that I am most definitely in denial about my love for lemon-flavored treats.

Adagio’s Lemon Meringue Green Tea is a blend of green tea, apple pieces, orange peels, natural lemon flavor, marigold flowers, natural vanilla flavor, and natural creme flavor. Upon opening the pouch, I’m greeted by the zesty and sugary-sweet scent of the blend, which reminds me of both a box of Lemonheads and a box of Fruit Loops. But don’t let that intimidate you because the flavor of the tea is actually quite mellow compared to the scent of the dry leaves.

I first enjoyed this tea hot and plain. I did not really taste the green tea as much as I would have expected, and yet I’m not actually disappointed by this. Instead, I taste bright citrus flavors with a subtle, undercurrent of creaminess (my spell check is trying to tell me that I meant to type “dreaminess”, which is kind of the same thing, right?). It’s the kind of tea I want to drink in February to remind me that world isn’t always freezing and dark as I stare mournfully out the window at mounds of snow and a sidewalk that was technically supposed to shoveled already according to the village ordinance.

When this tea really shines though is iced and sweetened. Preferably sipped outside while reading a book on a perfect day like today– 77 degrees with a breeze, sunny, not a cloud in the sky. (Somebody pinch me! I must be dreaming!) It’s just like eating lemon meringue pie without the risk of over-indulging on too many slices. Plus, nobody judges you for going back for a second cup of tea, right?

Adagio’s Lemon Meringue Green Tea appears to be a seasonal blend, so be sure to snag some before the end of springtime!

A sample of Lemon Meringue Green Tea was provided by Adagio for free in exchange for an honest review.

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.

Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea

Perhaps it was kismet that I made a last-minute decision to take the day off– otherwise, I would have missed signing for this charming package from Golden Tips Tea! It’s not every day that you receive a package in the mail from India. Especially one wrapped in cloth and sealed with wax.

golden tips packageThe selection of samples I received from Golden Tips Tea are mostly black teas, which I expected because India is known for its black teas, especially from the Darjeeling and Assam regions. So, perhaps it’s a bit odd that the first tea I’m writing about is a green tea– Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea— from the Avaata estate in the Nilgiri region in southern India.

Upon opening the golden package of Avaata Supreme Nilgiri green tea, I am greeted with a vegetal scent– slightly grassy and a bit like hay, which makes me feel nostalgic for springtime weather and drives in Michigan’s countryside. The tea leaves were big and full and a beautiful spring green color with the occasional silver bud, and the liquid was a very pale yellow-green color similar to white grape juice. The taste was very light, but it seemed to stand out a little more once the tea had the opportunity to cool down. This is a stark contrast to the black teas and the flavored teas I’ve been drinking lately, so I welcomed the experience. Like the scent of the leaves, the taste of the tea was lightly grassy and minerally. But while other reviews described a floral aftertaste, the flavor seemed to end abruptly to me, nothing seemed to linger, and I did not pick up on any afternotes. Clean is the only way for me to convey this particular tea tasting experience.

Overall, I’m please and perplexed that a tea could be so light. Black coffee. Breakfast Tea. Earl Grey. Those are the bold flavors that fill my mugs each morning, yet I find myself returning to Golden Tips Tea’s Avaata Supreme Nilgiri time and time again.