Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of Adagio Teas' Thai Chai Black Tea

Coconut, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and lemongrass...ingredients for tasty food, but also ingredients for a hopefully-tasty tea. This weeks's tea review takes a look at Adagio Teas' Thai Chai, a black tea blended with all of the above ingredients, comprising a strong cup of flavor. Just reading the ingredients reminds me a bit of last week's review of DavidsTea's Coconut Oolong, but I have a feeling that the cinnamon and ginger are going to make for a vastly different flavor with this tea.

My first surprise came, when I read through the brewing instructions. Adagio recommends two teaspoons of tea per cup and a five minute steep time. Sounds like a strong cup to me, which therefore sounds delicious! I add four cups of water and eight teaspoons of Thai Chai to my Adagio TriniTEA brewer, set it for black tea and a five minute steep time, then wait. While the tea brews, I smell the tea container to see what the dry blend is like. The ginger aroma is really prominent, but the notes of lemongrass are surprisingly strong, too.


The first cup pours dark, most likely cloudy from the ginger and cinnamon. The aroma, which I anticipated would continue to highlight the ginger and lemongrass, seems overwhelmed by cinnamon. Ginger and lemongrass notes now sit in the background. This is a surprising turnabout, and I take my first sip to see the results of this intense brewing. Immediately, I get flavors of cinnamon and black tea hitting my tongue. A certain heat from the ginger is present, and some sweet herbal notes of lemongrass are noticeable. The cup is intense. The large amount of tea combined with the moderately long steep time resulted in a heady brew. In the body of the tea, the cardamom can be noticed, lending a bit of spice, alongside the ginger. I feel as though the coconut probably smooths the flavors a bit, though it is not as prominent as the other flavors. Due to the five minutes of steep time, the black tea base has just the slightest touch of astringency.

I could imagine brewing this tea and actually making a chai of it (with milk and sugar). The milk might tone down the spices, and the sugar would highlight some of the notes that are otherwise overshadowed by the tea's heat. The black tea itself would have its astringent edge removed, and the cup would probably be full of smooth intensity.

On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate Adagio Teas' Thai Chai a 4. I quite enjoyed my cups of it, and I could see it being a very versatile tea that would appeal to a wide variety of palates. The ingredients are blending quite well, and the steeping instructions provide for good flavors all around.



Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
Adagio Teas' Thai Chai is available from their website, here.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.
You can read more about my Personal Enjoyment Scale, here.
Text is copyright 2017, Built from Ink and Tea.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Stained Fingers on Thursday - A Review of Bookbinders Snake Ink Emerald Boa

A part of the new Snake Ink line by Bookbinders, Emerald Boa is a great green ink that found at the 2016 San Francisco International Pen Show!





This scan was done on an HP Deskjet F4280 at 600dpi.
Note: Because these scans are done with a light emitting printer, actual colors will, more likely than not, be slightly darker than they may appear, here. The colors shown, here, are probably a bit more reminiscent of what the ink would be like under a bright light or if it were held up and viewed with a light behind it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of DavidsTea's Coconut Oolong

Combining coconut and lemongrass, this tea for review reminds me of ingredients that could go into a Thai curry. Maybe this tea would be delicious alongside such a dish. This week, we are reviewing DavidsTea's Coconut Oolong.

While DavidsTea does not say what kind of oolong they put into this blend, it looks slightly roasted to me, the leaves lightly oxidized. Smelling the container, I get some faint floral notes, which could be the oolong, but the coconut flavoring that has been added seems to overtake the entire aroma. DavidsTea recommends one and a quarter teaspoons per eight ounces of water, so into my four-cup TriniTEA goes five teaspoons of tea. The recommended steep time from DavidsTea ranges from four to seven minutes, and I opt for six, figuring that should be long enough to get a good, strong cup.


After six minutes, my TriniTEA machine beeps to let me know that my Coconut Oolong has been finished. As I pour my cup of tea, I realize that this is the last of my container of Coconut Oolong, and I regret waiting so long to review it. The cup smells heavily of coconut with a slight tang of lemongrass to the aroma. Any oolong notes are overwhelmed by the other ingredients or are barely noticeable. The first sip seems rich, when the tea hits my tongue. The flavors are warm and slightly-sweet in a very natural way. But, as I taste the sip in my mouth and swallow it, I find myself slightly disappointed. The tea seems weak on flavor, as though I had not steeped it long enough, surprising given its six-minute steep time. To me, the flavor also seems very singular - coconut, a touch of lemongrass, and not much oolong. While it could be the case that the oolong has blended very well with the coconut and therefore is not distinguishable on its own, I think I would have preferred a blend, where the coconut has a chance to show itself and be supportive.

On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate DavidsTea's Coconut Oolong a 3. The cup tasted okay, but to me it felt like it was missing a lot, and the balance seemed off. A cup heavier in oolong would have improved this blend.



Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
DavidsTea's Coconut Oolong is no longer available.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.
You can read more about my Personal Enjoyment Scale, here.
Text is copyright 2017, Built from Ink and Tea.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of DavidsTea's Super Ginger Rooibos

If I had to make a short list of my favorite DavidsTea blends, Super Ginger would be right near the top. Given how much tea I drink, you can be assured that I have no desire to stop drinking, just because I am nearing bedtime. However, caffeine affects me as it does other folks, and decaffeinated black teas have never been my favorite. Herbal blends are good, but what I really enjoy is a nice cup of rooibos. And when that rooibos has ginger (also a favorite flavor of mine) in large quantities, it gets steeped regularly!

Super Ginger from DavidsTea blends ginger and peppercorns with green rooibos for a slightly-sweet, and definitely spicy, cup of caffeine-free, antioxidant-rich deliciousness. Normally, when I make Super Ginger, I want my rooibos and ginger flavors to be as strong as possible, so I steep five teaspoons with four cups of water (1.25 teaspoons per cup) for seven minutes in my Adagio triniTea. (Of course I am making a big pot of this - by the end of one cup I most certainly want more!) However, for this review, I am going with the average of the four to seven minute range, suggested by DavidsTea, and brewing this Super Ginger for five and a half minutes, using just-boiled water (the same temperature as I use for many herbal blends and black teas).


As I wait for my completed cup to cool, I take a whiff of the container of dry rooibos blend. One does not have to put their nose into the container to smell it; the spiciness hits fast and hard. With both white and black pepper, this could be a little bit like a food topping, but the ginger adds some distinct heat and a touch of sweet aroma. By comparison, the steeped cup smells much sweeter with the ginger having been rehydrated and flavoring the blend. Pepper notes are more subtle, now, and the rooibos is noticeable.


I can hardly wait for the rooibos to be cool enough to drink. The first sip washes heat over the tongue, but the heat is subtle and not overpowering. The five and a half minutes were ideal for steeping. Living up to its name, Super Ginger provides plenty of ginger flavor that builds the body of this cup. The rooibos sits quietly in the background, letting the ginger be most prominent. On the edges, decently strong, are the peppers. Having pepper in a drink, versus having it on food, is an interesting experience, as the spice spreads thinly over the tongue with a pleasant burning tingle. The rooibos does taste sweet from the ginger, though only slightly. One would never consider this drink to in any way be sugary- or fruity-sweet.

On my personal enjoyment scale, I would absolutely rate Super Ginger a 5. I enjoy every sip of this rooibos and the flavors it brings. As spicy teas and herbal blends are not very common, I feel that the uniqueness of Super Ginger makes it one that I want to share with others, so that they can experience it, too.



Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
DavidsTea's Super Ginger is available in their retail stores and from their website, here.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.
You can read more about my Personal Enjoyment Scale, here.
Text is copyright 2017, Built from Ink and Tea.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of Lipton's English Breakfast

In the past, I have discovered that - outside of the United States - Lipton offers a number of teas that are of a much higher quality than their run-of-the-mill, dust-like attempt at black tea, which they sell all over the United States. (If it sounds like I have a bias, it is because I certainly do...for as inexpensive as tea can be, I find it unfortunate and a disservice to tea drinkers to offer such a low-quality brew.) The "higher quality" is of course relative to what is being mostly offered here in the United States, and it is possible that the tea I will be reviewing today has been imported and is available here. However, in hunting grocery stores, I have not been able to find it. A quick search of Amazon reveals something called "Daring English Breakfast," which can be ordered here State-side, but I am not sure if it is a separate offering from today's review or simply a re-branding.

Today's review covers Lipton's English Breakfast, advertised as "Exclusive Selection" on the package. From their marketing website, this seems to suggest a line aimed at businesses with "quality you can see." This marketing toward businesses fits with the fact that I picked up this teabag at a hotel in the Netherlands recently.

Opening the teabag, I feel as though I cannot see much of anything. The pyramid bag is fairly translucent. However, the tea in the bag feels as though it has been ground pretty fine. It also has the same smell of generic Ceylon as the Lipton Black Tea one finds here in the United States.


Following the steeping instructions (which had very communicative pictures), I poured a cup of just-boiled water over the tea and left it for two minutes so as not to risk over-steeping. Once the steeped cup had cooled, I prepared for tasting. The aroma of the tea smells to me like a typical English Breakfast, albeit a bit flat and unremarkable.


My first sip almost surprised me. For a moment, the tea seemed like a nice, smooth, flavorful cup, while it was on the tip of my tongue. Then, it washed over the rest of my mouth, and the astringency came through. At least the tea is drinkable. It could probably be doctored with milk and sugar and be less harsh. I also feel as though my two-minute steep time was such that the tea should not have gotten oversteeped, which leads to me to believe that the quality of the leaves led to it being this bitter. The flavors almost have a bit of complexity to them, though not a lot. There is a touch of malty flavor that hints at an Assam, or it could be that they are using a rather robust Ceylon. (South Asian teas are an area in which I wish I knew more!)


If this tea were available to the public, I would say that it would make a great alternative to the Lipton Black Tea that is sold in grocery stores. It could be used for making very inexpensive iced tea and would likely produce better results than other, cheap black teas. However, I think that in all tea brewing, there is no substitute for decent - if not good - quality leaves. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this tea a 2.


Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
You can learn more about this tea from their marketing website, here. Some hotels and businesses source it for their tea offering.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.
You can read more about my Personal Enjoyment Scale, here.
Text is copyright 2017, Built from Ink and Tea.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of Tea of Life's Peppermint Bark Green Tea

This week, we take a look at (and a sip of) Peppermint Bark, a green tea from Tea of Life's Peppermint Collection. Packaged in its pyramid-shaped cardboard container, the tea sachet itself is not pyramid-shaped, as we discovered in last week's review of Black Tea Cinnamon Mint from the same collection, which you can read here.

To emulate peppermint bark candy, Tea of Life has combined green tea with cocoa pieces, licorice pieces, peppermint leaves, and flavors of coconut and peppermint. Some of those ingredients are fascinating, such as the licorice pieces and coconut flavors! The dry tea blend gives off a smell of mint and a bit of chocolate, though mostly mint. Oddly, I actually find the mint to be a bit reminiscent of menthol, rather than peppermint. Maybe that is due to the inclusion of something else, like the licorice, which I did not specifically smell. The aroma is slightly sweet, which adds a pleasant touch, but there is something about it that is not quite ideal.


I steeped the tea sachet for four minutes, using water that had been brought to a boil before being allowed to cool slightly. The resulting cup...smelled like the menthol-peppermint-slightly cocoa concoction that was suggested by the dry leaves. I took a sip and was slightly surprised. While the flavor absolutely matched the aroma, the was not that bad. In fact, I moderately enjoyed drinking the rest of the cup.

On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this tea a 2. While the cup did taste okay, the overall composition was a bit strange. To me, it did not taste like peppermint bark, and I think I might have enjoyed a mint green tea more than the menthol-like mint in this blend. For a tea blend that intends to taste like a chocolate candy, I think the lack of sweetness - and minimal flavor of chocolate or cocoa - really detracted from the effort.


Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
You may be able to find this collection in some department stores around December. Tea of Life does not appear to have a retail website.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.
You can read more about my Personal Enjoyment Scale, here.
Text is copyright 2017, Built from Ink and Tea.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of Tea of Life's Black Tea Cinnamon Mint

A good friend gave me this Peppermint Tea Collection from Tea of Life, and I felt that it would be an excellent selection to review here on Built from Ink and Tea, especially considering that I am entirely unfamiliar with the company from which it came! Looking at one online retailer of this brand, they certainly do have a lot of options. This box set of twelve tea sachets comes with four different blends, and today we are reviewing the first, Black Tea Cinnamon Mint.





I have to admit that I have doubts about this tea, even before drinking it. I typically do not mix cinnamon- and mint-flavored drinks or foods, but I suppose that the heat of one and the coolness of the other could provide a pleasant contrast. I boiled some water and poured one cup of just-boiled water over the tea sachet in my mug, steeping it for five minutes (the upper end of what the package recommends). My first surprise? The sachets are not pyramid-shaped, like the small cardboard boxes are! I had anticipated a shape more akin to Tea Forte's pyramid-shaped tea sachets with their leaf string.

The aroma of mint is pretty prominent in both the dry tea and the brewed cup. However, it is in the brewed cup that the cinnamon really becomes noticeable, having not smelled very strong before steeping. With a Ceylon black tea base, the aroma of this blend does not feature much of the actual tea. However, my first sip exploded in a cacophony of flavor. While in some cases, such a description might be a good thing, I am not so certain, here.


Five minutes was far too long for the Ceylon tea base. That was my mistake. However, the cinnamon and mint tasted strong enough to cover for the black tea. The cinnamon provided more of a vague flavor than any heat, but the mint did actually add some coolness.

On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this tea a 2. There is a lot of potential with a combination like cinnamon and mint with a black tea, but the execution feels poor. Even when I had another cup, steeped for a shorter period of time, the tea tasted fine but the flavors of cinnamon and mint were weak. Perhaps Tea of Life needs to look at the blend ratios on this one.


Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
You may be able to find this collection in some department stores around December. Tea of Life does not appear to have a retail website.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.
You can read more about my Personal Enjoyment Scale, here.
Text is copyright 2017, Built from Ink and Tea.