Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of The Republic of Tea's Earl Greyer Black Tea

Welcome to December! This week, I wanted to provide a contrast - potentially a sharp one - with the tea that we reviewed last week, Whispering Pines Tea's Wild Grey. With Wild Grey being described very specifically as a "very lightly flavored" Earl Grey blend (a statement that proved very true in the drinking), I decided that the ideal contrast wold be a tea that takes this bergamot and black tea combination to the next level of intensity. There was no subtlety here: The Republic of Tea's Earl Greyer.

In an attempt to produce "the best tasting Earl Grey available", The Republic of Tea has blended their bergamot oil with a base of Ceylon black tea. While this might sound standard for Earl Grey, they have tried to use the best ingredients available - and up the ante on the bergamot oil. The loose leaf has a kick to it! Higher intensity on the aroma, though, does not necessarily translate to higher intensity on the flavor, as we found last week. Steeping a teaspoon of tea for four minutes in eight ounces of just-boiled water produced the cup that is going to reveal all!


The bergamot aromas in this blend smell strongly enough that the underlying tea has been unfortunately hidden. While I typically do not mind the base tea in an Earl Grey blend being subdued or hidden, given that I drink it for the blend of bergamot with tea flavor, I was curious to gain an understanding of the profile to be expected with the Ceylon used in The Republic of Tea's Earl Greyer. The steeped cup gave off a most intense smell of bergamot, which seemed heavy, dark, biting, and strong. In some respects, the citrus aroma reminded me of a malty, strongly-steeped black tea, almost like an Assam. While this might sound like a bad thing, it did not feel negative in this instance.


In sipping this tea for the first time, the bergamot surprisingly does not overwhelm me nor the flavor of the tea. Certainly, it does taste very strong, but it blends well with the Ceylon, which is now noticeable. I find the bergamot in this blend to be very robust and full in flavor, expansive rather than overpowering. It encompasses the whole of the cup, as if to remind you that "Yes, this IS an Earl Grey blend that you are drinking." Overall, it is a fairly pleasant effect and certainly not common. The tea finishes with an aftertaste reminiscent of the cup itself, flavors of black tea and bergamot oil lingering in the throat.


For the contrast we got from this week's tea and last week's tea, I never sensed competition. Instead, these two teas cater to two different groups of Earl Grey drinkers: those that prefer a lot of bergamot and those that prefer a little. For the Venn Diagram-like overlap between these groups, comprised of folks who simply love Earl Grey, these two teas will be treats. But as it regards The Republic Tea's Earl Greyer, I would rate it a 5 on my personal enjoyment scale. Prepare yourself for the experience with this one - and enjoy.



Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
Republic of Tea's Earl Greyer Black Tea is available in bags from their website, here and in loose leaf from their website, here.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.
You can read more about my Personal Enjoyment Scale, here.
Text is copyright 2016, Built from Ink and Tea.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of Whispering Pines Tea's Wild Grey Black Tea

My saga of Earl Grey love continues with Whispering Pines Tea's Wild Grey. Knowing Whsipering Pines Tea, they strive to add their own touch of the wild to whatever they blend, and their Wild Grey is no exception. They very specifically selected a wildcrafted (click here for more information on this practice) Dian Hong black tea to form the base. Dian Hong tends toward cocoa and spicy, peppery notes in its flavor profile, an ideal selection for combining with the other main ingredient in Earl Grey: bergamot oil. Brenden of Whispering Pines describes Wild Grey as "very lightly flavored," which should allow the underlying Dian Hong notes to shine through the bergamot. Time to steep and find out!


After boiling some fresh water, I steeped one teaspoon of Wild Grey in eight ounces of water for three minutes. Delighted, I read on Whispering Pines' website that a second steep is recommended! While awaiting my tea, I smelled the dry leaves in the bag and was immediately struck by the intensity of the bergamot. It cuts right through any "noise" and straight to the nostrils with an almost-stinging, but ultimately sweet, aroma of citrus. Fascinated, I continued sniffing and realized that I could already smell the Dian Hong, almost inseparable from the bergamot aromas. The bergamot had this halo of earthy cocoa on its edges - what excellent blending!


My cup of tea ready to drink, I breathed-in its aroma and sipped slowly. At first, I thought I had the wrong cup of tea. The initial aroma from the cup was that of a deep, cocoa-noted black tea - not Earl Grey. My sip slid over my tongue and was swallowed before I stopped to think about the flavor. It really was quite light on the bergamot. The bergamot was present, but it did not take the forefront as it does in many Earl Grey blends. Rather, the citrus notes sat back and complemented the base black tea. They also made an appearance in the aftertaste, which I found interesting, as they hung-on in the back of the throat for some time.


By no means should Wild Grey be underestimated. The cup brewed here is not your typical Earl Grey blend. Rather than focusing on the bergamot, it instead frames the underlying black tea, the Dian Hong, as the hero of this cup, putting it forth and elevating it for the pleasure of the drinker. Alongside this Dian Hong comes bergamot oil to provide some citrus without being overbearing - just the right amount. If bergamot in Earl Grey tends to be too overwhelming for you, or you just want less of it, I highly recommend Wild Grey. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this tea a 5.




Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
Whispering Pines Tea's Wild Grey black tea 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 2016, Built from Ink and Tea.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Tea Review - A Review of Republic of Tea's Pumpkin Spice Black Tea

This year, during this Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, I am thankful for all of you, my readers, fellow tea aficionados, and fellow writing instrument enthusiasts. I decided to write a quick review of a tea that I was fortunate enough to sample at the San Francisco International Tea Festival, this year. (I highly recommend the SF Tea Festival to anyone interested in tea. You can learn more at this link.)

Today's review covers Republic of Tea's Pumpkin Spice black tea, an autumn seasonal blend. Sounds like the ideal tea with which to caffeinate after a Thanksgiving meal! Blended with the black tea is ginger, cinnamon, pumpkin flavor, sweet blackberry leaves, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice - quite the assortment of spices all in one. Subsequently, the aroma of the dry teabags has a heady intensity. That many spices all together instantly invade the nose at the slightest sniff. But they do smell really good. 


Five minutes of steeping a teabag in eight ounces of just-boiled water, and I have a cup of tea that smells rather mellow compared to the teabag. My guess is that the hot water tones down the intensity of the spices rather substantially. Notes of pumpkin are pleasantly sweet and noticeable - providing a great balanced aroma that lives up to the name of the blend. 


My first sip underwhelms me. For a five minute steep, I was expecting something a bit stronger. The cup is tasty, and the spices and pumpkin blend together well. However, the overall flavor seems slightly weak or watery, and I can taste a bitter note on the backend, which might come from one of the spices involved. The black tea does present a good base and harmonizes well with the other ingredients. 

While I did find this tea to be tasty, it was not all that I wanted, nor was it all that it could have been. If you come across it, I do recommend trying it; it might fit your palate! Otherwise, look elsewhere for your pumpkin tea fix, this fall. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this tea a 3. 



Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
Republic of Tea's Pumpkin Spice Black Tea 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 2016, Built from Ink and Tea.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of Republic of Tea's Brain Boost Green Tea

On this Tuesday morning, we felt we needed a boost to our brainpower (lots of work to finish before the holiday, here in the United States!), so our tea to review was Brain Boost SuperGreen Tea Bags from Republic of Tea. Combining ginko biloba and black currant with a blend of matcha and green tea, this tea was designed to benefit the mind and the body in one tasty cup.


I steeped a single tea bag in eight ounces of water for three minutes. The water had been boiled and then let cool for about ten minutes. You can also follow Republic of Tea's recommendation for water "just short of boiling," but I like to let my water fully boil and then cool from there.

The dry teabags smell heavily of black currant, a sharp and sweet aroma that really dominates the scent. Steeped, the tea smells much more subdued, an even blend of the black currant, some green tea, and what I assume is ginko biloba (a faint herbal aroma).


Unlike the smell, this tea does not taste subdued. My first sip is a juicy hit of black currant. Whereas the black currant had smelled sharp and almost bitter, the flavor was smooth and sweet. There are some herbal notes in the flavor from the ginko biloba, but they are minor. The green tea is pleasant, though not strong, mostly providing background notes of flavor.

On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this tea a 4. This could be a great daily-drinking tea for someone who wants a bit of fruity fun and a green tea to have on a regular basis. The flavor certainly does not get old!



Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
Republic of Tea's Brain Boost Green Tea 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 2016, Built from Ink and Tea.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of Sugimoto America's Sen Cha Green Tea

At the 2016 San Francisco International Tea Festival, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the folks from Sugimoto America, who were sampling a number of Japanese green teas. Not only did I have great conversations with them and get to try their teas, I also received a great lesson in proper matcha whisking technique. It truly is a skill that requires practice! From the festival, I received a sample of their Sen Cha in TeaPac (teabag). Containing their Fukamushi/Steamed sencha from Japan, these sachets are designed to keep the tea as fresh as possible, while also allowing for improved steeping (versus normal teabags).

The aroma of the dry leaves, even from within the sachet, smells clean and fresh. Intensely vegetal, some of the roasted aspect also come across before steeping. As recommended, I steep the sachet in eight ounces of water that has been boiled and then left to cool for five minutes. The recommended sixty second steep time surprises me, but I give it a try. The scent from the resulting cup is not as strong as I would expect from a sencha, but it does have really pleasant, green notes that verge on floral.


The first sip reveals far more roasted notes than I would have expected, given the aroma of both the dry leaf and steeped tea! Flavors are light, but the delicate aspects really seem to shine with the short steep. The roasting really brings forth a richness in the flavor that fills-in the body of the tea quite well. This richness carries into the aftertaste, which lingers on the tongue for some time - an aspect I found to be really pleasant!


On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this tea a 5. It really embodies one of the best sencha I have ever tried, and the price is fairly accessible for such a quality tea. From their website, you can also get the same tea in loose leaf, rather than sachets, which increases the value in my opinion.



Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
Sugimoto America's Sen Cha 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 2016, Built from Ink and Tea.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of Republic of Tea's Peppermint Chocolate Rooibos

This past weekend, I attended the San Francisco International Tea Festival and had an absolutely amazing time. I spoke with some great vendors, worked with some fantastic volunteers, experienced some tasty food, and - of course - drank some amazing tea. While I was there, I had great conversations with all the ladies, who were faithfully working the Republic of Tea booth, representing the brand and pouring sample after sample of their teas. Thank you so much to all, who made this festival wonderful.

Today's review was actually not one of the teas I sampled at the Republic of Tea booth, rather it came in the "goodie bag" that all festival attendees received. I tasted this for the first time on Sunday night, after returning home from the show, and I knew that I had to make it the star of this week's Tea Review Tuesday. As a part of Republic of Tea's "Cuppa Chocolate Tea" assortment, Peppermint Chocolate offers a caffeine- and calorie-free cup of sweetness, bringing the taste of a liquid dessert and plenty of antioxidants!


To brew, I used one cup of just-boiled water, along with one teabag, then let it steep for somewhere past seven minutes. Republic of Tea recommends five to seven minutes, but since rooibos cannot be oversteeped, and I like my herbal teas to be strong, the extra steep time did it no harm.


This blend contains a surprising number of ingredients, but they all boil down (no pun intended) to rooibos, chocolate, mint, and some sweetness. The first aroma I notice is rich, decadent cocoa, which is very immediately followed by the sharpness of mint. Though the blend does not contain it, there is a faint smell that reminds me of chicory. Interestingly, the blend does contain carob, which is often used as an alternative to cocoa powder, in addition to cocoa kernals. Providing a lovely background and base for the other flavors is the rooibos.


My first sip immediately reminds me of a chocolate peppermint candy, and it is sweet. However, what I find to be really refreshing is that the sweetness does not taste like processed sugar, more like a natural sweetness, which I suppose comes from one of the ingredients. The flavors are really not complex, nor do they need to be. Peppermint chocolate is the tea's goal, and peppermint chocolate is how it tastes!


On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this rooibos blend a 4. I think it is a regular, and not seasonal, offering. Therefore, hopefully, it will remain available for some time. If you like mint or chocolate, give it a try! If you do not care for rooibos, I still recommend trying this, as the rooibos flavors are not prominent at all.



Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
Republic of Tea's Peppermint Chocolate Rooibos 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 2016, Built from Ink and Tea.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of Dobra Tea's 2000 Shen Qi Old Tree Pu'erh Tea

I regularly sample and look at pu'erh, both young and old, raw and ripe, but rarely do I have the pleasure of tasting a pu'erh that comes to me looking like this!


Hand delivered to me from Dobra Tea in Ashland, Oregon, this Shen Qi Old Tree shou pu'erh now pushes sixteen years old, having been harvested in the year 2000. Dobra Tea themselves describes these leaves as "very dark' and "compost-like," a wording with which I have to agree. Serving some into my gaiwan for the initial rinse, I am simultaneously fascinated by the size of the leaves and concerned about whether I have used enough. But, the rinse reveals all - the quick, ten-second, cleansing infusion reveals such a quick, dark brew that I knew these were going to want short infusions indeed. (This may vary based on how much leaf you use.)


Dry, the leaves do not release much aroma. While I hesitate to make any judgments based on this, I do wonder if the storage has managed to remove some of the richness from the smell of the leaf. The rinse of the leaves causes them to share much more of their rich aroma. Comparatively, though, I would still say that the smell is not as strong as one tends to find from some younger shou pu'erh. The earthy tones have truly mellowed. Most noticeable are bright notes, like greenery on the forest floor.


Twenty second infusions with just boiled water provide the first five steepings of Shen Qi. Cups release aromas of soft and just-slightly sweet dampness, almost-barely touched by the smallest of sour tinges. The flavors of dark earth and mushrooms, rich and a bit nutty, layer in the cups. Mellow is a great descriptor, here, because I can taste the complexity in the tea. What I mean is that the cup tastes very soft, not intense and in my face. Once might reason that this is due to me having brewed a weak cup of pu'erh or the tea not having a lot of strength to it. But, having tasted a few other shou pu'erh of this age, I think it is that case that things have toned-down with time. Deep, dark, forest flavors are not going to roar through the cup. Rather, they are going to sinuously fill every aspect of each sip.


If you happen to find yourself in the Ashland, Oregon area, I recommend stopping at Dobra Tea to try their Shen Qi Old Tree pu'erh. To my knowledge, it is not one that they sell online. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this tea a 4. Special thanks to my dear friend, who brought me this tea.




Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
You can learn more about Dobra Tea in Ashland, Oregon from their website, here.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.
You can read more about my Personal Enjoyment Scale, here.
Text is copyright 2016, Built from Ink and Tea.