Halloween Tea Showdown 2014

October 31, 2014

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It’s hard to believe a year has passed since last years Halloween tea showdown, but alas indeed it has. Once again tis the time to get down with our spooky selves and have a ghoul of a time. My Halloween celebrations are somewhat a tradition, this year will be no different. What’s the plan? Take car. Go to mum’s. Kill Phil [“Sorry!”], grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. Sorry, wrong plan (and yes, that was a Shaun of the Dead quote). Actual Plan : Dress up, watch horror films, eat crap, drink copious amounts of tea and scare the living daylights out of anyone brave enough to knock on my door for sweets.

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I have selected three teas for this years showdown which have been sent to me by friends on Steepster. Two are the same tea though with different bases, I thought the comparison would be nice. We have Bats in the Belfry – black from Della Terra Teas, Bats in the Belfry – Rooibos from Della Terra Teas and Sweet Harvest Pumpkin from Celestial Seasonings. The Sweet Harvest Pumpkin tea is a teabag though I am not holding judgement before I actually sample it.

Here in the UK the majority of people only use pumpkins as Jack O Lanterns and throw away the insides. I have plans for mine, first I will make pumpkin soup which was a request from my husband before using the rest of the pumpkin in cupcakes (similar to carrot cake) with orange frosting.

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Bats in the Belfry – Black 

Ingredients: Black tea, chocolate bits and flavour, vanilla bits, mint and bat sprinkles

The bat sprinkles are super cute!

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The blends raw scent is of smoky wood and cocoa. Sweet though sour .

1.5 tsp of blend put into an empty tea sac with boiling water for 4 minutes.

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Steeped scent is strongly vanilla and malty.

Flavour is medium strength with sweet and creamy vanilla tones, light malt and smoke tones and a minty after taste. Quite a lot going on though at a decent balance. The chocolate is not very noticeable though it may be part of the malt like flavour i can taste. Due to the vanilla and mint it reminds me of hard boiled sweets, kind of like candy cane.

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Bats in the Belfry – Rooibos 

Ingredients: Rooibos, chocolate bits and flavour, vanilla bits, mint and bat sprinkles

The blends raw scent is of cocoa. Sweet though with a light herbalness.

1.5 tsp of blend put into an empty tea sac with boiling water for 4 minutes.

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Steeped scent is strongly of rich cocoa. Sour and dry.

Flavour is dark, rich and smoky with dry cocoa, sweet vanilla and subtle mint tones. It tastes like mint chocolates. It would seem the base change from black to rooibos has made a grave change (har har).

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Sweet Harvest Pumpkin 

Ingredients:Black Tea, Cinnamon, Ginger, Roasted Chicory, Natural Pumpkin Flavour With Other Natural Flavours (Soy Lecithin), Luo Han Guo, Cloves, Nutmeg, Natural Sweetener (Stevia Extract) and Pumpkin.

The blends raw scent is of cinnamon bark, dry pumpkin and ginger.

1 bag in boiling water for 4 minutes.

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Steeped scent is thickly and sweetly cinnamon stick with a touch of clove and ginger.

Flavour is super sweet (like 10 sugars sweet) with a dry cinnamon and clove taste. It’s sweetness is too sweet for me, compared to it’s spicy tones it’s refreshing, brings out the clove. So sweet cinnamon and clove…not quite Halloween but rather reminding me of Christmas. After half a cup it gets sweeter and becomes harder for me to drink. I love strong cinnamon teas but it’s the pure sugar sweetness I can’t handle.

And the winner is….

Bats in the Belfry – Rooibos by Della Terra Teas

It tasted like a cocoa drink with a difference, and one that left your mouth feeling refreshed yet yummy! Despite it’s rooibos base (for which I am usually not a fan) this balance was the best compared with the black base.

Runner Up – Second Place 

Bats in the Belfry – Black by Della Terra Teas

This was nice though if it wasn’t for the kawaii bats it would be a Christmas tea. Minty and creamy like candycanes, should be renamed Cats in the Christmas tree :)

Last Place 

Sweet Harvest Pumpkin by Celestial Seasonings

When this tea says it’s sweet I can assure you they were not kidding! It’s overly sweet and ended up being undrinkable. On top of that the cinnamon and clove overpowered the other ingredients, ending up being similar to a Christmas tea.

This is KittyLovesTea wishing you all a very Happy Halloween.

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Categories: Misc.

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My return with Cold Brew Bottle Review from Whittard of Chelsea

October 20, 2014

It’s been far too long my tea friends, unfortunately time has flown by since my last blog entry. I haven’t forgotten about you, unfortunately life came in the way of things for a while. So what’s new? Well I’ve purchased a house and after several months of waiting I am a month or two away from finally moving and signing the papers. It should be before Christmas *fingers crossed*. On top of that I was ill for just over a month and was somewhat bed ridden with a prolapsed disc in my lower back. My overall absence was not a happy one but I am looking to put that behind me and come back to my blog with more than ever before. In the next week I have over 10 samples of Darjeeling to review which I am looking extremely forward to. For now I will leave this post short and sweet and finish up with a review for Whittard 0f Chelsea’s Iced Cold Steep Tea Bottle.

A couple of months ago I went out with my family for a day trip around a shopping village in Stoke On Trent. I had no idea what shops were there, for me it was purely to spend time with my parents and get out of the house for a while. After walking past a few rows of shops and doubting I would find anything for me I spotted a Whittard of Chelsea store. My eyes widened and my mouth grew into a grin, very much like a Cheshire cat.

Cheshire Cat

Cheshire Cat

In the store I was greeted by the words SALE and I darted into the corner to browse. I ended up falling in love with a large heart mug and hugged it while I looked around, at this point the cashier thought she should announce herself to me and asked if I needed help. She probably thought a woman hugging a mug needed help. I politely declined and carried on browsing. Another sale item I just had to have was a tin of English Rose Black tea which was half price as it didn’t have long left on it’s date. That didn’t bother me as I knew I would drink the 50g of it pretty quickly. On top of those two items I also got an instant tea gift set which was on offer rather than in the sale, and a small tin of Apple and Elderflower blend to try as my other half loves apple teas.

My new large mug

My new large mug

I huddled my goods to the till and looked to the left display whilst my items were being wrapped. I saw what looked like a wine bottle, but with a coloured silicone lid. It looked odd and it took me a while to work out what it was, which the sales assistant caught me doing and she went over to show me. It was a cold steeper. They had examples for me to try that were made using the cold steeper but I declined, I’m funny about how long teas have been stored. It’s a personal thing, not accusing them of anything. So I contemplated buying one as it looked ideal, previously I was using a Sistema microwave soup pot to cold steep with. I would put it in the fridge for a few hours and then have to pour it through a small sieve over kitchen paper to stop the small pieces. Needless to say it was not the easiest operation though it did work. It was at this time that my mother walked in and announced to add one to my lot at the till and she would pay as a treat. I refused but she would not take no for an answer, so the only decision I had to make in the end was which colour silicone top I wanted, red or green? I chose green. Apparently that was the most popular choice.

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When I got home a few hours later I unpacked everything and pawed over them with glee, remembering what I had and thinking of where to put them. It was at that point that it made sense to try the cold steeper asap. It was £20 which is not overly expensive though it was a little steep (haha) perhaps. Especially since I didn’t know how good it would be. The instructions were easy enough to follow so I rinsed the bottle before adding whatever tea I could find nearby into the bottle and filling with cold water. I cannot remember which tea it was, though it may have been the English Rose I got from Whittard.

After roughly 7 hours in the fridge I pulled it out to see what it looked like, the tea had settled and the water was now coloured. It looked steeped enough to me. So I pulled out wine glasses to befit the wine type bottle and poured. The plastic strainer inside managed to catch the small pieces of the tea and the produced cold tea ended up looking like white wine. It was perfect! Exactly what I had been looking for and needed. After the tea was finished it was a simple case of emptying the tea leaves and rinsing before re-filling and popping back into the fridge. It’s easy to assemble and wash and on top of that the finished tea product tastes amazing.

Apple and Elderflower cold steeped

Apple and Elderflower cold steeped

It’s been roughly two months now and I’ve been regularly using the cold steep bottle since. I can report it works as well today as the first day that I used it. For the reasons mentioned above I would heartedly recommend this steeper. It’s not often I buy something and it works exactly as advertised but I am happy to report that this is not one of those products. It’s literally a rinse and use straight from the box, easy enough for everyone to get along with.

http://www.whittard.co.uk/equipment/tea-equipment/iced-tea-equipment

Red - http://www.whittard.co.uk/equipment/tea-equipment/iced-tea-equipment/red-cold-brew-t-bottle.htm

Green - http://www.whittard.co.uk/equipment/tea-equipment/iced-tea-equipment/green-cold-brew-t-bottle.htm

Categories: Misc.

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2014 Oolong from Eco Cha

June 26, 2014

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I am lucky enough to have won a contest a few weeks ago that Eco Cha held via their official Twitter. My winning tea was 150g of Jin Xuan, 75g of Four Seasons Spring and 75g of Shan Lin Xi High Mountain. A magnificent lot of Oolong picked this year (2014) and a wonderful introduction to the company.

About Eco Cha 

www.eco-cha.com

Eco-Cha was created to represent the artisan tea industry in Taiwan. Following decades of direct contact with farmers and learning the history and current trends of tea culture, we founded our company in order to share this experience that continues to captivate us. We recognize that tea lovers around the world have developed a level of appreciation for fine tea that warrants a responsible resource to learn more about this hand-crafted product that is rooted in an age-old tradition. Eco-Cha aspires to offer you a unique opportunity to understand and experience the world of tea culture in its current state in Taiwan. – Taken from their website

Their website offers a small selection of especially chosen teas (mostly Oolong) with ample information (such as area grown, height, brewing tips and harvest dates) as well as wonderful gift sets to suit everyone. While they may not be the cheapest source for tea they offer high quality artisan teas that you are not likely to find advertised anywhere else and to sweeten the deal they offer a $6 global shipping rate with free shipping with orders over $75.

The first tea I am going to try is:

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Jin Xuan Oolong Tea

http://eco-cha.com/collections/all-tea/products/jin-xuan-oolong-tea

This batch of tea was sourced from an artisan who won first prize in both spring and winter of last year’s Nantou County Jin Xuan Dong Ding Oolong Tea Competitions. His co-op of farmers use no weed killers, and chemical analyses for fertilizers and pesticides show their samples to be a small fraction of the accepted amounts set by international standards. A prime example of sustainable methods combined with community-based expertise. 

Harvest: Machine cut in medium batches. April 2014. Nantou, Taiwan. 

Elevation: 400m 

Steeping Method:

Gongfu Teapot – 200ml 

Water Temp – Freshly boiled 

Leaf – 5g 

Steeping Time – 5 minutes

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The Oolong balls are small/medium in size and are made up of  brown, dark green, burnt yellow and medium green coloured leaves. I can see no impurities on the leaves such as spots or loss of colour nor can I see twigs/sticks amongst the balls. A quick sniff-spection reveals a beautiful sweet and floral scent with a touch of cream and butter.

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Once steeped the tea is yellow in colour with a highly buttery and floral scent. In flavour this is of medium strength with sweet floral and creamy butter notes that melt in the mouth and leave a fresh yet fragrant after taste. Also has some vegetal notes that resemble sweetcorn. Very fresh and delicious overall, more floral than milk and I think the balance is perfect.

Rating – 8.5/10

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Four Seasons Spring Oolong Tea 

http://eco-cha.com/collections/all-tea/products/four-seasons-spring-oolong-tea-1#tab-1

This tea garden is a prototype of sustainable tea farming, and is an anomaly in its region This farmer only harvests 3 times a year as opposed to the common practice 5 or 6 times a year. This allows the plants to grow more naturally and maintain optimal nourishment. Almost all tea in this region is machine harvested, but this farmer hand picks these leaves. He is dedicated to the highest quality possible by producing small amounts of carefully crafted tea. We are very excited about this new source.

Harvest: Hand-picked in small batches, only 3 times a year. April 2014. Song Bo Lin, Nantou, Taiwan. 

Elevation: 400m

Steeping Method:

Gongfu Teapot – 200ml 

Water Temp – Freshly boiled 

Leaf – 5g 

Steeping Time – 5 minutes

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The Oolong balls are medium/large in size and are made up of  brown, dark green, burnt yellow and medium green coloured leaves. I can see no impurities on the leaves such as spots or loss of colour nor can I see twigs/sticks amongst the balls. A quick sniff-spection reveals an elegant sweet and floral scent with a touch of grass.

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Once steeped the tea is golden yellow in colour with a sweet floral and grassy scent. In flavour this is of medium/strong strength with sweet floral and grassy yet vegetal notes. The somewhat greenness flavour makes this taste very fresh.  Quite earthy vegetables but green like string bean or sweet pea.

Rating – 8/10

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Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong Tea 

http://eco-cha.com/collections/all-tea/products/shan-lin-xi-high-mountain-oolong-tea

This farm is managed by a husband and wife team who transformed their plot of virgin high mountain bamboo forest into a tea garden just ten years ago. This spring’s tea was harvested in five days with an average of 250 pounds of tea made per day, which is in contrast to around 1000 pounds a day from larger productions in the area.

Harvest: Hand picked in small batches. May 2014. Shan Lin Xi, Nantou, Taiwan. 

Elevation: 1525m

Steeping Method:

Gongfu Teapot – 200ml 

Water Temp – Freshly boiled 

Leaf – 5g 

Steeping Time – 5 minutes

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The Oolong balls are medium/large in size and are made up of  brown, dark green, burnt yellow and medium green coloured leaves. I can see no impurities on the leaves such as spots or loss of colour nor can I see twigs/sticks amongst the balls. A quick sniff-spection reveals a wonderful sweet grass and floral scent which is lightly perfumed and vegetal.

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Once steeped the tea is yellow in colour with a sweet grass scent. In flavour this is of medium strength with pure sweet grass and sweet flower notes. Also some vegetal notes too. Sweetpea, sweetcorn, fresh asparagus and buttercup all in one delicious, smooth yet vibrant tea.

Rating – 9.5/10

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This has been a wonderful introduction into the artisan tea world that is Eco Cha and I can happily say that I will be back. Out of my three Oolongs I found the Shan Li Xin High Mountain the tastiest and it has everything I look for in a low oxidised Oolong. It’s freshness and purity makes it one of the nicest I have tried. I highly recommend Eco Cha and I want to thank them very much for giving me the opportunity to taste these wonderful Oolong.

Categories: Oolong Tea.

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