Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tasting: Je T'aime from Nina's Paris

Happy Piggy loves the scent

Valentine's day is around the corner and I've been thinking about teas well-suited for the day. For me, any high quality pure tea would be appropriate, but perhaps not as stylish. I started contemplating all the seemingly romantic blends out there but then my eyes came to rest upon a sample I recently received from Nina's Paris called Je t'aime. Could anything be more appropriate for a day of celebrating love?

The dry leaves are all about vanilla and caramel. Sweet and strong. My body was lifted up and lured towards the scent like a cartoon character. The fragrance had me stepping into in a confectioner's shop. After steeping, the brew's aroma shouts vanilla and caramel along with a buttery sweetness. After brewing this tea, my little office smelled like a french patisserie fully of buttery sweetness. The tea itself surprised me, as the flavor is actually subtle. Coconut, vanilla, butter, caramel and malty black tea all play nicely together. I could also detect notes of raw almonds. The caramel flavor is smooth and pleasant, not at all like the demanding scent of the brewed tea.

This would be a pleasant dessert tea after a Valentine's day dinner. It does have caffeine, so not for those that are sensitive to an evening black tea sip. The sweet comforting flavors make it a nice wintertime treat.

Thank you to Nina's Paris for the sample! You can purchase this tea through the Nina's Paris online shop, or on amazon.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Tasting: Thurbo Moonlight Darjeeling

I recently received an intriguing package from Golden Tips tea, straight from India. Inside was a myriad of tea samples. It felt like my birthday!

Golden Tips has been selling teas since 1933 and offer over 150 types of pure teas from India. I couldn't decide on what tea to try first, and then the Thurbo Moonlight Darjeeling called out to me. I was intrigued by the 'moonlight' in the title. Is this tea picked at night? Do the tea plants flower at night? Mysterious.

I was curious about the origin of the name, and online searches didn't turn anything up. So naturally I took to twitter. I asked Niraj of Happy Earth Tea what he thought of the name, since he is an expert on all things Darjeeling. According to Niraj, the Castleton estate started calling their white tea 'moonlight' due to the light color of the leaves. Niraj also mentioned that lately tippy black teas are also given the name 'moonlight'. It turns out the Thurbo and Castleton estates are owned by the same company so it makes sense that they used the name for the tea. It still sounds mystical to me. I like it that way.

There certainly are golden tippy leaves in this tea. The dry leaves have a lovely floral, sweet, muscatel aroma with an undertone of dried grass. Smells like a Darjeeling black tea!

The brew is super muscatel grape-like, along with the flavors of golden raisin, and sweet honey with a slight floral note. It's light and juicy, smooth without astringency. The flavor actually reminds me of a Japanese 'muscat gummy' candy I've eaten in the past. This is a light and refreshing Darjeeling perfect for drinking any time of the day.

I have many more teas from Golden Tips to review, and stay tuned for an interview with the Director of the company. It's coming soon. For more on this tea, visit the Golden Tips website.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Tasting: Pekoe Sip House

Lately I've been highlighting companies that offer sustainable tea while supporting the community and farmers. Today's tasting reviews are for Pekoe Sip House, another company making a difference. They have three cafes in Boulder, CO and recently launched an online tea shop. Pekoe Sip House offers sustainably sourced tea blends and contribute to the financial and environmental success of their community. You can visit this page to learn more about their strong values.

No Pain Rooibos

The company generously allowed me to select two teas of my choice to sample. I decided on the Sweet Spice Black Tea and No Pain Rooibos. There were many interesting teas to try, but these two grabbed my attention first. 

Let's start with the rooibos. I'm not usually a fan of rooibos, I don't enjoy the taste. But I wanted to keep an open mind so I asked for a rooibos blend. I've started to enjoy teas I never thought I would, so why not give it a try! 

The ingredients for the blend are: organic rooibos, organic apple, fenugreek seed, cardamom, lemon, black pepper, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and turmeric. The leaves have a very strong cardamom, masala chai-like scent. Rooibos and lemon are also quite prominent. The brew has a similar chai/lemon aroma. It has an interesting flavor, one I haven't encountered before. Earthy, tart, sour, spicy, and sweet all at once. Many flavors playing off of each other. I particularly enjoyed the clove, ginger and citrus notes in the brew. The tea is warming, sweet, and cozy. The rooibos flavor is quite tame within the spicy carnival. Ginger and turmeric are known to provide pain-relief. I'm not going to tout the health benefits of tea, but the headache I had before I started drinking the blend started to dissipate by the end of the tasting session.

Sweet Spice Tea
Now, on to the Sweet Spice Tea.  This is a whole leaf black tea blend, with orange peel and cinnamon oil. I think I may have mentioned awhile back that I love cinnamon tea in the colder weather. It's a super comforting, warm flavor. The leaves are spicy, sweet with a hint of citrus. It smells as good as it tastes. This tea honestly tastes like one of my most favorite spicy cinnamon teas but without the sneaky artificial flavor. The dry leaves have more of an citrus tang than the brew itself, which is fine by me. It is tingly, spicy, and satisfying. There is a pleasing sweetness as well, perhaps from the cinnamon oil. This is a tea I could drink daily in the winter, especially on blustery, snowy days. Imagine snuggling by a fire, looking out the window at gently falling snowflakes. This tea is the perfect enhancement to a peaceful winter moment. 

Thank you very much to Pekoe Sip House for the samples. Best of luck with your new online shop. If I'm ever in Boulder, I will make a beeline to one of your cafes! If you are interested in purchasing their teas, you can visit the online shop.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year! Cheers to 2015!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year! Thank you for supporting Tea Happiness this year, I truly appreciate every single reader. Much gratitude to all of the companies that provided samples, and to all the folks that took part in the spotlight interviews!

I look forward to learning, tasting, and experiencing all things tea in 2015. Of course I will share it with all of you! Cheers!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Spotlight:Tea of the People

Do you know Tea of the People? They are a socially conscious tea company offering healthy tea blends created with as many antioxidant rich ingredients as possible. They focus on real ingredients, not just added flavorings. They are hoping to make a difference by donating a portion of profits to entrepreneurs and non-profits that are helping make the world a better place. I was intrigued and wanted to find out more. Founder and Chief Activist Officer Joshua Caplan kindly agreed to answer some questions so we can all learn more about Tea of the People. Here is our interview!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tasting: A Tale of Two Ippodo Senchas

Photo provided by Ippodo. Such pretty packaging!
It was the best of teas, it was the worst of days. It was the age of rain, it was the age of chillyness...a murky day ended in tea happiness in A Tale of Two Senchas. Two teas. One aristocratic, one perhaps more bourgeois, but both equally satisfying.

Photo provided by Ippodo. Hosen on the left, Unro on the right
On a wet, bone-chilling day I  had the pleasure of tasting these two fresh, vibrant senchas from Ippodo. They kindly sent me the sencha set, which contains the Unro and Hosen teas. My tasting session created a sunny paradise within the gloomy afternoon. I started with the Hosen tea, which is billed as a great tea for sencha beginners. The brew is light and fragrant, with a mellow flavor of cooked green vegetables. It's a good basic sencha to drink every day. Shall we say...a more bourgeois tea? It is bright with a vibrant balance of sweet and bitter vegetal flavors. The tea has a lovely soothing richness that melted away the chilly December day.

Ippodo labels the Unro sencha as 'a favorite among seasoned Sencha drinkers seeking that unique astringency'. I felt full of suspense after reading that description. Would it live up to the hype? Is it truly an aristocratic tea? The brew blew me away with the strength of an umami tidal wave (strength enough to act as a guillotine?). This tea is strong, with savory, mushroomy umami flavor waltzing along with astringency. I usually prepare my senchas without boiling water, and that's how I first tasted the unro. Later I noticed the directions called for the water to be 212 degrees. After brewing up a batch this way, I was amazed that even more umami flavor was extracted from the leaves. It was a dyamic, zingy brew. Delicious! A tea I am grateful to have in my cabinet.

This was a tale of two senchas from different classes, creating joy in a murky world. A bit more peaceful than reading Dickens, don't you think? Also. much more instantly gratifying.

For more about Ippodo you can visit their website, or read my post about a fabulous tasting I had at the NY store. This tea gift would make a good addendum to my holiday gift guide! It is a thoughtful gift for the sencha lover in your life. Thank you to Ippodo for the samples of Dickensian proportions.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Tea Happiness Holiday Gift Guide!

In case you haven't noticed, it's the time of year for holiday gift lists! There are so many lists out there, so I'm going to try and pick out a few unique gift ideas for the tea lovers in your life. Or perhaps just a gift for yourself! Here are a few gifts I wouldn't mind opening this holiday season (subtle, right?):

1. Monthly Tea Subscription: Tea subscriptions are common these days, but Global Tea Hut stands out as a well curated, deeply meaningful monthly tea adventure.

2Adopt a tea plant: Who wouldn't love their own person tea plant? You can adopt your own from The Great Mississippi Tea Company. With an adoption you get to visit the plantation any time you like to, and of course, tea to drink. Note: If you choose to purchase, once you've "adopted" and finished the PayPal process, be sure to click on the "Go back to the GMSTeaCo page" and enter in your email address.

3. Go green: purchase sustainable, responsibly produced tea from Eco-Cha where you will also be supporting small tea farmers. I have some of their wonderful tea, keep your eyes peeled for a review soon.

4. Get Boozy!: I love the Owl's Brew products, and this set of their three fun tea infused mixers would be perfect for any holiday cocktail party. All three flavors are divine.

5. Support an innovative kickstarter campaign: The Qterra NOVO Travel Tea Brewer has a unique design inspired by South American and Chinese tea traditions.

6. Get Fancy: If you're looking for a super lux tea gift for the tea aficionado that has everything, look no further than the gorgeous Sorapot. An artistic, functional design that will be the highlight of any modern teapot collection.

What gifts are you hoping to give and receive this year? Let me know in the comments!