Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's Tea Time!

I've been on a tea odyssey.  During the colder months of the year, I am drawn to drinking hot tea.  Maybe it's because I need to warm up after going to the bus stop with the kids.  Or perhaps it's because I crave the taste.  Either way I wanted to find a better tea to drink.

Lately, I had been buying the Tazo tea bags like Calm (Chamomile) or African Red Bush (Rooibos).  I also tried tea bags by Two Leaves and a Bud.  They sell a hibiscus tea, Alpine Berry which is delicious and fruity but not too sweet.  I also bought their Pomi-berry which is a luscious chamomile-pomigranite blend.

On my tea hunt, I decided I wanted to go bag-less so I could save a few bucks and be more environmentally conscious.  Thankfully, I saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen in which they reviewed tea pots.  The ingenuiTEA by Adagio Teas was their only recommended pot and  I thought why not try it.   Adagio Teas sells it for $19 and gives you a four tea sampler with a guide to tea book.  The pot is a plastic container with a lid and a filter located at the bottom.  To release the filtered tea, a teacup must be placed under the pot.  How ingenious.  I chose the herbal collection which includes chamomile, blood orange, spearmint and rooibos.  Adagio even threw in a sample of Gemini Tea (because of my birth date).

My journey didn't stop there.  At my local organic foods market, Mustard Seed Market and Cafe, I had seen a Provence Rooibos tea.  It's a red bush tea with lavender and Mustard was sold out.  I decided to look online and found it at The Tea Table.  They sell an Organic Roman Provence Rooibos that contains rooibos with lavender, rose petals, elderberry and currants.  I bought 8 ounces.
After waiting a week, my packages started arriving in the mail.  I was impressed with Adagio Teas.  They ship their teas in pretty green tins and list the brewing instructions on the outside label for each type.  I already had an electric kettle by Chef's Choice, to boil my water.  Adagio recommends using 180 degree water which means hot but not boiling.  Likewise, herbal teas require a longer steep time.  The first tea that I brewed was Gemini tea.  I infused the tea for seven minutes and then placed the empty cup under the ingenuiTEA.  The Gemini tea was aromatic with fruity notes.  That was the first time I had white tea and learned that I like it.  I prefer green tea but white tea is a nice change from a grassy taste.
I sampled blood orange tea later that day.  It smelled so good coming out of the tin.  If you like Red Zinger from Celestial Seasonings, you will love blood orange.  The tea has a citrusy flavor that isn't overly cloying.   I like a little bitterness to accompany sweetness of a tea.  I typically drink my tea straight up with no honey, sugar or lemon.
The next tea I brewed was chamomile.  When I spooned the tea out from the tin, I was surprised to see actual buds from chamomile flowers.  Chamomile actually is from the Greek word chamaimelon which means 'earth apple.'  After filtering the tea, I detected an herbal scent right away.  The chamomile tea had a pleasant taste of apple with a refreshing grassy tang.
I decided try each tea that first day.  My next sample was the Organic Roman Provence Rooibos.  It smelled so good right out of the bag.  I love the lavender scent.  Mike brought back from a vial of Haute-Provence Lavender essential oil from France.  I usually put the oil in my bath because it relaxes me.  Lavender actually comes from the Latin word, lavare which means 'to wash.'  The Romans supposedly used lavender in their bath water.  Now I found out about rooibos tea while reading The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexcander McCall Smith. The main character, Precious Ramotswe enjoys drinking red bush tea.  I wanted to find out first hand what the tea tastes like.  It turns out that rooibos tea is grown only in South Africa and was used as an alternative to expensive black tea.  I am partial to the flavor of red bush tea because it is slightly sweet with a nut-like taste.  The Roman Provence Rooibos was all I expected and more.  It had a honeyed flavor with a floral aroma.  I could sit and drink this tea all day because it not only has a arresting fragrance, it has a superb taste.

The final tea I evaluated was spearmint.  For those of you that like Sleepytime tea, spearmint tea is a satisfying alternative.  I cannot drink any caffeine past 5 p.m or I end staying up past my bed time.  The spearmint tea is an effective signal for my body to get ready to crash.  I love mint tea because it smells refreshing and makes me feel calm.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my tea odyssey.  I acquired a lot of information about tea and discovered I could learn even more.  I haven't had a chance yet to savor oolong or black tea.  I'll save that for another blog post.  In the meantime, fire up that kettle and brew yourself a nice cup of tea.

1 comment:

  1. As I mentioned, I am a black tea drinker and have been drinking loose tea for years. I use an electric kettle with my beahouse teapot. I get all my teas from a German company I discovered several years ago on a trip to Germany. Thankfully they have a store in Chicago where I am always assured to find my first flush darjeeling tea and other black tea blends.