I was looking at the insanely cheap “yixing” tea pots on Aliexpress. At $4.59, this was the cheapest one I found. I thought my $7.00 40ml one was cheap, but noooo this 120ml was even cheaper! I decided to purchase the cheap tea pot for science. Hey, maybe this pot might be alright. All fails, I can display it to look all fancy. All my yixing tea pots I pack into little boxes and hide them in cupboards to keep them safe from earthquakes and my clumsy butt hitting the tea shelf.
The tea pot arrived while I was on vacation. First glance, the lid button looks off center, but overall not too bad. I expected to poor craftsmanship for $5.
However, there was something wrong here with this tea pot. The tea pot smelled funny, like chemicals. What caught me right away was the feel of the pot, it just felt wrong. It felt too dry, like a chalkboard. I took off the lid…
WTF is this?!?!
The “yixing” pot is painted a matte brown. Why is it painted? My only guess is the paint is hiding the clay underneath which is some strange dark brown shade. Heck kinda clay is this?
I can see droplet of paint on the inside.
Plus there are parts where the paint is thin or chipped around the top and spout.
As well as thumbprints on the bottom. Next on CSI: TEA OWL – getting this fingerprint off and bring them to justice (Fly by Owl poop on them).
Since the pot is painted with paint inside, this is the only tea ware purchase I actually wonder if this tea pot is safe to use. My tea will be in contact with actual paint without a glazing which sounds pretty bad.
Okay, so this pot is all paint, is the design usable? Nope. I also discovered the tea pot pours mostly out of the lid and dribbles out the spout down the base. No redeeming qualities here.
So yeah. Don’t buy a $4.59 yixing pot to save a whole lot of money. Save up and buy from a reliable seller that cheap $30-$50 machine made yixing teapot, or save up even longer and buy a handmade one.
This pot is totally going on my shelf to display. I could plant a succulent in it and sell it on etsy – maybe someone will buy it trying to save the pot, to discover the tea pot complete junk. HAHAHHAHA!
Ooooh, another fun month with the White2Tea Club. When is the White2tea club not fun or an adventure?
This month is three teas, Qilan Trees, Qilan Fire, and a 5 year aged Dahongpao brick. All oolongs, hoot! The Qilan Trees and Fire are new oolong offerings at the White2Tea shop, so being in the monthly tea subscription is nice as I get to sample the oolongs.
Close up of the DHP!
I’m going to drink the Qilan oolongs. As much as I want to do side by side, I’m going to drink them separately this month. SoCal has been blistering hot this September. I’m talking 39c/102F, and I’m in the cooler part since I’m closer to the water. As I write this it is technically fall season and it’s 35c/95F right now. My AC is broken, so I’ve been drinking all my hot teas before 10am. A double session would take too long and the Tea Owls will have to shovel my melted body off the floor.
Tasting of White2Tea’s Qilan Oolongs
Qilan Trees is a Wuyi oolong from Fujian, China. The leaf is quite dark and long, the leaf loosely pinched and twisted together. Qilan “Trees”.. what an odd choice of name, I thought. I was expecting a greener oolong, like a jade. We will both learn soon enough.
I steeped 7 grams of Qilan Trees with boiling water using a 120ml gaiwan.
First Infusion: The first steeping produced a bronzey orange cup with a roasted plum scent.
The oolong sips in with a smooth, slick and heavy texture. The flavor is mineral with a strange herbal sweet leaf taste, which I’m pretty sure if cannabis notes. The oolong is sweeter than most, hitting the tongue a little differently. The aftertaste creeps in slowly – a strong peachy sweet fragrance that is really nice.
Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Infusion: The flavor beefed up and mellowed. I’m getting some toasty bread crust, cannabis, and lightly crunchy fall leaves – those fall leaves that are starting to turn. The mouthfeel is still heavy and slick. The end of sip texture changed as it is dryness that hits the whole mouth, drying the tongue. The peachy finish is still there.
Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Infusion: Qilan Trees shifted here. The flavor is savory and just like boiled artichoke hearts – very vegetal, kinda sweet and creamy. The sweetness has switched gears, hitting the tongue very different, just like stevia.
I think I can aggressively squeeze out 2 or 3 more steepings, but I personally wasn’t a fan of the cannabis and herbal sweetness so I stopped here. Qilan Trees is a really interesting oolong – it’s not a new tea drinker oolong. I love the complexity, fragrance and mouth feel. If you don’t mind the cannabis sweet notes, Qilan Trees is a fine oolong.
Qilan Fire is a light medium roasted oolong and is the same leaf material as Qilan Trees. The dry leaf has a lovely roasty scent, oh yeah!
I did the same steeping parameters as Qilan Trees.
First and Second Infusion: This Qilan Oolong steeps up a goldy bronze color with a warm, organic and roasty scent.
These first infusions have an interesting fruity taste, I’m thinking a non-tart grapefruit or pomelo. There is also a lightly roasty and char taste. The body is nicely thick and sweet.
Third, Fourth, and Fifth Infusion: Qilan Fire has a great char and raisin toast notes with a peachy green finish. The finish tastes like peaches that have the leaves attached. The mouth feel aftertaste is weird as it’s a thick slimey coating of green peaches and tulip flavor. Each steeping the aftertaste intensifies the peach, tulips and green leaf flavor.
I’m feeling big manic tea drunk energy and I got the hugest craving for babybel cheese, which I think would be a nice pairing with Qilan Fire. I need a Costco run for a giant bag of cheese. There’s nothing like a good tea drunken weekend Costco run – I get less pissed off at the crowds, I got more energy for the crowds and hauling big boxes of things and more entertained by the massive buckets of mayo.
Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Infusion: The flavor shifts to a soft sweet light roast with sweet potato, cream, and raisins. Aftertaste is the same peachy green. Each sip of Qilan Fire is like American Thanksgiving. 3 years in this country and I still don’t get the yams and marshmallows combination.
Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Infusion: The Qilan oolong has lightened to a wet rock and mineral sweet taste. The sweetest steepings!
Twelfth “Oops I forgot” Infusion: I steeped this for an hour and a half. I poured the kettle water into the gaiwan, and then left to put food into the sous vide for dinner. I then promptly forgot I had tea going and remembered when I had to pull my dinner from the sous vide, whoops! Turned out after over an hour of steeping Qilan Fire the flavor is pretty good. Over steeped Qilan Fire is smooth, nutty with a hint of peach. Very nice, I wonder if this tea is tea thermos bombproof? I’ll have to experiment once it’s not too hot.
EDIT: Qilan Fire is bombproof – it can take an extended infusion in a travel tea tumbler! I did 3 grams of leaf in a 9oz travel tea tumbler. The notes are muddled together, as with long western steeping styles, but the aftertaste fragrance is crazy strong and lasts for a long time!
Qilan Fire is a great lightly roasted oolong. It’s got just enough roast, char, and rocky to get a roasted oolong person happy, but with great notes of grass, peaches and floral to add interest.
Out of the two, I prefer Qilan Fire a lot more. I would buy this one if there’s some left when I get to my next White2Tea order. However, Qilan Trees gets the tea drinker in me excited due to the excellent fragrance and complexity. Qilan Fire has a more appealing taste but not as complex. I can’t believe they are the same material – very educational on how processing can change a tea quite a bit!
I recently finished doing some matcha tasting work. Matcha has been on my mind a lot as matcha is the big trend now. Tea companies are pushing it, adding weird flavors it it (cheese pizza matcha yo), and selling it as magical cure to all your problems. I’ve been reviewing it and tea companies that aren’t exclusive matcha sellers are scratching their heads wondering if there matcha is any good and scrambling to find better. I’ve drank so much matcha this year that it is simply crazy and potentially damaging to my body.
I also been drinking so much matcha I still keep finding piles of matcha dust throughout my kitchen.
The big thing I’ve seen drama on is this: Matcha is only from Japan. If the stuff is from outside Japan it is green tea powder.
Okay fine then, a treatment similar to regional specific names like some cheeses or wines. Unfortunately this region specific thing isn’t enforced. The terminology switch is a headache as the prototype term for the general population mind is anything that is powdery green fluff is matcha. Legal action would have to be made or all of us would have to get out our sharpened matcha whisks storming the internets to enforce matcha/green tea. Latter wouldn’t make a difference – the matcha miracle cures tea sellers have been out for awhile now and SEO matters.
Next rant: Japanese Matcha is the real thing, thus tastes the best.
The bulk of this Tea Hoot rant is this Japanese Matcha tastes the best drama. With all my matcha tastings, I had a lot of Chinese matchas, a few Taiwanese and of course Japanese.
1. Transparency. A disappointing thing I noticed is only a handful of tea companies have full disclosure on their matcha. Where the tea farm is, what tea was the base (Japanese matcha should be tencha, which is only made into matcha), and what year/season it was made? The rest of the companies…. who knows? For all we know the matcha could be Japanese processed but the material could be grown in a poopy conditions tea field in another country. Do you know what your matcha is? At minimum I like to see 1. Production month/season + year. 2. Material. 3. Country of Origin. 4. Grade.
2. Other regions make great tea. Another thing I noticed is I’ve tasted some great Chinese matchas. It is truly if you got a great tea as a base it makes great tea. Not all green tea tastes the same thus if a different green is used the flavor of matcha will change. During my tastings I started to associate the taste of Japanese matchas as grassy, creamy, toasty rice, nutty, kelp and savory unami. I had one Chinese matcha that tasted grassy, creamy, unami and nutty – I was surprised it was a Chinese matcha! One Chinese matcha I had was really set apart as it was sweet and had a great amount of floral in it – very delicious! An important tea drinking lesson – buy samples to try everything before you buy a full size.
As matcha gets bigger, and sellers get creative, we could see new teas sold as powder and new tastes. Maybe better tastes. Tastes that may suit you more than traditional tastes. It’ll be no different than how some of us prefer a Chinese blacks or Indian grown black teas. With that said, we shouldn’t discount matcha/green tea powder from another region.
3. There’s crappy Japanese Matcha. I said it. Back to when I said I was tasting for a tea company. I’m trying all Japanese origin matchas. There is one matcha in particular – it looks pretty, a vibrant fluffy green. It whisks up green, foamy and pretty.
Taste? It wasn’t tea. I bet I could replicate this matcha’s taste if I scrape up what is in the my lawn mower of dead weeds, add some green dye, and some soap to foam it. It is back to transparency again – what the heck is this matcha? I’m pretty sure it is not Camellia sinensis content. It is Japanese but I guess it’s Japanese weeds? Maybe it was made in some food lab in Japan? There were some other matchas I tried that were also pretty bad – ones that also tasted like there was soap and thickeners. The soap ones are funny as they bubble up big and have a rainbow sheen on it like I’m going to take a bubble bath in it. Other matchas were very chalky, leaving me to believe I’m probably drinking green paint and chalk.
Looks legit.. however tastes like sadness.
That said, another reminder of the important tea drinking rule – always buy samples first!
I have this pu’er in both loose and cake form. For this review, I’ll be drinking the loose material as I’m trying to finish it, haha!
Temple Stairs Ripe Pu’er smells like roasted chestnut skins.
I used around 8 grams for my 100gram-ish gaiwan. I did two rinses and steeped starting at 10 seconds, adding time as I went on.
Tasting of Mandala Tea’s 2014 Temple Stairs Ripe Pu’er
First and Second Infusion: Temple Stairs Ripe Pu’er steeps up a darkly rich deep black brown with red undertones with a creamy nutty scent.
Temple Stairs sips in quite nutty – the notes are of sharp walnut shells, a mellow sweetness, and rich earth base. In these early steepings there is a nice silky texture too!
Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Infusion: Oh, very strong! Not Special Dark strong, but nicely potent! The flavor is earthy, leather, hazelnut with a bright caramel sweetness at the end, with a thick textured sip. This is the puer for you coffee drinkers as it has that rich dark vibe to it. With each steeping Temple Stairs gets cleaner and less earthy in taste letting the nut and caramel take over.
Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Infusion: Temple Stairs Ripe Pu’er is dropping into light territory now. The tea is really smooth with a lovely creamy mouth and caramel sweet. There is also a shift into notes of light spice and cocoa taste to it. The end of sip peaks to melting chocolate in your mouth. The flavor is dropping fast here so I’ve been upping steeping by a minute
Eleventh and Twelfth Infusion: I did a 10 and a 30 minute steeps here. The flavor is quite light but has a milk chocolate sweet taste.
Mandala Tea’s 2014 Temple Stairs Ripe Pu’er is a great daily drinker shou for me. I love the smooth nutty flavor. The loose material does not give a huge number of steeping unless you get aggressive with it, but I imagine the pressed cake will give you more steepings, especially if a bit more time. I’d recononmend Temple Stairs Ripe Pu’er for any newer pu’er drinker as this tea lacks dryness nor as any weird mushroom flavor.
Our cruise finished in Whittier. Before I left the ship I had my last cruise meals – first the first breakfast, breakfast buffet. I like getting a cup of tea at 6am before the breakfast crowd. I had to pack my luggage the night before, in which I packed my tea tumblers so I didn’t have anything to steep my last package of tea with. I made due steeping a TGY oolong with this insane method –
1. One mug that I steeped the tea in.
2. I used a fork to hold the leaf back to pour into my drinking mug.
3. Two extra mugs full of water. This was so I wouldn’t have to get up that often to fetch more hot water.
4. One mug to put my rinse in.
5. The final mug for a Tea Owl to sit in.
After first breakfast, I had my second breakfast a few hours later. If you Princess Cruise, be sure to get this one: James Beard French Toast. It is french toast that is crusted with fine corn flakes – a texture sensation!
I got off the cruise ship at Whittier. I had a tour bus to catch that’ll drive us to Anchorage.
To my surprise, and I thought I heard of Whittier before but I didn’t make the connection until I saw the tunnel! Months ago I watched this video about Whittier and thought it was impressive. Right away I remembered the video and I wished I could of run around Whittier to take a look around. The town and tunnel is very interesting.
The drive from Whittier to Anchorage was very nice. Beautiful colour contrasts, odd looking dead forests that were killed by flooding salt water in that big 1964 earthquake, and a stretch of highway that ran along the water. I’d love to do the drive again so I could make stops to take photos, maybe catch some fish.
I saw a number of beluga whales swimming along side the road, with a good number of bald eagles chilling out in the trees.
I had until dinner time in Anchorage. I stayed mostly downtown, I ventured into the mall, ate Reindeer quesadillas, and then went into the farmers market. It was great our bus tour guide mentioned the farmers market as it was a fun spot filled with local artists. The market had lots of knife makers, carving, quilting, smoked salmon, and paintings. It was the first time we were at a place not filled with tourists.
The biggest win was a shop I found downtown – The Kobuk.
OMG THIS SHOP! While in Juneau and Skagway I saw a few shops carrying Kobuk blends, but the main Kobuk shop had them all! They have their own hand blended teas sold loose, packaged Kobuk teas, as well as other Alaska teas.
They also had a great selection of tea ware, mostly cups and English tea sets.
Besides tea ware they carried some candy, jelly, soaps, books, handmade knits, quilts, ornaments and stuff toys. There was a handsome Moose I was tempted to buy but didn’t.
After downtown Anchorage, I was trapped at Anchorage Airport for 5 hours. I discovered another Kobuk, this one attached to a nice book store.
This Kobuk had loose teas and much of their own tea blends, along with a few tea wares and lots of candy. I killed a lot of time here, while I procrastinated on buying an airport priced halibut burger for dinner.
I came home to California with an awful cold turned sinus nightmare, so I wasn’t able to enjoy all the teas I purchased until very recently.
I bought the Alaska Wild Tea line through 3 different shops. Each had one or two different sets, but not the entire line up. Some of these seem your usual tea blends but with Alaska theme names…
Other sets have Alaska native herbs in it. Just what I was looking for -Fireweed tea! Fireweed grows native there and has a honey like taste.
I picked up one of Kobuk’s blends. They had a lot of really neat ones but this Winter berry tea sounded great. I drank a cup yesterday and it was quite nice.
This was a purchase at Kobuk – Alaska Botanicals Herbs & Teas. I was buying so much tea already and many came in such big tins. There were tea bag samplers, but they weren’t that good of a deal and if I can get it loose leaf I will always opt for that. That said, I bought the ones I thought I would like best. When I got home I regretted not buying the entire line. I drank the Alaska Breakfast blend and it is unique and delicious!
Here is the ingredients list for the teas I bought:
Alaska Breakfast Blend – Black tea, Bergamot, Organic Rugosa Rose Petals, Wild Alaskan Goldenrod, Chicory, Wild Picked Fireweed.
I’m going to try and track down tins of Seldovia and Yukon, wish me luck!
Finally for tea hauls – Russian Samovar Tea. This stuff was EVERYWHERE. I had a tours that fed Samovar tea as part of the complimentary snack. Shops had Samovar tea for sample. Many Alaska tea sellers had a Russian tea. Most of the Russian shops carried it.
I steeped two cups of this Russian Samovar tea already – maybe it was pro-tea owl brewing or better steeping conditions, but mine tasted massively better than any I sampled in Alaska.
If you love chai or orange spice teas, Russian Samovar tea blend is a must try. This tea is STRONG and spicy. The taste is thick, punch your face clove, cinnamon and citrus, all over a malty black base. It’s not that dry or bitter as the blend flavoring is crazy potent that it’s sweet. I purchased this from a Russian shop and the shop clerk triple ziplock bagged wrapped it. I had to separate this tea away from my other tea in my luggage as it was stinking up everything.
I thought I would find a lot more owl things in Alaska. If you like stuff with wolves, puffins, bears and various types of whales you will find a mind-boggling amount of it in Alaska. Owls, not that much despite Alaska having a number of native owls. However, I did find some cute owls things –
They grey owl is really fluffy and sleepy looking. I got him in Juneau at an artisan shop that sold lots of hand made goods. The little brown owl and the snowy I got at 40% off in Juneau (yay for end of season sales!). The snowy owl is a puppet and his special power is he can spin his head around violently like he’s in a horror movie. Not shown, but I also got an orca and octopus stuff toy.
Owl purses! OWL MY STUFF! Right after I got that bag I used it on the cruise ship to carry all my tea tumblers and knitting instead of my camera bag.
I also got an octopus and owl native art, but I can’t find it at the moment. When I find it, I’ll post it here or my Instagram account.
At the Farmer’s Market in Anchorage I got this cool owl figure which is hand carved out of horn. A very handsome owl!
Tea-Hating Husband and I collect cookbooks and do a lot of home cooking. We found some neat Alaska cookbooks.
(Amazon affiliate links. To my surprise these are available on Amazon!)
Tutka Bay Lodge Cookbook – this one is quite chefy and recipes from a fancy cabin getaway that you can only get to by boat.
The other two cookbooks are something. The cookbooks are for the locals and First Nations of the area. There is a lot of recipes you will not find ingredients for if you like outside Alaska, but learning and entertainment value is high. If you ever have a slab of polar bear, porcupine, whale, walrus, puffin, bear, and beaver you want to cook you’ll want these cookbooks. No part of the animal is wasted, if you catch my drift. Interestingly, there are tea recipes in there!
Qaqamiigux – This book has lots of pictures and plenty of information on the culture of the people of the islands of Alaska, inspiring to get their people to eat off the land again like the old days. Among the seal recipes, this had information about Russian tea and how it became the culture of the First Nations there. There was also this tea recipe. WUT.
If any of you make it, let me know. I might try making a few tea recipes in these cookbooks.
Cooking Alaskan – This cookbook is the more rustic of the two and has the most obscure of recipes. You know, in case you caught a lynx in your backyard, you will be prepared to cook it. There is a huge section of gathering wild plants to eat as well. This one also had a number of Russian tea recipes like Qaqamiigux, but also a nice section on gathering wild herbs, a listing of herbs to use and blends with them. A passage from the book:
I found a really nice quilt and yarn shop in both Juneau and Skagway. All the fabrics were so gorgeous with beautiful batiks and wilderness prints. I resisted buying everything owl fabrics – there was a lot. I don’t quilt… yet.
The yarn is amazing too! I purchased hand spun and locally dyed yarn. I refused to shell on the $100 Quivit yarn though, despite how awesome a fuzzy Quivit/Muskox Tea Owl would be. By the way, along with my Oolong Owl Instagram account, I have another Instagram account – Awkward Soul Designs – which is where I post all my crafty projects.
Alaska was a neat place – great scenic views, lots of wild life, local artist made goods, excellent seafood, and unlimited amounts of ulu knives. I’m happy to of gone, though it was really cold and quite busy. Alaska is a very popular cruise route, so expect crowds of 4+ max capacity cruise ships at each port. I saw much more tea culture in Alaska that Hawaii, but only flavored blend teas.
Phew, two long blog posts. I hope you tea readers enjoyed reading them!
I recently came back from a cruise to Alaska! I’ve cruised a couple times before, all with Princess Cruises. I wanted to do Alaska as they start/end at Vancouver and I’ve heard from many people that it is one of the most beautiful scenic cruises. I wanted to also go to Vancouver, as I’m originally from Vancouver and I can visit family and friends. To see more of my time in Vancouver and tea haul, check out my Vancouver 2015 Hooty Tea Travel post.
We started in Vancouver and sailed north. I had 3 sea days, 2 of which were scenic cruising through Glacier Bay and College Fjord. We stopped in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. We ended in Whittier and I took a bus from there to Anchorage.
Day 1 – Sea Day
I love sea days, especially on the start of the cruise as you can look around the ship.
My boat was the Grand Princess. This was the least favorite of ship designs compared to the other ships I’ve been on – Golden and Star Princess. The ship lacked the nightclub on the very top back end of the ship. I love sitting in the nightclub during the day drinking tea and knitting/crocheting. This time I found an outdoor lounge no one went to, probably because it’s flipping cold outside.
Afternoon tea was amazing as usual. The servers come with little sandwiches, cakes, cookies and hot scones with cream and jam. Ambitious Tea Owl enjoyed the cake and the Mandala Tea “Heart of the Old Tree” Sheng I brought.
I did a penny whistle class! I did better than the Ukele classes I did on my Hawaiian cruise. I got really good at making chalkboard screeching sounds out of the penny whistle. Our teacher was great, but I was more entertained making bad noises than good. The Tea Owls are sad that it takes multiple owls to play a penny whistle.
Yes, I brought my own tea. I brought 140 grams of tea and purchased over 600 grams in Vancouver. The cruise ship tea selection is always bagged Liptons, Bigelow and Twinnings. However this ship surprisingly had a tea bar! It isn’t included in the cruise cost, you have have to pay extra to have a pot. The set up was two walls of tea in little science experiment drawers. It was really hard to photo as the lighting was dark.
They had some unflavored teas, the usual whites, greens, blacks and oolongs. They also had quite a number of blends and herbals.
UGGGG. The pu’er looks pretty nasty. I watched someone get tea and they brew it up for you in a 2-3 cup western tea pot with not enough leaf. Yuck. I was very tempted to try the pu’er for science, but the fact I had to pay for bad tea wasn’t selling me.
The Tea Owls are mostly on the cruise ship for Prime Rib night. They ate a double order rare cut of Prime Rib!
They passed out before ultra moist flourless chocolate cake came. Rest assured, there is more dessert on board!
Day 2 – Ketchikan, Alaska
Before I got off the ship I walked around the ship deck taking photos of the town. Holy cow that steep road!
I went on a tour of Ketchikan Rainforest and Raptor Center. Alaska has a really interesting looking rainforest of fantasy looking mossy trees and little mushrooms.
I also ran into a bear walking around the stream eating salmon. I wasn’t allowed to carry any food or scented objects in the rainforest, so I never found out if bears liked tea.
There was another bear sighting but it was a cub in a tree. He was so teeny I didn’t get a good photo of him. The raptor center had just bald eagles. They have an owl but it was her day off. On a side note, I saw many bald eagles and ravens in Alaska. There were so many of them chilling in trees and telephone poles along the road.
The Tea Owls and I got back just in time for… Afternoon Tea! Oh yeah that carrot cake on the right was amazing! I drank a mystery TGY oolong sample.
Day 3 – Juneau, Alaska
I did a tour of Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls. Very beautiful place!
We then took the tram up to the top of Juneau. Up there was some tourist stuff and trails.
Ambitious Tea Owl was an eagle!
I was told there was a tea house up there. When I found it I discovered you can only get in as part of a tour. The tea house was actually just a room attached to the gift shop. They tasted some Alaska teas and jellies, but I was able to buy what they served at the tea house at the gift shop!
I did excellent shopping in Juneau – I bought most of my goodies here (More on Part 2). There was no afternoon tea today.
Day 4 – Skagway
We took a bus tour up the Klondike trail, driving well above the tree line. It was murderously cold up at the summit which was at 3,200 feet but great views!
Skagway is totally a little seasonal tourist shop town. Lots of stores with an old west feel to it with the architecture. It was quite expensive though, especially compared to Juneau and Anchorage. My vacation was late in the season with only a few more sailings until they stop for the year – it was always really cold but the shopping was great due to end of season sales! Guess what? I found tea and yarn!
I got back onto the ship just in time for lunch and afternoon tea! Fitness Tea Owl didn’t like the macro spread of that chocolate cake.
She liked the blooming tea though! I drew a crowd when I got the tea going, even the cruise staff gathered and watched!
We went to the gym after and in a futile effort to work off some calories.
Later that night it was rumored we might be able to see the Northern Lights. I went out in the horrible cold with my camera. No lights but I got a great picture.
Day 5 – Glacier Bay
This was a sea day of crusing through Glacier Bay. It was quite strict as only 2 cruise ships can go through the area per day. We had a ranger on board narrating all the sites. OMG BLOODY COLD! My feathers could not take Glacier Bay. It was clear skies but that arctic wind blew through all my double layer of clothes and 2 jackets. I suggest to wear an entire wind proof suit and wool everything underneath.
The views were gorgeous. I saw a few humpbacks too!
Afternoon Tea was the best – sipping tea, eating and seeing the Glaciers go by. It was a busy cruise ship so it took longer, but the staff started to reconize me at afternoon tea. I mysteriously acquired a second plate of scones that Ambitious Tea Owl ate while the other two stared out the window.
Oh man that Afternoon Tea cake tray – I wish I got one of everything! If only I wasn’t so full and eating all the time!
Once we found more stomach room, Intern Tea Owl and I ate a cronut. It was delicious and messy.
Day 6 – College Fjord
Another scenic cruising day. We sailed into College Fjord later in the day. Earlier that day it was foggy and no views.
At Afternoon tea I was bursting. So much food. These shorter cruises really do a number on your as you try to pack in all the food. My Hawaii cruise was longer so eventually you pace yourself.
Ambitious Owl was not pacing himself. The staff gave him an extra cookie.
I sat down for dinner and this was our backdrop. Dang. There was also otters with babies on their tummies floating with the icebergs.
The food on Princess Cruises is always amazing. Yes Lobster tail and spot shrimp dinner! I didn’t get a good picture, but there was a “Baked Salmon with Mushroom Tea” that was also amazing!
This delicious special dessert – Chocolate Pistachio Dome with Almond and Pistachio Nougatine, “Featuring a moist almond cake, rich Sicilian pisatchio creme brulee encased in a bittersweet chocolate mousse that sits on top of an almond pistachio crunchy nougatine and glazed in a milk chocolate glacage.” SO GOOD!
The ship casino was empty so the Intern Tea Owl and I tried a $1 in the HOOT LOOT machine! OMG HOOT LOOT! We were wondering what we could win – would the machine spit out tea and prime rib?
Similar to the green tea review, let’s drink the unflavored black before getting into the blends. All three teas I used 3 grams of tea and steeped it in boiling water for 3 minutes, western style brewing.
Bitaco Colombian Black tea Tasting
The dry leaf is long and wirey, similar to green, but a dark rich colour. The leaf is very fragrant leaf of sweet green grapes.
The black tea steeps up a gorgeous, clear reddy brown, a classic black tea colour.
Bitaco’s Black Tea sips in sweet, with a creamy texture and strong flavor. There are notes of caramel and malt, as well as a dry grape flavor with a lingering raisin aftertaste. There is a light astringency that goes with the fruity notes. Perfect afternoon tea material right here!
Andean Princess is Bitaco’s black tea blended with Isabella grape skin and Andean raspberry. The dry leaf has luscious raspberry scent.
Steeped up, Andean Princess has a grape and berry flavor. The berry is pretty close to a raspberry but less tangy. I could also mistake this for blackberry. The grape and berry flavor really plays up the black base, which is already fruity. This is a perfect black for a wine lover and would make a solid iced tea!
Cacao Kisses is Bitaco’s black tea with cocoa husk and cacao nibs. The scent is fruity with a little chocolate.
When Cacao Kisses is steeped up, oh man, it’s really really good! The base is smoothed out by the chocolate notes and pairs great with the fruity malt background. The chocolate is really nice and natural. It’s like eating chocolate covered raisins in tea form. A great dessert tea and I want more of this one!
Bitaco black teas are very good – the base is classic tasting, but very fruity and smooth. Many western style black tea drinkers would enjoy Bitaco’s black tea!
What is interesting is the Bitaco unflavored green tea is more unique in flavor, whereas the black tea is more of a classic, brisk and fruity black. Despite the uniqueness of the green tea, I prefer the black as the flavor is fantastic and excellent quality for a black tea.
I found Bitaco green tea a more neutral base, so it was a perfect canvas to blend in exotic (or local to Colombia) fruits. The black black is not neutral, but they did a great job playing up the fruit base with berries and chocolate.
It still looks like a store front is up yet. I hope I see more of Bitaco’s teas soon, I want more Cacao Kisses.
I’ve recently came back from a trip to Vancouver as well as an Alaskan cruise. I’m originally from Vancouver and I haven’t been back there since I moved to California in 2012, so I was very excited to be back home!
I had 3 days in Vancouver so I had just a short time to see friends and family, load my suitcase with Canadian treats I cannot find in the USA, cram multiple rounds of Tim Hortons and poutine in me, and enjoy the awesome high US dollar shopping.
My first stop – DAVIDsTea! I had a list and the Fall Collection just came out! I miss having a DAVIDsTea location by me as I was able to get 10-20 gram samples of all the teas I wanted to try. I tried Nutty by Nature Mate and Cranberry Orange Muffin herbal in store. They were okay, I liked Cranberry Orange Muffin the most, but not enough for me to purchase. I got Honey Crisp Apple, Peanut Butter Cup, Chocolate Macaron, Coconut Ice, Moment of Zen and Korean Sejak.
I also got and drank all of Midsummer Night’s Dream. I got it as a herbal to drink on the cruise ship. Turned out getting my own herbal tea was good call as the herbal teas on the cruise ship tasted pretty terrible – I’m talking steeping cardboard with peppermint oil.
Being the lotion freak I am, I also got DAVIDsTea’s new tea infused hand creams. Both smell great!
Poutine Break! This is at Belgian Fries. BACON, GRAVY, CHEESE CURDS, MUSHROOMS, PEPPERS, AND FRIES. YES!
My second stop was Vancouver’s China Town! There are 2 tea shops there, focused on Chinese teas!
If you are in Vancouver, I highly recommend you hit up Daniel Lui’s The Chinese Tea Shop. This was my favorite tea shop visit to date! You can purchase online, but being in store is even better to sample the teas and see the huge selection of teas and teaware. Let’s tour around the shop –
3kg pu’er cake! There’s always someone you know that wouldn’t hesitate on buying this huge of a cake…
Whoa, that is made of pu’er!
Yixing pots! I should of bought one or two, I need sheng pots. Next time I will! I was impressed with the range of yixing pots available – there were many gorgeous antique ones but also a selection of $30-$60 tea pots.
I was pretty tempted by this cup. The marbling of the clay is really pretty.
Daniel also has a personal stash of antique yixing pots – for tasting he used a 200 year old yixing pot!
I spent 3 HOURS in the shop sampling teas. Daniel is also extremely passionate and knowledgeable about tea. I learned a lot of the history of the gong fu cha method, tea processing, tea tasting, and yixing pot pairings. Daniel also makes excellent tea!
I also walked out of the shop with a lighter wallet: 1990’s Iron Buddha Traditional Aged Oolong. It was cheap and on clearance (I cannot resist a deal).
2000 Fu Ding Bai Cha White Tea Brick, 500 grams. An aged white tea, I’ve never seen a white tea aged more than 3 or 4 years. Apparently there was a 30 year version but it sold out. I sampled this one in shop and it was excellent, nothing like any white tea I’ve had. I don’t commonly review unflavored white teas and my white tea collection is pretty light (at the time of writing, I have 12 white teas vs. 97 oolongs) as for personal taste I find them too light, but this aged white packed a punch! We also got 15 infusions! 15 Infusions out of a white tea! Can your white tea do that? I know, I know. I will review the aged white brick sometime on Oolong Owl.
I also purchased this cup.
The tea cup needs to be a video as this tea cup is super bling.
My final stop was Treasure Green Tea Company in Vancouver’s China Town. I went in with a list of teas to look at, but only came out with this unique Everything Wonder Balm made with Camellia Tea Oil. They have a couple beauty items with Camellia Tea Oil and I was curious to see what they were like.
I hate to leave a negative experience, but the staff I encountered weren’t welcoming or knowledgeable of their products or I would of purchased more goodies. The staff couldn’t tell me how old their aged teas were, nor sold sample sizes of any of the teas I wanted.
Anyways, I’ll be back in Vancouver in February! I will most certainly visit all the tea shops again! Stay tuned for my Alaska Tea Haul – yes there is tea in Alaska!
This tea has been blended by the new 52 Teas under Anne/Liberteas! I couldn’t resist a mango tea! This is a reblend from the original 52 Teas recipe but with a new black tea base.
Mmmm, Mango Ice Cream Black tea has lots of sweet mango scent. The leaf has nice big lumps of mango too!
I used an in-mug tea infuser – steeping the black tea for 3 minutes with boiling water. For iced, I brewed it strong and poured the tea over ice.
Tasting of 52 Teas’ Mango Ice Cream Black Tea
Mango Ice Cream Black Tea steeps up a darkly rich black with a tropical scent.
Mango Ice Cream Black Tea sips in a malty heavy black with a delicious creamy sweet background. End of sip I get a nice mango flavor. I love freeze dried fruit in tea blends, they work so well! The aftertaste is also more mango. There is a bit of briskness at the end of sip, so a bit of a rough dryness, 4/10 on the Astringent meter.
Iced: Mango Ice Cream black is really good iced! The flavor is mangos and creamy with a black tea brisk base. I think I prefer this tea iced over hot as the cool temperature brings out the mango flavor more.
Mango Ice Cream Black tea is a fun tropical black that’ll add some exotic to your afternoon tea, or a great iced tea! I drank this tea without milk and sugar, but I think with the malty base and fruity flavor it will respond well to extras. I could see this tea being AMAZING as bubble/boba tea!
Out of the three teas I got recently from 52 Teas, this one was the one I liked the least, but it was still quite good. I do like the new base, it’s more richer in taste than the old 52 Teas’ black and tastes better hot than ever before.
I had tried a Menghai v93 2010 or 2011 in a Steepster Community Pu’er Traveling tea box and thought it was pretty good. Looking up the Menghai v93, I found out it is pretty inexpensive, especially if you go for a recently made one and just age it yourself. For the 2015 Menghai v93 I paid $7 for 100 grams tuo on ebay, however you can get it cheaper at Yunnan sourcing, especially if you get the 5 pack.
I was stuck though – my pu’er cake collection is exploding after a recent upgrade to my storage, which is already close to max capacity. I decided I will just try out the 2015 and figure out from there to buy more. I realize this 2015 ripe is pretty young to drink, but why not?
Packaging and Dry Leaf
On the underside of the pu’er is a fancy hologram sticker with cuts on it. So much for ripping off the sticker in one pieces to put on a fake cake.
My 2015 Menghai v93 broke apart quite easily.
I went with boiling filtered water. With a ripe pu’er yixing pot I did 2 rinses, then started my steeping at 15 seconds, adding additional time as I steeped on.
Tasting of 2015 Menghai v93
After the rinses, Menghai v93 steeps up a reddy brown tea with sweet creamy scent.
First Infusion: Menghai v93 tastes malty with a kind of sour and woodsy background. The sour stays as an aftertaste. Thankfully, this pu’er is not fishy or bitter that I associate with newer ripes.
Second, Third, and Fourth Infusion: The ripe pu’er sweetened up fast! The flavor is now walnut and malt. It’s light in flavor for a ripe but has those notes of a thick higher fermented ripe. The sour aftertaste is still present.
Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Infusion: This got light really fast! I started steeping this pu’er harder, adding 1 minute to each infusion. The flavor is sweet and light with a nutty creamy finish. The sourness has finally faded.
Eighth Infusion: I did a last hurrah 15 minute infusion. Sweet smooth creamy and mellow. Really light though with some colour.
The Menghai v93 is lightly fermented, so a good choice for someone who doesn’t want a heavy thick ripe. You can also steep it hard for thicker flavor! You don’t get that many infusions, but it’s a nice shou for a really low price!
If you got the space to squirrel it away, go for it and snag a bunch of 2015 Menghai v93! The 2014’s are only a couple bucks more each. I’m tucking mine away and I’ll try it next year! I’m still on the fence on buying more, since I’m strapped for space.
Welcome to Oolong Owl!
Hi, I'm Char, The Oolong Owl, a tea-happy Canadian located in Southern California.
I am an adventurous tea owl that loves trying new and unique teas and tea blends! I have over 500 teas (and counting) teas in my stash!
Oolong Owl is mostly about tea reviews, with some travel tea posts, tea ware reviews and helpful tea information. Oolong Owl updates 2 to 4 times a week.
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