Tea Time is Me Time Adult Coloring Book

I recall my Dad won Christmas a few years back as he gave me a couple adult colouring books. (BTW, the Canadian in me flinches spelling colour “color”). I coloured a few pages, but I always never have the time to put more work into it.

Colouring books always have a place in my heart, I recall going into metaphysical book stores as a teen to buy weird colouring books of plants, mandalas, and crystals as those were better than cheapo kids colouring books. When I worked as an A&D Counsellor, I always had a stack of colouring pages (from mandalas to ponies) with some crayons. I found people would easily mindlessly colour and get out of their head, leading to interesting conversations.

Enter the adult colouring book craze. You can find all sorts of colouring books. I went crazy one night and ordered a bunch of owl colouring books. At that time, there were no tea related colouring books, and it is certainly a missed opportunity as think of all the teapots, nature, and steam swirls to be coloured, all while drinking tea.

I finally got my claws on Tea Time is “Me” Time! by Stephen and Sarah G White. It took me some time to finish a page. Every extra snippet of time I had, I would make a cup of oolong, sit outside, and colour. I’m a bit of a perfectionist planner when it comes to colouring books, so choosing colours takes most of my time.

tea time is me time - oolong owl (2)

Tea Time is “Me” Time! is a fun tea lover colouring book. It is certainly more towards an English tea drinker, with many images with more of an afternoon tea vibe featuring sweets.

tea time is me time - oolong owl (3)

What I liked about this colouring book illustration wise, I liked the clean dark lines and balance of small detail and larger colouring spaces. None of the small detail was too small, so everything easily can be done with colouring pencil. There are some images with mandala-like patterns for types like me who can just zone out and colour interesting cycles of colour. On the opposite side of each colouring page is a tea-related quote. Some fun from Monty Python to classic like John Keats.

tea time is me time - oolong owl (4)

Construction wise, the quote pages is nice as you won’t have images sandwiched together, and the next page is left blank for bleed through (for marker use) or if you want to remove it to display.

My only beef was hoping for more Chinese or Japanese style tea pages. I would be happy to colour a radioactive matcha green page or two. Here is my finished page:

tea time is me time - oolong owl (1)

The same author also has an OWL COLOURING BOOK – The Magic of Owls! OMG.

tea time is me time - oolong owl (5)

I actually liked the Owl colouring book more – something about feathers make for some fun colouring, plus I liked all the owls. The owl book does have a few images with really tiny details that only a marker can get into.

tea time is me time - oolong owl (7)

Just in case someone asks, I use the Derwent Coloursoft pencils. They have great colour pay off, but they are on the soft side – which is handy for blending, but likely you want an eraser/paper to ensure you don’t smear any dust.

tea time is me time - oolong owl (9)

I also use the Derwent Metallic pencils, though they are inconsistent in their smoothness and colour payoff. However, I like how the metallic pencils look.

tea time is me time - oolong owl (8)

(books provided for review | Amazon affiliate links)

2017 Farmer Direct Tea Sheng Puer from White2tea

2017 puer is nuts. We got so much selection this year for young sheng, that I’ve been busy drinking it all and getting gut rot. I’ve drunk a good selection of White2Tea’s 2017 line now, so I am starting with what I found is a good mid-range tea. I got 2017 Farmer Direct Tea (FDT) as a bonus sample with purchase. I was a high roller this year and only bought the expensive White2Tea shengs to try, which I slightly regret as FDT turned out to be pretty good.

Farmer Direct Tea. I’m sure the name of this tea really appeals to people as it is a popular buzzword, as it sounds wholesome organic or maybe fair trade. I can feel the Search Engine Optimization magic from the Google superpower. Oddly, my brain switched off “Farmer Direct” buzzword immediately and went to “direct to video” giggles. If White2Tea does this tea again, it should be like Farmer Direct 2: Director Tong Cut, then Farmer Direct 3: Revenge of the Hui Gan.

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

Farmer Direct Tea smells fruity, fuzzy, and somewhat nutty.

I didn’t do anything different with gongfu style, but this year I have no mercy with young shengs so it has been boil boil boil. I went with 1 gram to 15ml, steeped in boiling water. The hot leaf smells like scorched sticky rice.

Tasting of White2Tea’s 2017 Farmer Direct Tea Sheng Puer

First and Second Infusion: Farmer Direct Tea is subtle on flavor with a savory, sticky rice broth. The aftertaste is light, clean, and sweet grassy as if I ate a salad 10 minutes ago. The body is interesting – it is certainly sticky. It feels like it gumming up in the back of my tongue.

Third and Fourth Infusion: FDT has gotten more sticky, it is despite it being watery tea. It is like drinking glue as the broth jams the back of the throat and settles there. The flavor notes of savory grass and green beans are stronger, though still on the lighter side.

Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Infusion: It keeps getting stickier and stickier. The flavor is pushing the limit, especially with boiling temperature. My greens are getting stewed and dancing to bitterness. However, the body keeps getting stickier and stickier – like a bone heavy stock that gluey dense texture to it. The flavor is still on the savory side, so this straight up tastes like vegetable + bones broth. The aftertaste is finally coming out with a stronger, longer lasting sweet grass and spinach.

Ninth and Tenth Infusion: I did long infusions here, so around 10 to 15 minutes, to keep Farmer Direct Tea going. Despite the long infusions, it is actually quite drinkable with sharp steamed greens and spinach notes and that glue mouthfeel. I now regret not leafing this a touch more. 1 gram to 12ml might have a better result for more potency as this tea can certainly take a touch more abuse.

Comments

White2Tea’s 2017 Farmer Direct Tea Sheng Puer (FDT) is a savory light tea with a crazy sticky body. This tea is hands down for texture chasers. FDT makes for good educational tea if you want to experience how tea has texture. Overall, I found Farmer Direct Tea reliable to steep, likely a touch heavy on the leaf would have good results. I wouldn’t go under boiling water as the flavor is just too subtle and this tea is all about the texture. Without the hot brewing temperature, you’ll likely just have strange dishwater.

Comparing to the other White2Tea 2017 shengs I’ve had, Farmer Direct Tea’s savory and sticky notes stand out in the sea of sweet young puer. I’ll be mentioning FDT again when I get around to reviewing White2Tea’s 4am, which has similar sticky texture, but more refined in taste.

At this time, 2017 Farmer Direct Tea is $69 for a 200 gram cake. Honestly, 2017 puer has been expensive and I’ve noticed this with across many of the puer sellers. Maybe it is fond memories but I feel previous years $50 cakes were just as good as these 2017 $70+ cake whippersnappers. Through the grapevine, I heard the material was more expensive this year due to weather. That said, this year is important to sample first before committing to a cake.

(My sample of FDT was a bonus free sample with my order. I didn’t buy the tea but it also wasn’t provided to be reviewed)

Black Teas from TeaBento

With fall here, I’m in the mood for darker teas. I’ve been drinking all the black and shous lately. Today’s review is black teas from Teabento – a new seller based in Germany. Teabento has a really cute website with fun photos of teas as animals. Their tea selection is primarily unflavored, with a few floral teas. Teabento also carries a number of uncommon and rare teas.

Today I will be drinking Happy Panda, Red Panda, and Plum Rooster.

Teabento’s Happy Panda Black Tea

Happy Panda is a non-smoked Lapsang Souchong. I love seeing traditional Lapsangs as I dislike the smoked ones unless it is for cooking. No don’t tell me I haven’t had a good expensive Lapsang Souchong, I have.

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method: The fine leaves have a rich dark chocolate smell.

I noticed Teabento has their black tea steeping parameters on lower temperatures and greatly under leafed compared to what I usually do. They list 1 gram to 30ml at 203F/95c for this tea. I went with 1 gram to 15ml, with 205F/96c. I actually leaf black teas harder than that and usually boil for gongfu style, but when I see quite low-temperature suggestions, I get nervous thinking that the teas are supposed to be bitter.

First and Second Infusion: Happy Panda black has a strong, deep woodsy flavor with an overdrive of orange pith bitterness, with a smooth creamy malty note at the end of the sip. There is some bitterness but it is balanced well with the orange fresh taste and malt. It tastes like an adult chocolate orange.

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Infusion: Happy Panda got luxuriously smooth. The orange pith chilled out thus no bitterness, so it is mostly a malty oak flavor, with a hint of orange. The body is thick and dense, it is like drinking cream. There is some dryness in the mouth after drinking it.

Sixth and Seventh Infusion: Nope, Happy Panda is no longer happy. This Lapsang Souchong went bitter and gum dry. I still get some malty woodsy notes, but it is too dry and bitter to continue. Now I see why Teabento says to use a lower temperature. I still won’t leaf it less though.


Teabento’s Red Panda Black Tea

Red Panda is a High Mountain black. This tea is an interesting one as I assumed it was a Taiwanese high mountain, but it is actually is a Yunnan big leaf varietal grown in China, but processed like a black Taiwanese tea.

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method: The leaf is long, thin and wiry with a creamy sweet smell.

Teabento suggested similar gongfu parameters, but instead with a range of 195-205F/ 90-95c. I stuck to my guns and did 205F/96c with 1 gram to 15ml of vessel. The hot leaves smell ULTRA fruity!

First, Second, and Third Infusion: Wow, this texture! Red Panda is an oily bear! The High Mountain Black feels very slick like I took a sip of oil. The flavor is bright, strongly berry – leaning towards crisp blackberries. There are hints of malt and clover honey. I get an aftertaste that lingers for a bit of berry and mystery floral. There is also a bit of dryness after each sip. The texture is what seals this tea as awesome – I don’t come across a black this heavy that often. Generally, I find similar texture in oolongs and puer only.

Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Infusion: Oooph, this one crashed and burned. Red Panda black is delicate as it is quite dry and bitter. It switched more to a sour underripe berry, with notes of malt.

Teabento’s Plum Rooster Black Tea

Plum Rooster is a black Jong Jing. There is only one time that I’ve seen a black long jing and that is Joseph Wesley Black Tea’s 03 Classic Chinese, which uses the same cultivar.

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method: The leaves of Plum Rooster are very long and wiry. Interestingly, the leaves smell like a bakery.

After the last two teas going bitter, I used my usual 1 gram/15ml ratio but dropped the temperature to 195F/90c. Teabento suggests 185-195F/ 85-90c, so I am treading carefully to steep this tea fast.

First, Second, Third, and Fourth Infusion: Plum Rooster is a very different tea. It is mineral, buttery, and bready. I do get an eggy crumbly cookie note, which makes for a fun tea. There is a slight aftertaste of bread, but I also get a bit of dry mouth. I wished I steeped Plum Rooster a higher temperature, as the body is on the oily side and I could have gotten more out of it. But I can tell this is a bitter tea if I push it too much.

Fifth and Sixth Infusion: This one squeaks sour notes, like sourdough bread and pomelo citrus. It quickly crashed and lost flavor on the final infusion. The lower temperature did limit the bitterness, but still some dryness after each sip.

I like how unique Plum Rooster is – bready, buttery and citrus notes are fun. Out of the three teas, Plum Rooster is my pick.

Comments

Out of the three, I liked Plum Rooster the most, but they were all quite tasty. They are definitely high-quality black teas with the perfect fine leaves to the bright high impact flavor. If you are on the hunt of an uncommon black tea, Teabento looks like a good option. Despite being from Germany, they ship do ship worldwide with reasonable rates and a free shipping threshold.

All the Teabento black teas I tried were fussy brewers. I steep my black teas quite aggressively with high leaf and boiling water, but all these I had to reduce leaf and temperature, but I still got bad bitter results. All teas got awesome early infusions with bright flavor, which I tend to associate with competition level tea. These are teas you want to take extra care in brewing – no daily drinkers that you re-steep all day here. Sit down, have a variable kettle, and put in the effort to make these teas good. I only had 5-10 grams of each, so I had no wiggle room to optimize the teas. I even wasn’t able to use the vessel I like for black teas since I had such little leaf.

I really like their animal names and art with the tea. It is a nice change of pace than other sellers renaming teas “exotic /pretty /immortal /animal picking tea”. Though I didn’t see any relation of the animal to name really. I would have named the black Long Jing “Rooster Cookie” hahah!

(tea provided for review)

Amoda Monthly Tea Box and Golden Turmeric Ginger Tea

Amoda Tea Box is a monthly subscription box based in Vancouver Canada. Since I last review them, they now have their own teas that focus on primarily herbal, matcha, and wellness blends. The subscription boxes similar as before, sourcing high-quality teas from small independent tea vendors. Today I am going to drink a subscription box and a wellness blend.

June 2017 Amoda Monthly Tea Box

This is the June Box, reviewed in October because I am seriously backlogged since World Tea Expo.

Willapia White Lavender is from Beach house Tea Co, and is a blend of white peony, lemon verbena, wild harvested rose petals, Washington lavender.

Oh boy, this tea is STRONG lavender. The leaf is pretty with the rose accents. The leaf is super light too, I used about 3 teaspoons and it came out to 2.5 grams. “Freshly Boiled” throws me off, so I used 200F – it should survive since it is herbals and white tea.

I was prepared to potpourri and soap, as this is the type of tea I generally don’t like, but Willapia White Lavender isn’t too bad. It is strong on the herbal side with a more lemon fresh side, with a mix of floral rose and lavender. I can certainly taste the white tea too, adding a sweet linen taste. The flavor is quite strong, likely leafing less or cold brew would have had interesting results.  After each sip, I got a lovely fresh and floral aftertaste. You certainly need to like lavender for this blend, but thankful it isn’t overkill if you tend to think it as soapy. Willapia White Lavender would make a great afternoon tea session or an evening relaxer.

Himalayan Golden is via Nepali Tea Traders. This tea is unflavored.

I likely had this one already, but I drank it anyway grandpa style with 3 grams. This tea doesn’t get bitter. The notes are awesome heavy dark chocolate, despite it not being altered with flavoring in any way. It is thick and on the sweet side – close to a 70% dark chocolate. Amoda tends to lean more on flavored/blended teas, but having Himalayan Golden on the list shows how powerful unflavored tea can be.

This would be the perfect tea to have when you have a sweet tooth or for chocolate lovers. Pretty much everyone would enjoy this tea – it is a very comforting, easy to drink tea. I let it over-steep 20 minutes, refilling it as I went, and it still didn’t get that bitter. No milk, sugar, or steep care needed.

Almond Toffee Puer is via High Noon Tea Co and contains puer, coffee, almond bits, caramel/toffee flavoring.

My experience of flavored puer teas is mixed – the make or break is the base. It doesn’t matter what flavoring you add, bad shou puer will dominate with the fishy flavor. The leaf smells like marzipan. I steeped it grandpa style because I can.

Yay! This is done well with a not terrible puer base! The puer is dark and woodsy without being fishy or basement tasting. The flavoring is sweet almond, with a brown sugar sweet edge. It is quite a good combo for you sweet tooths out there. Himalayan Golden is also deep and rich, but Almond Toffee Puer is even more so, with a stronger flavor. If you love a cup of coffee with dessert, Almond Toffee Puer will win your heart. There is apparently coffee in this, but I don’t taste much of it at first. The stronger the tea gets, the more slightly coffee taste comes out, though it is still subtle. A well-done blend.

Caramel Apple is via High Noon Tea Co, and contains apple, orange, hibiscus, rosehop, cornflowers, and natural caramel flavor. So I am a sucker for hibiscus and one of my favorite iced teas. I used a whole sample (8grams) for this mug and steeped it for 10 minutes. I then topped with ice.

Without agave, it is tartly hibiscus with a hint of caramel. I added agave as it needed it badly. The main note is hibiscus with some apple flavor. I get an aftertaste of caramel, which makes for a fun tea. I quite like this one, but this is coming from someone who always has iced hibiscus in the fridge.

Amoda Golden Turmeric Ginger

As a bonus, I got a packet of Golden Turmeric Ginger, Amoda’s best selling tea. You can also order it on Amazon!

It is blended by Amoda and contains turmeric powder, fennel powder, true cinnamon powder, ginger powder, anise seed powder, vanilla powder, black pepper powder.

I used 1 teaspoon/ 3 grams per cup. The first attempt I just used 200F water. Cool photo of the tea still spinning from being whisked!

Made with only water, it is strong. If you like chai, you’ll enjoy Golden Turmeric Ginger by Amoda. It is moderately spicy, but with an interesting creaminess from the vanilla. The main flavor is ginger. I am tempted to add this to cookies, ice cream, or even curry. The ginger isn’t harsh or bitter and I can pick out some pepper heat and fennel. There is no gritty texture either.

I then tried the Golden Turmeric Ginger with soy milk and a bit of honey. It looks like a yellower eggnog.

I prefer this tea with milk as the milk chills out the ginger and spice, making it even more smooth and lean more dessert-like. The flavor is sweet ginger with some spice that warms you as it goes down.  I do like ginger teas, they are very nice on the stomach. I drank a bunch of young sheng today and the Golden Turmeric Ginger latte is really soothing my gut.

Comments

Amoda is still killing it with awesome curated tea of the month clubs. Everything tasted good and is great quality, with my favorites being the Caramel Apple and Himilyan Golden. All their tea is small batch and curated well. If you like flavored teas and want a tea subscription, Amoda is a good match and will get you down the rabbit hole trying out new teas. I only got to try one of their house-made teas, the Golden Turmeric Ginger, but it was also well done.

Amoda’s Monthly Tea Boxes are $20 CAD a month (free shipping for Canada/USA). They are a great option for Canadians as they ship from Vancouver BC.  Amoda also has a shop, if you are a subscriber you will get free shipping, which is a great deal to stock up on favorites you found from the club, or to try their own blends. For the monthly tea box, I honestly think the price is a little steep for the volume of tea you get (around 35-40 grams in the box I sampled), but like other tea of the month clubs, you are paying mostly for monthly shipping, as well as curation of the teas you wouldn’t find otherwise. If you want a deal and know what you like, it is better to just simply buy the teas.

(tea provided for review | Amazon Affiliate links)

August 2017 White2Tea Club feat. Mid 2000s Sheng Puer

The August 2017 White2tea club is another learning experience box. This month contains two mid 2000’s sheng puer to compare storage and compression. The Fangcha is dry stored tightly compressed brick with little information known other than it is smokey. The traditional Bingcha is said to be Yiwu origin, loosely pressed, with less compression and humid storage.

Yet another excuse to have some double gaiwan fun, let’s steep!

Dry Leaf

The fangcha is in a spiffy brick.

Flipped over, it has warts!

I was warned this brick was a PITA to break, but my folding puer knife got through it like butter.

The Bingcha has fairly broken apart, but I selected the most intact piece. The Bingcha got slightly ignored as I was impressed with Fangcha warts.

I felt like over leafing today, so I went for 1 gram per 12ml of vessel size, steeped in boiling water.

Tasting of August 2017 White2Tea Club Mid 2000’s Sheng Puer

First and Second Infusion:

The Fangcha smells like a charred tomato. My brain instantly associated the tomato smell for Hong Shui oolong and wanted to drink that instead.  The flavor is an awkward smokey tomato. It’s got some char, tart tomato notes, with a bit of a looseness to the body – it is thick sipping, but the notes flow in and out loosely like chewing a squishy watery tomato. The aftertaste is quite nice, tasting of campfire wood minus the exploding can of beans.

The Bingcha smells like a fruity wet basement. The flavor an has an edge of basement funk, but also a fruity plum note, with a hint of bitterness that skates roughly across the mouth.

Third, Fourth, Fifth, Six, Seventh, and Eighth Infusion:

The bingcha turned red!

The Fangcha is still smokey. It is losing some of the tomato notes and going for total savory bitter BBQ vegetable skewers with teeth kicking char and woodsy camp aftertaste. The Fangcha has a lot of depth and full flavor. I found this tea more interesting in the body and feel as I drank it if I can ignore the smokey death.

Right at steep three, the basement funk left the Bingcha, leaving a pungently dry, but slightly tart fruity plum tea with a sharp rose floral incense aftertaste. This is actually quite a pleasant drink if you can take the dry texture. I think I used too much leaf for this tea, I would leaf just a touch less next time. These were pretty good infusion as the shift was a pleasant surprise.

Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Infusion:

I check out the steeped leaf and see interestingly the Fangcha is greener.

Fangcha is still smokey and savory, but it is chilling out finally. It is mellowy woodsy, a bit of char, and roasted vegetal. Each steeping slips further and further lighter.

Bingcha is a bit temperamental. I feel it reverted back to basement as it has some weird library book/basement notes, some tart, lots of dryness, and on the light side. It isn’t as tart as the last bracket but lost a lot of steam with the fruity notes. The aftertaste is the main flavor of stale floral, but I think I’ve just about killed this tea.

At this point, I feel something is giving out a lot of energy, but I don’t know if it is one tea or combination. I started plotting blending Fangcha with White2Tea Club Baconlog to make the ultimate sandwich.

Steeped up and finished, the leaf shows more contrast. The solid lump of Fangcha is quite chopped up, likely due to tight pressing (maybe material?) and me hacking off bits. It is a touch greener. Bingcha is long, stemmy leaf of a chocolate brown colour. I have more intact leaf likely as one can wiggle and peel pieces out instead of break it like a compressed brick.

Comments

What a weird trip – both August 2017 mid 2000 puers were unusual. Sorry guys, I lost the information sheet that came with the August 2017 White2Tea club.

The Fangcha I need to tuck away for longer – it was interesting to see in action how the dry storage didn’t age it as much, so it was still green and smokey, yet had interesting depth. I’d hate to drink this any younger, it is a smoke bomb. The Bingcha was sweeter – I can see why many drinkers prefer humid storage. It was a bit of a relief for us who buy a lot of young sweet teas as likely this tea was a sweeter start but aged okay. Both teas had their pros and cons. In the end, an interesting tea session thanks to the White2Tea Club!

Prana Chai – Tea Review

I saw Prana Chai at the 2016 World Tea Expo and regret not getting some to take home. I visited Prana Chai at the 2017 World Tea Expo determined to bring it home for EVIL OWL experiments.

Prana Chai is a lot of fun. Look at this mound!

Prana Chai is made of black Ceylon tea, Australian Bushland Honey, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, peppercorns, cloves, fresh ginger, salt. That sticky sheen is the honey, which acts as a natural preservative. Prana Chai has a shelf life of 1 year, even after it is opened.

Dry Leaf and Preparation

I can’t say dry leaf here – this leaf isn’t dry! It is sticky, leaving a residue on my fingers and anything else it touches. You can poke around and see the whole cardamom or chips of cinnamon bark.

The instructions for Prana Chai are for making a latte. Annoyingly, the instructions are vague, but once you attempt making the chai, you’ll learn you have quite a bit of wiggle room for adjustments. The instructions are to simply take a couple teaspoons of Prana Chai with some milk and then bring to a simmer on the stove.

I started with 8oz of vanilla soy milk (my usual milk drink of choice) plus 2 teaspoons of Prana Chai. I squished the leaf a bit and it worked out to 8 grams.

I got it up to a simmer and was not pleased with the potency. I felt the sample I had at WTE had more pow to it. That said, I added another teaspoon and let it simmer a few more minutes. I estimated I used 12 grams of tea.

I should premise that I like pretty spicy chai. Before I got hardcore into loose leaf, I was making napalm chais with Stash Double Spice Chai or Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice double bagged. Likely part of the potency was to burn off my taste buds from the bad tea, but I do like a fiery food of death. The loose leaf chais I keep around are the high spiced ones, and I’ve been known to doctor it more. My dad, stomach ravaged by years of my mom’s cooking, cannot take hot foods but always requests death chai while we play cribbage.

After simmering for a few minutes, I strained my Prana Chai into a mug.

Leaf inspection. The leaf is chopped and on the green side.

Tasting of Prana Chai

The flavor is interestingly nutty. I got it to the spice level I like, so I can clearly taste the cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, cloves and ginger, and also feel the burn of peppercorns and spice. It is not bitter or astringent at all. The sweetness level is light, though I could see others adding a bit more honey. I like how fresh and spicy tasting Prana Chai is.

Comments

Overall, Prana Chai is pretty good and you’ll love it if you love chai lattes. I think 8oz of milk to around 2.5 teaspoons/10 grams would be a good level of spice, but likely it would all depend if you rolled the dice and got an extra cardamom pod or pepper.  The flavor is excellent – much better than bagged chai, homemade chai concentrates and just as good as loose leaf chais but with the honey built in. Making Prana Chai was on the messy side due to sticky nature of having honey built in, but you also might not need to add additional sweeteners depending on your sweet tooth level.

My concerns are mostly to do with the honey. Prana Chai does have a shelf life of 1 year, as honey is a natural preservative. I lived in SoCal for 5 years and experienced the mess that is ants who love sugar and get into everything. If I were to keep a 250-gram bag of Prana Chai around, I’d have to airtight storage and be extra clean while using it. But the real question is whether a Prana Chai stash would last that long, as it is tasty stuff. I gifted the rest of my sample to friends who I know are huge chai drinkers and I’ve been debating to buy some for myself. Yes, I wanted to gongfu it, but gongfuing anything with sugar is now my limit as it makes a huge sticky mess.

The Prana Chai I reviewed is the original honey, but Prana Chai also has a vegan Agave version.

Prana Chai also sells kits on their website that includes a single serving stainless steel pot and strainer, which I can see being handy if you make chai often on the stove for one.


(tea provided for review | Amazon Affiliate links)

 

2017 Turtle Dove White Tea Brick from White2tea

A highly requested review! 2017 Turtle Dove is White2Tea’s newest compressed white tea. It is made from sun-dried, large leaf Yunnan white tea. It is described as being a forgiving white tea and I love white teas that I can beat up. This is also one of the teas of the 2017 Spring line up that has been tested and passed being free of 440 EU pesticides. Let’s steep!

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

Breaking a brick of 2017 Turtle Dove White tea brick is scary – be cautious! I’ve had a couple sessions of 2017 Turtle Dove White tea and a rage quit trying to break enough to drink. The leaves are big and flakey and the compression is so tight that the leaf has almost melded into a solid form.

Using a tea pick just shattered the leaf into dust. A tea knife is the best way to go as I am able to pry off long wide sheets of leaf as long as I am careful and slow. If you rush using a tea knife, it will skirt off the brick. Optimally, if you intend to drink a whole brick now you should just use a saw to cut the tea into serving sized pieces.

During the 2017 Northwest Tea Festival I hosted an aged white tea tasting, using Turtle Dove as an example of a great tea to buy now and age later. The night before my presentation, I was breaking off pieces so I don’t have to wrestle with it during the tea tasting…and I AM NOT KIDDING THIS BRICK IS HARD TO BREAK. I bent and broke the puer pick!

With experimentation, I found compressed white tea doesn’t need as much leaf. Best session of Turtle Dove was 1 gram of leaf to about 18 or 19 ml of vessel size. Going higher on leaf got teapot exploding results along with a more bitter result. If you think about, gongfuing a fresh white you generally don’t do a high ratio as it physically cannot fit, yet it tastes fine. I used boiling water for all my sessions.

Tasting of White2Tea’s 2017 Turtle Dove White Tea Brick

First and Second Infusion: Turtle Dove steeps up a yellow-orange with the scent of floral bouquets and hot forest floor. With each infusion the colour gets darker – the second infusion is in the pitcher.

The flavor is gentle, with a background of honey and slightly like paperback books. What shines right away is the body – it is thick, Pepto Bismol thick and hits the gut. The finish makes me drool.

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Infusion: Turtle Dove got darker in colour and flavor.

The flavor got more dark honey, malt, paperback books with a hint of library and light molasses. The sweetness level is nice and easy to drink. What I find interesting is how clean the tea is – it is crisp in flavor. There is a slight squeak to it, likely some astringency from my crazy steeping method.

Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Infusion: The flavor is heavy but hasn’t changed too much other than getting strangely bitter and molar drying. I interestingly got more infusions with a lighter ratio (1 gram 19ml vs 16ml) as the unpleasant elements took longer to show up.

Grandpa style – I tried 2017 Turtle Dove White tea using 3 grams in 280ml, steeped with 200F/93C water.

Turtle Dove is good grandpa style and I highly recommend you try it this way. I could be fooled that this tea is a black tea as it tastes super smooth, creamy, and slightly malty. The flavor is milk, little malty, slightly floral, but mostly smooth milk and malt. It tastes closer to a late infusion Dian Hong black tea than any white tea. I find white grandpa teas get more floral or green tasting.

Comments

What I find very interesting about White2Tea’s 2017 Turtle Dove White Tea brick is that it tastes much more aged than it should be. The tasting notes on this are rich and closer to black tea, rather than the delicate floral of young white tea. However, it does lack the date and medicinal elements of aged white. Hopefully, Turtle Dove will age well since the tea already has a head start. As a reminder, you want some good tools to break Turtle Dove – you need adult supervision!

I’d say drink Turtle Dove now Grandpa style or tuck away to age. Turtle Dove is fairly bombproof, but I found gongfu style to be on the daily drinker side right now as the flavor didn’t change too much. The malty notes did remind me a bit of White2Tea’s Hot Brandy, which is a blend of black and white tea, so if you like either tea you’ll enjoy the other.

Hooty Tea Travels – 2017 Northwest Tea Festival Seattle

Of all the public tea festivals I’ve been to, the Northwest Tea Festival is the most epic, busy, and has the most interesting of tea selections. The Northwest Tea Festival is certainly worth attending if you wanted to travel for tea. I went to both days of the tea festival!

Both days had a huge line to get in! I arrived 30-40 minutes early and I still waited 15 minutes in the Will Call line after the doors opened. That said, once I did get inside the festival was quiet, but it slowly filled up with people. I did most of my photos and checking booths out Saturday morning, then spent the rest of the time parking my owl butt at favorites, wandering around tea drunk or talking with tea friends. What I love about the Northwest Tea Festival is the variety – everyone is selling something different and the majority of the booths were local or from Oregon.

Crimson Lotus Tea was my first stop. I did an Instagram live stream on Sunday and I spent quite a bit of time at Crimson Lotus Tea. The unofficial shou winner was their 2017 Nannuo Mini Mushrooms (review coming soon!) that shou is so smooooooth yet also unique with interesting herbal notes. Glen had his amazing wooden tea table set up, sampling up various sheng region planets. I managed to try their new shou, 2017 Storm Breaker… which we renamed Storm Wrecker as it has plenty of energy to wreck people.

Also in attendance was THE MOST METAL \m/ tea pet frog.

After a few infusions of Storm Wrecker, I swore this tea pet looked like Jabba the Hutt.

Ho ho ho ho. Ha ha ha ha. Kasu ya lee coy rah doe kankee kung.

The next really cool booth was Phoenix Tea. As always, their tea pets are unique. I should have purchased this guy, but I procrastinated and missed out.

I sampled tea from Georgia but mostly timed out to try their chocolate husk tea, which was outstanding.

I parked at Floating Leaves Tea often during the festival. Floating Leaves Tea is starting to feel like my tea home away from home as it is Seattle tea shop I visit regularly. To my surprise, Floating Leaves Tea was selling and had in the sample rotation, their 1966 Beipu Oolong. The 1966 Beipu, as well as Everyday Tea’s 2017 Hekai (which I will go into more later), was the most fun to watch people’s reaction to drinking it. The Beipu tastes old, and likely the oldest tea there.  The old oolong flavor is a huge contrast to other common samples like matcha, turmeric herbs, and cinnamon spiced teas.

Miro Tea had some cool teaware, including a good selection of tea tables. Sadly, there wasn’t too much in teaware this year other than Miro Tea, Crimson Lotus, Phoenix Tea, Teabook and a few stragglers selling the odd teapot, cup set, or matcha bowl.

I was tempted by these puer bags, but the DIYer in me said I could make it. Thinking about it, I know myself to never getting around to crafting it myself.

Pearl Soda Company, who I saw in Portland PDX Tea Fest but could not get near, was here with tea sodas! I sampled a Sarsaprilla Puer which was delicious! I was actually supposed to go back and buy a kit but I forgot!

There was a number of matcha vendors in attendance – Ito En/Matcha Love, Sugimoto America, and My Matcha Life. My favorite was My Matcha Life, which I have written about before. However, all the matchas were all good.

On the topic of matchas, Saku Tea was in the house! I enjoyed their latte mixes as they are quite delicious. They were quite popular, I actually missed their booth on Saturday as it was a wall of people.

Other cool local tea sellers I saw that I kicked myself for not visiting their retail shop was Lizzy Kate and B. Fuller’s. Lizzy Kate has a killer breakfast blend of theirs that is a mix of Indian and Chinese black teas with Taiwanese Oolong. I have no photos as I was wobbling too much and only took photos of blur and feet.

B. Fuller’s Mortar & Pestle certainly attracted a crowd with their Steampunk vibe. I love their packaging and presentation – you can’t help but look at everything and take photos.

Friday Afternoon Tea is another Seattle seller that I patiently waiting for their retail space to open. They have fun geeky teas!

I was happy to see Chariteas and try their Japanese Black Oolong. To my surprise, the Black Oolong wasn’t as horrible as other Japanese oolongs I have tried.

To my surprise, Everyday Teas was at the festival. They are based in New Jersey and I know them on the wholesaler side – the retail side of Everyday Teas was new to me. What interested me the most was the puer collection – those 100 gram cakes are the perfect way to try some decent puer and taste various regions without breaking the bank. They also had a 2017 Hekai, which is a solid tea but also in the strong bitter side – not a new puer person tea so I got to see some sunken cheek action. Ravi is also great to have tea with as he’s passionate about the puer.

On Saturday I met up with a tea friend that combined shipping with me on some teas. I ended up carrying a pair of very stinky 1995 Jinchas around in a box, leaving a trail of old tea smell behind me. I was terrible in making everyone smell my tea. Ravi was awesome enough to steep it up this delicious methol dank of a tea.

In other weird things I drank, Choice Organic Teas has some weird stuff. They are Seattle local, and not the kind of tea I drink as it is mostly very common loose leaf stuff (jasmine green, chai, and decafs), with some tags of “wellness” on it which usually scare me off.  What caught my eye and fed my sense of adventure or potential masochistic tea drinking is their new MUSHROOM teas. I tasted 3 different ones and Reishi Matcha was the best as the flavor just worked adding extra umami to the mix. It was surprisingly good for matcha and mushrooms in a tea bag.

I reviewed Bitaco Tea a while back and seen them at World Tea Expo – they are first in growing and processing tea in Colombia. I was surprised they were here in Seattle with their amazing Cococa Kisses for sample! Interestingly, DavidsTea had a small booth but showed off a small selection of teaware and samples. Rishi Tea was also in attendance but was mostly pushing herbals teas.

If you ever visit Seattle, likely you will visit Pike Place Market and see Market Spice Tea, then be directed to their famous Cinnamon Orange Tea. I didn’t look around much, mostly deal hunting for their non-tea things, but check out this giant display!

Teasopia smelled really fricking good. They were quite dangerous for my wallet.

The unique attraction of the Northwest Tea Festival is the Tea Bar. They do intense 5 minute tea tastings. Neat ones I spotted was comparing electric to charcoal roast, wild tree to old tree, and so much more. I felt I didn’t hang out there enough.

I only attended one class and it was one I did last year – Fenghuang Wulongs by Andy Buckman aka Great Horse Teas. He had amazing rock teas and I was blown away by his Jin Mu Dan and Milan Dancong. The star of the show was the 1996 Lao cha dancong.

It was clean and smooth, but the energy in it was strong enough to feel it in the fingertips. You know when you are in a good tea tasting when everyone takes a sip of tea and the room goes quiet.

I stumbled out that tea sessions completely out of my mind, drank a couple infusions of Crimson Lotus Tea’s Stormbreaker, then hit the tea bar for a 1998 sheng puer. After all those hard-hitting teas, I was not processing conversation that well, nor stringing sensical sentences.

This year was a little different as I was hosting a focused tasting class on aged white teas, which sold out both days with people lurking outside hoping there might be empty seats.

We drank White2Tea’s 2017 Turtle Dove, Chinese Tea Shop’s 2006 Shou Mei, and 2000 Fuding Baicha. Here is my expensive waste bucket. All us presenters had the same experience – we only got time to resteep maybe 2-4 times and had to pitch the leaf to move on.

I also was a panelist for the Tea Bloggers Roundtable. We had a discussion on various topics such why we write, impact on the online community, what blog posts we are proud of, what post you had to edit, and our review policies. It was an interesting selection of questions that moderator Cinnabar @ Gongfu Girl/ Phoenix Tea owner asked. We also had a diverse selection of bloggers – Hanamichi, Steph’s Cup of Tea, Oolong Owl (hoot), Tea Squirrel, and Steep Stories of the Lazy Literatus.

After Saturday there was an after party at Phoenix Teas. There is ALWAYS an afterparty, sometimes even preparties.  You certainly need that the constitution similar to the tea equivalent of being able to drink an entire pot of coffee and go to bed to survive a tea after party. I drank this:

After drinking tea non stop for 8 hours, then drinking tea again at around 8pm, I barely lasted an hour. I spent my time wobbling around Phoenix Tea – the best tea shop to be tea drunk in as you always see something new no matter how many times you’ve been there.

The longer I’ve been in the tea community, the more and more these tea festivals are more social gatherings than drinking samples and buying things. I had a blast with Lazy Literatus, Teadb, along with the bloggers I finally got to meet at the Tea Bloggers Roundtable. It was very cool to meet some of you readers too!

Oolong Owl’s 2017 Northwest Tea Festival Haul

Surprisingly, I didn’t buy that much. Since I was there for two days, I had the intention of looking at everything then going back. However, going back was never a good plan as I had so much tea I forgot about things.

Freebies

With entrance into the Northwest Tea Festival, you get a tote bag and cup. I like to bring my own cup and ended up using this as a spare cup to hold leaves during my tea tasting presentation.

Inside the bag was a schedule (that I discovered my focus tasting was missing off the schedule but seemed that didn’t affect attendance), the usual business cards/coupons, and the required Tea Time Magazine.

The World Tea Academy were giving away posters.

I got the entire lineup from Bitaco. I am looking forward to trying their 2017 teas.

The 2017 Hekai Sheng Puer from Everyday Teas.

I thought I grabbed some Choice Organic Reishi Matcha tea bags, but I couldn’t find them when I was taking haul photos. Either I misplaced them or they fell out of my bag.

Purchases

Phoenix Tea had beautiful tea leaf jewelry. They are cast from a spent sheng puer leaf! I had to have it in silver, but they also had bronze. There was also an earring option.

I needed more 2017 Nannuo Mini Shou Mushrooms from Crimson Lotus Tea.

I bought a set of tea soaps from Teasoapia. These soaps stood out to me as they have real tea in them!

I also got honey from Market Spice. I had to bribe the tea hating husband with something for my weekend long absence.

Northwest Tea Festival was awesome for 2017. I hope to be there again and you all consider visiting Seattle next year!

Material Matcha Uji MMU03 Blend & Kickstarter

Material Matcha Uji is a new matcha seller with a twist – they have handcrafted 3 different matchas, blended with various Uji varietals, which makes for different flavor profiles. This isn’t the first time I’ve come across blended matcha, but the first time to have a tea vendor go into more detail.

Since I do a lot of matcha reviews, I’ve learned matcha has many flavor profiles, yet no way to distinguish anything as no one talks varietals. I’ve had matchas that were potent, sweet, fruity, more umami, and even floral. The most information I see on matcha is the region, usually Uji. Knowing more about blends and varietals would be great for us matcha addicts that know what we like, past a good quality, well-stored matcha.

Material Matcha Uji sent me a preview of their MMU03 blend, here is the description –

MMU03
A full bodied blend of Samidori and Gokou.

The MMU03 blend was crafted as a total art piece: we crafted a combination of two of the most exclusive “shaded” tea species, both historically originating entirely from the Uji terroir. Full and velvety is what best describes the Gokou variety, however it is further enhanced by Samidori’s depth to realize a full bodied, complex, refined blend.

Flavor: Full-bodied, Powerful, Smooth

Texture: Velvety

Umami: Very Sweet Umami

For more information on the other matchas – the sharp tasting MMU01, or the smooth fruity MMU02 – check out Material Matcha’s website or Kickstarter.

Interestingly, the Material Matcha guys stone ground my matcha right before shipping it to me.  Let’s roll and try some matcha!

Matcha Powder and Preparation Method

The Material Matcha MMU03 is on the vibrant green side, which is a good sign.

I used 2 grams of matcha, whisked in 175F/80c temperature water. I used around 5oz/150ml water total.

MMU03 has a difficult time achieving foam.

I would get an okay layer of foam, but it would disappear.

I had two more sessions with the same results.

Tasting of Material Matcha’s MMU03

Usually, the foam is great towards making matcha less bitter, and it did not need the foam here. The flavor is smooth and creamy – lots of complexity and packed with flavors of chestnut, milk, with a savory umami note of fresh button mushroom and steamed rice. The aftertaste blooms and into another direction of crisp, fresh sweet grass, leaning close to spearmint, with a background of umami I tasted during the sip. The texture is fuzzy and thick like I am drinking a full-fat latte as it feels so soft, which is a fun contrast to the bright refreshing aftertaste. There is no bitterness, though there is a hint of dryness left in my mouth, which at a later session I found I could reduce by dropping the temperature a touch.

Comments

I get mean owl butt on my matcha reviews as my patience wears thin since I’ve had so many bad teas. Material Matcha’s is number 2 of mind-blowing matchas I’ve experienced. My fried chicken matcha holds #1. I love complex, contrast, the sweet and creamy notes, and I love drinking something that is thick but is still thin watery tea. Each time, I drank the entire bowl and wanted another one. The only error in MM03 matcha is not being able to get any meaningful foam. Those Material Matcha guys chose well, as I tend not to like the strong tasting matchas – on paper the MM03 was a better choice over MM01.

MM03 is kickstartering for $39USD ($53 retail) for next year, which is on the steep side but considering the handmade aspect, high quality, informational control, and includes shipping from Japan, the price checks out. Check out Material Matcha Uji’s kickstarter and fingers crossed we get more vendors talking about matcha varietals.

(matcha provided for review)

 

Chaga Chai from Boreal Wildcraft

I love my The Wall mug from Boreal Wildcraft that I bought backups. What I didn’t get to explore are Boreal Wildcraft‘s teas. Since they are based in Winnipeg, Canada, they took inspiration from the Canadian wilderness for their tea blends.

Today’s review is Boreal Wildcraft’s Chaga Chai. What is Chaga? The dozens of health fitness scammers that fill my spam with blog requests say it is magical, but all that interests me is it is a mushroom that tastes like black tea. What I like about this tea blend, in particular, is that it is wild harvested Manitoba chaga mushrooms. Why not mushrooms in my tea? As long as it tastes good of course.

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

The leaves have lots of bits and bobbles of things such as orange bits, barks, and dust. The ingredient list is golden-tipped black tea, wild Canadian Chaga mushroom, cloves, cinnamon bark & leaf, orange peel, ginger, green cardamon, lemongrass, coriander seeds, black pepper, and nutmeg. The scent of Chaga Chai is super strong spicy chai, enough to probably burn your eyes as well as make good spiced cookies.

I used 4 grams of leaf, steeped at 200F/93c for 5 minutes. To be a completionist, I even used my Boreal Wildcraft The Wall mug.

Tasting of Boreal Wildcraft’s Chaga Chai

Steeped up, the chai still smells like a weapon of strong spice. The taste, however, is delightful! The chai smells stronger than it tastes.

The black tea is sweet and softly malty. The chaga adds an interesting nuttiness that I had to double check if there were nuts added. I can taste the lemongrass and orange, which lighten up this chai and give it a crisp finish. The spice level is heavy, and it is easy to pick out the cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, plus feel the pepper’s heat warming my mouth. I’d give this a moderately heavy spice level, enough to heat you up on a cold day, but not tripping pain receptors hot. Winterpeg (Winnipeg) Manitoba is notorious for having death winters, likely why this tea has a potent spice level and a crisp refreshing feel of winter.

The longer it infuses, the more savory the flavor gets, yet not bitter. Steeped for 25 minutes, it does go into spice overkill mode, so be sure to remove the leaf or top it up with more hot water unless you like painful spice levels.

Comments

If you love higher spiced chais without being hot or prefer a clean, non-milk chai – Boreal Wildcraft’s Chaga Chai is the bomb. Chaga Chai tastes clean and crisp, so likely you do not need milk.  I also found the devoid of bitterness makes this chai not need sugar. I enjoyed how clean and refreshing the chai is, mixed with the spice level and interesting chaga nuttiness with the smooth black tea base. The flavor is certainly unique compared to other chais, with a nod to wild harvested goodies from Canada.

I quite enjoyed this chai, I could see myself buying it for myself and my dad. My dad loves chai and would drink my stash on me. I love the contrast of spice and refreshing, the spice level, flexibility to steep awhile, and lack of bitterness.

(tea provided for review)