Sweet Carrots Green and Basil Lemonade Oolong from Pekoe Sip House – Tea Review

I’m in the mood for something fun. I’ve been drinking lots of unflavored blacks and pu’er these days, I could use some unique teas to inspire me. Pekoe Sip House is based in Boulder Colorado and they have cafe locations and a new online shop! Pekoe Sip House ethically sources their teas, composts at their cafes and donates to local communities and causes. However, what caught my eye is their tea selection – Pekoe Sip House has some really unique tea blends! Persimmon Gelato Rooibos! Green Fig Green tea! Jumpin Juniper White! Pekoe Sip House also has a good selection of unflavored teas as well.

Today I’ll be sampling Sweet Carrots Green and Basil Lemonade Oolong! Sounds like so much tea fun!

Pssst, Pekoe Sip house also passed me a coupon code for you tea peeps – enter teajoy for 25% off site wide. Expires Jan 31, 2015. This coupon code includes their gift sets!

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Tasting of Pekoe Sip House’s Sweet Carrots Green and Basil Lemonade Oolong

Sweet Carrots Green 

Sweet Carrots Green is a blend of Chinese Green tea, mate, rooibos, carrot, dried apple, papaya, pineapple, lemongrass and marigold. The dry leaf of Sweet Carrots Green smells amazing! It is sweet and tropical scented. The dry leaf also is very colorful and wild with the green tea mixed with cubes of carrots, fruit and petals.

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I steeped up my tea was 175F for 2 minutes in an in-mug infuser. Sweet Carrots steeps up a goldy yellow with a sweet tropical fruity scent.

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First sip I noticed this tea is certainly unique. There’s carrot flavor in it, like a vibrant orange cooked sweet carrot that goes well with a savory and buttery green tea base and a bit of grassy from the mate. As the sip goes on, the savory and sweet opens up for more sweet. Sweet Carrots has a lovely pineapple finish, with a bit of papaya and buttery aftertaste. The flavor of the blend is on the light to moderate side – the fruity isn’t overwhelming the grassy green and mate base, but is present enough to enhance and add a fun taste. I didn’t taste the rooibos, I’m guessing it could of been a green rooibos hiding in there with the mate.

The carrot does work, especially with the green and mate base. Carrot could probably be in more teas blends (well, probably not in a black tea) as it has a really nice sweetness to it, along with a nice vegetal mellowness that pairs well with a buttery tea base. I could see this tea being awesome iced or cold steeped!

Basil Lemonade Oolong

Basil Lemonade Oolong is a tea blend of oolong, basil, lemon granules, natural lemon oil and marigold blossoms. The dry leaf is really fragrant – strong lemon sweet scent, like a lemon ice! The appearance of the dry leaf is simple and pretty – dark oxidized oolong, marigold wisps with weird blobs of white. The blobby things are the lemon granules. I licked one and it was sticky and very tart!

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I steeped my tea at 190F for 2.5 minutes. The tea came out a gold color, lighter than I expecting.

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The flavor of Basil Lemonade Oolong is quite flavorful. The lemon comes out nicely without being tart. Mid sip I get afresh herby basil flavor that is lightly spicy – tastes just like my column basil plant I was growing (it died, sad face). The oolong adds a bit of earthyness to the background, but the main punch is the lemon flavor accented with the basil. Basil Lemonade Oolong finishes with a sweet creamy lemon flavor that lingers after each sip, like a lemon custard. Hands down, this tea would be awesome iced!


Sweet Carrots Green is a really fun tea that screams Spring season to me. Carrot tea sounds pretty wild, but it works very well! This green blend would be great for anyone wanting a sweet and savory green tea. The mate in Sweet Carrots Green gives the tea a real energy kick – I was hyper like it was a bright sunny day on this rare, dark rainy SoCal day.

Compared to Sweet Carrots Green, Basil Lemonade Oolong has more of a fresh vibe to it and the blend is the main flavor over the base. Basil Lemonade Oolong would be awesome on a summer day picnic, iced or served hot to brighten your day. I find this tea is more flexible – it would go well with desserts at an afternoon tea or with savory foods at a lunch. Lemon is so magical!

Check out Pekoe Sip House, especially if you want some really neat and unique tea blends. Don’t forget the 25% off coupon code – teajoy!

(tea provided for review)

Santa’s Cup Herbal Rooibos Tea from TeaXotics – Tea Review

CHRISTMAS TEA TIME! I’m still not in the Holiday spirit yet. My tree isn’t up. I’m starting to buy gifts now, 9 days before Christmas. I’ve done only one round of holiday baking. I love doing the gingerbread house thing every year – that symbolizes Christmas time to me, but I decided against it this year as I really don’t want to eat it! It is hard feeling Christmas here in SoCal due to the weather, especially since I’m from Canada where it is usually snowing right now instead of sunny. I need to feel Christmasy soon or I’ll be scrambling in a few days to get everything done! With that said, it is time to jump start that holiday spirit thing.

Today’s tea is TeaXotics’ Santa’s Cup, which is a herbal rooibos blend with black and red peppercorn, cinnamon chips, cloves, ginger, and lemongrass. I actually had this tea at the 2014 World Tea Expo as part of the North American Tea Championship tasting. Santa’s Cup is the 2013 North American Tea Championship winner and it was very tasty as well as christmasy! Hooty-claus the Tea Owl is here to assist with the tea review!

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As with my last review of TeaXotics – I love their tea packaging! It is so pretty! I’ve been seeing so many teas that are in brown paper looking packaging, so it is refreshing to see bright  and colorful tea packaging.

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Dry Leaf

Heavy spiced scented dry leaf! Like POW Mega spice! The dry leaf is mostly wood chippy red rooibos, with accents of cinnamon stick/bark bits, lemongrass and ginger chunks.

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Steeping Instructions

I steeped my tea in an in-mug infuser, with boiling water for 3.5 minutes – very easy!

Tasting of TeaXotics’ Santa’s Cup Herbal Rooibos Tea

My cup of Santa’s Cup has a reddy brown appearance with a scent of apple cider spices, without the apple.

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First sip, sweet candy, somewhat  fruity apple in flavor and cinnamon and light in flavor. Mid sip, Santa’s Cup ramps up to spicy! The spices hit, tingling my tongue and warming my cheeks. The spice tastes like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. The finish is more sweet cinnamon that lingers for a long time, like that sweet essence of a red hot cinnamon heart candy. Santa’s Cup is just like a cinnamon heart candy but not as sweet, or apple pie spice or cider. The spice is quite high, I’d put a 8/10 on the Spice Meter – it’s intense to tingle your face, but is not burn it.

Admittedly, I am not a red rooibos fan, I’m not into the flavor and wateryness that rooibos can have. Santa’s Cup has full flavor and is not watery which makes me very happy.


I love the balance of sweet and spice – the sweetness is perfect, not too sweet and does not need additional sweetener. The spice is comforting, familiar and perfect for the holidays. I’d even stretch Santa’s Cup Herbal Rooibos Tea is a great Valentines Tea as well due to the cinnamon heart flavor. On it’s own,  Santa’s Cup is great, though I could see this tea having potential to steep with some apples, spike it with booze or incorporate into some baked goods. I think Santa’s Cup would pair awesomely with short bread cookies or a buttery pastry. Yum, I want shortbread cookies right now!

Looking for an awesome holiday tea? Want a flavorfully festive herbal? Love spiced teas? I highly recommend TeaXotics’ Santa’s Cup! I’m feeling festive already and I will be drinking this tea on Christmas.

As of right now, I’d give TeaXotics’ Santa’s Cup and Santa’s Gingerbread Holiday from Simple Loose Leaf as the tastiest holiday tea! Happy Holidays Oolong Owl readers, I’m off to make shortbread cookies!

Bonus: Tiny organic apples are easier to wear than tiny santa hats

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(tea provided for review)

Oolong Owl’s Essential Loose Leaf Tea Ware Guide

Essential loose leaf tea ware guide - Oolong Owl

One question I see often on tea forums is along the lines of “I want to get into loose leaf tea, what tea ware do I need?” or “My loved one drinks bagged tea and I want to get them loose leaf tea ware, what do I buy?”

This question, I feel, has multiple answers since people want to drink tea for different reasons or have tea ware items that would be better suited to their life style. I drink a lot of loose leaf tea, like 6 cups+ a day, mostly solo or on the go. I have a crazy amount of tea ware, and over the years I’ve found what Loose Leaf Tea ware works the best and what items I could make a great cup of tea. With that said, I’m going to break down, at each level, what type of tea ware one needs so they can get started on the awesome tea journey.

First, the questions for the new loose leaf tea drinker

“How many people in your household will be drinking tea, or is it just you?”
“What kinds of tea do you want to get into – blends or unflavored? Traditional gong fu? Iced?”
“Do you want to drink more tea or will be drinking tea often away from home?”
“What is your budget?”

Essential Loose Leaf Tea Ware for 1

So, maybe you are on a budget. Maybe you don’t want to drop a bunch of cash just in case you don’t like tea. You are a solo tea drinker, you don’t need a whole tea pot. What tea ware do you need? Luckily, there is only one special tool, the rest you should have already in your kitchen or easy to acquire:

1. Brew Basket / Infuser

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This is hands down, a large in cup tea infuser/brew basket is the best tea equipment. These puppies provide lots of room so your fancy oolongs can expand, letting out all the delicious flavor, yet be fine enough to filter out tiny rooibos bits. These are good for 1 big cup of tea, though there are models you can get to fit in a teapot.

*Look for a brew basket/Infuser that is big, has lots of fine holes or mesh. These infusers come in stainless steel or plastic. Many companies sell these infusers separate, but sometimes they sell them with mugs. Sometimes they come with a lid to cover your tea while steeping and use as a tray. I use the DavidsTea Perfect Infuser, which I’m super happy with. Another popular infuser is the Finium Brew Basket (amazon link) and the FORLIFE brew-in-mug Infuser. An in-mug infuser tends to run between $5 to $12. Do NOT buy the novelty robot, Queen, axe, whatever shaped tea infusers and balls – they do not let tea expand thus less flavor.

Brew Basket/Infuser also resteep super easy! That gongfu short steeping method you’ve heard about with fancy gaiwans and yixing? You can fake it with an in cup infuser. Just steep that pu’er or oolong for 30 seconds, pull it out of your mug, and steep it again for the next 8 rounds.

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2. Tea Storage – Tin/ jar

Yes, I know you make tea in a cup. But you don’t drink all your loose leaf right after opening the package, right? Keep your tea in a tin, jar or tupperware (I like the locking ones) to keep the leaves fresh and free from dust/bugs/spills/contaminates. Ideally tins are the best, as light can damage tea, but as long as you don’t display your tea in glass in light you should be fine. You don’t need to empty the tea into the tin, I often just roll up the bag and stuff it into a tin. You typically want to store teas separately or in similar groups so they don’t contaminate each other.

You can repurpose cookie tins, or purchase tea tins. Many tea sellers sell tea tins, though I like using the IKEA TRIPP tin set. Later in your tea drinking journey you will need many tea tins to store all your teas!

3. Stuff you probably already have – Good Water and a Mug/ Tea cup

Water is the base of your tea, probably the most important factor in making a good cup of tea. If you personally do not drink tap water, why would you drink it in your tea? I know people who go with bottled spring water for their tea, but I’m personally not that hard core so I use filtered water out of my fridge.

Mug or Tea cup is of course a must have and you can use whatever hot drinking vessel you like. I like mugs with Owls on them. For Oolong Owl I often use glass mugs or tea cups with white insides – those styles are mostly to have a blank canvas to enjoy the tea color and photography.

To sum up a basic a Loose Leaf Tea ware gift or starting point – Good water, tea cup, in mug infuser/brew basket and some sort of tea storage.

Upgraded Loose Leaf Tea Ware for 1

Kettle – I personally like electric kettles, especially Variable temperature kettles, as many of them boil water really fast, can be inexpensive and safer with auto shut off. Some people get really hung up that their kettle needs to whistle, but that doesn’t make tea taste better. My kettle beeps when its done, and can hold temperature for a long time (see upgraded gear). I also like how an electric kettle is one less thing on my stove top that won’t get splattered with bacon grease.

Variable temperature kettle or Thermometer * – I would put this as bare essentials but you can make do without temperature controlled hot water for tea for awhile. But in the end, you will want a Variable Temperature Kettle in your future tea drinking days. It is a game changer!

First off – temperature control is must have if you are drinking greens and whites, which call for around 175F water temperature. Green and White tea is not supposed to be bitter and steeping them with boiling water often leads to bitter results. If you check steeping instructions for many of the teas I review, they are all not 212f/100c boiling water. If you want to just drink black tea, some instruct to use boiling water, others 190F to 200F, so you can fake it without a temperature control easier. There are tricks to dropping water temperature fast or spotting the water’s appearance to temperature, but those aren’t as accurate than actual measure. With accurate measure, you’ll have a perfect cup of tea everytime.

With that said, purchase a thermometer or just make your budget bigger and buy a variable temperature kettle (around $50 to $100) which is much less hassle and time wasted than watching your hot water cool to 175f. I personally use the Cusinart Variable Temperature kettle, but you got many other options.


Other Loose Leaf Tea Ware to Consider

Gravity Steeper  – These tea making devices are lots of fun! They make a decent cup of tea as there is plenty of room to expand while the leaf is infusing. The tea pours out the bottom, leaving the leaf inside, so there is very little mess. However, these devices are always plastic and do not retain heat well. They stain easy and need to be cared for, but eventually will get cloudy looking over time. I find I get a better, perfect steeped, hot cup of tea with an in cup infuser because gravity steepers do not retain heat as well, but have their uses.

Gravity steepers make AWESOME iced tea – just steep and pour into a cup full of ice (if you drink a lot of iced tea, consider an iced tea maker as well).  Gravity steepers are also awesome for the office, making for a quick, clean cup of tea.

* Look for a gravity steeper that is a wide model with removable filter/parts. Wide models, like the DavidsTea The Steeper, are easier to clean and will fit on top of any wide mug. Narrow ones (cough, Adagio, cough) you need a brush to clean and are too skinny to rest on top of a mug.

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Travel Tea tumbler – this is for the person who wants to drink more tea, travelling or office tea drinking. Travel tea tumblers are also great for use at work. Similar to bringing a water bottle everywhere to get one to drink more water – bring a tea tumbler! I’ve reviewed a couple here on Oolong Owl, out of them I mostly use the super functional DavidsTea Carry Travel Mug, or the pretty Mandala Glass Tea Thermos. Depending on your needs, you can also fake it with a thermos (steep the tea before you leave) but dedicated tea travel tumblers can filter out the leaves, let you remove the leaves and even store tea in a hidden compartment.

Travel Tea tumblers can also double as a tea steeper or small tea pot!

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So, you want to venture into the really exotic tea territory? Steep up a pu’er or oolong how it was traditionally done? Get a gaiwan if you are the tea drinker that drinks unflavored teas and want to get into gong fu style infusions. I love gaiwans, I think they are the greatest tea gift and make a killer round of tea, however they are also a tea ware you can’t give to a new tea person. If you are that tea drinker who loves gong fu cha, you’ll love your gaiwan to death and all the other gaiwans you end up buying (or receiving!). Gaiwans come in various sizes – get a cute 40ml to 120ml for solo sessions or 150ml – 200ml for group tea sessions. I tend to purchase my gaiwans online on Ebay or Aliexpress but many tea vendors sell them.

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Teaspoon measure – you need to measure your tea right? Some tea sellers sell a special “tea spoon” but most often it’s a 1.5 or 2 sized teaspoon. You can use a regular o’ teaspoon measure. I have extra that I dedicated to my teas so I don’t have to search or clean one every time I make tea. I also have a 1/4 teaspoon set aside for matcha.

ScaleI touch on this on my review of a small scale. A small scale l is very handy for gong fu style tea steeping. If you want to get into drinking unflavored teas, especially big spacious teas like whites and greens, or weighty teas like oolong and pu’er, a scale is a valuable tool. For example, 1 teaspoon of oolong is a lot more tea than 1 teaspoon of white tea. Some teas don’t even fit in a spoon as the leaf is too big! Look for a small scale that does 0.1 gram measure. Kitchen scales aren’t sensitive enough for single gram measure.

 Tea Ware Cleaner – Clean tea ware is a must for having good tea! You also want to clean your tea ware in something unscented as well, I can taste my dish soap if I use it to clean my tea mugs. Baking Soda and vinegar were my go to for cleaning tea ware, however a big game changer for me was the Smart Soak Tea Stain Remover from Mandala Tea. This tea soak cleans tea ware without scrubbing and will remove the nastiest of tea stains and get into all the hard to reach places tea stains like to hang out.

Essential Loose Leaf Tea Ware for 2 +

Tea Pot, porcelain, ceramic, steel ~24oz/700ml

I only bust out a tea pot when I’m really thirsty for 1 big tea session or I have guests that I will serve 1 tea to. Steeping just a serving or two in a large tea pot is a recipe for bad tea – there is less room for the tea to expand, plus all the extra room will make the tea pot get cold faster. There are small tea pots out there for making western style tea (1 to 2 cup size) but in the end, why not just brew the tea in an in-mug infuser and have one less item to clean?

A 24 oz/700ml is a nice sized tea pot for about 4 cups of tea. Look for a tea pot that has a filter/strainer to remove the leaf to avoid over steeping, unless your guests chug tea like it is going out of style.

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Optional Loose Leaf Tea Ware

AKA, Pass on these unless you have a specific need for these tea items.

New tea drinkers will often ask these questions “Do I need a cast iron tea pot?” or “I’m new to tea and want a glass tea pot…” but in reality you don’t need these tea items, especially if you are a new tea drinker.

1. Cast Iron. These tea pots are nice. I have 2. Realistically, they are just heavy tea pots that look really cool and retain heat well. The heavy, durable feel to these pots would be a great self defense weapon too. Cast Iron tea pots can be very expensive too, $50 is a fair price for them with some popular tea sellers listing them in the $150+ range. You can also get a vacuum thermos tea pot that retains heat better and cheaper.

I personally only use cast iron tea pots if I have tea I want to keep hot for long, like a long work session, or for entertaining. Other than that, as a new tea drinker, they don’t serve much purpose and are not needed. They are also ripping hot to the touch while in use – keep away from kids!

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2. Glass tea pots. Also, glass gaiwans. I have a couple glass tea pots and a glass gaiwan. They are really pretty for presentation, but have a number of issues making them not so user friendly.

1. They don’t retain heat well.
2. Fragile!
3. Hot to the touch!

I never use a glass pot with a tea that requires boiling water as it’ll be impossible to handle. In the end, glass tea pots just look impressive for guests to serve low temperature teas like whites and greens, awesome for tea blogging and instagram photos, but not the best tea pots.

3. Yixing tea pot

This one is a toughie. Yixing pots are in ADVANCE MODE BIG BUDGET land as decent one will run you $50 to $200 (at least). Yixing tea pots are really optional but very cool for the unflavored tea lover. Yixing tea pots “season” with tea, usually a single type of tea, and eventually giving back making a great cup. These tea pots of perfect if you drink similar teas everyday, as the more you use it, the better it gets. I love my yixing pots, but admittedly, my gaiwans get more use as they aren’t as fragile and can be used with any tea. Before you upgrade to a yixing pot, try out a gaiwan. You can also purchase a yixing gaiwan for less.

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 4. Automatic Tea Makers. There are automatic tea makers out there, similar to a programmable coffee pot. These automatic tea makers unfortunately run $150 to $300+. I don’t own one myself as 1. Outrageously expensive for what it is. 2. mono-tasker vs an electric kettle 3. less control than steeping it yourself (especially if you are unsure how long to steep something and need to taste it every 30 seconds) 4. Reports of it being not so great for delicate teas. I know many tea drinkers that love their Breville or Cusinart tea maker, but for $200 you can a lot of great tea goodies instead.


I hope this guide helps you fellow tea drinkers and gift givers! Tea is awesome and spread the tea love!

December Simple Loose Leaf Tea Co-op Club – Tea Review

Hello December! I love when a new month rolls in as I get all my tea subscriptions.

The Simple Loose Leaf Tea Co-op Club gets you 4 to 6 loose leaf tea samples (1/4oz size) of different teas including straight teas, blends and herbals. Being in the Tea Co-op gives you a membership ID which gives you 50% off their Simple Loose Leaf Tea Shop, so you can buy the teas you’ve enjoyed for a great price.

For your first box, you can enter the coupon code OolongOwl for a 50% off your first Simple Loose Leaf’s Tea co-op box!

Tasting of December’s Simple Loose Leaf Co-op Tea Club

This month for Simple Loose Leaf Tea Co-op Club –  Yunnan Noir Black, Hazelnut Honeybush Herbal, Santa’s Gingerbread Holiday, Chinese Sencha Green, and Jade Oolong. For December, I’ll be trying out Yunnan Noir Black and Hazelnut Honeybush Herbal

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I have reviewed Santa’s Gingerbread House and it is an excellent Holiday tea!

Yunnan Noir Black’s dry leaf is curls of black tea with the odd golden highlight. I love golden Chinese black teas and Yunnan Noir Black looks great! It also smells kind of fruity.

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After a 3 minute steeping boiling water I had an auburn cup of tea that smells kind of cream.

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The flavor of Yunnan Noir is thickly textured with flavors mostly of caramel, honey and malt. In the background there are some nutmeg spice notes dancing around. This tea is naturally sweet and with all the caramel, honey and malt notes, I feel I could pour it over ice cream… well, I’d want to turn it into a thick cool sauce first. Yunnan Noir Black is pretty smooth throughout the sip, but a little 2/10 Astringency dryness end of sip. Yunnan Noir would be an awesome tea with dessert or a sweet tooth craving filler!

Hazelnut Honeybush Herbal has the ol’ woodchipper appearance as other honeybush herbals do, however this one strongly smells very nutty sweet.

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The steeping instructions for this herbal was 180F for 2 to 3 minutes. After 2 minutes, I had a strong nutty scented cup of tea.

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The flavor of Hazelnut Honeybush is smooth, hazelnut, little roasty, milky sweet over a woody sweet flavor of honeybush. This herbal is pretty good, much sweeter and less woody than a red rooibos, with the hazelnut flavor complimenting the honeybush nicely. The flavor is a little watery end of sip, like other honeybush and rooibos teas, but otherwise full of flavor with a strongly scented brew. I could see this herbal being great steeped up with milk for an evening treat!

In the end, both teas from the Simple Loose Leaf Tea Co-op Club  were very cozy, perfect for December!


Reading Nook and Mindful Morning Tea from Plum Deluxe – Tea Review

Let’s check out some of Plum Deluxe teas today! In particular, Reading Nook and Mindful Morning from their signature blend collection. Plum Deluxe has a grounding, mindful, savor life vibe to their shop and. They also do seasonal tea blends.

I was surprised to see all the purple themed packaging with my Plum Deluxe teas – I love the color purple and all the purple made me smile. (Looks like the label was wrong on Reading Nook)

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The steeping instructions for both teas are to steep with boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes. Both teas needed to be stirred in their package as there was some settling with some of the smaller ingredients.

Tasting of Reading Nook and Mindful Morning from Plum Deluxe

Reading Nook is a tea blend of Rosebuds, Cream Black Tea, Passionflowers, Lavender, and Chamomile. The dry leaf is quite pretty with a creamy floral scent. I’m a sucker for pretty flower teas! (God of Night Sweats represent!)

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This one steeps up a gorgeous dark amber with a clear liquor with a unique fruity floral scent.

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Reading Nook sips in with a creamy, malty black tea base – a little briskness to it. The blend is then smoothed out with rose, hint of lavender and a sweet mellowness of chamomile flavor. End of sip is a slightly fruity tinge to it, like pineapple. This is the ultimate floral black blend – I feel like I’m getting a spa treatment! This tea is quite floral, so a 7/10 on the Floral Meter. The floral balance is quite nice – I can taste each floral note clearly with the lavender notes are not over the top. Floral tea lovers will love this tea – I feel so relaxed and kind of pretty drinking it.

Mindful Morning is an Earl Grey blend of Ceylon Black Tea, Honey Granules, Cornflowers, Orange Peels, and Bergamot. The dry leaf smells like sticky orange candies!

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Steeped up, Mindful Morning smells like a more orange Earl Grey. Taste wise, Mindful Morning sips in bright citrus sweet, like mandarin oranges with a low to moderate level of bergamot. The black creamy base has a classic pairing with the orange and bergamot flavor. There is a touch of honey sweetness that goes well with the orange flavor, but not overly sweet for one who does not add sugar to their tea. There is a brisk dry finish, 4/10 on the Astringent Meter. Mindful Morning is a fun twist to the classic Earl Grey and a fantastic creamy sweet Earl Grey.

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Both Reading Nook and Mindful Morning would be awesome afternoon tea! I can’t decide which I like more – Mindful Morning I think is a better blend, but Reading Nook pleases my floral palate. Both teas have a classic black tea blend vibe, but with a modern twist that feels like I’m being pampered.  Plum Deluxe teas are also USDA Organic & Fair Trade Certified, so if you are a tea drinker that exclusively wants organic and fair trade teas, add this shop to your must try list!

(tea provided for review)

Lapsang Souchong from Joseph Wesley Black Tea – Tea Review

Today’s tea review is a Joseph Wesley tea – Black Tea No. 7 Lapsang Souchong. My tea came with a letter stating that this particular Lapsang Souchong is made the traditional way – NOT smoked over pine needles. Interesting. I associate Lapsang Souchong as drinking a steeping of my husband’s BBQ Smoker, so I wonder how a traditionally made Lapsang Souchong would taste. For housekeeping information, Joseph Wesley’s black tea No. 7 (Lapsang Souchong) is harvested from Wu Yi Shan rock cliffs, made by tea artisans in Tong Cheng Village in Fuijian Province, China.

Joseph Wesley primarily sells high quality black teas, all direct sourced and single origin.

I love the tin design, very modern and sexy! The tin sides are cardboard with a metal lid and bottom.

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The tea is vacuumed sealed inside with an enclosed with an embossed information card.

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Dry Leaf

Right off the bat I notice something different. When you smell other Lapsang Souchongs’ dry leaf they have a mega smokey BBQ smokey scent. The Black Tea No. 7 Lapsang Souchong smells sweet like grapes without a speck of charcoal. The dry leaf is gorgeous – long, thin gentle twists of black tea, all deep brown with the odd light highlight.

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Steeping Instructions

The instructions on the tin state to steep the Lapsang Souchong at a 190 to 195f water temperature for 2 to 2.5 minutes. For further infusions add an additional 30 seconds. This is a lower than usual water temperate for a black, which is usually 212 or 200F but I went with the instructions anyway.

Tasting of Joseph Wesley black tea’s Lapsang Souchong

The Black Tea No. 7 Lapsang Souchong steeps up a gorgeous clear auburn color with a fruit bread scent.

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First Infusion: Oh wow! Black Tea No. 7 Lapsang Souchong sips in fruity like dark skinned plums and raisin over a malty rich base. There is a bit of dark chocolate mid sip, like Cadbury fruit and nut chocolate bar. The finish is lightly brisk with a 2/10 dryness with the peak of dark rich chocolate at the end of sip. The texture is lightly silky like I moisturized my mouth in the most delicious way possible. As the tea cools, there is a bit of barley notes.

Second Infusion: Wow just as good as the first infusion but much more rich and complex! This infusion still has that fruit chocolate malt thing going but now with a bread crust note to it. The tea is much richer in flavor that I feel full just by drinking it. Black Tea No. 7 Lapsang Souchong is like the steak of teas, LOL!
There is also an interesting tartness and burnt caramel edge to the fruit flavor at the end of sip.

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Third Infusion: This round of tea is sweeter and less rich but still loaded with flavor. I’m enjoying the raisin, plum, malt and burnt caramel notes over the light dry texture.

Fourth Infusion: This is quite impressive that Black Tea No. 7 Lapsang Souchong has gone for this many infusions for a western style steeping. With the fourth infusion the flavor has lightened. I did an extended steep for this one to an additional 1.5 minutes to milk out the flavor. The flavor is lighty fruit plum with a touch of light caramel. Fantastic finish to the tea session!

This tea is so delicious that the tea pet didn’t get a drop. Oh well, have some cheese with a Tea Owl.

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With Cheese: This is new – tea with cheese! No, this is not like my occasional twitter rant that my tea doesn’t taste good with kraft macaroni dinner. Impressively,  Black Tea No. 7 Lapsang Souchong with cheese is excellent as the cheese counters the tart leaving a smooth cup of tea. Fantastic, you need to try this tea with cheese, tea peeps!


Joseph Wesley tea – Black Tea No. 7 Lapsang Souchong is amazing! Love it! Exceeds expectations! I was in awe that this tea didn’t taste overly smokey, just a little burnt caramel sugar.

I want afternoon tea with Black Tea No. 7 Lapsang Souchong! The malty and rich flavor would pair great with tea sandwiches and we already know it’s great with cheese. The fruit finish, especially in the last two infusions, would be great with fruit tarts and creamy desserts. Yes. I need this with afternoon tea!

This lapsang souchong is very easy to drink for someone new to tea, as well as full of flavor and complex enough for a seasoned tea drinker to love. A comparable tea would be Whispering Pines’ Ailaoshan but not as bready and more complex. In the end, Black Tea No. 7 Lapsang Souchong is a must try for black tea fans! A must try for a tea drink who wants a not-over-the-top smokey Lapsang Souchong!

Joseph Wesley black tea – check them out. On top of awesome tea they have some great tea ware that I’ll blog about in a future post. I was going to post about the tea pet and tea together, but the tea would of stolen the show!

(tea provided for review)

Bamboo Tea Trays – Teaware review

Since my first wooden Tea Tray has be MIA for needing a good sanding and treatment, I’ve been on the lookout for a bamboo tray instead. Bamboo Tea Trays are more popular of a find, though there are stone and metal tea trays too. To be honest, I was tempted to purchase a metal tea tray – they are really cheap on Aliexpress (~$20) and large but are more functional than attractive. I could see myself buying a metal tea tray for myself, but for blogging pictures it would look pretty cold.

Anyways, as the bargain hunter I am, I scored a pair of bamboo tea trays on Aliexpress for a great price. The conflict I have when buying tea ware online is price – I could find something dirt cheap and hope it isn’t completely garbage OR pay more for something that one would think should be good quality and hope it isn’t the same crap item that was half the price. Alas, I opted for the cheap – if the bamboo tea trays are bad, I can return or get a refund.

The next issue I had was what size of tea tray to get. I do love the big ones as I slop around a lot, but the price sky rockets with tea try size. I took a piece of paper and cut it down to the sizes of the tea trays I was looking at and placed my tea ware on it.

Bamboo Tea Tray Time!

I’ve had about a month with my bamboo trays, so you’ve probably seen these trays in use throughout the last few tea reviews here at Oolong Owl. Upon arrival, I checked my trays joins and corners to make sure they are in good working order. I also added hot water and let it sit to check for leaks. Both trays passed! Both trays are a box style without a drainage tube.

Small Bamboo Tea Tray

The first tray to arrive was a really small one with measurements of 21cm X 12 cm X 4cm (8″ x 4.75″ x 1.5″). This tea tray has a simple design. Looks big in the photo!

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In reality this tea tray is tiny! In action!

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A bamboo tray this small great if you got a gaiwan, small pitcher and cup OR even better, a travel gaiwan, otherwise it is pretty crammed.

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I love the small bamboo tea tray  for gongfu tea sessions while working on the computer and I could see it being alright for travel. I’ve had this tray next to me while eating dinner too – it is a tea tray for 1. I dub this bamboo tea tray the Forever Alone tea tray.

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Medium Bamboo Tea Tray

The second tray to arrive is much bigger – it is smaller than my MIA wooden one annd measures 34cm x 22cm x 6cm (13″ x 8.5″ x 2″).

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Size comparison.

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The medium sized tray can easily serve for 4 with enough room for a tea pet!

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I’m not 100% happy with the design of the medium tray. The top is not level with the middle and edges higher than the bamboo dowel slats so it feels smaller than it actually is as you end up cramming stuff in the side sections. The bamboo slats are round so if I have a narrow base or very small tea cup it does not sit level and is knocked over easy. If you were looking for a medium sized tea tray I’d suggest passing on this design for something more flat. Otherwise, the size is nice and very useful, even for a solo tea drinker. The Tea Owls like this tray for union meetings.

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One of my trays came with a free gift – a microfiber tea cloth – which has been awesome to wiping the tray dry after use.

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In the end, I paid $14 for the small and $30 for the medium bamboo tea tray, which is a good price especially for decent quality. If I had more room, I’d love to have an entire sit down table dedicated to tea with built in drainage system!

Coffee Leaf Tea, Armando’s Original Blend from Wize Monkey – Tea Review

This morning I was in the mood for something different. I’m tired after last nights World of Warcraft session involving my female Panda Warrior (named Alishan)’s tour of shield slamming baddies in heroic dungeons. Shield Charge! SLAM! Panda Panda! I’m tired enough to want to drink a crazy weird tea.

Enter Wize Monkey Armando’s Original Blend Coffee Leaf Tea. Wut? Probably one of the few times you’ll hear a coffee like product here at Oolong Owl. These are the leaves off a 100% organic Arabica coffee plant grown in Nicaragua. I don’t know much about coffee, but coffee has a harvest season of 3 months, whereas one could harvest the leaves all year round. The coffee leaf tea has 12mg of caffeine, not enough for this tired tea owl, but enough to keep me awake to check my email.

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Dry Leaf

Tea bag? Psssshhh, show us Tea Owls the goods! Inside the tea bag is a crushed brown and dusty leaf. Looks similar to guayusa, mate or yaupon leaf. The scent is very strong herby and leafy, very similar to guayusa.

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Steeping Instructions

The steeping instructions of Armando’s Original Blend Coffee Leaf Tea is listed on the sample – 95C (203F) water for a 3 to 4 minute steep. I did 200F for 3.5 minutes with the leaf in a brew basket.

Tasting of Wize Monkey’s Armando’s Original Blend Coffee Leaf Tea

Armando’s Original Blend Coffee Leaf Tea brews up a pretty amber with some floating debris. It has a pungently brisk herbal leafy scent. I don’t have any crochet monkeys, but I have a triceratops!

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With a scent that leafy pungent, the flavor is sure a 180! The flavor is very smooth, almost creamy, malty and earthy start, reminding me of a late resteep of a black tea. Mid sip there is a little bit of a licorice sweet vibe going. End of sip the coffee leaf tea hits you with a strong creamy herbal punch at the end, like orchard grass hay (kind my bunny eats which is sweeter and softer than timothy hay) and honey. The finish really tastes like guayusa to me, but more grassy, but not as grassy as yaupon. There is no bitter or dryness in this tea, making for an easy sip.

There is some debris in my cup but they did not add any chunky texture and eventually sunk to the bottom.

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Admittedly, I was worried coffee leaf tea would be overly herby or a bitter coffee hell, but Armando’s Original Blend Coffee Leaf Tea is really smooth and easy to drink with a pleasing amount of sweetness.

Hmmm, who would like this tea? This is a hard one. There’s a few elements going on in Armando’s Original Blend Coffee Leaf Tea, lighter malty black, grassy green, herbal bushy, and licorice sweet, I’d lean a herbal and green tea drinker would like this tea. Both coffee and tea adventurists would enjoy coffee leaf tea as well.

What is super cool is Wize Monkey sells a $10 sample with free shipping if you’d like to try their cool coffee leaf tea out!

Bonus: The amber glow of Coffee Leaf Tea

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(tea provided for review)

White2Tea Club for November 2014 – Tea Review

I have a lot of tea, so much I didn’t buy anything during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, despite the awesome sales. My last tea purchase is the White2Tea Club, a subscription tea of the month club from the awesome White2tea.

When I got the package, I was very impressed with the variety I got. I’m late with this review as I took my time, saving drinking these teas for the right day I felt like treating myself. I got around to trying 3 out of 4 of the teas for this review. Inside the November White2Tea Club: 2014 Yesheng Qiaomu 50gram mini cake, 1997 7582 Private Order 10 gram sample, 2000 Mini-Chocolate Shu 20 gram sample and Duck Shhh Dancong 10 gram sample. 

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1997 7582 Private Order

Whenever I drink an aged tea, I think “What was I doing back in ___?” In this case, 1996/1997 I was in 10th grade, gothed up and listening to Marilyn Manson, playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and I think drinking Arizona Iced teas. This is probably the oldest pu’er I’ve had so trying a 1997 tea is a real treat!

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1997 7582 Private Order has eucalyptus, pine, earth, forest floor notes with a refreshing feel. A cheeky dryness, 4/10 on the Astringency meter, stickying the eucalyptus notes in my mouth. My mouth feels so refreshed that I feel I could breathe out and see my breath in the LA “cool” 16c weather.

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Around the 5th infusion I got more pronounced earthy floor notes with a fruity peach like aftertaste after my breath is clear of the eucalyptus.

Duck Shhh Dancong

This tea is a WTF for me. I’ve never heard of Duck Shit scented tea. Whatever, this is what tea of the month things are for – trying new shit. You know, if I had a tea shop I’d rename this tea “Hoot Poop”.

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Anyways, the tea leaf is very impressive, especially with one the width of my hand!

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Steeps up with an interesting smell. This could be my brain playing tricks, but I feel like I’m in a duck pond. Sweet, earthy, wet animal, wet forest floor and floral.

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Duck Shhh Dancong tastes amazing though – very smooth sip, slick sweet honey, earthy light wood, with a balance of dryness end of sip. Later infusions I’m getting cinnamon, magnolia and steamed spinach notes. The flavor is delicate, complex and interesting. I’m a big oolong drinker with preference to more oxidized oolongs. This Duck Shhh oolong (Ya Shi Xiang) is a more lighter oxidized oolong, but greatly appeals to my tastes, plus I got slamming tea drunk off it.

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2000 Mini- Chocolate shu pu’er

This tea is in tight dry little cubes.

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Apparently some people got heart shapes! Anyways, I failed at following instructions to break the squares, taking 2 rinses and 3 steeps in to get this tea really going. Once it is going, OH MAN IS IT GOOD! First off, a clear brew – so pretty!

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SO GOOD! It’s super smooth with flavors of milk chocolate, wet stones, fig and caramel. Later infusions stay rich white lots of sweet fruity chocolate flavors making this tea owl very happy for an entire afternoon of tea drinking Uggg, I want more of the 2000 Mini- Chocolate shu pu’er but I’m so strapped on space for tea and potentially not enough time to drink up all my tea.

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Admittedly, I procrastinated on getting in the White2Tea Club for the price – $30 a month. However, the teas you get are very high quality with a nice variety so I feel I paid a fair price for what I got and a deal for the amazing tea experiences. For the first month of the , the teas were amazing! I’m very happy with all the teas I sampled and they made it very tempting for this overloaded tea drinker to buy more. Thankfully, the 2000 Mini-Chocolate shu can be purchased.

I’d give the White2Tea Club a MUST BUY for a pu’er lover. I’m pumped for the December package as it has the 2008 Often (OMG SWEET video game art!)

MMMMMM Mini Chocolate shu!!!!

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GABA Black Tea from Mandala Tea – Tea Review

Today’s tea review is Mandala Tea’s GABA Black Tea, a Anxi, Fujian Tie Guan Yin with plenty of oxidization. If you aren’t familiar with GABA teas, they are processed to boost the GABA content in tea. GABA teas have an effect that increases a feeling of calm. For more reading on GABA and science, check out Tea Nerd’s post.

I’ve had a few GABA teas, but not a high oxidized one. Let’s sip! Hooooot!

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Dry Leaf

GABA Black tea has nice, big rolled balls and curls of tea with a sweet and lightly vegetal scent.

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Steeping Instructions

Mandala Tea has two steeping instructions on the package both using boiling water. The first instructions is what I followed, a multiple infusion method of 1, 2 and 4 minute infusions. You can also do a western style steeping of 3 to 5 minutes.

Tasting of Mandala Tea’s GABA Black Tea

Now that’s a gorgeous cup of tea! GABA Black steeps up perfectly clear with a glow of amber gold! GABA Black tea has a baked goods with honey bread scent that is very snuggly.

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First Infusion: GABA Black tea sips in light with the flavor pow happening mid sip. The flavor is bready, with a sweet and sour element. The tea finishes sweet like a clover honey. The texture is smooth with a silky mouth feel after my sip.
The sour flavor sounds weird but if you’ve had GABA teas before you’ll know what I’m talking about. Otherwise, the closest I can describe GABA Black tea as would be sourdough bread. It’s bready baked goodness with a sour tinge, 3/10 on the Tart Meter. GABA Black tea tastes distinctly GABA to me with a more baked goods bread black base whereas other GABA teas I’ve had have been a green oolongs (less oxidized) which are a more grassy combo.

Second Infusion: The GABA sour flavor is a little stronger mid sip, however the finish is even more bready with a hint of earth and fruity sweet. This steeping reminds me of raisin bread. The after taste is that quick breath of GABA.

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Third Infusion: GABA Black tea is now lighter with extra sweetness. The tea tastes like white toast with a bit of caramel honey on it with a sour dough after taste.

After all these sips and cups of GABA Black tea, the tea is very smooth to make you feel chill with a sour pop to make you feel alive, an awesome combo and tea drinking experience. After my tea session I checked out the leaves – big leaf! I probably could of gotten one more infusion, maybe a 10 or 15 minute infusion as the leaf wasn’t fully expanded.

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I think Mandala Tea’s GABA Black Tea is a more friendly GABA tea to try of you want to get into GABA tea territory. The black bread flavor adds more comfort food feels and pairs better with that sour flavor verses the more common green oolong GABA which is a sour vegetal vibe.

Mandala Tea’s GABA Black Tea is also a lighter black, not overly rich or thick making a easy black to drink for green white tea drinkers. I have one other GABA tea in my collection from another seller to try, but so far Mandala Tea’s GABA Black is my favorite.

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