Arachne Drinks More David’s Tea

MY NEW FAVORITE TEA BLENDER. They are like the BPAL of teas. Even if not all of their teas are a hit with me, it’s not for lack of their trying, and it’s a fun experience.

By the way, I found out through Google that they discontinued their Buttercream blend. WHYYYYYYYYYYY

Cream of Earl Grey is a rather nice Earl Grey blended with vanilla and cream flavorings. I cannot drink this steeped at anything other than the lower end of three minutes; any longer, and the black tea takes over the taste of the vanilla, and it becomes a plain Earl Grey to me. That said, it is one of my favorite vanilla-and-Earl-Grey blends, and compares very favorably (and possibly exceeds) the Queen Mary blend of similar name.

Bollywood Chai is bright and spicy, as befits its name. It’s also sweetened by the candy-covered fennel pieces, which gives the loose tea a visual pop that is rather attractive. In essence, it’s a sweet spicy tea. I liked it enough to buy a tin of it.

Le Digestif is meant to be a medicinal tea for the stomach, combining just about every herbal remedy from various cultures. It tastes disgusting, but I guess in extremis, I will find it handy.

Tropicalia is a fruit tea with little sugar hearts in it, which results in a very sweet tea with a pina colada flavor. It’s too sweet for me, who tends to prefer her tea without sweeteners, but it is pretty good iced.

Green & Fruity is wonderful. It reminds me of Mighty Leaf’s Green Tea Tropical, except this is a green rooibos tea. Tropical fruits turn out to blend really well with green rooibos.

Orange Blossom is a vanilla-orange red-and-green rooibos blend. I’m not sure I like it; it’s, again, too sweet. I prefer Mighty Leaf’s Orange Dulce, because the black tea gives it some bite that goes well with the sweet vanilla-orange flavor. A comforting blend, but ultimately not a stayer with me.

Pink Lemonade I have discovered I can only drink as an iced tea, and even then I much prefer Harney & Sons’ more sublime fruit teas. However, if you like a punch in the taste buds, Pink Lemonade is more than willing to oblige.

Checkmate is the first black tea and white tea blend I’ve ever tried, and I suspect most blenders would never have tried it, but David’s Tea is different. And the blend actually works. There’s coconut and chamomile in it, but the black and white teas actually produce a chocolate flavor. It’s now my favorite white tea blend.

Movie Night takes the concept of genmaicha (also known as “popcorn” tea, due to some of the brown rice kernels popping like popcorn in hot enough water, or just coming pre-popped from the toasting process) and pushes it with apples and actual popcorn. It is a green tea, but this is definitely one of the David’s strange blends where the tea takes a backseat, quantity-wise, to the other ingredients (something other blenders definitely do not try; it’s either mostly tea or no tea at all). This results in a low-caffeine tea and interesting flavors. Movie Night tastes like a night at the movies, and is interesting enough to give it more tries.

Cocoberry is a maté blend with berries and coffee beans, which definitely puts it even more into the stimulant territory. It’s alright, not my favorite maté blend ever, but still pretty good.

Vanilla Orchard is one of the few oolong blends I’ve ever tried, and it’s AWESOME. For some reason the vanilla works extremely well in an oolong, and while there is some floral taste here that works in tandem with the vanilla to produce a smooth cup, it still surprises me. I’d always associated oolongs with smoky flavors, but I guess the smoke helps the vanilla stand out.

Arachne Drinks David’s Tea #1

So I went and… splurged… on tea. Lots of it. I had heard of David’s Tea through teh Twitters, a new blender who had set up shop in Canada and had what seemed to be a fun take on teas. See, it’s the difference between naming a tea “Coco-Chai” versus calling it “Bollywood Chai”; the difference between stopping at a vanilla-coconut blend and proceeding post-haste to “Buttered Rum”; the kind of tea company that will joyfully call things “Love Tea #7″ and “Chocolate Rocket”.

Plus the Bollywood Chai smells wonderful and different from other spicy blends that wear the “Fill in the Blank Chai” name.

So far over the past two days, have been sipping the following:

Buttered Rum I did not expect to taste like its namesake, given that the ingredients are coconut and vanilla beans. Even if the coconut was toasted (which it was), shouldn’t the taste have been more coconut/vanilla? But no. It tastes like… well… like what I imagine a Butter Beer for adults might have tasted. There are caramel notes somehow without there being any actual caramel. Whatever magic is in this blend, it works. They recommend dark sugar and rum for accompaniment.

Read My Lips is one of the best chocolate teas I’ve tasted. It’s a rare chocolate-chunks tea that uses dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, thus removing a source of painful dairy for me. (Most chocolate teas I can drink are chocolate in natural flavoring only.) I should note that David’s Tea is pretty good about listing allergens for their teas, something they need to do since they take an approach with many ingredients (an approach similar to Mighty Leaf) as opposed to just tea and flavorings. This tea also looks beautiful.

Glitter & Gold is a disappointment. It mainly tastes of sugar (since it has those shiny sugar baubles in it) and tea. Vanilla and orange, it claims, but I’ve met orange-vanilla teas with more personality (such as Mighty Leaf’s masterful Orange Dulce).

Fantasy Island is excellent! Coconut-raspberry, if you can believe it, and it works. It’s like being on a tropical island where there are coconuts and flowers. At least, that’s what comes to my mind when I’m sipping this tea. I love it. It’s a must-buy-again for me along with Read My Lips (Buttered Rum by contrast arrived in a 100g tin… I must say, David’s Tea sells very nice and economical tea tins for $2.50 each. Highly recommended).

Mint Julep is, well, a mint julep in tea form. Pineapple and coconut and mint. The blend of black and red tea works so well. It’s gorgrous. Also another buy-again.

Love Tea #7 has a flavor profile that strongly resembles Read My Lips. There are roses, but not overpoweringly so. Since it resembles Read My Lips so much to me, and I’m not a fan of roses, this will be left on the wayside. But I’m so finishing the sample.

Creme Brulee is a red tea, but I find that my hankerings after Creme Brulee are more satisfied by Simpson & Vail’s black tea of the same name. Though I got it in a tin, after an optimistic shade of mind, I don’t think I’ll be buying more of it.

Chocolate Rocket is a maté blend with cocoa, almonds, chicory, and raspberries. It’s quite good, although I want to compare it to Queen Mary’s Afternoon Tango, which is a similar blend except, I think, for the raspberries. I may want more of this.

AJ Drinks the Tea Cabinet #1

A sort of blogletter about tea.

Some people have a liquor cabinet. Heck, a cellar.

I have my tea rack. But it’s more fun to call it a cabinet. It’s made from a CD rack because it’s about the perfect size for little tea boxen.

Untitled

This doesn’t even cover the shelf of teas I have at work. Oh the shelf of teas.

So, in an endeavor to drink the cabinet down and figure out which teas have gone stale, I’m going to blog my tea drinkage here. If this can be given a back-date (or whatever we are calling it) that would be awesome.

If you’re wondering whether tea-drinking in large amounts can possibly affect behavior, be warned: yes, it can. Especially certain blends of black tea. There’s a reason Lu Tong’s 7 Bowls of Tea poem ends with

With the sixth I am in touch with the immortals.
The seventh gives such pleasure I can hardly bear
The fresh wind blows through my wings,
As I make my way to Penglai.

Chocolate Mint (Harney & Sons)

Harney & Sons makes dairy-free chocolate teas, by which I mean they use chocolate flavoring instead of dumping chocolate chips (of gods know what pedigree, but it’s usually milk chocolate; Mighty Leaf is particularly guilty of this) into the blend. Some people scoff at this, but the flavor works for me very well. Harney & Sons does a pure chocolate black tea blend, but I much prefer their chocolate mint. The mint really complements the flavor of the chocolate and the tea.

Caribe (Harney & Sons)

I tried to brew this with my usual cool-off time for green teas, but I’m obviously not a good gyokuro brewer (a green tea that needs a temperature even more delicate than this) and I got what I usually get these days from Caribe: BITTERNESS over a tempting background of guava and tropical fruit notes. So I tried again (down to my last filter in my tea pack) after cooling for a full five minutes, and got… weak, but not bitter, plus guava and tropical fruit notes. I know there’s coconut but I honestly have a hard time tasting it through all the other stuff.

Red Velvet Cupcake (Simpson & Vail)

Imagine a red velvet cupcake. Imagine its taste; in particular, its cloying richness dense with chocolate and other sweet stuff. This is what this tea smells like. This is what this tea tastes like. It’s a rich and decadent dessert with no calories. Caocao nibs are used to impart part of the chocolate flavor, with some coconut to complement its notes, making this tea dairy-free. Oh, and red velvet cupcake apparently now comes as a flavoring from the flavor labs.

Bouquet of Flowers (Kusmi)

Kusmi is one of the best tea blenders around (and I forgot to mention them in a previous post). They are nearly the Rolls Royce of teas. Especially their spiced black teas are divine. Today we visit one of their many bergamot blends, this one non-spiced. Bouquet of Flowers is basically a flowery high-class Earl Grey, with the floral taste subdued enough that it doesn’t take over the entire blend. In a way it reminds me of Mighty Leaf’s Beatles’ Blend, except there is no jasmine here.

Commit log #43

Tea intricacy

Three good things out of a bleagh kind of day.

1. Solved some frustrating SSL and LDAP problems. Ready to move onto the next part of a project. Pleased with myself for this thing at least, even if I did screw up a deployment yesterday…

2. TEA. Specifically, a shipment from Harney & Sons. The joyful teas:

  • Strawberry-Kiwi Fruit Tea
  • Mango Fruit Tea
  • Chocolate Mint (a refill of an old friend)
  • Caribe(an interesting strawberry/guava/coconut green/black tea blend)
  • SOHO(coconut and chocolate)
  • Dragon Pearl Jasmine, another old friend
  • Love Life(coconut, vanilla, strawberry, puffed rice)
  • African Autumn (oh, how I love thee)

3. Sailor Moon R is really heating up. I quite like it, and skipped a lot of monster-of-the-week episodes to get there.

4. A pack of Mum-Mums (strawberry-flavored) arrived. They soothe my stomach after my big dose of Lamictal. Ow, Lamictal hurts.

A thing I like about myself: I can be bubbly at times?

Commit log #27

Three good things! Argh, on a Monday.

1. TEA. I went through a spectacular bunch for the most part, almost reaching 7 cups.

- Mighty Leaf’s Vanilla Bean (black)
- Mighty Leaf’s Beatles’ Blend (black and green)
- Harney & Sons’ Chocolate Mint (black)
- Tao of Tea’s Mandarin Orange (green)
- Churchmouse Vanilla (Almond) Rooibos (red) (seems to vary in quality with each steep)
- Mighty Leaf’s Chocolate Mint Truffle (red)

I’m probably going to look into getting invested in David’s Tea next. Tomorrow’s going to feature Kusmi for sure, but I need to bring in more red teas for the afternoons. And maybe some herbals as well.

2. Chocolate chip home-made dairy-free ice cream. Enough said.

3. Finishing off the Extra Credits archives. The discussions about narrative, particularly the Hero’s Journey, have made me thoughtful about Seal Tales again. And then I get locked up on how to approach the damn thing once more. Argh. Though sometimes one can just use a rest from a particular story/characters/topic.

4. Extra credit! I’ve written 2021 words tonight on something I was stuck on!

Thing I like about myself: I’ve managed 27 commit logs so far. Only 33 more before it truly becomes a habit!

Life thingies: I really need to get out of the business of flame war voyeurism. There are so many better ways to spend one’s time. Stuff is settling down at the job. In a couple of days I see my bartender again.

Commit log #23

Matthew, or the Cownt of Sofa Three good things!

1. Matthew, the Cownt of Sofa. I have no dedicated sofa cow, and Matthew is pleasantly stuffed. Why Matthew? Because I’m currently addicted to Downton Abbey and Matthew is the first blond cow. I must thank my friends, the Rozentales, for Mathew as my unbirthday present. ^.^

2. More or less enjoying Stross’s The Apocalypse Codex. At least it’s good to read about Bob Howard again. I’m on 53 books read out of 100 for the year!

3. These Mini-Minit tea filters (also from my friends) are so far quite nice. I can pour the tea down through the filter, and instantly it steeps out quite well. And apparently unlike the Finum versions these don’t buckle up and spill tea all over. I’m currently using rooibos, and you can imagine the spillage potential of those little bits there.

4. Just about reached 7 cups of tea today, little 6oz cups, but that’s still 42oz of tea. I felt a little funny going home; I think I’ll lay off too much black tea. Today’s teas:

  1. Simpson & Vail’s Almond Sugar Cookie (black)
  2. Mighty Leaf’s Vanilla Bean (black)
  3. Mighty Leaf’s Orange Dulce (black)
  4. Tao of Tea’s Mandarin Orange (green)
  5. Churchmouse Vanilla Rooibos (red rooibos)
  6. Simpson & Vail’s Coconut Macaroon (green rooibos)
  7. Simpson & Vail’s French Vanilla Rooibos (red rooibos)

Thing I like about myself: TEA dammit.

Life thingies: I will be more positive. Positive reinforcement, positive in how I phrase my goals—as ABE suggested. I need to enact a positive AJIP (AJ Improvement Program).

Daily Tea: 2012-08-01

The first cup kisses away my thirst,
and my loneliness is quelled by the second.
The third gives insight worthy of ancient scrolls,
and the fourth exiles my troubles.
My body becomes lighter with the fifth,
and the sixth sends word from immortals.
But the seventh—oh the seventh cup—
if I drink you, a wind will hurry my wings
toward the sacred island.
– “Seven Bowls of Tea”, Lu Tong (translated by Chris Nelson)

I didn’t reach seven. I think I ought to try some time.

  1. Twinings’ Lady Grey, near inimitable (though some blends give it a run for its money). I do love me my bergamot, sometimes with a lighter touch.
  2. Kusmi Tea’s Troika, another lovely bergamot-based blend.
  3. Harney & Sons’ Dragon Pearl Jasmine. I love watching this tea steep, the little rolled-up tea leaves unfurling. And it’s still good after all this time!
  4. Churchmouse Vanilla Rooibos, which I can never get enough of.
  5. Simpson & Vails’ Rooibos Chocolate Orange. Chocolate orange is a difficult taste to get right, requiring one to walk a line between gaudiness and vanishing. I think the superior blend is Mighty Leaf’s Chocolate Orange Truffle, but sadly that’s both caffeinated (well, more caffeinated) and also not dairy-free; but S&V’s version works well enough.

For those who might be concerned, as too much tea can leave one kind of… argh…: I drink most of my tea in 6oz servings, with the exception of the H&S pyramidal tea bags (12oz) and the Steven Smith tea bags (10oz).

Daily Tea: 2012 July 31st

Harry Potter’s birthday! I’ve decided to celebrate with my first serious sips of tea in a while (summer’s not the most ideal time for hot tea). The tea is a bit of a distraction from life, a pleasant ritual and break.

The teas I’ve enjoyed, in order of remembrance:

Kusmi Tea’s Bouquet of Flowers

Enjoyable with a strong hit to the nose and thus the taste. It’s not too flowery, and I love variants on bergamot teas—which Kusmi gladly provides in spades.

Churchmouse’s Vanilla Rooibos

Not a pure vanilla rooibos blend, as the vanilla is set off well with a subtle background of almonds. Pleasing as a decaf version of teas such as Might Leaf’s Vanilla Bean.

Simpson & Vail’s Coconut Macaroon Green Rooibos Tea

Damn, this tastes like a slightly spiced version of the dessert. Simpson & Vail does extremely good dessert teas, if you’re looking for something along those lines. They certainly do a better job than any other blender I’ve tried thus far.

Mighty Leaf’s Chocolate Mint Truffle Rooibos

For me, a decaf replacement for Harney & Sons’ Chocolate Mint. It’s sufficient, not wonderful, and one of the few dairy-free chocolate teas that Mighty Leaf advertises. If you’re not dairy-intolerant, I highly recommend their chocolate teas.

Simpson & Vail’s Red Velvet Cupcake Tea

Another rooibos blend. Very much like a cupcake, and they did a better job than Queen Mary’s (now defunct) Sweetheart Tea. Another dessert tea spectacular from S&V.

Ah yes, my C.V. for blenders I’ve tried:

  • Celestial Seasonings
  • Harney & Sons
  • Kusmi Tea
  • Lipton
  • Mighty Leaf
  • Queen Mary
  • Republic of Tea
  • Simpson & Vail
  • Steven Smith
  • Twinings

There’s at least one other I can’t recall right now.

Hot Tea Month: Orange Dulce

20120103-161619.jpg

Mighty Leaf’s Orange Dulce is part of my daily rotation of teas. While my fellow Earl Grey lovers might find the orange essence a mere echo of the bite of bergamot, I find it a refreshing change, going for the subtle over brass. The vanilla turns this drink into a sort of instant London Fog, perhaps a sweeter springtime one.

Mind you, I still drink Smith’s Lord Bergamot in the mornings, but Orange Dulce is quite right at any time of the day. Even during 6 hour meetings.