Tea Writings

A blog about tea from the desk of Cecilia Tan

Archive for the ‘Tea Reviews’

TeaVivre: Five teas

September 11, 2012 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

I received five tea samples some months ago from TeaVivre with intention to review them all. Fortunately they sent enough quantity that I was able to taste and take notes when they first arrived, though I was too busy to write up the reviews, and then also brew fresh samples now that I do have the time.

TeaVivre is a relatively new company selling Chinese tea online into the US, Canada, and France. The principal founders appear to all be in China, with offices in Hong Kong and Fujian. I’ve written about Fujian before. It’s not one of the touristy areas of China, mostly agricultural, which means lots of tea plantations. It’s on the mainland at the same latitude as Taiwan, and has similar climate, so you find many similar teas grown in both areas. (For those using the archaic nomenclatures, Taiwan=Formosa, Fujian=Fukien.)

Today I’ll write about all fives teas I received. There were some winners and some losers.

*White Peony (Bai MuDan)
*Jasmine “Dragon Pearls”
*Taiwan Jin Xuan Milk Oolong
*Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess”
*Yun Nan Dian Hong (more…)

Heaven Scent

September 09, 2012 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

Delicious, delicious tea.

I sit here this evening, after the thunderstorms have passed, as the sudden coolness of the night reminds us that summer proper is over and that fall is knocking on New England’s door. A pot of warm (but not too hot) tea is perfect.

With cold weather coming, I’m doing my annual restock of my tea inventory. I just placed orders with Imperial Tea Court and the Aroma Tea Shop in San Francisco, with a few others to do in the coming weeks.

Aroma sent me some samples and I’m sipping one of those right now: Heavenly Fragrance Iron Goddess. Haymen, my favorite tea pusher, wrote on the package “Call to order. Not online.” (more…)

Afternoon Tea at Royalton Suites

August 24, 2012 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

Tried a new “afternoon tea” in Boston this past week, at the Royalton Suites, thanks to a GroupOn that a friend had bought. The Groupon was $35 for a (regularly) $70 Tea for Two.

The Royalton Suites is a ten-room boutique hotel inside a Newbury Street brownstone, right in the heart of the snazziness that is Newbury Street. So I think they’re trying to project an upscale atmosphere. And what does that better than afternoon tea?

Well, as “upscale atmosphere” goes, this tea was not it. (more…)

Tea Creations (Desserts and Cocktails) Tasting

February 25, 2011 By: ctan Category: Tea Books, Tea Reviews

If not for the wonders of social networking, I would have completely missed that Cynthia (Cindy) Gold and Lise Stern were doing a “tea tasting” at Finale last night.

For those unfamiliar with Finale, it’s the all dessert restaurant, and actually they have three locations now. (And amusingly enough, they’ve added non-dessert small plates to their menu which are also quite yummy.) Yes, it’s upscale gourmet food done to a luxurious extreme… I mean, come on, DESSERT RESTAURANT. So of course we love it.

I often feel I need an excuse to be decadent enough to eat there, though, so usually it’s that someone has come to visit from some heathen place where they don’t have dessert restaurants, or it’s a snowstorm and they often offer Internet blizzard specials, like half price on the flights of hot chocolates with purchase of any other dessert. Since corwin and I live walking distance from their Harvard Square location, more than once we have put on our snow boots and bundled up and walked the frozen tundra to indulge.

But about tea. Gold & Stern have recently come out with a book, CULINARY TEA: More Than 100 Recipes Steeped In Tradition from Around The World. The book includes recipes of all sorts, but at Finale they featured five tea-based desserts and four paired cocktails. Ahh, nothing like working all day only to go directly into a meal that will leave you sugar-high and drunk! (more…)

Tea Review: Canton Tea Co “Tie Guan Yin”

January 07, 2011 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

I’m drinking a pot of “Tie Guan Yin (Iron Buddha)” from the Canton Tea Co right now, and despite the company’s somewhat unique ideas on spelling and nomenclature, and possibly questionable cultural understanding, the tea itself is damn good.

I drink a lot of ti kuan yin (my preferred transliteration). I was first introduced to this tea by name through, believe it or not, The Republic of Tea, who used to sell an Iron Goddess of Mercy like fifteen years ago. Theirs wasn’t particularly good in those days, and they don’t carry it any more, but the name “Iron Goddess of Mercy” stuck with me until I started researching tea a bit more.

The Best of Chocolate Tea

December 14, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

For a lot of people the winter holiday season means chocolate. Hanukah gelt, Christmas stocking candy, chocolatey gifts, etc. So this seems a fitting time to finally put down some words about chocolate tea. I’ve been on a three-year quest now for the best chocolatey tea, and I can finally give you my results! Yes, I finally found some teas that not only taste somewhat of chocolate, they also go well while eating chocolate.

In Search of the Best Soy Milk Green Tea “Latte”

August 27, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Musings, Tea Reviews

My obsession with soy milk green tea lattes started early this summer. On Sundays when my S.O. was off at jujitsu and errands and such, if I didn’t have to go somewhere else myself, I would often go to our local, independently owned coffee shop to get some writing done.

The shop is called Simon’s, and as I understand it has become one of the respected coffee shrines in the area for those who worship the trade of the barista. (The baristas have been in competitions and such.) They also have a light menu of soups and muffins, and of course they offer tea of various excellent kinds, served in the pot.

Of course, when it’s hot outside, a hot pot of tea might not be what I’m looking for. But I still want my hit of tea. And all too often iced tea, if not done right, is a waste of good tea anyway. So one afternoon I was staring at their chalkboard menu and it dawned on me, oh, green tea latte. That sounds kind of good.

But with summer come my seasonal allergies, and milk or dairy products pumps up my mucous production. So I asked. Can the green tea latte be made… with soy milk? Of course! replied the cheerful barista. And… can it be iced! Surely!

And a new obsession was born.

Teas that “Taste Like “Tea”

March 23, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

I’ve written a lot about things like rose tea (with more to come), and I’m about to write about chocolate tea soon (still tasting), but today I thought I would turn my attention to the recent teas I’ve been brewing that “taste like tea.”

In the American sense, tea is black “orange pekoe”, usually Lipton. I had a horrifying (or perhaps edifying) experience last month. I was helping to run a conference at a fancy hotel, and in our staff room we had continuous catered coffee and tea service. The tea service was not terrific. This hotel, which used to serve a very fancy brand of tea (I can’t remember the name but the tea “bags” came as stand alone pyramids with little leaves at the top), had switched to Tazo for all their flavored teas and, yes, Lipton for their regular black tea & decaf. Yes, it’s the economy.

Lychee Flower

February 18, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

In my seeming never-ending search for a tea I liked as much as the lychee green they brew and sell at the famous tea house in the lake in Shanghai, which I visited in April 2007, when I was in San Francisco last summer I picked up some “lychee blossom” at the Imperial Tea Court (Ferry Bldg. location).

Here’s Imperial Tea Court’s description: A new addition to our flower tea collection, this beauty features a red lychee flower waiting to blossom inside a surrounding flower of green tea. Subtly scented with jasmine and flavored with lychee fruit, this stunning tea will display beautifully in a glass teapot.

It took me a while to get around to brewing this tea because I didn’t have a glass pot and kept not getting around to buying one, and beautiful flowering teas are maximally enjoyed when one can see them. But then I received one for Christmas! The other thing is I usually like to brew a flowering tea when I have a friend over for tea so we can both enjoy the sight, but I’ve been so busy lately I finally decided to just try it for myself.

I’ve had flowering teas before of various kinds and so I decided this time to photograph the process. What follows are the photos of the tea opening:


A Rose In Winter

January 23, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Musings, Tea Reviews

The time has come for me to either restock the Ten Ren black rose tea I’ve just run out of, or to replace it with something else.

Being an adventurous sort (not to mention a tea blogger…) I’m open to trying some other brands, flavors, and formulations of rose, but a quick look over just my favorite sites, much less the plethora of rose teas reviewed at Steepster (up to 532 from just 519 teas yesterday!!), reveals more choice than my currently overtaxed brain can handle.

So I solicit your suggestions, here, on Steepster, on Twitter, Facebook, and wherever else you may cross my path.

Ten Ren Black Rose Tea: So, the tea I am now out of is sold from huge canisters at the Ten Ren shops all around the world. I bought this batch at the shop in Chinatown NYC and had no idea it was going to become one of my “staple” teas — i.e. a tea I brew at least once a week. (I typically brew 2-3 varieties per day, every day.) As I mention in my tasting note on this tea on Steepster, “This is a reliably delicious tea that holds up to at least 4 steepings, still giving beautiful color and excellent flavor, though milder by the 3rd and 4th time through. It doesn’t hit you over the head with the rose too much, doesn’t muck it up with any other flavors.”

The first thing, of course, is that the black tea itself must be of good quality. Crummy tea hidden by a shot of rose oil is not what I’m looking for, obviously, but I am a big believer in the fact that the most expensive tea isn’t necessarily the best. (more…)