Gyokuro Green Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

Gyokuro_GreenTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Simple Loose Leaf

Tea Description:

Gyokuro is matured under full shade for three weeks and has an aroma of orange blossoms.  With savory and earthy tones this tea also has the memories of nori with a faint whisper of french beans and cucumbers.  Gyokuro is an exceptional tea that demands a unique brewing method to reach its full potential.  Using a lower water temperature is key.  Use water between 120 F and 140 F when brewing.  Use 1 to 2 grams of tea per ounce of water and let the tea steep for 5 minutes for the first steeping.  Subsequent steepings require only a minute or two.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Co-Op Membership here.

Taster’s Review:

What a pleasant surprise it was to find Gyokuro in my Simple Loose Leaf Co-Op box this month!  This premium green tea is not one that you’d expect to find in a subscription box, you know what I mean?

To brew this tea, I actually followed the advice in the above description.  (I know, weird, right?)  I steeped this in my Kati Tumbler, using 1 bamboo scoop of tea (which I’m not sure if that’s the recommended amount, I don’t weigh my tea.  I just don’t.  I’m not into all that gadgetry when it comes to tea.  Tea should be simple.)  I heated the water to 140°F and poured 12 ounces of the heated water into the tumbler and I let that steep for 5 minutes.  I was surprised at how light in color the brewed tea was!  It was a beautiful, pale chartreuse.  My second infusion I steeped for only 2 minutes.

What a lovely Gyokuro!  It’s delightfully sweet.  The vegetable notes are profound.  I taste a lovely buttery note with notes of green bean and asparagus.  It’s very crisp and light and invigorating to sip.  A very smooth tasting tea, the buttery notes give it a creamy texture but it’s not really heavy the way some buttery teas can be.  This has a lighter texture overall versus other ‘buttery’ teas I’ve tasted.

There is very little astringency to this, and most of that is noticeable at the very tail.  It’s quite smooth from start to finish, and then just at the tip of the tail, I pick up on a slightly dry, slightly tangy astringency.  No bitterness despite being steeped for 5 minutes!

My second cup might even be sweeter than the first.  I think I am enjoying the second infusion even more than the first – the flavor is about the same strength as the first (even though I only steeped it for 2 minutes) but the flavors are a little less focused on the vegetal notes and a little more focused on the sweeter flavors.  The butter notes are still there, but they’re a little softer and not quite as creamy as the first cup was.

A really, really lovely Gyokuro.

Shimizu-En Kukicha Tea from Hisabo Tea

kukichaHisaboTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Hisabo – this special link will not only sign you up for their newsletter but also qualify you for special pricing for our readers!  By subscribing to the newsletter, you can get in on their limited edition teas!

Tea Description:

“A hug in a cup” is one way I’ve heard Kukicha described. Warm, delicate, sweet, comfortable. A cup that’s likely to take your heart along with your senses. It certainly did for the husband of Yumiko, the 17th generation daughter of the family who runs Shimizu-en. In Japanese tradition, it’s usually the wife that goes and joins the husband’s business, but in this case the quality of the tea was too much to leave (sorry for the pun). 

In fact, it’s a minor miracle we are even able to bring Shimizu-en to you. The company has no website, no distribution, nothing. They just have a small shop in front of the tea garden and they sell out every year. The tea has been recognized multiple times nationally—no small feat for a company that only employs family members and picks most of its entire plantation by hand.

Kukicha is a very unique kind of tea, made from the stems and twigs of the tea plants. What began as ruthless Japanese efficiency has led to a tasting experience that had the entire Hisabo team saying ‘Wow’. This tea is a hands-down winner. Delicate and floral on the nose, once you take a sip you’ll taste a sweetness quite unlike anything you’ve had before. It will have you going back and trying different brewing times just to tweak the exact amount of sweet and grassy that you want. And it will definitely take your heart.

Taster’s Review:

Hisabo is a new-to-me tea company and they are unlike any other tea company I’ve yet to encounter!  They don’t actually sell teas on their website the way most online tea companies do.  Instead, they offer their limited selection of teas to their customers via email.  To get in on their offers, you need to subscribe to their newsletter.  (This link will also give you a special discount that is available only to our readers!)

Well, here, I’ll let you hear it from them:

Hisabo is a little different from most tea websites in that we don’t sell tea directly on our site.  We currently only sell through emails sent to people subscribed to our mailing list.  We’re also launching a subscription service where people can ‘pre-buy’ the teas we sell at a discount to ‘normal’ price.  In short: we send subscribers an email with a description of the tea, the story and pictures of the farm where it came from, as well as tasting notes.

That’s how they described it to me in the email they sent me when I asked them about this tea and where it was on their website.  According to the emailed newsletter regarding this Kukicha, they do still have some of it left, so if you’re interested in it, contact them quickly!

kukichaHisabo1The tea is packaged in 50g foil lined pouches with beautiful Asian calligraphy on the package.  The outer design looks a lot like a block collage of Asian papers.  It’s beautiful!

Inside these beautiful packages is the good stuff.  The dry leaf smells a little like freshly cut grass (and it looks a little like it too!) with sweet, warm nutty top notes.  I steeped this tea as recommended by Hisabo:  160°F for 30 – 60 seconds.  I opted for the 60 seconds, and I scooped 2 bamboo scoops of the tea and put it into the basket of my Breville One-Touch tea maker and poured 500ml of freshly filtered water into the jug.  Then I let the tea maker do its thing and about 2 minutes later, I had a teapot of delicious tea!

It is a light and refreshing cup of tea.  I like it served hot but it would also be tasty iced.  As the weather is getting a little cooler now, I’m enjoying more hot teas (happily!) and while this tea has a fresh taste to it, the warm, nutty flavors of it are very autumnal to me.  It reminds me of the flavor of freshly roasted chestnuts together with a subtle grassy note in the background.

The thoughts this tea evokes is a little bit of summer still hanging on now that autumn has arrived.

It’s a wonderful cup of tea.  (It resteeps well too!)  I like this tea and I like the idea behind this company.  Rather than having a bunch of tea in inventory waiting for people to buy it, they only offer you the tea when they receive it and it’s the freshest tea that’s available.  Very cool!

And if that’s not enough incentive to check out Hisabo … their customer service is top-notch!  They are very friendly and helpful and quick to respond to inquiries.  When you check them out, tell them that the SororiTea Sisters sent you!

Revisiting a Product Review: The One-Touch Tea Maker from Breville

UntitledWhere to Buy:  Breville USA

Product Description:

The new Breville Tea Maker is a revolutionary tea experience. The fully automated tea basket moves down, then up, gently agitating the leaves to precisely infuse your tea. Push the basket button and watch the basket cycle in and out of immersion. Seeing is believing.

Learn more about this product here.

Product Review:

Yeah, I know I reviewed this before.  I’m revisiting this product because if you’ve been reading my recent posts, you are aware that I recently had a tragedy involving my beloved One-Touch Tea Maker:  I broke the carafe or “jug” as it’s called by the manufacturer, Breville.

I was devastated.  I was so depressed about it that I failed to write reviews for a few days.

This appliance – seriously! – is my most used appliance in the household, second only to the refrigerator.  The refrigerator counts as the most used only because it’s always running.  But, I operate my Breville One-Touch more often than I use the stove or washing machine or toaster or any other appliance besides the one appliance that needs to be plugged in and running constantly.

So, when I broke the carafe, I was heart-broken.  I’ve had this appliance for four years now and had become dependent upon it.  It not only brews my black and green teas as well as tisanes perfectly, but, it also heats water to the perfect temperature so that I can brew Oolong, yellow and white teas properly.  (I brew Oolong and Yellow teas in my gaiwan and my white teas are steeped in a separate teapot because I find that the bulk of the white tea leaves works better in a ceramic teapot.)  How was I supposed to heat water now?  Ack!

Yeah, I know.  #FirstWorldProblems right?  Or maybe it should be #SpoiledTeaBloggerProblems.

Anyway, I broke the carafe on a Sunday.  I visited the Breville website where the parts and accessories are sold.  And there, I could buy a replacement lid, the power base, basket, basket lid, even the cute little tea scoop that comes with the unit.  But the jug was no where to be found on the website.  What?  How could that be?  I sent off a customer inquiry email to inquire about how I could go about getting a replacement carafe.

By the next day, my devastation has turned into despair, so rather than waiting and hoping for a reply from the inquiry email, I called the customer service line the next day only to learn that the reason they don’t sell the jugs is that it’s not cost efficient.  It’s a complex piece of equipment, and apparently it would be too expensive for them to manufacture them for sale.  My option at that point was to buy another unit.

My husband assured me that we’d get another one, after all, he knew how important it was to me.  (I have a pretty good hubby, even though he doesn’t always understand my obsession with tea.)

Later that Monday afternoon, I received a call from the customer service department of Breville, and it was as though a ray of glorious sunshine shone down on my doom and despair!  They offered to send me a refurbished One-Touch Tea Maker at no charge to me if I sent them my still in working condition power base.  So, I sent them my power base, and I was notified immediately by email that my “order” was being processed.  My new (well, refurbished!) Tea Maker arrived a week later and now I’m brewing tea again!  Yay!  A happy ending to my depressing tale.

There are two reasons why I am revisiting this review:

  1. In its absence, I was reminded of just how awesome the Breville One-Touch really is.  If you are a frequent tea drinker – if you drink more than one or two cups of tea a day, you really SHOULD get yourself one of these remarkable appliances.  You will love it.  Yeah, I know there’s a certain charm to brewing tea the old fashioned way, but, once you realize how much more tea you will enjoy with one of these devices … you will be happy you got one for yourself.  It’s the best thing invented since Shennong had a few leaves from a tea tree fall into his cup of hot water.  (Check out that story here.)
  2. I really felt I needed to comment on Breville’s spectacular customer service!  Hey, they didn’t HAVE to send me a refurbished unit at no cost.  I had my Breville for four years!  And I used it every single day of those four years, save a day or two when we might have been on a day trip or something (we haven’t been on vacation in a while!)  I am BIG on customer service.  I refuse to buy another Samsung product because I received shoddy service from them many years ago.  And by the same token, if I find a company that treats me well, I’m going to be sharing my story of love for that company to anyone who will listen.  I love Breville, and when I buy other products (I need a blender soon as well as a food processor!) I’m going to be looking for Breville because I know they’re a brand I can trust.

Thank you Breville!  Thank you for your exceptional customer service!  You have a customer for life!

Sweet Orange White Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

Sweet-Orange-WhiteTea Information:

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy:  Simple Loose Leaf

Tea Description:

Our delicate Shou Mei white tea is balanced perfectly with a touch of citrus. Dried orange peel results in a sweet and refreshing addition to the citrus flavor dancing amongst the backdrop of the gently floral Shou Mei. Delicious served iced as well as hot, this tea makes an ideal light, summery drink with a twist of citrus.

Learn more about this blend here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Selection Club subscription program here.

Taster’s Review:

I was greeted with a burst of orange when I opened this pouch – the aroma of the dry leaf of this Sweet Orange White Tea from Simple Loose Leaf is STRONG with orange.  It smells bright and juicy and … well, orange-y!

The flavor of the orange is not quite as strong as the fragrance suggests.  Instead, I find this to be a really pleasing medley of sweet, earthy Shou Mei white tea and the orange notes, and the orange does not overpower the tea.  I like that I’m tasting more tea here than I am orange – and when I first experienced the aroma, I had my doubts!  I thought this was going to be all about the orange and the white tea was going to be overwhelmed by the powerful, fragrant citrus.

I really like how the Shou Mei and the orange work together.  It’s a very harmonious flavor, as if the two were made for one another.  It is seamless.

There is a light, airy quality to the white tea.  It’s crisp and refreshing, and reminds me of the air when there’s a cool breeze drifting along on a warm summer day.

The orange is sweet, juicy and flavorful, with just a little bit of tangy punch to keep things lively on the palate.  That said, it’s a gentle orange flavor so that it doesn’t compete with the delicate notes of the white tea.  I like that the flavor of the orange is so subtle, but at the same time, it’s still a flavorful orange note.  This is orange done right!

A really enjoyable cuppa that’s tasty served hot, but even better when iced.

Now through June 20th, get a FREE teapot!  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s such a good deal and there’s still a little bit of time to get in on this great offer from Simple Loose Leaf.   Don’t miss out!

Earl Grey Assam Black Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

Earl Grey AssamTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Simple Loose Leaf

Tea Description:

The extremely popular and refreshing blend of citrus bergamot over a rich Assam black tea base. This Earl Grey provides a rich and smooth finish to a famous tradition. Best served hot with milk and sugar.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s customized subscription program here.

Taster’s Review:

I was really excited to receive this month’s package from Simple Loose Leaf!  I have been looking forward to trying their Earl Grey Assam Black Tea since I placed my subscription order.  I love Earl Grey, and usually Earl Grey teas are made with Ceylon leaves.  I’ve tried a couple of Earl Grey teas that were crafted with Assam tea, but, I am always interested to try others.

And I’m really enjoying this Earl Grey.

The bergamot aroma was strong and distinct when I opened the pouch.  The scent from the brewed liquid is a little softer than the fragrance I experienced from the dry leaf, but, it is still wonderfully aromatic.

And the flavor … sublime!  The bergamot is strong without tasting perfume-y.  It has a bright, energetic citrus note that is tangy and sharp.  Hints of floral tones sort of weave their way in and out throughout the sip.

The Assam tea is a substantial base – it tastes strong and sturdy!  There are notes of malt, but I’m finding this Assam to be more “wine-like” than malty.  And I like the way the wine notes complement the bergamot.  They marry very nicely in this cup.

Since the last time I reviewed a tea from Simple Loose Leaf, the company has implemented some changes.  Or perhaps, I should say that they’ve added some additional services on to the unique customized subscription program.  They now have a Tea Collection subscription service, where you can choose from six different tea collections, like Earl’s Collection, Fruit Lover’s Collection or Pure Green Collection.  And with these subscriptions, you simply choose which collection is most appealing to you, and they’ll send you a pre-selected monthly tea.

In addition, they have Tea Clubs that you can sign up for, and choose from a monthly payment plan or a pre-paid plan.  And they also offer tea samples and tea by the ounce now … these are two suggestions that I made in my previous review, and I’m glad to see that they have considered my advice!  (Yes, I’m taking credit for it!  ha!)

This is a very good Earl Grey tea – if you love Earl Grey like I do, this is one you should try!