Product Review: Chai Caramels from Big Picture Farm

big-picture-chaiProduct Information:

Where to Buy:  Treatsie

Product Description:  

Big Picture Farm’s goat milk chai caramel won the gold medal in the prestigious 2013 Good Food Awards. The team at Big Picture makes this exquisite caramel with organic chai supplied by their friend Neil Harley of Chai Wallah.

Learn more about Treatsie’s Subscription Box here.

Product Review:

As you may be aware, I previously reviewed another product that I recently purchased from Treatsie.  I bought these caramels at the same time, because … hello, Chai Caramels?  Yeah!  I gotta try ’em!

I’ve previously tried (and reviewed on my now inactive foodie blog) the goat’s milk caramels from Big Picture Farms, and I really enjoyed those.  Goat’s milk caramels do taste a little different than caramels made with products other than goat’s milk, and it’s a taste that isn’t to everyone’s liking.  I personally like the flavor, because goat’s milk has a certain “tangy” quality to it and I like that contrast to the sugary sweetness of the caramel.

And these caramels are not only made with goat’s milk, but also organic chai tea supplied by Chai Wallah, another product that I’ve previously reviewed!  I was happy to see that Chai Wallah was the supplier of the chai for these confections, because this company makes a very memorable chai.  I’ve tasted a lot of chai in the past, and Chai Wallah makes some of the very best that I’ve tried.

So, I was confident that I’d enjoy these treats from Treatsie!  The caramel is super-fresh, I can feel the freshness as I unwrap the candy:  it feels soft and gooey, and there isn’t even a trace of hardness on the exterior of the candy.  It’s soft and pliable.  When I bite into it, it seems to melt in my mouth (and of course, stick to my teeth a bit – hey, it’s caramel, it’s supposed to do that!)

The first notes I experience are the caramel notes, you know, that “burnt sugar” taste that’s sort of … incredible and delicious?  Then I pick up the tangy notes of the goat’s milk.  Then I start to taste the notes of chai.  The spices hit the palate as I’m chewing on the confection, and they linger in the aftertaste.  Now that I’ve finished the bite of chewy, delicious, caramel-y goodness, I can still taste notes of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom and pepper.  Mmm!  So good!

Yeah … you gotta try these!  If you’re a fan of chai, you’ll love them.  If you’ve got a sweet t00th, you’ll want more than just the 10-piece pack!  (Trust me on that.)  If you just want to try something that’s a little different than your average caramel … get some of these!

Product Review: Matcha Cupcake from Whole Foods Market Bakery

MatchacupcakeProduct Information:

Where to Buy:  Whole Foods 

Note:  this cupcake is a specialty of the Bakery inside the Mills Plain Whole Foods Market in Vancouver, Washington.  I don’t know if they offer anything similar to it in other Whole Foods Markets.  

Taster’s Review:

OK, so this is a very local review, because the Matcha cupcake is a specialty of the Mills Plain Whole Foods Market in Vancouver, Washington.  (Sorry about those folks who don’t live close enough to make the jaunt.)  But I felt like this yummy cupcake deserved some praise.

I stopped by the bakery at my local Whole Foods because my oldest daughter and I have developed quite a fondness for Macarons, so I decided to pick up a yummy Macaron for each of us on my most recent visit.  While I was there drooling over the bakery case, I noticed this sign:  Stella’s Matcha Cake.  And I’m like … WHAT?

So I start browsing the case and I see the Matcha cupcakes.  Mmm!  I’m glad that they are cupcakes and not large layer cakes because … well, because I’m the only person in my household that would have been willing to try it.  I mean, the rest of my family might have tried it, but probably not.  I suspect that they would have looked at the green frosting and thought: “That’s weird.”  Which means: “I’m not going to try it.”

And I’m really glad I got the opportunity to try this because it’s totally YUM!  The cake itself doesn’t taste like it’s got Matcha in it, it tastes like a yellow cake.  Moist and flavorful and not too sweet.  It has been “tunneled” so that they could fill the cake with the Matcha frosting that tops the cake.  The Matcha used in this frosting is Townshend’s Tea Matcha, which is one that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to review, but hope to do so sometime soon.

For now, I must be content with trying it in Stella’s Magical Matcha frosting.  No, it’s not actually called that (at least I don’t think it is).  But I am calling it that, because this is amazingly good.  It’s sweet (most frosting is!) but I like that I’m not overwhelmed by the ratio of sugar and shortening.  It doesn’t taste like one of those cloyingly sweet frostings that you’d find in your typical grocery bakery that is more concerned with quantity than quality.  You can tell that some love and care went into this frosting.

I like that I can taste this and taste the Matcha, that the sugary sweetness doesn’t overpower the lovely vegetal notes of the Matcha.  It’s nicely balanced.  I think I can even taste more of the natural cacao notes of the Matcha when used to make a frosting.  I also taste a hint – just a hint! – of a citrus-y note to this frosting, like maybe a drop or two of lemon juice was added?  I don’t know, but it adds a nice contrast to the sweeter flavors.

This is really good!

So, if you happen to be anywhere near Vancouver, Washington, it’s certainly worth the trip to visit our Whole Foods market on Mills Plain and try one of these divine treats!  You’ll be happy you did!

PRODUCT REVIEW: Grapefruit Flavor Infused Green Tea from Dutch Bros. Coffee

Product Information:

Not our local Dutch Bros. Coffee Shop. But, it kinda looks like this.

Tea Type:  Green Iced Tea (Ready to Drink/Prepared Drink)

Where To Find:  Dutch Bros. Coffee

Taster’s Review:

OK, so my youngest daughter’s latest “thing” is the Italian sodas from Dutch Bros.  You know what I’m talking about right?  Basically, it’s like club soda that’s been infused with Torani Syrup and then generously topped with whipped cream and/or infused with a dollop of cream (both of those are optional).  As we were sitting in the drive through, waiting to place an order for her after ballet class treat, I noticed “Torani Infused Teas” on the menu and my curiosity was piqued.

So, I asked the clerk what it was and was told that they add the Torani syrup to either green or black tea.  Then he listed off the flavors of Torani syrup that they have and when he said Grapefruit, I decided I’d try a Grapefruit Flavor Infused Green Tea from Dutch Bros. Coffee.  I mean … I figured the worst that could happen is that it tastes like an overly sweet tea much like the ready to drink teas that you get at the corner convenience store.

My first sip of the beverage – yep, that’s what it is.  It’s a very sweet tea with more grapefruit flavor than tea flavor and an abundance of sugary sweetness that overpowers the tea notes to oblivion.  This drink … well, it was … alright.  Drinkable.  Something that I’d be able to finish but not something for which I’d want to return to Dutch Bros.

But then something impressive happened.  My husband told the clerk that I’m a tea snob and very picky about my tea.  When the clerk asked me how I liked the tea, I said, “It’s drinkable.”  My husband translated this to the clerk to say, “That’s a compliment from her.”

Ha!  My husband fancies himself a comedian.  I’ve tried to explain to him that just because our pre-teen daughter and her friends find him entertaining does not mean that he could make a living as a stand-up comic.  

When I say drinkable, basically, what I mean is that this tastes alright, but it’s too sweet and it’s not something I’d buy again.  I can drink it but would I call it tea?  No.

Upon hearing that the infused tea drink was merely “drinkable,” the clerk takes back the drink and explains that their drinks are 100% satisfaction guaranteed.  Then he made me a new Grapefruit Flavor Infused Tea, this time, using half the syrup that was used the first time around.

This time, it’s actually quite enjoyable.  Not just drinkable, but something that put a smile on my face.  I have a mildly sweet drink where I’m able to taste both the grapefruit and the green tea.  The grapefruit reminds me of the flavor of a Texas pink grapefruit (my favorite).  It doesn’t taste like a candified (yes it’s a word, I just made it up) version of grapefruit.  It tastes like the Texas pink grapefruit that I cut in half and lightly sprinkled with a little sugar to contrast with the tart bitterness of the fruit.  It tastes … yummy!

And I can taste the green tea this time around (the first cup that was made for me, I could not taste green tea).  It tastes light and crisp, with a refreshing hint of vegetative flavor.  Slightly grassy.  It marries nicely with the notes of grapefruit, and there is a pleasing balance between the components of this beverage.

Overall, this was a really tasty tea.  Bravo to the clerk at Dutch Bros. for taking a little extra time to make my drink just right for me.  I appreciate this kind of customer service, and this tea exceeds what I’d find at the “average” coffee stop.

Bourbon Chai Blend from Vintage TeaWorks

Bourbon_ChaiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Vintage TeaWorks

Tea Description:

Inspired by the rich flavors of Kentucky Bourbon, this chai tea is blended using a beautiful Sri Lankan black tea, organic cinnamon and star anise.  We then wrap our blend in honey creating sweet and spicy treat. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Yeah, I know I’ve said it quite a few times:  I’m not much of a drinker of alcohol.  I prefer tea.  (That might appear obvious!)  So, I’m not sure what it was about this Bourbon Chai from Vintage TeaWorks that prompted me to order it as soon as I could when I heard about it.  Maybe it was because I’ve tried the other blends from this company and I was very impressed with them, and so when this tea was announced, it was one that I added to my must try list immediately!

The first thing I noticed about this new blend from Vintage TeaWorks is that they’ve changed their packaging (or at least, they have different packaging for this chai).  The wine-inspired teas from this company that I’ve tried came in tubes that resembled wine bottle tubes.  This chai is packaged in a shiny gold tin that was wrapped with a removable paper label that has been wax sealed in place.  Cool!

When I opened the tin and the inner cellophane packaging, I could see that the tea was kind of wet-looking and sticky, as though the tea had been marinated with soaked in honey!  The tea smelled of bourbon and spice with a distinct sweet note.  As the tea brewed, I could smell more of the spice notes developing.  The brewed tea smells lightly of bourbon and strongly of spice.

This tastes amazing!  It tastes spicy, but not in a hot sort of way.  It’s more like a spicy-sweet kind of taste.  It tastes warm and cozy, with a strong spice note.  The spices offer a very harmonious flavor.  I don’t notice one spice attempting to compete with others.  I taste notes of each spice, but one note doesn’t attempt to overpower others.  It’s a very congruous tasting tea.

The black tea is also easy to distinguish in the sip, and it tastes rich and satisfying.  And what I like about these teas from Vintage TeaWorks is that they’re incredibly creative.  They “recreate” the flavors by which they’re inspired, rather than being an ‘alcohol’ infused tea.  Here, Vintage TeaWorks has recreated the flavor of bourbon using spice and honey, and this tastes what I’d imagine a bourbon that has been infused with a chai tea might taste like.  This is a very comforting cuppa!

As I sip … I can feel the warmth of the bourbon and the spice tickling the back of my throat.  It reminds me a bit of when I used to drink whisky (I liked Jack Daniels and Pepsi, although I usually went heavier on the Pepsi than the JD) – the warmth here reminds me of that slight “burn” that I’d feel at the back of my throat from the whisky, although this is a gentler heat than that burn ever was.  I think I like this better than the JD and Pepsi … not just because of that gentle heat but because this IS tea and I can taste the tea and spices too.

A really wonderful cup of chai!  I drank it with a half a teaspoon of turbinado sugar to accentuate the spices.  I didn’t add milk or cream though … and I think that this tastes lovely as a non-latte chai.  I think it would also be tasty as a chai, although the dairy might soften the bourbon-like flavors a bit.

Organic Mountain Indonesian Green Tea from Tea At Sea

IndonesianGreen2Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Tea At Sea

Tea Description:

Grown in the Halimun Mountains of Indonesia at 800m above Sea-Level, this tea is treated with natural spring water and fresh mountain air. The lightly oxidized tea leaves have a seaweed aroma, slight fruity taste of superior freshness. Steep at 85°C and observe the leaves slowly unfolding to extract their natural flavour.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve not tried a lot of teas from Indonesia, but I’ve had the good fortune to be able to try a few.  This Organic Mountain Indonesian Green Tea from Tea At Sea is one of the most impressive teas I’ve tasted from the region. 

IndonesianGreen1The leaves  of this are wound into pellets resembling a greener Oolong like Tie Guan Yin.  This has a very fresh, uplifting flavor that is soft and smooth, with some buttery notes and a texture that is similar to butter too.  There is a mild vegetative taste to this, and together with the buttery taste, it’s reminiscent of freshly steamed, lightly buttered spinach.  There are floral mid-notes, and delicate nutty tones and fruit notes in the distance.

But mostly what I taste from this tea is sweetness!  It’s a beautifully sweet green tea – no bitterness and next to no astringency.  There is a hint of citrus-y taste toward the finish which is very, very lightly astringent.

These leaves barely opened in the first infusion.  They are just begging me to infuse them again!  I must comply!

The second infusion was even more flavorful than the first.  I found stronger floral and vegetative notes, and the distant nutty tones started to become more distinct.  This is still sweet and creamy.  I am noticing a little more astringency with this cup.

I infused the leaves a third time, and found that the flavors began to wane with this cup.  It’s still sweet but not as creamy.  The flavors were more subdued with the third cup, but it still is a very pleasing cup – and it’s certainly worth the effort to infuse this tea at least three times (it could probably go a fourth!)

Tea At Sea is a new company, and this is my first time sampling one of their products – and this tea is definitely one worth exploring!  I love this company’s thoughtful packaging – it’s very fun and has a definite nautical theme in keeping with the company name.  The labels are tags (shown above!) that are tied onto the packages with white string and in my envelope of samples I also received a cute little cork ship!  Neat!