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Flavour

Catnap from Aka Tea

I misread the name of this tea at first, and thought it said “Catnip.” Turns out I wasn’t far wrong, because this blend does actually contain catnip. It’s even more fitting when you consider that the company logo, and indeed the majority of their blends, are cat themed.

Catnap is purportedly a relaxing blend, containing chamomile, mint, lemon verbena, lemon balm…and catnip. In my head, catnip isn’t something I typically associate with relaxation – it conjures images of bright-eyed, mischief-making kittens. Maybe in humans the effects are different.

Noticeable amongst the dry leaf are small whole chamomile flowers, pieces of lemongrass, cinnamon chips, bright blue cornflowers, and finely shredded mint (and, assumedly, catnip) leaves. I gave 1 tsp of leaf 4 minutes in boiling water, no additions. The resulting liquor is a bright yellow-orange, the scent generically herbal with an edge of sweet mint.

To taste, it’s a little danker than I was expecting, more a dark, sludgy herbal than a bright, clean, refreshing one. Mint is the main flavour – there’s the characteristic cooling peppermint, the sweeter edge of spearmint, and then a borderline vegetal flavour that I’m assuming is the catnip. I’m putting it with the mints because that’s how it comes across to me – minty, but with a definite swampiness about it. Underneath all of those runs the cinnamon, adding a warming spiciness. I’m not sure that it pairs 100% successfully with mint, though. It’s not a flavour combination I’ve come across many times before, and I’m pretty sure there’s a reason for that…

The lemon emerges in the mid-sip, and lifts what could have been a fairly uninspiring cup into brighter territory. The lemongrass adds another layer of sweetness, combining hay-like notes with a light citrus, and the lemon verbena and lemon balm also help to heighten this impression. The chamomile makes itself known at the end of the sip, with its typical thick honey notes. It pairs well with the lemongrass, and moves this blend more firmly into “relaxing tea” territory.

To me, this is a tea of two halves. The initial sip is very heavy on the mint and cinnamon, but that fades pretty quickly and is replaced by the citrus-honey flavours that seem to develop further as it cools. It’s certainly a unique blend, but I’m not sure it’s one I’d seek out especially frequently, primarily because I find the flavour combinations a little too jarring.

Having said that, this is an interesting caffeine-free option, and it’s different from most other “relaxing” blends I’ve tried. If you’re looking for something a little unusual to brighten up your evening tea drinking, this could well be the blend for you. Cat lovers may well award extra points also!


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Herbal
Where to Buy: Aka Tea

akateaDescription:

CatNap, anyone? Sometimes that’s just what the doc ordered. Catnip is not just for cats. It has been known to help humans relax, relieve headaches, and calm the nerves. Curl up with a cup and “cat”ch some z’s.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

As American As Apple Pie from CatSpring Tea

Yaupon, as a tea varietal, is entirely new to me, At first glance, it looks a lot more like a mate or a guayusa; flakes of greenish-brown leaf that put me in mind (albeit fleetingly) of fish food. Closer inspection reveals that they’re actually quite sizable chunks of (very shiny) tea leaves, although not as oxidized as I expected given that they’re referring to this as a “black” tea. Generously scattered among the leaves are cubes of dried apple, almond slivers, small pieces of beetroot, and cinnamon chips. Even dry, the scent is pretty amazing – spot-on apple pie spices!

Yaupon is the only caffeinated tea plant native to North America, and was used by Native Americans during male-only purification rituals. Despite a wane in popularity, CatSpring now farm  Yaupon sustainably on their family-owned land in Texas. They’ve also got sound ecological credentials, as they’re producing without the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or synthetic weed control.

I used 1.5 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 4 minutes in boiling water. The recommendation is 4-7, so it’s probable that this could be extended if that’s what you prefer, but I’d likely reduce to 1 tsp of leaf if I were brewing for over 4 minutes. The resulting liquor is a medium golden brown, with a distinctive orangey tint. The apple pie scent isn’t as strong once brewed, and there’s a light underlying dankness, like wet leaves in autumn. Once again, I’m reminded of guayusa.

As it turns out, there’s a reason for this. Rather than the usual Camellia Sinensis, Yaupon tea is actually produced from the dried leaves of Ilex Vomitoria, which is a species of holly. Yerba Mate (Ilex Paraguariensis) and Guayusa (Ilex Guayusa) are both closely related plants, and all contain high levels of caffeine and theobromine. The flavours of all three are, to me, rather similar. Dank, slightly vegetal, very reminiscent of forest floor. They’re not tea varieties I would typically look to drink often unflavoured, and they’re a bit of a change from “normal” black or green teas if they’re what you’re used to.

Fortunately for me, this blend is flavoured, and it’s flavouring that works well with the choice of base tea. The apple is floral rather than crisp and sharp, but it manages to conjure a delicious, slightly mushy, “baked” flavour that’s very suggestive of apple pie. The cinnamon adds the requisite spicing, and the almonds round things out with a slightly savoury, slightly creamy nuttiness. I wasn’t expecting to be able to taste the beetroot, but it’s there in the background and it adds an edge of sour tartness that brings the whole thing together nicely. All told, it really does taste like apple pie.

The base tea is slightly distracting, because it’s quite a strong flavour. At times, it almost feels like a fight between the Yaupon and the other ingredients to establish prominence. A longer brew time might have helped to increase the strength of the flavouring, but it might also increase the strength of the base tea, and I’m not convinced that would be a good thing here. Still, experimentation is everything, and I’ll probably adjust my parameters until I find a combination I’m happier with.

On the whole, I’d say it just about works. The Yaupon is a very “autumnal” flavour, to put it politely, and apple pie makes me think of autumn anyway so it’s not as jarring as it could have been (a strawberries and cream Yaupon blend would make me nervous, let’s say.) It’s a very smooth blend, with no bitterness or astringency, and the flavours come over clearly. Tasting this, you’d be in no doubt as to what it was supposed to replicate – it definitely lives up to its name! I’d drink this again, and I’d try more teas from CatSpring in the future. Their offering is definitely unique, and it’s nice that it has a strong family heritage – it’s the exact opposite of the more faceless bigger brands. I’ll be interested to see where CatSpring go from here.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black Yaupon
Where to Buy:  Cat Spring Tea

catspringteaDescription:

As American As Apple Pie is our comforting black yaupon tea loose leaf blend as delicious as a slice of apple pie. Take a trip to grandma’s kitchen with every cup.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Earl Grey Manhattan Tea from Aromatica Fine Teas

 

Earl Grey Manhattan Tea from Aromatica Fine Teas is one of those teas that I have been searching for and didn’t even know it!  This eye-opening Earl Grey is much more than that – Earl Grey Manhattan Tea from Aromatica Fine Teas – is the 2015 1st Place Winner of the North American Tea Championship – and I can see why!  It’s everything you want in an Earl Grey and more!

Earl Grey Manhattan Tea from Aromatica Fine Teas provides your stereotypical Earl Grey flavor at first sip but then morphs into a bit more floral and ends on a smoother note than most.  Something that I noticed in the aroma but not-so-much in the taste was a speck of sweetness.  This intrigued me.  I appreciate that they not only used sunflower blossoms – but mallow blossoms, too!  They were both a lovely addition.

Eventho Earl Grey Manhattan Tea from Aromatica Fine Teas is the first of their teas that I am reviewing here – I have tried their Walnut Green Tea, too, (and will be reviewing that soon) and have REALLY enjoyed both offers already!  I’ve already had 2 glowingly-positive tea experiences with this company and I can’t wait to jump in to their other offerings!  I know that their other teas have also received awards but after tasting 2 of them I think they need to get a bigger shelf for all of their awards they will start collecting!  Earl Grey Manhattan Tea from Aromatica Fine Teas was FABULOUS!  My morning my start the RIGHT WAY now!


Black_Earl_Grey_largeHere’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black Tea
Where to Buy:  Aromatica Fine Teas
Description:

North American Tea Championship: 1st Place – Earl Greys category – 2013 Fall – Hot Teas Division

Also known as “Manhattan Earl Grey” yields a bright taste and extremely fragrant cup.  Black tea, sunflower blossoms, flavour, mallow blossoms.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

A Field in Innsbruck Black from August Uncommon

fieldininnsbruckTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: August Uncommon

Tea Description:

As the Austrian Alps warm they offer a multitude of aromas and colors. The woods come alive with light flickering through branches, beaming in unexpected clearings redolent of grasses, herbs and wildflowers in full bloom. The bright spruce aroma overhead and earthy fir needles melding with the soil underfoot. Brushing your hands against the sticky juniper bushes, gathering fragrant herbs and ripe blackcurrant berries warmed by the sun. Capture the fleeting majesty of the aromatic journey.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve written a review here on SororiTea Sisters but that certainly doesn’t mean I’ve stopped drinking wonderful, strange and unique teas such as this tea from August Uncommon!

This is such an interesting tea; any time you encounter a ‘savory’ tea with different kinds of unconventionally used herbs and spices, such as the rosemary and thyme in this blend, you know you’re going to be getting an outside of the box tea drinking experience. The dry leaf of this tea certainly has a very pungent aroma of thyme which is quite enticing. There’s also a slight earthiness which adds depth right off the bat, even before pouring any water!

The aroma of the brewed tea is surprisingly smooth with both a familiar, comforting aroma and air of exoticism. However, I just feel like once you begin drinking the tea it fails to deliver the level of flavour that you’d expect from all the wonderful aromas that have been experienced at this point. Not that it tastes bad! It’s just that I feel like this blend doesn’t quite commit to being either sweet OR savory. I taste a distinct flavour of thyme with hints of rosemary but not in the potency I expected or wanted. The sweetness comes from a hint of jammy flavour provided by the juniper berries; I’m missing the distinct pine flavour of the junipers though and that’s a slight disappointment too because I think that flavour note would have really sold the title for me. The whole thing is supported though by a very smooth, earthy base though and I’m REALLY loving that element of the blend.

And of course, like I said, it truly isn’t a BAD blend. On the whole, I actually find it really delicious – I’m just having to mildly adjust my expectations while drinking it. I absolutely recommend trying it if you get the chance. And for people who haven’t had savory teas before I think this would be a really good way to branch into that type of flavoured blend.

Tropical Sunshine Green from A Quarter to Tea

TropicalSunshineTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: A Quarter to Tea

Tea Description:

Summer winding to a close, getting you down? Don’t fret — just let yourself get whisked off to the beach. Tangerine, mango, raspberry and coconut make a fruity tropical cocktail that will have you hearing waves and feeling the sand underfoot.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

We’re a long way from summer now, so a tropical themed tea feels a little out of place but just because this might not be the ideal season to drink it doesn’t mean it’s not going to be super tasty! So, when I cold brewed this tea I did my absolute best to be open minded about it. And honestly, it wasn’t hard: the coconut in the blend smells super fresh and yummy and I could see lots of goji berries which are a fruit I’ve really tried to learn more about this year. Both are things for me to get excited about.

Like I said, this was cold brewed because Lauren from A Quarter to Tea specifically said on the tea’s page that it’s great iced. I don’t normally ice teas, but I do cold brew them! I find, if a company is going to specifically point out a way to try their tea I want to take that into consideration.

Mostly; I thought this was just a really nice smooth, vegetal and grassy cold brewed green tea that demonstrated characteristics of both the Chinese and Japanese style greens in the blend. On top of the really enjoyable base, the coconut was quite a dominant flavour. It tastes insanely fresh! It’s a nice balance between tropical “Pina Colada” type coconut and a more confectionery type coconut. It reminds me of DT’s Coconut Grove which is something I haven’t gotten to say in a LONG time since that delightful blend has been discontinued for a while now.

Sadly, none of the fruit really seems to contribute much flavour. I certainly don’t taste the goji and I just barely taste the faintest citrus flavour on the finish of the cup. I’d never be able to identify it as tangerine is I wasn’t reading an ingredients list. I don’t mind the absence of fruit because I get to enjoy the coconut, but I doubt that’s entirely what was intended and if you’re looking for fruit flavour you may be disappointed with this blend.

Regardless, it was a good experience for me.